Read about my complete John Muir Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
My clothes were not completely dry when I woke up. I begrudgingly put them on knowing that my body heat and the wind would dry them in short order. Until then, it would be very cold.
The good thing about this part of the trail was that I was running out of mountain passes. My only goal for the day was to get as close to Forester Pass as I could. If I was being ambitious, I hoped to summit Forester before bed. But the pass is more than 13,000 feet high and requires miles of hiking on the other side to find a suitable campsite.
That’s one of the things I didn’t know before I visited the Sierra and learned the lesson first-hand. Often, you have the choice of making camp a few miles short of a pass or committing to doing 7 or so miles up and over the mountain before finding another suitable campsite. At around 3:00 pm, this is a very complicated decision. If you could check the weather forecast, that would take a lot of the guesswork out of it. But you can’t, so you go with your gut.
The hike was a beautiful jaunt across high altitude lakes and meadows. Pictures barely do it justice. I walked and made a point to eat as much food as I could to lighten my pack weight.
This is the first day I realized that I was carrying around lots of Ibuprofen. My Achilles tendons could be medicated into submission with pills, even if that increased the odds of injury. I’m proud to say I never abused the pills, but I did start my mornings with them to get warmed up.
I felt strong until the moment I didn’t on this day, if that makes sense. I had my mind set on summiting the mountain to make for an easy trek to the base of the summit of Mt Whitney the next day, but looming clouds dashed those dreams.
It looked like storms were gathering and the last place a hiker wants to be is on or near a mountain pass in a storm. You are above the tree line, which by definition makes you the high point. If there is lighting in the area, it is aiming for you. A smart person stays below the trees when s/he realizes s/he’s no longer casting a shadow on the ground.
I reluctantly made camp below the summit of Forester Pass and I’m glad I did. Just after boiling the water for my dinner, and just before my standard afternoon yoga/stretching, a hailstorm with lightning pounced on the area. I retreated to my tent and tried not to imagine what might have happened if I had stubbornly insisted on summiting the pass.
I was proud of myself for being responsible and was positively giddy with the idea that I would be able to take a hot shower and order fresh food in just 2 nights. I’ll admit that I was more excited about being done with the trail than summiting Mt Whitney.
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.