The John Muir Trail is finally complete! This was one of the hardest & most satisfying accomplishments of my life! The following is a day by day triplog of the southern section of trail followed by my final thoughts.
7-23-2015 - 8.8 miles, 2,691 AEG - Onion Valley to Bubbs Creek
After spending the night in a hotel in Barstow we drove to Lone Pine and picked up our permits and then drove up to Horseshoe Meadow where we were to meet our shuttle driver at 11am. To make a long story short he was over two hours late! He ultimately got us to Onion Valley and we started hiking around 2:40pm which was much later than originally planned.
The hike up to Kearsarge Pass took a lot of effort. We had no time to acclimate ahead of time and my stomach was upset after the long shuttle ride. We hiked up the trail at a steady pace and took several breaks and ultimately reached the pass. The weather was cool and pleasant with overcast but little chance of rain. From Kearsarge Pass we quickly dropped down and connected onto the John Muir Trail above Bubbs Creek. We hiked southbound and selected a campsite in Vidette Meadow (9,600 ft) that included a fire ring and a bear locker. We had a fire and enjoyed dinner and then turned in for the night. I slept poorly that night. I assumed it was from the elevation. I'll have a hard time sleeping the next two nights as well.
7-24-2015 - 13.2 miles, 3,768 AEG - Bubbs Creek to Tyndall Creek
We started hiking around 8:30am and knew we were in for a big day. We had to cross Forester Pass at 13,200 ft. The trail is in great condition and made steady progress up hill. We took our time and enjoyed the views along the way. It's so beautiful here we caught ourselves oohing and awing! We also chatted it up with a few other backpackers and met a couple from Mesa and a solo hiker from Tucson.
We continued the hike as we neared Forester Pass. You can't see it until you're about a mile below. The final stretch to the pass was a real grind especially from my lack of sleep. We took a break at the top and talked to more hikers. I've always enjoyed the camaraderie along the JMT. After our break we made the steep descent down the south side. The trail eventually leveled off and we cruised the next few miles to Tyndall Creek where we selected a site next to a small stream that included another bear locker nearby. Tonight we'll be camping at 11,000 ft so no fires. We both turned in around 9am. I had another night of poor sleep due to the elevation.
7-25-2015 - 11 miles, 2,223 AEG - Tyndall Creek to Guitar Lake
We have a relatively mild day planned. We took our time getting ready in the morning and hit the trail somewhat late for us. The going was fairly easy as we climbed to Bighorn Plateau. This is another sweet area with epic views! We caught a few glimpses of Mount Whitney and it looked intimidating and far away.
We continued hiking and saw several other groups. Some of them we saw the day before. Before long we arrived at Crabtree Meadow and headed east towards Mount Whitney. We took a break near FOTG's campsite where we ate lunch and filtered water. We were going to camp here but it was early in the day so we continued an additional two miles to Guitar Lake. This put us closer to Whitney and at a higher elevation of 11,500 ft. The negative is we're above tree line so no shade. We both turned in fairly early. Our plan was to day hike Mount Whitney starting at 6:30am the following morning. I had another night of lack of sleep. The summit was going to be tough!
7-26-2015 - 19.1 miles, 4,067 AEG - Guitar Lake to Rock Creek with Mount Whitney
I slogged out of my tent a little before 6am and felt crummy from not sleeping. I know it's the elevation. We both organized our day pack and started hiking around 6:15am. The skies were clear and it was chilly. I wore a mid layer and a beanie. I wish I had gloves.
We made steady progress as we hiked up the trail. Our day packs felt so light it was like hiking with nothing. This made a big difference as we ascended towards Trails Crest at 13,500 ft. We much effort we reached the pass. From there we had 1.9 miles and 1,000 ft of gain. Our pace was slow but consistent and we caught glimpses of the summit. It looked so far away as it teased us. My journey here has taken over two years and my goal was in sight. I had to exit the trail early the past two years due to injury. There is no way I'm turning around even though I feel crummy. I continued on and made the final push to the summit. Suddenly the summit hut was right in front of me and I knew I finally completed my journey! My eyes swelled and tears of joy ran down my face. I was elated to have finally completed the John Muir Trail! I composed myself and met Chumley on the summit. He greeted me with a handshake and congratulations. I was a bit groggy from lack of sleep and the elevation of 14,500 ft. We enjoyed the views, took pics and signed the register. After about 30 minutes we started our return to Guitar Lake. We flew down the trail and were back to camp around noon.
