John Muir Trail Plus Half-Dome, Whitney, and Muir in 11 Days

  • Updated: August 15, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

August 5th to 15th, 2019
Half Dome (8,840')
Mount Whitney (14,498')
Mount Muir (14,012')
Day 0 - To Sunrise: 6.8 miles, 4,000'
Day 1 - Half Dome, To Cathedral: 16.86 miles, 5,500'
Day 2 - To Rush Creek: 22.64 miles, 3,200'
Day 3 - Reds Meadow, To Red Cones: 24 miles, 4,000'
Day 4 - To Silver Pass: 19.8 miles, 4,900'
Day 5 - To Seldon Pass: 21.5 miles, 4,200'
Day 6 - MTR, To  Evolution: 19.8 miles, 2,700'
Day 7 - To Le Conte: 21.55 miles, 3,000'
Day 8 - To Pinochot: 18 miles, 5,300'
Day 9 - To Glen: 19.71 miles, 5,000'
Day 10 - To Crabtree: 21 miles, 4,700'
Day 11 - Whitney, Muir, To Portal - 20.74 miles, 4,900'
Total: 232 miles, 51,400'

Back in May due to a variety of issues expounded on elsewhere I quit my job and went about seeing just how much trouble of an outdoor variety I could realistically get up to when not tied to a desk during the week. While still gainfully employed I had committed to a number of weekend backpacks for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course but even sticking with those I ended up with a few tantalizingly long periods here and there that were just begging for the longer sort of a trips I always had to say no to. And hell, if I wasn't going to go big then I might as well still be working right?

The John Muir Trail is a well known 220 ish mile wilderness trail stretching from Yosemite Valley in the north and Mount Whitney in the south. I'd attempted it once before in 2013 setting an aggressive 25 mile a day pace that had been proven...challenging. And painful to the point I practically had PTSD about the whole experience for years after. And after all of that thanks to an early winter storm I'd had to exit at Kearsarge Pass instead of over Mount Whitney.

So while I'd seen *most* of the trail I'd had it on my list to go back at some point and do it propper. And seeing as how my girlfriend Jen had never done it and that as a teacher she has summers off plans started to solidify around a 12 day plan in early August which would mean a reasonable 20 mile a day average. And in the end we did it in 11! With side trips to Half Dome, Whitney, and Mount Muir thrown in for good measure. And far less pain and trauma. But a whole hell of a lot more mosquitos.

Jen and I had just come off of leading a three day trip to Crown and Cirque near Twin Lakes / Bridgeport. It had been a spectacular trip except for the thick clouds of exceedingly bloodthirsty mosquitoes which were a bit of a surprise considering it's all the way into August.

That didn't bode super well for our JMT plans but ah well, we weren't going to let something like that stop us. We waved goodbye to our group, grabbed a quick shower in town, and set off for Yosemite Valley. And the hour long traffic jam that is required to get into the Valley these days.

Prepping For The JMT The Matt & Blondie Way

You can find an unbelievable amount of information out there on how to do the John Muir Trail. People will sell you entire books covering how to get ready, others hold live seminars, or you can even pay guides to walk the entire trail with you.

And if that's your jam then go wild! But I think it does occasionally leave people freaking out because it can make the entire experience seem a lot more complicated than it has to be. I've done it twice both times with minimal planning and this is how I went about it.


First you have to decide which direction you want to go and deal with the big item that everyone pulls their hair out over, the John Muir Trail permit.

The two official ends of the JMT are Yosemite Valley / Happy Isles in the north and Mount Whitney in the south. Due to permit difficulties an increasing number of people have been skipping Whitney and starting further to the south from Horseshoe Meadow.

Personally I really like the traditional southbound JMT starting from Yosemite Valley / Happy Isles. You start out climbing out of one of the natural wonders of the world past waterfalls and spectacular views and by the time you reach Whitney you're in such good shape you can practically jog up and over the highpoint of the continental US and you'll be so eleated that you finished that you won't be bummed about the slightly less than impressive summit.


A *lot* of people want to do the JMT these days thanks to long distance hiking entering the popular culture and that's resulted in a high demand for the limited number of permits. To avoid impacting people wanting to just backpack in Yosemite the park puts a limit on how many people a day can exit via Donahue Pass and that is what amounts to the southbound JMT permit limit.

