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200 Miles Journey In The Wild

In: John Muir Trail
200 Miles Journey in the Wild

On July 21, 2017, I embarked on a 200-mile journey to hike the John Muir Trail solo in the Sierra Nevada mountains that extends from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney — the tallest peak in the lower 48 states.  It took me 2 days to prepare for my trip and 21 days total to complete my entire journey.  With the support and help of many wonderful PCT and JMT trail friends, I finished my trek on August 9, 2017.

The JMT visits some of the crown jewels of America’s park system: Yosemite, John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.  It covers ten passes which  include, Cathedral Pass, Donohue Pass , Island Pass , Silver Pass , Muir Pass , Mather Pass, Pinchot Pass, Glenn Pass, Forester Pass, Mtn. Whitney , ranging from 9,700ft. to 14,495ft.  The JMT has more than 7,500 feet of elevation change.

John Muir Trail Elevation Map

John Muir Trail Elevation Map

Over the course of my three weeks in the wild, I have experienced a great deal of physical pain all over my body.  Due to carrying a heavy pack, climbing, scrambling, crossing high rivers, hiking on snow, rain, and gravel.  I felt physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted every day hiking for 14 to 19 miles a day.

The spiritual and the emotional healing however I have received in the wilderness, I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. It was by far the wildest, rich wilderness experience I could ever ask for!  I am grateful for the encouragement I have received from my JMT and PCT hikers on the trail to keep going.  I had plenty of reasons wanting to quit and get off the trail.  I decided to keep going.  The challenges I faced only made me a stronger person.

While hiking the JMT I have  met a lot of great friends, and learned few tips  along the way.  Tips listed below are very subjective and what worked for me on the trail may not necessarily work for the other person.  I hope you will find them helpful.

Blisters Prevention

Prepping the feet for long hikes is extremely important.  I strongly recommend sanitizing, moisturizing and massaging your feet in advance before starting on your JMT trek.   Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion is great for preventing the skin forming into blisters.  Sanitizer keeps skin free from developing any bacteria.  A good foot massage can also help your feet feel better on the trail. Professional massages can be expensive or inconvenient. With just a little massage oil, you can relax your feet, stretch and soothe the muscles.

If you happen to already develop blisters while hiking, wash your feet gently with soap and water.  Sanitize them to prevent any bacteria formation.  Drain the blisters gently with a sanitized needle. Apply a Band-Aid or a donut shaped moleskin pad. Finally, cover it with  Leukotape. To prevent blister formation, check for hot spots formation every night prior to going to bed.  The more effort you put in for caring your feet, happier your feet will feel!

Keep your feet clean, warm and dry.

Wash your socks daily (inside and out; no soap) to prevent grit and organic matter from abrading my skin. At least once a day, I take off my shoes and socks to let my feet and air out. And at night I put on a clean dry, and warm pair of socks, which helps my feet recover overnight so they withstand another day of abuse.

Water Supply

Friends with whom I met and hiked the John Muir Trail.

Clean water supply is abundant in the High Sierra.  If you are able to get water from clean water streams and creeks, I would recommend using it.   While hiking the JMT, my pack was so heavy due to carrying water.  It slowed my trek tremendously.  I ended up draining all of it from my pack.  I ended up carrying my collapsible water bottle and filled it with water only when I need it.  It made a huge difference.  I also did not use my Sawyer Filter once while hiking the JMT.  I was impressed with how clean and pure water is in the High Sierra’s.

Carry a Motrin (Ibuprofen)

Taking Motrin (Ibuprofen) every night with my dinner helped incredibly with relieving pain in my joints and muscles.  It also helps with preventing altitude sickness.  I strongly recommend taking it with you.  It does wonders for the body after a hard day on the trail.

Carry A Waterproof  Tent

My ALPS Mountaineering Tent did not disappoint me during my trek. It kept me dry through all my days in the wilderness even in the rainy Kings Canyon National Park. It rained every single day!   My tent did not show any signs of leaks. It kept me dry and happy!

ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1-Person Tent.

ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1-Person Tent. Garnet Lake.  Ansel Adams Wilderness

Carry Crampons or Micro Spikes

Sitting on top of Mather Pass with Claudia.  Mather Pass Summit.  Elev: 13,153 feet. (4,009 m,)

If you have crampons or micro spikes, great! If not, crampons can be rented at the Curry Village Mountaineering School in Yosemite Valley.  Since hiking JMT was a decision made on a fast notice, I did not have them.  So it was a great alternative to get them in Yosemite Valley.   They were a huge help for me to go through some of the roughest passes on the trek.

JMT Hikers passing through Donohue Pass. 11,066 feet. Yosemite National Park Wilderness.

Cell Phone Signal

Cell phone signal on the JMT is very difficult to find.   AT&T cell phone signal works on top of Donohue Pass, Lake Thomas Edison, and on top of Mtn. Whitney.  At these locations, I was able to check my email and send a text message to my friend to let her know I was ok.

Start Hiking Early

Rae Lakes - SEquoia Kings Canyon Wilderness

Rae Lakes – Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park Wilderness.  A photo was taken at 5:35 a.m.

It is imperative you start your hike early in the morning before the weather gets too hot.  I start my hike at 5:30 a.m. and before 12:30 p.m. I am able to cover 12 miles.  Not only that, you get to experience some of the most stunning sunrise scenery on the trail.

Altitude Sickness Prevention

Drinking plenty of water, acclimation and a diet rich in carbohydrates helps with preventing altitude sickness. I did not get or experience altitude sickness once and largely it was due to my diet and acclimation. I strongly encourage to eat foods high in carbohydrates, even if you are not hungry. This is important because when there is less oxygen, our bodies use up glycolysis (carbohydrate storage) for energy at a faster rate. When you deplete those stores, you will have less energy and move slowly. Scrap the protein because a high-carb diet also requires less oxygen for metabolism and digestion. Whole grain pasta, brown rice, cereal, and bread are all excellent sources of high carbohydrate food.

Team Up With Someone

Muir Pass

Standing with Peter at the top of Muir Pass.  11,955ft.

If you are hiking solo, I strongly encourage for anyone to team up with someone who is walking at your pace and your level of ability.  Hiking JMT can be a dangerous experience if not deadly.  It is crucial to team up with people who hike the same speed as you are.

I started hiking solo, and before I knew I teamed up with Peter Aan from Texas. We hike together for more than 100 miles. After Peter was no longer able to hike due to an injury, I later teamed up with Luke and Emily Frey from Sonoma County.  Later, I met Claudia from San Francisco with whom I climbed Mather Pass together.  Then I met Ben, PCT Hiker, with whom I hiked to the top of Glen Pass.  Everyone I met was friendly and helpful!

That is all I have for safety tips to be safe on the John Muir Trail.   There are a lot more tips to cover to be safe, but I will save that for another post.  If you need more information on permits, maps, etc. please visit Permits, Maps,Apps and Resupply Information Page.

Here are additional John Muir Trail Photos.