Read about my complete John Muir Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
As usual, I woke, broke camp, and stretched. Both of my Achilles tendons and my left hamstring were very sore. This day started with some very welcome downhill walking, but it was still painful. I overdid it the day before and I would endure pain for days to come because of it.
The valley was beautiful and bountiful. I’ve never seen more deer in one day than I did while walking this stretch of trail. One young buck wandered right in front of me and acted like I didn’t scare him at all. As the apex predator, I was a little offended.
I also passed the stone monster on my way down the trail. A group had camped there, so I almost missed it by trying not to stare at the campers as they were rousing from their tents in their undergarments.
The downhill didn’t last long. Eventually, the valley started to curve uphill and I was faced with the infamous Golden Staircase. The sky was dark silver and there was the usual threat of afternoon showers, but the weather held off while I started my climb. I only put on my raincoat once during the day, and never ended up needing it.
You’d think I would have hated climbing the Golden Staircase, but I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong; I was tired. But the staircase featured lots of wild mint, oregano, and something that smelled like lavender. Despite my allergies, I was in heaven. It was a painful, slow-going heaven, but heaven nonetheless.
I had hoped to climb over Mather Pass and camp on the other side that night, but my Achilles tendons and knee pain were indicators that I needed to dial it down a notch. I was ahead of my campsite/food plan, so I decided to camp short of the pass and do some yoga/stretching before the sun went down.
That would leave me with 2 passes to climb the next day, but I figured it would be better to start a long day fresh than to start a short day with guaranteed pain and the possibility of injury.
I was high enough above Palisade Lakes to avoid mosquitos, which means I was also high enough to make it very cold at night. That’s the trade-off you have to make.
This the first night I remember being tired of the hike. I don’t mean tired as in sleepy from a long day. I mean tired as in bored of being on the JMT.
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.