It's not uncommon to see posts online where somewhat ask a nervous question about how they have heard permits are almost impossible to get only to have others comment on how they've been applying for years and never been able to get one. The NPS website doesn't help the situation as it makes things sound really dire and pushes people to either start at or south of Tuolumne or else do a northbound route possibly even starting at Horseshoe Meadows instead of the also tightly controlled Mount Whitney.

Or you can listen to me sitting here coughing and muttering bullshit having done it twice myself and helped multiple friends and students. Just keep in mind this only really works for small groups so you'll have to leave the boy scout troop at home.

The trick to getting a permit is twofold. First if you are past the initial offering date don't worry just watch the permit availability website here. People cancel all the time and you will see open permit slots appear which you can then claim. We spent a week or two checking periodically between other trips and managed to score two permits requiring a first night stay in Little Yosemite Valley for our first day out.

If for some reason you can't manage that then still don't worry! Just plan to start on a non weekend and have a bit of flexibility when you arrive in Yosemite Valley. While they do not have any permits held in reserve for day of walk ins they do return any canceled or unclaimed permits into the pool. That means when someone cancels via phone or else doesn't show up by 10 am on their entry day the permits are available in the office for anyone who drops by. We ended up dropping by at 4:30 pm on a Sunday and got two and we ran into several others who had similar experiences. If they don't have anything just stick around in the valley for a day or two and keep checking in.

(My favorite cancelation story last year was someone from the east coast of the US who was worried that she should cancel her plans because there had been a small earthquake in California)

Maps aka Just Use Guthook

Next you're going to need maps. Because it's a trail the entire way, there are signs, but you're going to need a map and the ability to read it. You can find all sorts of packages out there but I recommend buying an app called Guthook.

It's available on IOS and Android and for a reasonable cost (I think it was $15 on iOS) you get all your mapping needs covered on the same device you're probably going to be using as your hiking camera / audio device.

It has various map types for download, has a track of the main route complete with multiple variations and bailouts, and a healthy set of waypoints covering things like water crossings, landmarks, and a subset of camping sites.

The neat thing is that it allows people to add photos and comments to the waypoints. So that means you can get information about a particularly tricky stream crossing from people who were just there recently and it often has tips for less obvious tent sites.

It is of course a good idea to have some sort of paper backup just in case you lose your phone, run out of battery, or break up with your phone carrying hiking partner mid trail but this can be very minimal.

Also if you feel Guthook is a bit too handholdy I also like using Gaia GPS on iOS and just downloading the USGS maps for the entire trail. I used this in conjunction with Guthook.


Next is transportation. I'm adverse to paying large amounts for shuttle services so I like to either have access to two vehicles or find a friend willing to run me up to Yosemite. Meet at Whitney Portal, leave your vehicle there for when your done, have them drop you off at Yosemite Valley. You then plan to hike back to your vehicle and you're all set! Easy!

As long as you don't have any food or other scented items in your vehicle and park in the backpacker lot leaving a vehicle isn't an issue.


Resupplies are always a difficult topic and how difficult this is can vary depending on how fast you intend to do the trail. If you're doing 20 miles a day you can easily manage to resupply only at Red's Meadow and Muir Trail Ranch meaning you don't have to take any extra time to hike off the trail. If you are moving significantly slower than that your main problem is going to be the 100 mile section between MTR and Whitney where you either carry a lot of food, do a long hike out to a trailhead, or pay someone to resupply you.

Going southbound Red's Meadow is at about mile 60 when leaving southbound from Happy Isles. It has a full general store, a restaurant, showers, laundry, and more importantly a place to charge your phone. You can mail a resupply box here but its going to be costly and personally I like to just patch something together from what they have for sale.

You can also resupply at Tuolumne in between but I've never bothered.

Muir Trail Ranch is a bit more limited. It's located pretty much at the halfway point and it's right on the trail. But the only thing they offer is a place to mail resupply buckets and a hiker box with anything other hikers have left behind.

The first time I just decided to play it by ear and resupply off the hiker boxes. And it was the end of September and the buckets were down to the dregs. I ended up eating a lot of clumped together trail mix and powdered mashed potatoes.

