Read about my complete John Muir Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
I woke up excited to greet the day. I had a short, 11-mile hike to Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) for my resupply. Hikers on the trail are motivated by food, and I am no exception. This was an easy jaunt.
I should also explain that it was my philosophy on this hike to crank out 10 or 11 miles by lunch and then casually complete another 7–10 miles over the entire afternoon. So facing only 10 miles was like working just until lunch on a Friday and jumpstarting the weekend early.
I began my day by climbing toward Seldon Pass. Going north to south, this might have been the easiest pass on the entire John Muir Trail (JMT). 90% of the climb was gradual, meaning it was more like a ramp than a staircase. I was flying. I passed several people that I would see at MTR later that afternoon.
I carry several items that need to be recharged on the trail. I only carried one 10,000 mAh battery bank in the first half of the trail. I set off with everything fully charged in Tuolumne Meadows and then recharged everything at Red’s Meadow.
I took lots of photos on the trail and filmed many brief video clips per day, but otherwise tried to keep my screentime to a minimum. Not because of some “outdoors = freedom from tech” philosophy, but rather to preserve battery power. I will not apologize for my technophilia.
I should add that I unapologetically listen to audiobooks while I hike. That runs my battery down to the point that I need to charge it around once per day. By the morning I headed to MTR, I had less than a full charge on my phone and my battery bank was dead. My power planning was in sync with my hiking schedule, if just barely.
There was a lot of downhill to get to MTR. That might sound nice, but it’s hell on my knees and ankles. That said, I felt bad for the poor NOBOs who loaded up their packs with 10+ pounds of new food and had to climb out of that gorge—feeling every ounce of food weight on their backs.
I arrived at MTR around noon and picked up my resupply. I felt great and would like to have cranked out another 10 miles or so that afternoon. But MTR has a charging station and I needed everything to be powered up before I left. The power is split a dozen ways, so it took forever to charge anything.
I mailed myself a second 10,000 mAh battery bank for the last leg of my trip. I figured that I needed to fully charge my smartphone, fitbit, and headlamp while I was there. Then I could leave my 2 battery banks overnight if necessary. I had fully charged the second bank I mailed to myself, but that was a month prior and much of the energy had been leeched by the cold weather storage.
It probably took 2½ hours to charge my phone, fitbit, and headlamp. Over that time, scores of backpackers came and went. I met new people and ran into some others I had met earlier that day. I even ran into a couple I had met the day prior.
I killed much of this time by cannibalizing my homemade trail mix. I had been 100% sure that the mix I packed would hold up over my entire hike. As it was, I was disgusted with it after a few days. I simply couldn’t force it down. I used my bear canister lid as a tray and separated the dried fruit from everything else. I kept the fruit and tossed the salty/savory/spicy mix that gave me indigestion.
I’m literally gagging while writing this and thinking about it.
Even though I only cook food at night (and by cook, I mean boil water), I tossed my fuel canister and bought a new one. It was worth $8 for the peace of mind that I wouldn’t run out of fuel no matter the temperature, wind, or elevation the rest of my JMT thru-hike had to offer.
I asked an MTR employee about leaving some battery packs to charge overnight and she told me I could pick them up before the ranch opens at 8:00 am if I was very quiet and didn’t disturb the horses. This was a huge load off my mind, but it meant I had to camp nearby.
I knew my body could probably use a half day of rest, so I wasn’t really put off. I was bored, however, despite the huge crowd of thru-hikers sharing the same campground.
We thru-hikers were all packed in like sardines at the backpacker’s campground. I got odd stares from people when I told them I was taking a nearo and then casually admitted that I had done 10 miles that morning. To me, it was a half-day. But that mileage was around their daily goal. This reinforced that I needed to keep my mileage to myself.
I laid on a large log and napped for over an hour. Later, I forded the river and checked out the natural hot springs. They were overrated at best. This proved to be the most dangerous ford of my entire trip and it was completely unnecessary.
I had packed some heavy food to eat that night and the next morning. I spent the afternoon devouring a pound of precooked macaroni noodles with Velveeta cheese and bacon bits. It was so filling that I didn’t eat the hot breakfast I brought for the next morning.
A couple asked if they could set up camp right beside my tent. I told then that was fine, but warned that I planned to get going early the next morning. They asked how early, and I told them 5:00 am. They were shocked. I hadn’t realized that was so unusual. But then again, I was largely still on eastern time.
I fell asleep early and woke up even earlier.
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.