Read about my complete John Muir Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
Because I fell asleep early, I woke up early as well. I stayed in my quit until around 4:00 am when I finally broke camp. I was ready to leave around 3:00 am, but that seemed disrespectful to the people camping around me. I hiked back to the intersection with the Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) approach trail and dropped my gear. I made my way down the rock- and manure-laden pathway to the resupply point. I found my battery banks and was very pleased to see that they were both fully charged. Thank goodness.
I started toward Piute Pass before dawn. It was relatively flat and I hiked a long way in the dark. It was like stepping into a western film. The trail followed the river and it was all rocks, river, dust, and barbed wire. Eventually, the trail climbed toward Evolution Meadow. Evolution Creek is a constant waterfall as you ascend the mountain. It’s no joke.
Several backpackers drowned trying to ford this creek during the record snowmelt in spring/summer 2017, and it’s easy to see why. The waterfall is a fast-paced meat grinder. I’d be surprised if anyone who was swept down the cascade ended up in one piece at the bottom. Luckily for me, the water was low (just above the knee) and relatively slow when I crossed.
This hike was uphill all day. Much of the meadow portion was rewarding, but it was relentlessly uphill all the same. I think I walked uphill for the first 17 miles of the day. This was the first time I could feel my body strain under the endeavor. It wasn’t my strength—I was in great shape. It was my Achilles tendons that started to strain under the barrage of uphill steps.
It was around mid-morning when I realized what a colossal mistake the macaroni and cheese with bacon had been the day before. I won’t go into the details. Suffice to say, when you get your body in a routine in the wilderness, it is ill-advised to shake up that routine. Eating that rich, heavy meal was akin pouring glass marbles into my car’s gas tank.
The climb toward Muir Pass was breathtakingly beautiful. Up until this point, I had largely stuck to the intent of my hiking schedule with a few miles here or there. But I was so invigorated by the landscape of the region that I just kept going. I knew I was approaching the longest mountain pass of the entire trail and that there was no good place to camp for miles, but I continued on anyway. I was excited.
This was one of the dumber things I did on this hike, especially considering the silver sky that loomed above me. I was fortunate that I wasn’t forced pay a price for it.
I put myself in a hazardous area at high elevation at the time of the afternoon when storms are frequent. After summiting and reaching Muir Hut, I forced myself (unbeknownst to me at the time) to scramble down the most dangerous, icy stretch of the JMT in the twilight. And I barely managed to find a campsite on a ridge above Starr Camp before nightfall.
I made camp, ate, and fell asleep almost immediately.
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.