Read about my complete John Muir Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
I was very happy to grab a hot breakfast at Red’s Meadow as soon as the café opened. I charged my devices as best I could and I packed some toasted and buttered rye bread for a mid-morning snack.
Climbing out of Red’s Meadow was a real chore. The first 6 or so miles were uphill. I passed a girl from San Francisco I met the night before. She was laying on a rock trying to catch her breath. The elevation finally flattened out and the hike featured contour walking—my favorite kind of hiking.
This part of the trail passed by several alpine lakes. I ran into another girl I met from Phoenix grabbing a snack near Purple Lake, another heartbreaking down-and-up.
I met a NOBO John Muir Trail (JMT) section-hiker with a bum knee on the way up. I shared some advice about my own experience with knee pain and the sleeves I wear and he seemed very appreciative.
Eventually, I made my way to Lake Virginia. This would prove to be one of the most picturesque landscapes on the entire JMT. In retrospect, I wish I had camped there—especially since I now know how bad the mosquitoes were just south of the lake at lower elevation.
The climb down to Tully Hole was very long. I felt so bad for the poor bastards who were climbing seemingly endless switchbacks in mosquito head nets. This climb was not unique in its hardship, it’s just that there are no trees on the mountain. So you are constantly reminded just how far you have to go to reach the top. Once I descended to the bottom, I filtered some water and was lectured by some locals about how I was doing too many miles per day and would inevitably injure myself and derail my hike. This preaching was not uncommon. Everyone thinks that they are average. And any deviation from the average is an error.
People are oddly prideful about their mileage per day. George Carlin used to do a bit where he said something like, “it’s funny how everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot, everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, but you drive just the right speed.” People who do the trail over several weeks were vocal in their faith that anyone going faster than them was missing out on the beauty of the wilderness.
You see, they were getting the “full experience.” Others weren’t. I jokingly asked one group if the people going slower than them were getting more of an experience, and they acted confused. You see, they were getting the full experience. People going slower than them didn’t experience more. They just got the same experience at a slower pace.
Whatever. I’m not an activist. I saw no need to explain that this conclusion scales to those hiking faster than them.
I followed the river and crossed the bridge at Tully Hole. This stretch of trail featured the worst mosquitos of the entire JMT. I ended up climbing up toward Silver Pass just to get above the pests. I made camp at an obscure site at elevation, doused myself with DEET, cooked my dinner, and went to sleep.
It was this night when my dirtiness started to bother me and I vowed to bathe the next day.
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.