Sliding, backpacks on, down steep slopes covered with snow. Wading, waist-deep, through the icy waters of a mountain stream. Plunging into crystal clear lakes reflecting the beauty of the snow-capped Sierra. Relaxing in broad meadows beneath blue skies. With their cameras capturing landscapes all hikers dream about, Ric and Jen Serena immersed themselves for nearly a month two summers ago on a hike of California’s John Muir Trail.
Sanford native Ric Serena grew up playing in Florida’s outdoors, with paddling trips down the Wekiva River, swimming and hiking at Canaveral National Seashore, and hiking, camping, and swimming throughout the Ocala National Forest. Meeting his future wife, Jennifer Anne Campbell, at Seminole High School, they went on an outdoorsy honeymoon after graduation in 1992, a 25-day road trip to Seattle and back, camping at National Parks along the way.
Ric’s love of hiking blossomed while attending college in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the Sangre de Cristo Mountains called. Now settled in Los Angeles, with a decade’s worth of artistic productions in their portfolios, Ric and Jen pool their talents as Serena Creative Inc., providing creative services in film, video, photography, and graphic design.
They’re back in Florida this month to share an adventure all hikers will admire: The Muir Project. While John Muir hiked in many places across America, including across Florida from Fernandina to Cedar Key, his name is forever linked with Yosemite, where he fought to preserve the landscape he loved.
Yosemite National Park is where the John Muir Trail begins, winding more than 200 miles through the Sierra Nevada from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. Backpacker magazine called it “The Best Hike in the World” in November 2010. Friends who have hiked it have shown us the breathtaking scenery along the trail and yes, it’s on our life list.
Last July, the Serenas and a group of friends took this 25 day hike, encountering snow, alpine beauty, and a cast of fellow hikers along the way. Despite the difficulty of an extreme snow year, they successfully finished the 219 mile trek. “We didn’t think we were making a feature film when we set out,” said Ric. “We just wanted to complete the JMT and capture the experience the best we could. I honestly never thought we’d have a feature documentary, and there was talk of a possible art exhibit.”
The project snowballed into a feature-length documentary – Mile, Mile & A Half – which they’re sharing in Florida this July. Through their cinematography and photography, Ric and Jennifer share the joy and wonder of a long distance hike, and the friends you make along the way.
It’s not your everyday trail documentary. Think creative camera angles, skillful cuts, artistic touches from the musicians and artists who joined them on the journey, and the lush backdrop of John Muir’s favorite mountains. Add the funky nature of a long distance hike, and constant reminders of the legacy of John Muir. These elements combine in the most professional presentation either of us has seen applied to a film focused on hiking and nature. The key takeways? Backpacking is tough but fun. Hiking with friends is a blast. Nature is all around us, waiting to be savored. Take a peek at this trailer for a taste of the movie to come.
The Florida debut of Mile, Mile & A Half will be on Thursday July 18, 7:30 PM, at the Athens Theater in Deland. It’s “the theater where my Grandfather saw his first film as a young boy,” said Ric. “I love the nostalgia associated with that.”
Tickets cost $10. The film is suitable for PG audiences, with mild profanity.
While in town, the Serenas and their 5-year-old daughter will take the time to play outside. “We still enjoy canoeing the Wekiva,” said Ric, “and day hikes along the Little Big Econ Trail during our trips home to see family.” They also believe in giving back to trail organizations: your attendance at the screening supports the Florida Trail Association, as a portion of all ticket proceeds will benefit FTA.
For more information, visit The Muir Project