Long-distance adventure hiker/backpacker Liz Thomas updates us on Part II of her Long Distance Hiking adventures…
After I finished the Triple Crown of Hiking — the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail — I started hunting for other long distance hikes to complete. During the research process, I found the Little Triple Crown: three shorter trails that coincide with the famous trails in the “Big” Triple Crown for part of the time, but also venture into new mountain ranges I’ve never explored. In my last blog post, I wrote about my experiences on the 274-mile Long Trail in Vermont. In this post, I write a brief lowdown on the 211-mile long John Muir Trail, a stunning adventurous path that travels the backbone of the High Sierra over eight mountain passes up to 13,200 feet and coincides with the Pacific Crest Trail for 160 miles. For more details on each trail, and logistics and gear, check out my website: eathomas.com.
The John Muir Trail: In early August, I hiked the John Muir Trail from Yosemite Valley to the top of Mt. Whitney, totaling 45,000 feet of gain in less than a week. Hitting the trail at peak season, I was shocked by the crowds, but found that by camping away from popular areas and waking early and hiking late, I could get the trail to myself. I loved comparing my early season experiences in the Sierra on the Pacific Crest Trail with what I saw on the ground in August: “So that’s where the trail is when it’s not covered by 10 feet of snow!”
Unexpected obstacles: Lightning storms, rain, and hail almost every day — usually occurring right as I needed to make it over a high mountain pass. Although afternoon lightning storms are not unheard of in August, storms day after day are unusual. In my six days on trail, I got rained or hailed on for four days.
Awesome moments: Viewing two glacier-carved basins from the top of a pass. The beauty of the Sierra is stunning and describing it is best left to artists. I feel especially lucky to have seen granite hit by rays of sunrise and sunset each day.
Advice: Forest Service and Park Service regulations require that you carry a bear canister to protect your food from hungry wildlife. Make sure that the food you need will fit before you hit the trail. Don’t be afraid to squish and crunch out all the air from your potato chips or even freeze dried food. Carry calorie dense foods to squeeze the most into the space you have.
Headsweats for the job: The Race hat kept high altitude rays off my face and blocked rain and hail from my hair when the weather turned bad.