So this time we decided to send a bucket since I really didn't want a repeat of that experience. And wouldn't you know it this year the entire ranch was just overflowing with food. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars worth of every bar, snack, or meal you could imagine. (This was in early August and a lot of people ended up canceling their JMT plans this year out of fears of snow and high streams)

To send yourself a resupply you mail a taped up Home Depot 5 gallon bucket of food to an address on the MTR website which is going to cost you about $60 postage. Then you pay them another $85 for them to pack the bucket in and hold it at the ranch waiting for you to arrive. So it's not cheap but it's a good option if you have dietary restrictions or really want to be sure of what your going to have to eat. And you can always abandon anything you end up not wanting in the hiker box.

And The Rest

So that's your maps, transportation, resupply, and permits are all taken care of! Now you just need some backpacking gear and some time off work (Just saying that quitting your job makes that *really* easy)

John Muir Trail 2019

Day 0: I Guess We Start Tonight!

As I mentioned above our prep for this was done around other activities. We packed and mailed our bucket off on the one day we were home in between the big dive trip to Indonesia and leaving for the 17 day western states road trip. We dropped the Jeep off at Whitney on our way to leading another 3 day backpack for Sierra Club and then came off of that Sunday afternoon and drove straight to Yosemite Valley.

We already had a permit reservation but it restricted us to only hiking in as far as Little Yosemite Valley on the first day. That was only 3 miles in and our 12 day plan called for us doing 20 each day so it would leave a lot of makeup for later.

So with a disbelieving Blondie in tow I walked into the Yosemite Valley permit office around 4 pm and cheerfully asked if they had any open permits for the following day. They said no...but they did have one for entering that night and they could even give us a Half Dome slot for the next day.

We weren't exactly prepared to hike in that night but hey, it's just trail! So we made a quick stop for pre-hike burgers and beer and then fought the barely functioning Yosemite transit system to get back to our car and started a flurry of packing.

The advantage of just rolling off another backpack is you're basically already packed you just need to figure out the food. We were planning to carry enough to see us to Red's Meadow on day 3 where we would resupply.

We left the car at 7:36 pm and headed up the road to the Happy Isles trailhead. We were officially on our way!

The initial climb out of Happy Isles is really nice since it's a steady climb on a well graded ramp. Rather than follow the official JMT section I took us along the Mist Trail as the scenery is just so much better. Jen is a big fan of waterfalls and spent what breath she had left loudly exclaiming how magical everything was.

We lost daylight just above Vernal Falls and by the time we arrived at Sunrise (aka the first place we could legally camp) it was almost midnight. And I will admit I was pretty much toast after Little Yosemite Valley and spent the last few miles stumbling forward just waiting for it to end muttering to myself about how this wasn't going to be near as traumatic as last time.

We had a little trouble finding a place to camp at Sunrise since there were groups everywhere but we found a spot of open ground, cooked a quick dinner of raman at midnight, and crashed.

Day 1: Half Dome, Sunset to Cathedral -ish

We woke up at 6 am feeling painfully low on sleep and slurped down breakfast and instant coffee. Jen was actually ready to skip out on Half Dome on account of how rough last night had been but knowing how excited she was I wasn't about to let that happen.

So by 7 am we were up and hiking back the way we'd come with daypacks. (You can't camp anywhere between Little Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sunrise so we had to do a bit of backtracking from our camp)

I'd done Half Dome years ago and mostly remembered the crowds. At the time they didn't restrict the number of people day hiking the cables and it was so crowded it was actually getting dangerous. Sometime after that they put a permit restriction on it but it's still a good idea to get there as early as possible for the best experience.

(Also in our case we had this little 200+ mile thru hike we really needed to get to work on.)

The trail before the dome surprises a lot of people with how much uphill is involved. We passed several out of breath people lamenting that no one told them about that part.

When we arrived at the top of the subdome at 8 am and got a clear view of the cables. Fortunately we were still in the first few groups to make it up there so we had a clear run at the top.

The cables are run through metal posts which are sticking out of holes in the rock. They are an easy arm length apart and the idea is you use both hands to basically pull yourself up resting in between on boards placed across the posts.

They do this because the rock is steep and slick enough that if the cables weren't there there would be no way you could climb the route without rock gear. So with the cables it's either straightforward and dull or terrifying depending on your comfort zone and it's not unusual to see the occasional person wearing a harness and clipping their way up the cables.

