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.

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Barefoot on the John Muir Trail

Setting Foot in Yosemite (for the very first time)

My four-week southwestern pilgrimage is drawing to a close, and what stands between my current location in Mammoth Lakes and the San Francisco airport is. . . . Yosemite National Park, John Muir’s temple of the wilderness, in which “every rock seems to glow with life.”

This is sacred ground, with 4.3 million visitors last year.  This year, having just reopened after a month’s closure due to forest fires, no doubt the park will be thronged.  What’s needed is a thoughtful plan:  an infiltration route from a remote trailhead to a suitable vantage point overlooking the valley, sparing me the crowds below.  A chance encounter with a friendly trail volunteer supplies me with exactly this:  a 16-mile route from Porcupine Creek Trailhead to North Dome and the top of Yosemite Falls.

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Setting Foot in Yosemite (for the very first time)