Me on the Golden Staircase
Me on the Golden Staircase

I have returned from a week on the John Muir Trail with Paige and her daughter Taylor. It was a wonderful hike with perfect weather, just the right amount of daily mileage to keep busy but still have time to enjoy my surroundings, and I got to see some of the most stunning scenery in the United States (really, the world!) Each day is listed below in the extended entry with a description of the areas travelled, daily mileage/elevation stats, and a link to that day’s photos. Total mileage for the trip was 83.17 miles, an elevation gain of 14878 ft, and an elevation loss of 16657 ft.

  • Day 1: Sunday, August 6, Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes, over Kearsarge Pass. We started with a relatively easy first day, hoping to keep the altitude and fatigue affects at a minimum.
    • Distance: 4.96 miles
    • Elevation Gain: 2630 ft
    • Elevation Loss: 888 ft
  • JMT: Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes (08.06.2006)
    36 photos
  • Day 2: Monday, August 7, Kearsarge Lakes to Woods Creek, over Glen Pass and through the Rae Lakes Region (including Fin Dome, Arrowhead Lake, Dollar Lake, and of course, the Rae Lakes). Animal sightings include the first marmot of the trip, and a pika that followed us up the switchbacks to Glen Pass.
    • Distance: 12.54 mi
    • Elevation Gain: 1571 ft
    • Elevation Loss: 3970 ft
  • Day 3: Tuesday, August 8, Woods Creek to Lake Marjorie, over Pinchot Pass. We hiked up the beautiful Wood’s Creek for several miles before turning north and heading toward Pinchot Pass. It was a big climb but I was beginning to adjust to the altitude and it was easier than anticipated (and the passes would get easier as the week went on). John also turned around this morning, deciding that the altitude affects were not treating him well, and he’d like to take a slow hike back the way we came.
    • Distance: 9.37 miles
    • Elevation Gain: 3618 ft
    • Elevation Loss: 1011 ft
  • JMT: Woods Creek to Lake Marjorie (08.08.2006)
    34 photos
  • Day 4: Wednesday, August 9, Lake Marjorie to Palisade Lakes, up Upper Basin and over Mather Pass. Our day started with a descent to the King’s River. At the river we had a couple of tricky crossings on the various forks, but nothing difficult (though Taylor’s shoe popped off in one!). Then it was about a 2000 ft climb to Mather Pass. It was today that I started to feel stronger – it was my fourth day of hiking with my pack and my fifth at altitude. Mather Pass was a significantly easier climb that the previous three – Kearsarge, Glen, and Pinchot. It helped that the first 1400 ft was a gradual climb up Upper Basin. It was only the last 600 ft of gain where we encountered the typical Sierra Switchbacks.
    • Distance: 11.83 mi
    • Elevation Gain: 2141 ft
    • Elevation Loss: 2637 ft
  • Day 5: Thursday, August 10, Palisade Lakes to Big Pete Meadow, through LeConte Canyon. I must admit, this was probably my least favorite day as far as scenery goes. You get used to going over passes and getting the sweeping High Sierra views! Today we descended the Golden Staircase and followed Palisade Creek down to the intersection with LeConte Canyon. We then climbed up LeConte canyon until we reached Big Pete Meadow where we camped for the night. The Golden Staircase was beautiful (and I am glad we weren’t going up it), and LeConte was beautiful, but the middle stretch was a bit dull and slow-going. A recent fire meant there was a lot of ground overgrowth to pass through, and a lot of dead trees crossed the trail. This stretch desperately needs maintenence!
    • Distance: 12.46 mi
    • Elevation Gain: 1487 ft
    • Elevation Loss: 2812 ft
  • Day 6: Friday, August 11: Big Pete Meadow to Evolution Lake, over Muir Pass and through Evolution Basin. Today we encountered some snow below Muir Pass – we even saw some ‘icebergs’ floating in Helen Lake! The climb to Muir Pass was really nice – some beautiful lakes, frog and pollywog sightings, and then the Muir hut at the Pass itself. After the pass, we had a long gentle descent through the moonscape of Evolution Basin. It is barren except for the gorgeous deep blue lakes, at least until getting below treeline. This was the night of the best campsite, perched at the end of the Basin just above Evolution Valley.
    • Distance: 12.17 mi
    • Elevation Gain: 2759 ft
    • Elevation Loss: 1199 ft
  • Day 7: Saturday, August 12, Evolution Lake to Piute Bridge and friends and family, through Evolution Valley. It’s our last full day on the trail. We left our great campsite and immediately dropped down into Evolution Valley. It was a nice and easy hike down the valley for several miles, and then we encountered the Evolution Creek crossing. We had heard it wasn’t too deep (like, a foot), but we crossed right at the trail where it was closer to two and a half feet deep. It was certainly refreshing! We then dropped further down to join the San Joaquin river which we followed north to the Piute Bridge. When we arrived there was no sign of anyone yet (we were meeting David and Dave and Theresa and Steve), but they showed up about 10 minutes after we arrived. We all settled in to a great campsite, enjoyed the food and drink (fresh fruit and beer, thanks to David!), a campfire, and celebrated Paige’s birthday with glowy thingees from Theresa. I would have loved to have kept hiking to Yosemite, but it was sure nice to see everyone (and the food they brought…thanks for the chips and salsa, Theresa!)
    • Distance: 11.57 mi
    • Elevation Gain: 99 ft
    • Elevation Loss: 2866 ft
  • Day 8: Sunday, August 13, Piute Bridge to Florence Lake Ferry, past Muir Trail Ranch. All done. 🙁 Time to get back to real life.
    The hike down to the ferry was far less spectacular than the rest of the week, but it was nice to stop by the Muir Trail Ranch for some fresh spring water. Florence Lake was beautiful and it felt great to take a dip in the water and wash off all the trail grime of the past week. We caught the 3pm ferry, then took the long and winding road out until we met up again for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Prather. We left from dinner at 7 and were home by 10 pm. It was a great week and I can’t wait to get back out there and do the rest of the John Muir Trail.

    • Distance: 7.83 mi
    • Elevation Gain: 573 ft
    • Elevation Loss: 1274 ft
  • JMT: Piute Bridge to Florence Lake Ferry (08.13.2006)
    16 photos
  • Prior to the hike, we spent a day tooling around the Tioga Pass/Lee Vining/Mammoth Area, visiting a couple of geocaches and slowly acclimating to the higher altitude. The highlight was a short hike to Bennettville, a ghost town just east of Tioga Pass.
Bennettville Ghost Town (08.05.2006)
9 photos

Leave a Reply

  1. Johanna Hoadley

    Rebecca: curious how you handled shuttling / getting back to your car? Any insights? We are thinking of doing a similar route and thinking through logistics.

    1. calipidder

      Good question. We took one car out and left it at Onion Valley. Our friend John turned back partway through the trip and drove that car home. Then, our husbands drove out (two cars) to meet us at Florence Lake. Actually, they hiked in and joined us the last night. When we hiked out their cars were there for the ride home.

      So, basically, having enough people and cars worked for us – no shuttle services used.

  2. Joe

    Rebecca, what reference did you use for your distances? They seem short compared to what I have been using based on the JMT book by Elizabeth Wenk.

    1. Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd Listing Owner

      The data came straight from my GPS, so it’s limited to my GPS accuracy.

Leave a Reply