We were up top at 8:35 am and spent a while getting the traditional Half Dome diving board pictures...

...and just enjoying the views of the valley below.

We even briefly had the summit to ourselves in between a few other groups of dayhikers who all said they had left the trailhead around 4 am.

Going down the cables took about 10 minutes including some not insignificant time spent posing for photos. Jen and I both felt comfortable coming down face down but the general recommendation is to face in. (When we reached the bottom we'd actually managed to freak out a group that had been waiting friends to finish the climb because they were convinced we were going to slip and fall to our deaths.)

We made it back to camp a little after 10 am, packed up, had a quick lunch, and set off on the trail proper.

I must say this section of trail is much more pleasant when you're not suffering from food poisoning like I was during my 2013 JMT hike. I was surprised how few JMT hikers we ran into as everyone seemed to just be out doing shorter trips.

I'd had a vague hope of making it over to Tuolumne today but the 5k of gain, lack of sleep, and kilt related friction issues (because I just can't seem to do any sort of outdoor activity without finding some way to suffer) caused us to set up camp a bit shy of Cathedral Lakes

We found a private -ish spot a short distance from the trail with access to water and gratefully pitched out tent. And promptly realized our bad mosquito experiences from the last weekend wasn't over yet. So on went the headnets and hiding in the tent as much as possible became the order of the evening.

We ate and fell asleep before the sun was even down.

Day 2 - Cathedral to Rush Creek

The morning was a much more pleasant experience after getting enough sleep. Other than the mosquitos. I don't think there's anything quintessentially more miserable than having to go dig a cathole and do your business while being eaten alive.

We left camp a little after 8 am, managed to figure out the chaffing issue a few hours in, and had a good strong day helped by the long hill down into Tuolumne.

The JMT has been rerouted a bit over the years in this section. The last time through I'd stayed to the south of the road and cut east to pick up Lyell Fork but Guthook was showing me the official trail now went to the north of the road. I figure it's to take you closer to the post office and store which we didn't need but it does involve a pleasant stroll through the meadows proper that give the area its name so it's a nice diversion if you're not in a hurry.

And right after that we started up Lyell Fork is just spectacular and always a highpoint of any trip I do in the area.

Lyell is a long gradual climb until the end at which point you get down to business and power over Donahue Pass. There is camping higher up but you're pretty much always going to see other people around.

We did run into the first stream crossing worth the name here. We managed to get across it pretty easily by hopping rocks and then while sitting along the side having a snack proceeded to watch two large groups decide to wade across instead and make kind of a mess of things including falling in completely.

There are nice camps right at this spot but it was really busy and I was excited to get up and over Donahue and get to the next phase of the trail.

We crossed Donahue Pass a little before 6 pm and enjoyed the first bit of downhill in a while.

We almost stopped in one of the meadows here since there were several nice sites with great views. We even dropped our packs and debated it for a bit. And if the mosquitos hadn't been so bad we might have stayed. But they were and we were a bit behind our 20 miles a day schedule so we decided to push on.

Which in retrospect was a bit of a mistake. Around Rush Creek a lot of the sites higher up were all taken leaving us to settle for a site right around dark along a creek far too protected from the wind. And this wins the award for being the worst mosquitos I've hit all season.

We dropped out packs, pulled out the tent, realized the mosquitoes were getting heavier, threw on our bug nets and rain jackets, and still they were so thick is was near impossible to function.

Even once we had the tent up any entry or exit required a mass extermination effort to be carried off to reduce the numbers in the tent down to where we could reasonably hope to have some bloody left by morning. Because it was impossible to kill all of them.

Yaay Rush Creek.

Day 3: Rush Creek to Red's

We agreed to wake up before dawn the next day in the hopes of getting the hell out of there before the mosquitos woke up. And sometimes that does work during mosquitos season.

Not today though. They were out there in the dark not caring that it was cold. They just wanted blood.

So we spent a pleasant morning running for our lives down the trail cursing the chasing cloud of bloodsuckers.

We passed by the always spectacular Thousand Island Lake and took the requisite picture that I think everyone who comes here always takes. There was still a surprising amount of snow and mosquitos in the area for August.

JMT hikers have a decision to make for this section. Do you go straight down the high trail to Agnew and get to Red's with very little gain, or do you stick to the JMT and climb up to Shadow Lake and Rosalie Lake?

