Hiking the John Muir Trail – Early Days

I was freezing! Pondering this notion over and over in my head as I lay in my sleeping bag, I decided: Indeed, I am freezing! And freezing every night for the next two weeks was not going to be much fun. Did I underestimate the cold? Did I not pack the right gear? It was far too late for these questions.

At the onset of my John Muir Trail trek, my pack weighed thirty-five pounds, fully loaded, with a nine-day food supply and two liters of water. Without food and water, it weighed less than twenty pounds.

During that early night in the wilderness, I found myself quite uncomfortable, almost miserable. My friend and fellow hiker for the first two days of my adventure had started his return trip home—along with the three-season tent he and I had been using. I was sleeping—or at least trying to sleep—under an ultralight tarp.

Ultralight gear saves wear and tear on the body as you hike—but at what cost? Photo credit: Brien Crothers

Ultralight gear saves wear and tear on the body as you hike—but at what cost? Photo credit: Brien Crothers

The combination of tarp, sleeping bag, bag liner, clothes, and down jacket was not cutting the bitter chill of that night and early morning. This experience was quite distressing as it was only night number three of my planned two weeks out in the wilds of California’s Sierra Nevada.

At that point, I reminded myself of two important considerations: First, given time, I would acclimate to the conditions. Second, comfort is overrated. Nevertheless, all this coaxing did little for a restful night’s sleep.

The next morning, I rose from my cocoon of minimalist sleeping layers to find frozen water bottles and frost on the grasses beside the nearby stream. I knew darned well it had been cold. Later that day, I met some other hikers who reported that it had been 19℉ that night but, that the forecast was for warmer weather. Fortunately, they were right. And so was I: I did acclimate, albeit slowly.

How did John Muir brave the Sierra wilderness with little gear, no trail, no resupply stations, and no weather reports? He must have really been something.

Coming up next in this series:

  • A Brief History of John Muir and the John Muir Trail

One comment on “Hiking the John Muir Trail – Early Days”

  1. […] Hiking the John Muir Trail – Early Days (a recollection of the first few, and somewhat rough, days on my John Muir Trail sojourn) […]

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