We both tried to nap but it didn't go well. The sun was beating down on us and it was way too hot to sleep. We decided to pack up and head back to Crabtree where we would be leaving the JMT and heading south on the PCT for a few miles. We took a break at the junction and then continued south. We crossed Goyut Pass and then dropped down to Rock Creek where we selected a wonderful campsite next to a creek. We had another bear locker and were camping at 9,600 ft so we could have a fire.
We got camp set up and started our fire. A few minutes later we were visited by the ranger. She was really nice and we chatted for a few minutes. She asked to see our permit just before heading out. I'm honestly glad to have my permit checked. Afterward we ate dinner and turned in around 9pm. I'm in for a good nights rest. The lower elevation helped a lot!
7-27-2015 - 16 miles, 2,888 AEG - Rock Creek to Horseshoe Meadow
We discussed our options and decided to hike all the way out back to the jeep. We had about 16 miles and had to go over New Army Pass. The first few miles had a mild gain as we climbed out of Rock Creek and left the PCT and continued east for the pass. We passed a meadow with a stunning view of Mount Langley and Cirque Peak. The Sierras are just breathtaking and never get old!
The climb over New Army Pass took a lot of work! We talked about going over Army Pass but I opted to take New Army Pass because that's the route I had loaded. The climb was a real grind but was worth it! The views are stunning of Cottonwood Lakes! After our break we made the very steep descent down New Army Pass. The trail eventually levels off as you pass High Lake then Long Lake then Cottonwood Lakes 2 and then 1. The last few miles to the jeep were exhausting and thankfully downhill for the most part.
We arrived to the jeep around 4pm and I was so happy taking off my backpack. I then go to open the jeep and find the battery is dead. I was so exhausted I wanted to freak out! Chumley kept his cool and asked some campers for a jump. It took a few minutes but ultimately we got the jeep started and were fine thereafter. We stopped in Lone Pine for Mexican food and then returned to Phoenix arriving home a little after 1am. The trip was over what an experience!
I took way too much food on all three of my treks. I could have saved several pounds of weight.
Hiking the trail solo on my first trek was nice but I enjoyed having company on my next two trips. Having someone along for the ride helped keep things fun and fresh. It also helped on all the climbing up difficult passes.
The best way to hike the JMT is to just wing it. Don't come up with a specific itinerary. Try to figure out how many miles you need to average each day and then go for it. Ideally camp low and cross the passes in the morning. Line yourself up each day.
The JMT is a picturesque place and has a romantic appeal to many people. It's important to realize you are going to work your ass off on this trek! The passes are no joke and they keep coming at you. There is no way to cheat this trail. You earn every mile and every foot of elevation gain.
I owe thanks to many people on this. Thanks to Keepmoving for originally inspiring me to complete this based on his triplog from August 2012. [ photoset ]
. He also answered several PMs with my numerous questions about the trek. Thanks to BiFrost for going with me last year. I'm sorry Karl you didn't join me this year. This trek came together the last few weeks. Thanks to FOTG for answering questions on the south side of the trail. You're triplog also inspired me [ photoset ]
. It was comforting knowing we were following your footsteps. Special thanks to Chumley. He shuttled me two years ago on my initial trek. He also completed the final stretch and greeted me on the summit with a congratulations! It was a special moment for me and I'm glad you were there to share the experience with.
Completing the John Muir Trail is the highlight of my life! I faced much adversity after leaving the trail injured the two previous summers. I persevered and ultimately completed it! Now I need to pick my next obsession.