I personally find the area around Shadow to be really pretty and worth the extra effort but there is a not insignificant hill or two in there.

So we did the JMT route, pounded out the gain, and headed for Reds Meadow and our first resupply.

The painful part is actually the last big into Red's Meadow. The trail was basically obliterated by a blowdown event a number of years ago where very high winds knocked down some massive trees. And again you have to decide whether to shortcut or "do the JMT"

I was rather sick of my principles by the time we climbed the last hill to Red's from the south

Red's Meadow is a glorious little establishment located at the end of a road accessible from Mammoth and right along the trail if you are on the PCT / JMT. It has a diner, a general store, a shower, laundry, cabins, and a campground nearby. So basically everything you could want.

We didn't send a hiker box here since I knew we could easily cobble together enough food from the store for the 3 days or so it would take us to reach our last resupply at the halfway point of the trail Muir Trail Ranch.

Meal wise my veggie burger was ok, the beer was better, and the milkshake was the greatest thing I'd tastes in days. Also the $7 shower was quite nice.

There is a campground nearby and cabins available to rent but we still had a bit of gas in the tank and so pushed on a bit before dark. We spent the next hour or two strolling up a gentle hill aiming for Red Cones which is the first spot after Red's Meadow where there is camping and water. We arrived at 9 pm just as we needed to pull out headlamps.

Day 4: Red Cones, Tully Hole, Silver Pass

In the morning it was a bit on the chilly side but blessedly we didn't have any mosquitos chasing us through our morning routines.

The trail parallels Cascade Valley for a while which was a nice comfortable climb with expansive views.

We had a pleasant lunch break at Purple Lake and made raman with avocados accompanied by coffee. This has become one of my favorite trail rituals as it gives me time off my feet where I don't feel like I should really be walking.

Lake Virginia ended up being our first boots off crossing when we just couldn't find a way between the bigger and smaller lakes without wading knee deep. And we did try pretty extensively.

After Lake Virginia we reached a point I was really excited for called Tully Hole. Last time I'd been through here had been when the leaves were changing and I remembered it as a unique feeling area.

This time there were so many mosquitos is was hard to appreciate. It started raining on us as we dropped down into it and by the end I was ahead of Jen by maybe 10 minutes and had to sit wait for her to catch up inside of a thick cloud of mosqutios.

We finished the day right on the north side of Silver Pass. We went around the small depression and found some flat sandy areas mixed in between the trees that were suitable for camping. Jen fell in love with the spot and thought it was the best one of the trip. I thought it was nice but nothing special.

Day 5: Silver Pass to Seldon Pass

We were passing another potential resupply location this morning as we went by the junction leading off the trail to Vermillion Valley Resort. I'd never been there and I'd heard they were a bit nicer than Muir Trail Ranch but since the latter is directly on the trail and we planned to be there within a day the side trip didn't seem worth it.

There was a significant stream crossing about 2/3 of the way up the pass. I managed to get across with a slightly precarious log move that Jen took one look at and said she'd rather wade across.

I spent the time waiting for her to get her boots off and wade across doing a dance to try and keep the mosquitos off me. We'd been leapfrogging a french mother and her daughter daughter for the last mile or so and they were at the crossing when we arrived

The daughter was wearing tank top and tiny tiny shorts which I get is comfortable from the perspective of temperature but this was mosquito season still. I sat there watching while she desperately tried to get her shoes back on on the far side while getting swarmed with mosquitos. Her mother sat helpfully nearby talking in rapid fire french and whipping her daughter with a balaclava to try and keep them off of her.

Further on there were a lot of really great camps at Lake Marie but unfortunately multiple groups were set up on the grass instead of the resilient surfaces like they are supposed to. And that always makes me sad.

We ended up staying at Heart Lake at the far side of the pass. The sun was going down and the wind had picked up leaving it damned chilly and I climbed into every layer I was carrying as soon as we were set up.

Day 6: Seldon Pass, Muir Trail Ranch, to Evolution

Today was a big day for us as we would officially be passing Muir Trail Ranch aka the middle point of the trail. And it was all downhill from where we camped near Seldon Pass making for an easy cheerful morning.

Yes there are some hot springs in the area but I've never taken the time to visit since I'm always excited to get on to the next unbroken 100 mile stretch of wilderness.

