A selfie a day on the John Muir Trail
This trek took us 17 days — August 28 to September 14. Rather than bore you with the gory details (saving blister pics for later), we thought we'd share the experience via a selfie a day.
Apologies ahead of time for the missing selfie on day 2. Additional apologies for days with multiple selfies… selecting a single shot was too excruciating in select cases.
We started the hike at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. Here is a shot from a couple miles in where the JMT meets the Mist Trail. Only 215 (trail) miles to go!
We woke up early to catch a subdome sunrise. On top of Half Dome, the rising sun cast a potent shadow. Half Dome is not officially part of the JMT, but is a common side trip that includes a thrilling cable-assisted climb.
Many more meadows were to come, but this was our first big meadow. Located near the Sunrise High Sierra Glamping facility.
Coming down from Donahue Pass, which took us out of Yosemite into Ansel Adams Wilderness, we spotted a far-off dam. Upon consulting our ViewRanger digital map, we determined it to be Waugh Lake Dam. Trang and I later split off from the JMT and fellow hiker Brian in search of this dam. We eventually reached it, after hours of unpleasant hiking along the dried dystopian lakebed.
Taking the advice of the sage, an overweight smoker we met while resupplying at Tuolumne Meadows, we camped at the far end of Thousand Island Lake. On day 4, we traversed a small off-trail pass to reach the rear of Garnet Lake (as selfied). Navigating the south side of Garnet Lake to return to the JMT turned out to be quite the cross-country adventure.
Devil's Postpile is a National Monument whose hexagonal rock pillars were formed by cooling lava. Accessible from roadways, this attraction was teeming with tourists. We even found a camera on the ground and were able to deduce the travel direction of its owner and return it!
Red Cones was one of our favorite off-trail adventures. A 15-minute walk from our campsite brought us to the summit of this cinder cone, whose scoria rock from a 5,000 year old volcano projected a powerful red vibe.
Taken after Purple Lake while ascending to Lake Virginia, this selfie shows ominous clouds overhead. While on this day, they would shed only a few drops, their presence was a harbinger of the great storm that would erupt on day 7.
Hail, lightning, and monster-droplets of rain characterized the afternoon of day 7. The storm was quite the sight, but nearly froze us. We hiked for about an hour in torrential conditions, in stark contrast to the previous aridity, as the forest transformed into a massive, gushing waterway. Luckily, we made the 4:45 PM ferry to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR), where we enjoyed $190 of fine accouterments.
At VVR we met Hashbrown who was section hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Before reaching Marie Lake, she kindly joined us for a selfie. The hashbrown taught us many tricks of the trail regarding stoves and isobutane/propane canisters. In return, we suggested a dual use for her rehydrated wet wipes (first face, then buttocks, all with a single wipe).
After resupplying from the Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) hiker boxes, we ventured to the nearby public hot springs. After a barefoot ford of the San Joaquin River, we relaxed in this hot tub in the mud.
A small off-trail detour brought us to this viewpoint of cascading waterfalls on Evolution Creek.
See the solar! We collected solar energies from the sun most days in the second half of the trek as there were no convenient recharging stations. Here we're pictured atop Muir Pass, which appeared to be composed of earthen innards ripped out from below until they projected from the earth's crust nearly 12,000 feet above sea level.
Blue skies besides Lower Palisade Lake. Perfect place for an afternoon swimmy dip.
Looking good prior to our morning ascent of Mather Pass. Although, I did not feel good on the other side! In retrospect, elevation weakness and not anaphylactic shock was the culprit.
6:20 AM on Day 13. Staying warm after the sun had set was challenging, but our Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilts and GooseHeads helped immensely.
At the intersection of the JMT and the unmaintained Sawmill Pass Trail, we took the path less taken. This led us to the pristine Woods Lake, where we would not see another human for the entire side-trip.
Staying defiant on Glen Pass as the trail wore us down!
Forester Pass was the highest elevation pass, welcoming us to the windswept lands of Sequoia National Park.
The trees were magnificent, especially in their afterlives:
On the summit of Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States at 14,505 feet.
On the way down to Whitney Portal, we stopped for a brief sunset selfie overlooking Owens Valley.
Finally done! After a quick hitch hike into Lone Pine, we washed away weeks of dirt at the local laundromat. Our Copperfield wind pants made great around-town pants for our visit to the Post Office while our clothes were being laundered.