170 Miles Barefoot on the John Muir Trail

Last year I set out to complete the John Muir Trail (JMT) with a twist.  I’d hike it barefoot.  Why?  Barefoot is simple.  Natural.  Intense.  Every step is an adventure.  But the terrain was more difficult than I expected.  Out of the JMT’s total distance of 211 miles, I completed 150 miles barefoot, or about 70%.

This year I came back determined to do the whole thing.

The following is an account of what happened, written with three audiences in mind.  First, of course, hardcore barefoot hikers looking for a challenge.  Second, conventional hikers.  Presumably these people do not wear boots to the beach, so therefore I thought they might enjoy going barefoot where the trails are soft and sandy, putting on shoes when rocks appear.  Call it a hybrid approach.  Third, I had in mind the woman I encountered last year, descending from Donahue Pass (11,066 feet).  She said her feet were so sensitive she couldn’t tolerate going barefoot in the bathroom.  She won’t try it, but I thought she might be curious what it’s like. Continue reading “170 Miles Barefoot on the John Muir Trail”

170 Miles Barefoot on the John Muir Trail

Barefoot on the John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail is a famous 210-mile hiking route that traverses California’s Sierra Mountains, which Muir referred to as “the range of light.”  I visited the Sierras in 2018 and was impressed by the spectacular landscape.  After some consideration, thru-hiking the JMT became a goal for 2020.

Just getting ready for the JMT was a big operation, as the trip entailed competitive and thus hard-to-get permits, extensive route-planning, careful selection of gear and provisions, and travel logistics that were complicated by the COVID pandemic.  Additionally I decided to take on the JMT in an unconventional format by hiking as much as possible barefoot.  Why barefoot?  For the extra challenge, the special feeling of lightfootedness that comes from moving naturally, and the distinction of doing something important a little bit differently.

The 23-day journey turned out to be an incredible experience; indeed, it contained enough impressions to fill a book.  In the interest of brevity, however, this blog post will consist of a short synopsis of each day on the trail and a photograph or two.

Continue reading “Barefoot on the John Muir Trail”

Barefoot on the John Muir Trail