We arrived at MTR to find it bustling with activity.

As I mentioned above the hiker buckets were absolutely overflowing this year. In addition to the sorted buckets with everything from food, drink powder, first aid supplies, and discarded clothing there were also about 10 full on buckets that people had sent but then never arrived to pick up which were now free for the taking.

We had a bit of extra time and I went through the buckets more out of curiosity turning up things like sports bras, a full on heavy canvas first aid kit, and some rather questionable food packaging choices. I really think that MTR is missing out on a great social media opportunity by not posting an monthly wall of shame.

We mostly ended up with a bit of candy and some supplemental coffee and raman since you can never have too many of those.

Another big lost opportunity is the fact that MTR doesn't have anything except the resupply service. You might see / smell them cooking something but that's only for the staff and any guest staying in their cabins. It really seems like a missed opportunity not to have a 20 burger cook off or something.

There is a small general store which happens to be where the phone charging station is and I spent some time in there chatting with the one friendly employee about peak climbing in the Sierra.

We took advantage of their pack scale and found out my pack was 25 pounds on arrival and Jen's was 20. By the time we left with the food that would take us through the next 5 or 6 days we were at 32 and 29 pounds.

And so with slightly heavier packs but a considerable amount of enthusiasm we set off down the trail stopping a short distance on for a break by this bridge. There's a trail junction here that you can take to Piute Creek and we saw a number of hikers heading that way.

From Muir Trail Ranch the trail climbs for the next 19 miles through Evolution Basin until you reach Muir Pass. This includes a crossing of Evolution Creek that is one of the stream crossings that people are always concerned about earlier in the season.

This late in the season it was a fairly trivial boots off crossing. We found several nice camps in the area and finally decided we might as well stop a little early and take care of a few personal tasks.

Once again it would have been amazing...except for the mosquitos. Even my cold bath in the river didn't seem to be enough to drive them off. But we were able to clean up, do laundry, and enjoy a fire before turning in for the night.

Day 7: Evolution Creek, Muir Pass, Palisade Creek Junction

It was a chilly night making me contemplate possibly switching to a warmer mummy bag before I do the PCT next year.  Since we were looking at a big day with a significant amount of gain getting over Muir Pass we woke up early and got moving before it really had a chance to warm up.

Hiker fashion!

Soon the sun was up and the frost was rapidly melting off the meadows as we started the climb proper. Heads down and headphones in we made steady progress.

Again there was a not insignificant amount of snow for this late in the year but there was a clear boot trail all the way.

Muir Pass is famous for the hut that sits on top of it. It was built in 1930 as a storm shelter and it's still maintained though you aren't supposed to camp in it to prevent it from getting trashed. Sadly not everyone listens to that despite the signs.

We were taking a moment to sit down on the benches inside when I heard some familiar sounding voices outside. I had two friends / former WTC students named Karla and Connie who I knew were out doing the JMT northbound starting at Horseshoe Meadow. I knew they were somewhere out there and that they were doing a slightly longer trip but we hadn't had any contact since before the trip started. But as it turns out we'd found each other!

In addition we had a rather interesting encounter while visiting at the hut. When Jen and I were sitting inside another bearded individual wearing a hiking kilt came in the door. I made some comment about the kilt and he walked up and didn't react for a moment before giving me a fist bump. Due to his size and gear I assumed he was on a shorter backpack or the JMT but no, he said he was a full on PCT'er who was struggling and couldn't figure out why.

I think the 65 pound pack which amongst other things had a full size tripod in it may have been a factor.

Once Karla and Connie arrived I was mostly distracted visiting with them but I heard him make a comment Karla when we went outside to take the picture above. Something about his thing and he had something in his hand.

Then he popped out of the hut wearing nothing but a watermelon speedo. He declared to everyone that this was "his thing" and proceeded to set up his big tripod and camera to take a picture of himself.

Behold this cute instagram ready picture of Karla in front of the hut with her companies logo. Now behold the behind the scenes...

Yep, a thong. With watermelons on it. Your welcome for for not making you zoom in.

As fun as it was visiting with friends both of our groups had more miles to get through so we had to say goodbye and start down our sides of the pass.

