Backpacking the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada range is tough but rewarding

The most arduous endeavors often have the biggest payoffs. That’s how it is with backpacking the John Muir Trail. The 210-mile wilderness trek in the Sierra Nevada range of California, named for Scottish naturalist John Muir, takes a toll. One climb after another — up and down mountains with altitudes ranging from 4,000 to 14,000 feet — taxes your leg muscles and breathing. Shoulders strain from shlepping 25- to 35-pound packs. Weather issues range from snow to rain to hail to heat and cold. But the rewards are legion — pristine alpine lakes, gorgeous meandering rivers and streams, coyote and marmot sightings, lots of wildflowers, and the feeling of traveling in the untamed natural world — surviving and actually thriving without a cell phone. A complete hike of the popular trail, from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, can take three weeks or more, so many opt to do sections at a time. That’s what I did late this summer — accompanied by my wife and 19-year-old son. I did about 80 miles over eight days, starting at Tuolumne Meadows. (I’d been inspired by the Cheryl Strayed memoir “Wild.”) Stopping at Yosemite and staying a day or two is a good way to acclimate yourself to the altitude. The Park is a national treasure, with a zillion backcountry things to do (climbing, hiking, riding, fishing, rafting, etc.) and mind-blowing scenery. We stayed a day at Yosemite Lodge and a day at Tuolumne Lodge. The tent cabins at Tuolumne… [Read full story]

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