“The world is big and I want to get a good look at it before it gets dark.” John Muir speaks to the explorer in us all. His accounts of his adventures and of strolls in the wild have always captivated me. He was eloquent and captured deeper thoughts on nature beautifully where as I am left standing with my mouth agape and lost for words. So to finally get my hands on the rare as hen’s teeth permit to hike the trail named after him was like winning the lottery. The John Muir Trail (JMT) is 350km of wonderfully unbroken trail that meanders through the most stunning mountain scenery’s of the Sierra Nevada in California. The trail starts in Yosemite National Park and moves through Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks and finishes on Mt Whitney – the highest peak in the continental USA (4421m). It is hard to sum up three weeks, nearly 400km in the Sierra Nevada in a few words. I will be dreaming of my time on the trail for years to come. I am lucky I have my journal, photos and my new trail friends to keep the memories alive and would love to share a few excerpts and photos. Day 1: on top of Half Dome with my new mountain home behind me. Day 1: I had a late start from the Backpacker’s Camp in Yosemite. I left with my two new friends who are also doing the full JMT. It was so crazy and busy climbing out of the Valley. The whole day was all uphill. Lucky it was only 5km or so. No breeze, full pack and the heat meant it was a definite slog up. My new friends and I parted at Little Yosemite Valley. I set up camp and jumped in the Merced River for a swim. A few locals gave me a hot tip: hit Half Dome for sunset. Best advice! No lines on the cables and I only had to share the top with a few people. Those views are something special. What a first day looking out over the Valley and on to the mountains that are to be my home for the next three weeks. Day 5: Breakfast views over 1000 Island Lake and Banner Peak. After a windy camp set up it was a stunningly clear, still and chilly night. Day 8: This morning was spent heading up Silver Pass. I turned a bend in the trail. There were a few alpine lakes, snow on the mountains and I could see the top of the pass and it floored me. I literally stopped in my tracks with my jaw dropping. Nature is so stunning. Thousands of years since the glaciers moved through and shaped this stunning landscape and here I was a tiny dot being humbled by its scale and age. “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” Day 8: Squaw Lake on the way up to Silver Pass. Day 9: I stayed at Vermillion Valley Ranch (VVR) last night. It was the kind of place that you can’t imagine the vibe unless you were there. It was a holiday from my holiday! I resupplied, ate BBQ and got a free beer. I spent the night around a campfire swapping stories with other hikers and really getting to know the people I have been seeing off and on for a few days. It was magical. I caught the boat from VVR this morning and started climbing Bear Ridge. I had heard horrible stories about it but it did not live up to the horror and was nothing like the hell I had been sold. Turquoise lakes and perfect pine trees filled my morning. Afternoon tea was atop a waterfall. I dangled my boot-free-feet in the icy water as it tumbled over the rocks. I was pretty ecstatic – I had my deliciously tasty Vegemite bagel crisps from my resupply. I carefully folded the packet and put it back in my bear can. I have plans to suck the crumbs and salt out later. While I was eating and filtering my water I had this thought “Why isn’t this my life?” Then I realised it was. Day 11: Sapphire Lake in Evolution Valley. One of my coldest but most beautiful sunsets to watch perched on my little ledge. Day 11: This section has to be hands down my favourite section of the hike so far. Evolution Valley – not just because of the science name or that all the peaks are named after scientists. It was so stunning. The only non-scientist named peak is called The Hermit and sits at 3767m above sea level and it dominates the entire view whilst walking through McClure Meadow. I was in total awe of it. I spent all day gaping at it and planning my trip to come back and off-trail. Day 12: Wanda Lake in the Evoluation Valley. This is typical of the JMT. Skirting stunning lakes and waterfalls surrounded by mountains. Day 12: A cold front has moved through. It was pretty bloody cold last night. I stopped 50 feet short of 10,000 feet above sea level so I could have a fire. Sitting by the fire in this little meadow watching the sunset and the light change the colour of the mountains was nothing short of breathtaking. I hope to remember the happiness and contentment I feel sitting here. Still loving the new food I picked up in my resupply. The water I saved for breakfast this morning was still frozen at 9am it was THAT chilly last night. I cannot imagine being anywhere else though. “You may be a little cold some nights, on mountain tops above the timber-line but you will see the stars, and by and by you can sleep enough in your town bed, or at least in your grave. Keep awake while you may in mountain mansions so rare” Easier said than done John Muir, but I sure did try. Day 12: On top of Muir Pass (3659m). Busted out the jerky for the occasion. Day 14: I had a glorious leaning rock to sit back against to watch the sun set over my camp while eating my crappy beef stroganoff. I really hate beef stroganoff now. I will never eat it again. But that sunset! “What a glorious greeting the sun gives the mountains!” Day 14: Camp rituals at Marie Lake. Water filtering, cooking and washing of the clothes as soon as my tent was up. The black cylinder is my bear canister to keep all my food, rubbish and toiletries safe from bears. Day 16: I literal cried with joy next to Rae Lakes because a fellow hiker offered me an actual chair. For four days I had been saying to myself how much chairs are under-rated and how I should appreciate them much more at home. I was getting tired of always supporting my own body weight as leaning rocks were getting hard to come by. Then I think of this quote and look around here at these mountains and I forget about constantly doing the camp squat and not having a chair. The lack of chairs and all the squats don’t seem so bad. “No pain here, no dull empty hours, no fear of the past, no fear of the future. These blessed mountains are so compactly filled with.. beauty, no petty personal hope of experience has room to be” Later on Day 16: The fastest I ever put my tent up. Something hit my hands and it was a hail stone and then it was a race to get the tent up. I won. I’m pretty sure it was two storms. There was the first one, then a small lull for a few minutes with just light rain. Just as I was thinking it was done there was a big crack of thunder and lightning on top of me and then more hail began to pelt down again. It was on like Donkey Kong. I am not 100% sure how long it lasted. I had two solid naps, collected hail stones to boil water to have soup and raided my bear can to find some goodies to eat. I am getting pretty sick of my food. It’s a bit of a chore eating. I love coming across new people to see if they want to trade food. Day 16: The aftermath of the storm. It was like it never happened! Except for the plummet in temperature and ice on the tent later. Unfortunately in my hurry to get my tent up before the storm I had a giant rock in my vestibule. Rae Lakes (~3200m) with the peak being Painted Lady (3696m) John Muir wrote “Wildness is a necessity. I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get into the mountains to learn the news”. I can tell you that after three weeks, the news is good. The journey is more than an ache in the legs and the gasp for oxygen. It is continuous moments that make you stand still and take your breath away. It is pure beauty in its rawest form. It is strength of heart and grit and extraordinary kindness that is unbelievable and overwhelming. There’s no pride out there, just those magic light filled mountains making us humble and allowing us to wander. One Response Elaine Staples January 11, 2017 Just brilliant in every sense. Thank you for sharing it. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.