We'd heard from other hikers that the south side of the pass had a lot of snow and that the trail was hard to follow. And there were sections with decent snow coverage but we always found clear sets of footprints and could see where the trail emerged below.

Once below the snow the trail dropped into Le Conte Canyon which is well traveled territory for me and an all around spectacular area. The easiest access from civilization is to go over Bishop Pass and then drop down through Dusy Basin so it's deep enough to feel properly wilderness and the scale of the canyon is just impressive.

There was also a fair number of backpackers camped right along the trail and so despite the fact we were starting to feel like making camp ourselves we had to keep pushing forward.

Finally we found an open camp right before the junction with Palisade Creek. It was soso but we were tired and we *almost* settled for it. But Jen decided to run ahead and scout a bit and returned having found what she claimed to be a slightly better option.

Slightly better my sore bloody feet. It was private, had a lot of flat ground, had a nice fire pit, and was located close enough to the river to have pleasant white noise and easy access to water. This was probably my favorite camp. And there were relatively few mosquitos meaning I could enjoy the fire without having to wear a bug net and rain jacket. Luxury!

Day 8: Palisade Creek, Mather Pass, Upper Basin

My feet had been holding up pretty well so far but I finally had my first honest to god blister. Jen for her part as usual appeared to be impervious to any issues.

Our next pass was Mather and it felt like a harder climb than Muir had been.

Again there was some snow patches still covering the trail here and there. It took us until mid afternoon to make it over.

We dropped in to Upper Basin passing a bit of a traffic jam near the northern end where several large groups were sitting eyeing the pass. They wanted to know if there were any campsites before the pass and we had to tell them it was all pretty exposed with limited sites. We gave them what advice we could and pushed on eager to make it to a less exposed section

The trail drops into the trail for a while before climbing out the southern end of the basin which is a lot prettier than the north end. We had been debating trying to get over Pinchot Pass but settled for a campsite next to one of the small lakes below Lake Marjorie.

Unfortunately we'd already unpacked when the music started. There was a group camped nearby which had decided to start playing music from a bluetooth speaker loud enough to carry around the lake. Ah well.

Day 9: Pinochet Pass, Rae Lakes, Glen Pass

In the morning we had a heavy amount of dew and we spent a bit trying to try the rainfly before we had to give up and just pack it away wet.

Pinochet Pass was just a short climb from camp and then we dropped down about 3,600' to the bridge crossing at Woods Creek.

There's a pretty neat bridge built across the creek. This time of year we could have waded across but it's an experience walking across the bridge while it sways wildly under your feet.

The far side had a good amount of camping spots and bear boxes and we chatted with a few other groups before starting the 3,500' climb to Rae Lakes and Glen Pass.

Rae Lakes is a beautiful spot but it's also one of those places far too many people want to visit so our goal was to pass through and make it over the next pass. Anticipating the crowds we took our raman and coffee lunch break at Arrowhead Lake where we had a nice site to ourselves.

The climb up Glen Pass went quick but we ended up stopping a bit short of our tentative goal of Charlotte Lake.

Instead we settles for a nice little spot on the northern side of Glen. just past some small depressions. There was an even nicer spot at the second lake below the pass but it was already taken when we passed by.

Day 10: Vidette, Bubbs Creek, Forester Pass, Wallace Creek

The nice thing about these longer trips is you start to feel really strong once the initial struggles wear off. And today was taking us past where I'd had to exit over Kearsarge Pass in 2013 and on to some new trail leading us to the backside of Whitney.

The trail skirts to the west of Center Peak which is quite pretty and then heads up Forester Pass which at 13,200' is the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail which is the same as the JMT in this section. It is of course not the highest point on the John Muir Trail since that finishes on Mount Whitney.

Once again the pass had snow and the trail disappeared under it around the ridge leading to the pass. There were of course multiple boot tracks some of which had obviously been cut by people that didn't really know what they were doing and would have resulted in more difficult terrain. We followed a fairly direct one across and picked up the switchbacks to the pass itself.

We only stayed at the pass itself briefly because there was a large group of rather high pitched teenage girls that were amazed by the fact we were 10 days out from Yosemite. I chatted with them a bit but Jen just huffed and disappeared down the far side of the pass. I caught up with her on the switchbacks.

The next few miles through Tyndall Creek were wide open and largely lacking in any excitement except for a rather elaborate trail crew operation that was working on making a path through part of the meadow.

