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Trek the John Muir Trail through California's High Sierra with a Cicerone guidebook - Introduction

Cover of The John Muir Trail
Availability
Published
Published
5 Mar 2015
ISBN
9781852847906
Edition
Second
Size
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
Weight
250g
Pages
224
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The John Muir Trail

Through the Californian Sierra Nevada

by Alan Castle
Book published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to walking the John Muir Trail through California's High Sierra from Yosemite (El Capitan and Half Dome) to the summit of Mount Witney. The 216 mile hike is split into 21 daily stages, with full information on preparation, permits, wilderness, bears, water and trekking skills. Part of the Pacific Crest Trail.

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Description

The John Muir Trail (JMT) is a world-famous trek and North America's best known walking trail. It runs for 216 miles through California's Sierra Nevada mountains, from Yosemite Valley (El Capitan and Half-Dome) to the summit of Mount Whitney (14,496ft), the highest peak in the US outside Alaska. It also makes up part of the epic Pacific Crest Trail which runs the length of the Rockies through Canada and the US.

All you need to know to plan and prepare for your trip is contained within this guide, from obtaining trekking permits to buying trek food and forwarding food caches along the trail. Abundant advice is given on such topics as dealing with inquisitive bears, coping with altitude, negotiating river crossings, as well as tips on booking transport to and from the trailheads and on what equipment to take. In addition there is a detailed description of the flora and fauna of this remarkable region.

The walking trail, which is named after the great 19th-century Scottish naturalist, conservationist and writer John Muir, is entirely through the unspoilt wilderness of the American West and passes through three national parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Information includes:

  • advice on preparation, including trekking permits, food caches along the trail and how to deal with bears and river crossings
  • variants and escape routes, camp sites, bear box locations and resupply points
  • ascent, descent and distance tables for all stages
     
  • Activities
    long-distance trekking
  • Seasons
    August is best, July normally fine but late snow may be a problem
  • Centres
    Starts Yosemite and finishes at Whitney Portal; Tuolmmne, Vermilion Resort and Muir Trail Range along the way; access through San Francisco or Los Angeles
  • Difficulty
    spectacular, remote and risks of poor weather; backpacking throughout, carrying all required food; tough trekking but no route-finding difficulties; beware of bears!
  • Must See
    Yosemite (rock walls of El Capitan, Half Dome etc), King's Canyon and Sequoia national parks, Anselm Adams wilderness, Mount Whitney
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Contents

Contents
Introduction
Background
John Muir
Parks along the JMT
The Pacific Crest Trail
Using this Guide
Planning your Trip
Flights to California
Public Transport to and from the Trailhead
Booking Accommodation
Maps
Equipment
Food Supplies
General Fitness and Trail Fitness
Health and Medical Considerations
Water Purification
Coping with Altitude
Dealing with Bears
River Crossings
Other Natural Hazards
Low-Impact Trekking and National Park/Wilderness Regulations
Camp Routine
Time Difference
Public Holidays in the US
Money
Insurance
The Natural World by Dr Charles Aitchison
Geology of the Sierra Nevada
Vegetation and Flowers on the John Muir Trail
Birds of the John Muir Trail
Mammals along the Trail
TRAIL GUIDE
Day 1 Yosemite Valley (Happy Isles) to Half Dome Trail Junction/Sunrise Creek and the Ascent of Half Dome
Day 2 Half Dome Trail Junction/Sunrise Creek to Sunrise High Sierra Camp
Day 3 Sunrise High Sierra Camp via Cathedral Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
Day 4 Tuolumne Meadows to Upper Lyell Canyon
Day 5 Upper Lyell Canyon via Donohue Pass and Island Pass to Thousand Island Lake
Day 6 Thousand Island Lake to the Devil’s Postpile
Day 7 The Devil’s Postpile via Reds Meadow to Deer Creek
Day 8 Deer Creek to Tully Hole/Cascade Valley Junction
Day 9 Tully Hole/Cascade Valley Junction via Silver Pass to Edison Lake
Day 10 Edison Lake to Rosemarie Meadow
Day 11 Rosemarie Meadow via Seldon Pass to the Muir Trail Ranch
Day 12 Muir Trail Ranch to McClure Meadow
Day 13 McClure Meadow via Muir Pass to Unnamed Lake North-East of Helen Lake
Day 14 Unnamed Lake North-East of Helen Lake to Deer Meadow
Day 15 Deer Meadow via Mather Pass to Kings River
Day 16 Kings River via Pinchot Pass to Woods Creek
Day 17 Woods Creek via Glen Pass to Vidette Meadow
Day 18 Vidette Meadow via Forester Pass to Tyndall Creek
Day 19 Tyndall Creek to Guitar Lake
Day 20 Guitar Lake via Mount Whitney and Trail Crest to Trail Camp; and the ascent of Mount Whitney
Day 21 Trail Camp to Whitney Portal
 
Epilogue
Appendix A Camping Areas on the JMT
Appendix B Ranger Stations along the JMT
Appendix C Escape Routes on the JMT
Appendix D Bear Box Locations on the JMT
Appendix E Mountain Passes and Peaks on the JMT
Appendix F Useful Addresses and Websites in the UK and US
Appendix G Bibliography
Appendix H Trail Summary Table

Introduction

The John Muir Trail (JMT) is one of the world’s greatest treks and is North America’s best-known middistance walking trail. It runs for 216 miles through the high Sierra Nevada mountains of California, from Yosemite Valley in the north to the summit of Mount Whitney (14,496ft) above Lone Pine in the south, and takes about three weeks to complete.

The route is largely a wilderness experience, and this intensifies as one progresses along the Trail from the relative civilisation between Yosemite and Tuolumne, where there are many day-trippers and other walkers, to the huge wilderness areas further south, particularly after the Muir Trail Ranch. Tourists are once again encountered, in the form of day walkers on Mount Whitney, during the very last stages of the Trail.

The Edison Queen approaching Mono Creek ferry pick-up point (Day 9)

However, although the JMT passes through areas of genuine wilderness, the Trail by its very nature confines backpackers to a narrow corridor through that wilderness. The Trail was man made and is maintained by rangers, and along its length there are Ranger Stations where officials are found during the summer season. You will undoubtedly pass many other hikers during your sojourn along the JMT, and will rarely be more than a mile or two from other human beings. Only by leaving the man-made trails would one truly be entering the huge wilderness that is the Californian High Sierras.

While the John Muir Trail passes through high mountain country where spectacular peaks and high passes abound, the JMT itself is a relatively easy trail to walk. Gradients are rarely very steep, as the trail was expertly engineered and was originally intended for pack animals, mules and horses. So although the JMT often goes over high passes, the routes over them are nearly always well graded. You may, however, marvel that horses were expected to traverse such narrow and dramatic trails as those over the Forester and Glen passes; both an experienced rider and horse would be necessary!

There is little in the way of exposure along the entire length of the JMT, no scrambling is involved and no particular head for heights is required. The only exception is perhaps on the descent from the Forester Pass, but most mountain walkers would hardly give even this a second thought. The ascent of Half Dome, which is not part of the JMT, is a rather different matter. The climb to the top of the mountain is over very steep and polished granite, but the route is well protected and those with some scrambling ability in the mountains should again have no worries. Navigation along the Trail is relatively straightforward, and users of this guidebook who also carry the recommended maps for the JMT should experience few route-finding problems. The Trail is well waymarked on the ground. Note that the above analysis, of course, applies only to good summer conditions; snowedand iced-up passes and rivers in spate would be altogether far more difficult and dangerous.

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