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4 Days on the John Muir Trail

"Our first pure mountain day, warm, calm, cloudless - how immeasurable it seems, how serenely wild!"

This was my first backpacking trip ever. Derek, Rob, Evan and I started our trek in Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. We forgot butane and the general store was out, so we had to leave a lot of our food behind. No mac and cheese for us, but extra room for beers now in our bear canisters.

We started off and it didn't take long for my backpack to feel heavy, and start digging into my boney shoulders and hips. I was excited, and knew that I was in for an uncomfortable and epic adventure.

8 miles in from Tuolomne Meadows, we set up camp before our first big climb over Donahue Pass.

We climbed for most of the morning of day 2. Here is us, taking a beer break halfway up Donahue Pass.

"Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality."

The top of Donahue Pass marked the crossover from Yosemite National Park to the Ansel Adams Wilderness. From here we could see Mammoth in the far distance, and could look down on the mountainous rocky trails that would be our path.

We hiked around to the south end of Thousand Island Lake to set up camp. We traveled 11 miles that day, the original goal being 2 more miles to Garnet Lake, but we were gassed and Thousand Islands seemed like a perfect place to spend the evening.

Most of our time was spent over 9000 ft. It was about 20 degrees F at night. Once the sun went down, I would put on every article of clothing in my backpack - beanie, gloves, scarf, long underwear, t-shirt, down vest, flannel, rain jacket, thick socks... and I was still freezing.

The sun going down also meant bedtime. There were no campfires allowed anywhere on our route, so there was really no point in delaying our retreat into our warm sleeping bags soon after dark.

"We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us."  

On the morning of day 3, we left Thousand Island Lake and hopped back on the JMT, and passed Emerald Lake, then Ruby Lake, then Garnet Lake. Every lake was the most beautiful yet, until we arrived at the next one. We climbed up to an overlook over Garnet Lake, where Derek grabbed this candid photo of us gazing out in utter amazement of the beauty.

We found a nice spot next to Garnet Lake to have lunch. Every meal out there was good practice in mindful eating. In normal life, we have the luxury of endless amounts of food at every meal, and I usually just inhale my food as fast as I can. But out there, we had a very limited supply so the goal was to savor every bite. With tiny bites and extra chewing, I was able to feel satisfied by every small meal.

"Here I could stay tethered forever with just bread and water, nor would I be lonely; loved friends and neighbors, as love for everything increased, would seem all the nearer however many the miles and mountains between us."

I thought Garnet Lake had to be the most beautiful lake out there, but then we arrived at Ediza.

I went for my only swim of the trip at Lake Ediza. It was freezing, but too enticing not to dive in.

"Here everyday is a holiday, a jubilee ever sounding with serene enthusiasm, without wear or waste or cloying weariness. Everything rejoicing. Not a single cell or crystal unvisited or forgotten."

After a swim and a nap under the warm sun, Derek, Rob and I hiked up to Banner Pass. We passed this waterfall on the way, and Mother Nature put on a nice little light show for us.

In my opinion, Banner Pass was the scenic highlight of the trip. We stood right under the 13,000 ft peaks of Mount Ritter and Banner Peak, as the sun set behind them. I could feel the grandness like it was tangible.

From our camp, we had a perfect view of Mount Ritter and Banner Peak from afar.

"Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, enticing at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, would one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever."

On Day 4, I woke up early and grabbed a blanket and watched the sunrise by myself. After breakfast, we left Ediza and traveled the 7 miles, passed Shadow Lake, and over and up to Agnew Meadows in Mammoth. Over the 4 days, we never saw a single cloud. We were blessed with great weather and safe travels.

All the quotes above are from My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir. These are some of my favorite quotes and passages, which now hold much more meaning that I have been to the Sierra in the summer, experienced it, and seen it with my own eyes.

I can't wait to get back.

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