We sat and ate lunch while we watched them tension a line leading a good distance up the hill and then use it to transport a rock down to their work site. We chatted with one of the crew who explained they do this to avoid creating an eyesore by stripping the rocks right around the trail. Neat!

In the later afternoon we reached Wallace Creek which is where the High Sierra Trail comes in from the west. There were a ton of people camped in each of the gully's many of them looking exhausted and we kept pushing forward determined not to have our final night be in an area surrounded by other tent.

As we passed by one area I heard someone say "And it's Matt! Wait! Is that actually Matt!?"

Turns out we'd manage to come across friends and fellow WTC instructors who were on the last few days of the High Sierra Trail. They had two more days to get across Whitney and out and we chatted a bit about how our trips had been going before saying we needed to push on to get better set up for the next day.

We found a spot to camp around 10,900' with running water, dropped our packs, and promptly started cursing.

Somehow this was the second worst mosquito night of the trip beating out everything but Rush Creek. Which was surprising considering we were camped up on a ridge where we were exposed to the wind.

Day 11: Mount Whitney, Mount Muir, And Done!

We had about 20 miles to do today and over half of that was going to be downhill. Granted we had to climb 5,000' to 14,505' and then descend 7,500' down the far side but we were trail hardened by now. The only thing in question was would we come out early enough to get some real food in town and I was determined that we would.

We got moving before sun up partly to get us out earlier and partly to avoid mosquitos during the morning rituals.

Which was of course important because after just a few miles we officially entered Whitney Zone.

Due to crowds and high impact around Mount Whitney they've required everyone to use WAG bags instead of burying your solid waste. WAG stand for Waste Activated Gelling and it's basically a little bag filled with kitty litter than you spread out, do your business on, and then seal up before throwing in your pack to carry out. Of course a lot of people don't do this which is why you can find a depressing amount of wag bags stuffed behind rocks along the trail.

They do have a limited supply of wag bags available here that have been packed in by rangers but we'd done what we were supposed to do and carried one each all the way from Yosemite. And we were also determined not to have to use them which is why we'd drank our coffee and done our business before entering the zone.

The lower lakes had some camping restrictions but were quite pretty.

Guitar Lake is at 11,500 and is where a lot of people from the PCT / JMT like to set up to do Whitney. It's well above treeline with lovely alpine views as long as you don't mind sharing the area with others. We did a last water stop, ate some snacks, and then took off at a brisk pace.

I was feeling so good and motivated at this point I kind of left Jen in the dust.

Jen found me hanging out at Trail Crest chatting with the occasional passer by. From here it's a short out and back to the summit proper of Whitney and a lot of people drop packs or bear cans here.

We decided to just carry our packs since they felt rather light by this point and we didn't want to risk the attention of the rather inquisitive marmot that had made trail crest his territory.

That would be Mount Whitney in the background. Slightly less than impressive.

I will likely go to my grave arguing that Whitney is anti climactic as far as peaks go. Here is the high point of the continental US in all it's flat with a building on the top glory.

We did of course run over for the traditional summit shot making sure to angle it so the background wasn't just looking straight down at civilization / Lone Pine.

And with that we were officially done with the JMT. For some bizarre reason the trail officially ends at the summit of Mount Whitney which leaves you about 10 miles from the nearest trailhead.

On the way down I also wanted to hit another Sierra Peak Section called Mount Muir. It's just a short distance off the trail and involves some fun solid 3rd class scrambling.

Now that's what I call a peak!

For my money it's well worth the short side trip and I have details written up here as Mount Muir aka Mount Whitney's Much Cooler Neighbor.

Back on the trail we left Trail Crest at 2:55 pm or so and in a little over three hours we'd made it down to the trailhead. Because there is nothing like beer and prepared food waiting for you down below to motivate you to keep moving.

We grabbed the Jeep where we'd dropped it a few weeks back and headed for Whitney Cafe down in Lone Pine where there were glorious nachos, beer, and ice cream in ample amounts. And life was wonderful.

We'd wrapped up in just shy of 11 days and managed Mount Muir and Half Dome as side trips. Not bad all in all!

I still had a good chunk of time left in my summer so how could I follow up something like the John Muir Trail?

Let me tell you the tale of the Theodore Solomons Trail...

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