“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt”
– John Muir
After we met my brother Stefan at Muir Trail Ranch, where he has been waiting in the hot springs for our arrival several days already, the Wild Party was finally complete. Every hiker on the JMT gets a nickname, so it was quite easy to dub him ‘Hot pool’. Also our food resupply bucket found its way safely to this remote location and once again, we were ready to hit the trail !
There were still about two weeks left until our precious back-country permit would expire. So we still had plenty of time to walk towards Yosemite Valley National Park, where the John Muir Trail would culminate on the summit of Half Dome. However, packed with our backpacks filled to the brim, the steep ascent from Muir Trail Ranch back onto the JMT stretched us to the limit. In retrospective, this stage was probably the hardest one, but our mum Marion ‘Big Spoon’ always found a way to keep spirits high ! But have a look for youself:
The rest of the JMT was very memorable and stories from the trail are countless, where should I begin ? My father Gerhard ‘Winnetou’ finally visited the legendary Silver Lake that he grew up reading wild west stories about. Seeing the joy in his eyes while he remembered the stories of hidden Apache treasure in it, is still something I cannot express in words. Or simply being tent-buddies with my older brother again, was like time-traveling back to the days when we were kids. The unfailing optimism of our mum is still overwhelming me today – as the snow came in threatening an early end to our adventure, she just called it ‘Quality family time’. Or when temperatures in the early morning started to drop below freezing level, she made us do aerobics ! I also want to mention the fellow hikers that we met along the way – every single encounter was special for us and we wonder often what stories you might tell today ?
We finished the John Muir Trail after 23 days in absolute wilderness on the summit of Half Dome. It was the best thing that we have ever done as a family and an experience that we will never forget. If you plan to walk it, please don’t hesitate to get in touch ! Here a few of the things that we have learned along the trail.
Bag of tricks:
- a hot water bottle (we used our Nalgene bottles) inside your sleeping bag will give you warm toes at night and drinking water in the morning
- water boils faster in an aluminum pot than in a titan pot – also pots should not have any plastic parts, so you can put them directly in the campfire and you’ll safe gas
- premix coffee or cocoa with milk powder and sugar already at home to save time and trash along the trail
- remove the sponge of mushrooms for less slimey soups
- stretch out freeze-dried food by adding couscous, Quinoa or our absolute favorite smashed potato
- wrap fish in layers of newspaper and put this package straight on the coals. Dry paper around the fish and a couple of wet layers on the outside.
- water Quinoa/rice during the day to reduce its cooking time and save even more gas
- put empty backpacks/etc underneath your sleeping mat for extra insulation as my mat was waaaaay too thin
- don’t vacuum your food, because soft bags are more easily store able in your bear canister than bricks of food
- fill any void between food in the bear canister with treats like chocolate, candy or marshmallows.
- burn pages of already read book chapters in the campfire
- put dishes on top of bear canisters to frighten any wildlife away when they touch it
- bring flour and bake your own bread on a stick, or bring wraps (flatbread) as they last long and are the most dense bread.
- we were asked multiple times for medicine along the JMT, please remember to bring painkillers, aspirin and blistering plaster along
- dried berries are so yum !