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TR - John Muir Trail, 7/2-7/16

This year my summer hike was a northbound JMT thru-hike, and first all trail trek since I hiked the JMT (southbound) in 2009. I hike slower now than then and spent more time on trail to sustain the same daily pace.

Northbound, scenically is quite different than southbound, and I think superior. That could be the newness, as most times I use the JMT I’m heading south. But whichever, a key learning is to stop and look back, in fact look all around. I never know if I’ll get back to a place and I’ve missed so much in my haste.

2nd time round was a very different experience. I had none of the first-time anxieties, hiked for the most part alone but spent more time at stops, and in camp visiting with others, and I think, I saw more.

Route-wise I was not a purist. I started at Horseshoe Meadow over Cottonwood Pass and ended at Happy Isles (well actually Yosemite Village). Day hiked Mt. Whitney, side tripped to VVR, errantly detoured to Duck Lake, took the PCT High Trail from Reds Meadow to Thousand Island Lake, and summited Clouds Rest.

Water along trail was scarce until Wallace Creek, and sources until then quite turbid. At most times I carried and wanted 2 liters at hand.

Mosquitos were generally a 1 or 2 with one exception, the short section where the trail skirts the Wanda Lake shoreline, there they were at the Biblical plague level. Aside from that, three nights they were annoying from around 7-9pm and I wore a head net and used deet around my wrists and ankles. Biting flies were a major nuisance from Franklin Meadow until Senger Creek, and for most of the way from VVR to Goodall “Harassed by Flies” Pass.

Weather overall was great. Moderate temps except for the Franklin Meadow to Senger Creek segment (hot), and just a few rain showers. I used a tarp 3 times for the threat of rain, though only one night (at VVR) were there any showers.

Gear-wise, three standouts. The chrome dome umbrella is awesome, cooler head and constant shade. Used it probably 98% of the hike, packing it only when the wind made it necessary. The Sawyer Micro filter, piece of crap. It clogged the first night pulling water from Upper Rock Creek Lake and was miserable to use for the rest of the trip despite backwashing 2 or 3 times per day. And lastly, my iPhone 12 Pro Max; this is the best electronic gadget I’ve owned. It has plenty of battery life, excellent photo quality, and so intuitively easy I took more than 400 shots.

Find my day-by-day journal notes here, my hike stats here, my gear list & mini reviews here, and menu here. Meantime, enjoy a daily pic.


Upper Rock Creek Lake



Tarn 11640 below Mt. Whitney
Kaweah Peaks silhouette from Bighorn Plateau



East Vidette



Arrowhead Lake 




South Fork Kings River


Last light on the Evolution Group



McClure Meadow - Mt. Mendel, Mt. Darwin, and The Hermit



Leopard Lily



2020's Creek Fire Burn, north of Lake Edison



Lake Virginia



Devils Postpile



Tarn in the Rush Creek drainage



Upper Cathedral Lake



Nevada Falls


Thanks for a good TR.  I like how you were more relaxed on the second trip.   Backpacking has always calmed me down.  The woods is the one place I have felt secure my whole life from the age of 9.

Nice trip.

I spent Jan to May 1980 winter mountaineering the Sierra's.

Great photos!

I like how you were more relaxed on the second trip.   Backpacking has always calmed me down. 

I go through periodically episodes of anxiety, mostly on ”firsts” such as my first overnight, first weeklong backpack, first where I needed to do consecutive 20’s (e.g. my first JMT).  And this even though “failure” is nothing more than an early bail out.  

So it is not fear of physical harm, more likely it is some irrational fear of failing to achieve something I really want to succeed at. 

Regardless, I was very calm at the outset and was certain of a successful outcome the entire way (a confidence I gained about midway my first JMT hike).  My one anxiety was Forester Pass, that it would be a death march, which in the end didn’t happen.  Rather it was a glorious hike up Tyndall Creek with million dollar views.  

Beautiful pictures and views on your trip, Steve! Thanks for sharing them.

I was curious to hear what you used, and was happy to know it was your iPhone 12. I just upgraded from an iPhone 7 to an iPhone 13 Pro, precisely so I could take decent pictures when I'm not carrying a dedicated camera.

Bummer about your filter though. Are you looking for a new one?

After hearing your last description,  I like this TR even more. 

Great job and a trip you will never forget. 

Alicia, yes, the iPhone, really beginning with the 12 has photo quality equal to the best of the the point and shoots.  The only limitation is the zoom.  

Filter-wise I'll go back to the Katadyn BeFree.  I've used the full size Sawyer Squeeze with better results than the Micro, then again the southern Sierra water this summer was grungy by Sierra standards and maybe no filter would have really held up.  

I'm excited to have it with me and see what I end up with for pictures when running, skiing, etc... The only negative is that it's bigger.

By the way, it would be great if you'd consider reviewing your BeFree someday.

Hey Steve, I'm surprised at the experience you had with the Sawyer Micro. I used one in July in the Sierra as well and had great flow rates. It slowed only once and was fine after a little backflush. 

The water in the Southern Sierra was crappy, especially the "muddy" outflow from Upper Rock Creek Lake.  But also, maybe I had a crap unit.  I've used the full size Sawyer Squeeze in silty water and it recovered fine.  

And also, rereading my TR...though I really disliked the filter, I whine too much!

Nice. I hope to do a thru-hike again one of these years. I hear traffic on the JMT has really increased though


I wouldn't say there are more people on the JMT, rather more of the people on the JMT are thru-hiking the JMT vs. doing loops, horseshoes, outs and backs, and the like.  

I've been backpacking the Sierra for 50 some odd years and used to, I'd say most of the people I met were out doing ~weeklong loops and such.  Last few years though most are thru-hiking the JMT or the SHR, with just a few doing the shorter routes.  Steve

New here. Thanks for the JMT review, it's been on my list to visit and not too far from home! 

Welcome, Jack!

Thanks Alicia!

Welcome to the forums Jack.  Glad you enjoyed the JMT report.  Look forward to hearing about your ramblings.

Thanks for this report--and the lovely photos.  We were trapped at Lake Thomas Edison for a day by the Creek Fire. Quite the experience.  It's sad to see that damage...

balzaccom said:

We were trapped at Lake Thomas Edison for a day by the Creek Fire. Quite the experience. 

And I imagine quite frightening!  There is nothing but burn west of Kaiser Pass Road and on the north side of the lake until Graveyard Meadow. 

And sad indeed.  Recovery takes a long time.  We God willing we'll live long enough to see the new growth, but it will be our grandkids or maybe great grandkids when they are our age who again can see the forest in it's glory.   

May 16, 2022
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