Read about my complete John Muir Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
I’m calling this Day 0 because it wasn’t technically part of my John Muir Trail (JMT) thru-hike. As I’ve already explained, my permit had me starting the JMT in Tuolumne Meadows (Lyell Canyon), not Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. Since visitors can’t carry overnight gear anywhere in the park without a permit, I mailed my gear to the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office. I carried a simple daypack as I explored the park and took in the sights.
I must mention that the postal worker who posted my gear from home never attached a scan sticker. So I never knew until the day I arrived in Yosemite if my gear was lost or found or if I would even be able to follow through on my hike. It was horribly nerve-wracking to have traveled across the country through several days and myriad forms of public transportation without even knowing if my adventure would be over before it even began.
Once I arrived, the postmaster in Yosemite made some calls and verified that my gear was in fact where it was supposed to be. I had planned to hike the entire valley floor loop (around 12 miles), but dealing with the postal service took up hours of my limited time. So I just wandered around like a tourist, taking in as many of the sights as I could before the sunset.
Yosemite is like Disneyland for adults. Photos can’t capture the scale of the imposing granite mountains. Let me see if I can put it in perspective.
Mt Mitchell in North Carolina is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. It’s 6684 feet high. The famous rocky monolith in Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, is 7573 feet high. The sheer rock wall looms over 3000 feet alone. And El Capitan is not considered a large mountain in the range. Mt Whitney, the southern terminus of the JMT, is around 14,500 feet high. The scale is off the charts for someone like me whose wilderness experience is largely comprised of trips throughout the southeastern USA.
The Yosemite experience is more like an amusement park than a national park. The extensive bus system is free and foolproof, the food is relatively impressive and reasonably priced, and the signage and trails are ubiquitous and well maintained. There is wildlife even in the most active parts of the park and there’s enough room for everyone to spread out if they want.
I explored the valley and then spent the night in a canvas tent at Half Dome Village. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to play at roughing it while maintaining access to all of the modern amenities.
I can’t wait to get back to the area. Next time, I’ll get a walk-up permit for 2 to spend one night in the wilderness. We’ll hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley, which is downhill the whole way. Then I’ll arrange to stay at Half Dome Village again for another day or two while we take in all the park has to offer. I want to spend a couple of days on foot and another day floating down the river.
Watch the video
Follow in my virtual footsteps as I make the 200-mile journey from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park to the Mt Whitney Portal. Watch the entire video or jump ahead to specific days. You can find more information to help you plan your own JMT hike at cchikes.com/JMT17.