Read about my complete John Muir Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.
For reasons that I won’t get into here, I’ve had a very strong urge to take a break from my life lately. If you do this in a city, you’re called homeless and people generally avoid you. If you do it in the wilderness, you’re called a thru-hiker and friends, family, and strangers congratulate you for it.
I gave a lot of thought to quitting work for half a year or more to hike the 3100-mile Continental Divide Trail. As a matter of fact, the gear I bought and shakedowns I went through were designed to get myself and my kit thru-hike-ready.
As preparation for the CDT, I completed the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail in October and the 77-mile Foothills Trail in November. I was looking at some pictures of Yosemite online when I realized that the 211-mile John Muir Trail (JMT) would scratch the itch I had without necessitating new employment or relocation.
I have a lot of PTO where I work. There’s nothing keeping me from flying out to California and walking all day for weeks. I figured that I’m already in pretty good shape, so I read up on how the permit system worked and put some reminders on my calendar to get the ball rolling exactly six months before my desired start date, which is the esoteric requirement.
Well, I just received my official permit to leave from Lyell Canyon on September 1 to hike south to Mt Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. This was my 5th of 5 preferred starting points because it cuts much of Yosemite off my hike. I might get there a day early and try to get a local/daily permit to start from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley, my preferred starting point. If I don’t get it, I’ll just shuttle back to Lyell Canyon and set out the next day as my papers allow.
About the JMT
I found a lot of great resources at SoCalHiker.net. Here is some information about the trail.
The John Muir Trail covers some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, from stunning, glacier-chiseled Yosemite, to the jagged spires of the Minarets, to the highest mountain peak in the contiguous United States. You’ll hike over numerous high mountain passes, pass ancient glaciers, cross fast-moving mountain streams while surrounded by giant peaks.
The JMT is truly a wilderness trail, coming close to civilization at only a few points. Being out on the trail with only your skill, your equipment and your wit to survive will sharpen your perspective on life.
At the same time, you’re not ever really alone. Many people travel the trail, or a portion of it, every year. While you may go all day without seeing a soul, stop for a while and you soon find there are others making the trek.
Most people allow at least 3 weeks to actively hike the trail. I’m allowing 14 days with a zero at Muir Trail Ranch. Traveling to/from the coast will take a couple more days and I’m giving myself some time to recover at home. I can probably justify more days off if I need to. That will eat up around 3 weeks of my total PTO. I’m glad to finally be using it properly.
Now that I have a start date, I need to work backward to flesh out the rest of my itinerary, book my travel, and assemble my resupply boxes. Oh, and I have to get into the best shape of my life. Wish me luck!
You can follow along with my pre-hike prep, gear list/reviews, and the actual hike by browsing my JMT post archives. I’ve provided my pre-hike impressions and post-hike impressions. Learn from my mistakes. You can also subscribe to have new posts sent to your inbox or follow me on Instagram.
Next: JMT thru-hike meal prep