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Long-Distance Adventure on the John Muir Trail

By: Sonja Saxe

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January 16, 2023 | Trip Notes

The John Muir Trail has been on my bucket list for years. 210 miles of high mountain passes, jewel-like alpine lakes, towering granite peaks, and fiery sunsets and sunrises are the makings of hikers’ dreams and the John Muir Trail delivered that and more. Leading up to the trip I spent hours poring over photos and reading everything I could about the trail in order to prepare myself for what I was going to see but nothing—not even the most beautiful photos—did the trail proper justice.

Looking out over Marie Lake from Seldon Pass on just our second day on the trail.

Hiking this trail with MT Sobek was a treat. Our group was comprised of 12 adventure loving individuals, two expert guides, one packer and his six spunky mules and one horse. Everybody in our group came from different places and backgrounds but were united by our mutual love of the outdoors and wild spaces. We started as strangers but quickly formed a close bond with each other and the trail as we stood in awe of the most grand landscapes, shared each other’s exhaustion on steep ascents, and ate lunches at more pristine lakes than I could ever count.

After an afternoon storm that left us huddled under a tarp for the better part of an hour we finally made it to camp at Chief Lake where we watched the most brilliant sunset of the trip.

Each day began with our wonderful guides, Alex and Sierra, setting out coffee at 6am, followed by a delicious and energizing breakfast—granola with mixed nuts one day, a scramble the next, and even a hot quinoa dish one morning. Each day we were on the trail by 8:30am and regularly hiked until 4pm, covering roughly 10 miles. Despite the long days spent on the trail the days flew by in a beautiful blur for me.

Jumping into Iceberg Lake. On our rest day we decided to take a day hike up to Ediza Lake and then Iceberg Lake. I couldn’t resist the temptation to jump into this alpine lake!

When the sun rose on our final day I felt a twinge of sadness. I had grown fond of my backcountry routine. I found a certain comfort in setting up and taking down camp each day, in making my own home in the wilderness. My pace was markedly slower than the previous days as I reluctantly made my way back to the hustle and bustle of the civilization.

Hiking up and over Silver Pass after a rain storm.

By the time we boarded the shuttle and were on the road back towards Fresno I was already reminiscing about everything I experienced on the trip and dreaming of when I could head back to the trail. After all there is a whole other half of the JMT to hike!

Stars and the Milky Way reflected in a perfectly still Chief Lake. Each night our group set alarms so we could peak our of our tents and stargaze.

Sonja Saxe is the National Parks Girl. Visit Sonja online at sonjasaxe.com or catch the full story of her adventure with MT Sobek on The Outbound!

Want to tackle the John Muir Trail for yourself? Check out our MT Sobek’s ultimate John Muir Trail treks Northbound to Yosemite or Southbound to Mount Whitney.