John Muir Trail 2014

The John Muir Trail (JMT) is considered one of, if not THE, most beautiful backpacking trails in the world.  It is 221 miles long and  goes from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney.

I did the first sixty miles of the trail back in 2011.  You can read about that section here.  I left the trail at a place called Red’s Meadow, which is near Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and Devil’s Postpile National Monument.  I rejoined the trail at the same place. Here is the very fitting welcome sign as you enter Mammoth from the East side of the Sierras:

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I drove my motorcycle and left it at the main lodge parking lot of Mammoth Mountain:

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I met these JMT hikers (Steve and Susan) from Hood River, Oregon.  We got on the trail at 5pm and hiked six miles together to get to Deer Creek just before sunset.

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Here is my first pass (Silver Pass) the next day.

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I grew a bit of a beard for this trip to protect against the sun:

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Here was my campsite the second night.  It poured rain before sunset.  You can see me trying to dry out my stuff (unsuccessfully).

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LOTS of mosquitos in July.  Here is a pic of my typical sleeping attire.   July is great for mountain flowers but bad for mosquitos.  September is good for mosquitos (very few) but the flowers are gone.  The mosquitos were a pain but worth dealing with for the flowers.  Just make sure to have your head net and long pants and shirt ready to go at a moments notice!

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Nothing but beautiful mountain lakes on the JMT.

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I met this family at the top of Selden Pass.  They were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) (from Baja to Canada).  The kid, named Buddy, is SIX YEARS OLD!  Last summer they hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) when Buddy was five.  Next summer they want to do the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and make Buddy the youngest ever to complete all three. While I was chatting with Buddy’s Mom and Dad he would climb up and jump off the rock he’s standing on continuously.  Tireless!  What a cool family.

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I camped below Selden Pass that evening and woke up the next morning, put on my shoes and this happened first thing:

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I was really, really worried that this mishap would end my trip early.  I had some duct tape, but not enough to get me through the remaining 110 miles.

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Each wrap would get me about ten miles….

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At my resupply that day I did find a little extra Duct Tape, but still no where near enough to get through the trip.  Decided to go for it and hope the trail would provide…..

Muir Trail Ranch is exactly half way through the whole 220 mile trail.  Many people make this their last resupply, which means you’re carrying a lot of weight in food (until you eat the weight down).  With two liters of water and seven days worth of food my pack weighed 29 pounds.

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A common sight on the JMT.

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Water falls come in all shapes and sizes.

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Heading through the Evolution Valley on my way to Muir Pass.  Stunning.

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At Evolution Lake before Muir Pass.

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My campsite at Evolution Lake.  You can see the blue bear cannister for food, which hikers are required to carry all along the JMT.  It also serves as a good stool to sit on!

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The shelter at the top of Muir Pass.

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It was built by a member of the Sierra Club in 1931 in Muirs honor.

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Both sides of Muir Pass were my absolute favorite of the whole trail.  Tons of flowers as I came down from Muir Pass.

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Close up.

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So.  I was really stressing about my shoe situation.  I was running out of Duct Tape.  Just then I came around a bend in the trail and sitting on top of a rock is this Teva water shoe.  Size 11.  Right foot.  Perfect.  I’m pretty sure it was placed there by the ghost of John Muir to make sure I finished the JMT.  For the rest of the trip I used this shoe to climb and the broken shoe to descend.  No further problems other than I had to keep switching shoes.  My sincere thanks to whomever lost this shoe (which, based on the dust inside it was at least a few weeks prior).  Your sacrifice helped me complete the trip.

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A HUGE waterfall coming off of Muir Pass.

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More cool mountain flowers.

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That night I camped on the Golden Staircase, the last and hardest section of the JMT to build.   You can’t see the perspective but the ledge I was sleeping on was steep and awesome.

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A typical meal.  Not bad at all!

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I met this couple, Eve and Josh from Ventura, California, the next day.  They were seventy miles from the Muir Trail Ranch resupply and were almost out of food.  They had been chased off of Forrester Pass (close to Whitney) by the same storm that had soaked me a couple of nights earlier.  I was hiking much faster than planned and gave them a bunch of of my extra food, including this Ritter Sport chocolate bar.  They were really a fun couple.

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These beautiful flowers grew out of rocks and could only be seen way above the timber line.

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Same family of flowers I think.  They smelled heavenly.

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Top of Pinchot Pass.  This guy was hiking the PCT.  Like all PCT hikers I met he was completely chill.  I few thousand miles on a beautiful trail has a way of chilling people down….

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This awesome couple was also doing the JMT.   They were a latino couple from Patterson, California.  I told her she was the only Chola I had met on the trail and she gave me a huge laugh!

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The next morning coming down Pinchot Pass I spotted this bear walking down the trail ahead of me.

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A much closer pic.  He barely noticed me as he foraged for breakfast.

On a side note: I was amazed at how many hikers, especially women, were absolutely terrified of bears.  Since the Grizzlies were hunted to extinction (in California) I don’t believe there have been many bear attacks.  Hats off to these folks for conquering their fears.  The only thing I worried about was startling a momma bear with her cubs.  Any time I was in thickets I would sing loudly so as to avoid this situation.

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Here is a PCT hiker with the trail name “The Mayor”.  Many hikers get trail names (which must be given to you by someone else).  The Mayor was a cool dude who did like to chat.  He told me several fun and colorful stories about the AT (Appalachian Trail).

Note: Although I was hiking the trail alone I was never lonely.  You are always meeting people like The Mayor.

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I met these two crazy dudes at the top of Glen Pass.  They were doing a loop for a few days (not the JMT).  The guy in the foreground had his guitar strapped to his backpack.  They were very proud of the fact that they had packed in an 18 pack of beer and a bottle of Scotch.  Oh, to be young again…..

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I met this JMT couple, Sean and Maya, from Portland, Maine, on the way up to Glen Pass.  They were hilarious.  Everyone asked why I had a shoe strapped to the top of my pack.  When I told them the story Maya gave me my trail name:  Cinderella – because the shoe fits.  I love it and plan to use this trail name from now on.  Very clever Maya.  Thank you!

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The last pass before Whitney, and the highest, is Forrester Pass.  More perfect flowers on at the pass.

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Forrester Pass.

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On Bighorn Plateau between Forrester Pass and Mount Whitney.   This is a long way South from Yosemite and you can see the desert like conditions, even well above 10K feet.

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Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 – and the end of the JMT.

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I camped at Guitar Lake, just below Whitney.

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I much higher view of Guitar Lake the next morning.

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Me near the top of Mt. Whitney.  You can see my extra shoe on the top of my pack.  I was eleven miles from being done and looking forward to a hamburger and a proper bath!

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Going down to Whitney Portal.  Many day hikers attempting Whitney in one day (11 miles straight up and then 11 miles straight down) were on their way up.  This section is called 99 Switchbacks.  You get the idea.  I climbed Whitney four years ago on this one day adventure of hell.  Glad I had several days on the trail to get acclimated this time.  Much easier!

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I averaged a little over 20 miles a day on the trail.  I was dang tired when I arrived in Whitney Portal.  When I got back to Mammoth I had a hot shower and a huge meal that was pure heaven.  Had a great time on the trip and hope to do it again – this time from South to North (Whitney – Yosemite).

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