An American classic, the 211-mile John Muir Trail starts in Yosemite and ends at the highest peak in the continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,496 feet. Our 20-day thru-hike of the trail consisted of four great friends, tons of laughs and a hitchhike home. (Note: These images are in no particular order other than to tell the story of the JMT)
Greg Stahl reads contours and looks for features. The trail is well-marked but there are so many great features to make a mental note of for future adventures.
We did fish along the trail and it was always nice to have something to do once we got to camp or needed a break from hiking. I find photography and fishing to be the most therapeutic activities during the downtime.
Epic morning sunrises at Garnet Lake. Banner Peak (right) and Mount Ritter dominate the landscape here. This is by far one of my favorite places to camp on the trail because of it's absolute beauty.
Fully in the groove, Stahl sets up his tent at Helen Lake. Another great spot along the JMT, I have some of my most cherished memories at this camp. At this point in the trail we are a well-oiled machine who's daily pastime is cracking jokes and making fun of each other.
From left , Curtis Major, Kasey Hofer and Greg Stahl arrive at camp early to prepare for an incoming storm. These are moments that sum of the trail for me. Hanging out with great friends and enjoying our time along the way.
Time on the trail doesn't get much better than this. I took a memorable image and Curtis Major got a scenic bath which worked out well for the both of us.
These are the moments that every hiker lives for. Another mountain pass completed, huge views and clear skies.
Some days are total exhaustion and some days you feel like a million dollars. We all had those days where we were way out in front or bringing up the rear. Once you realize that it's all part of the deal, it doesn't feel so bad to be in the back.
We were all super tired and we didn't say much to each other, but we still helped each other out and worked as a team. The right group of people is so crucial on a trip like this. We were all fine with no words being said that night. Comfortable silences are a huge part of a successful JMT experience.
Purple Lake reflecting it's name to a certain degree.
We all had our own style of travel. Kasey Hofer would write in his journal every night about where we were camping and what happened each day.
Getting skunked is all part of deal when it comes to fishing. Curtis and I did the JMT 5 years prior to this trip, where I showed him how to clean his first fish. Now he's a veteran.
Layover days can happen because the group is tired or it can be a judgement call on the day's weather. We opted to layover this day because of rain and it was the best decision we ever made. Other soaked hikers walked by our camp wishing they had made the same call.
And the winner is Kasey Hofer.
Forester Pass is a gorgeous section of the trail. It's also the second highest pass which means you're getting closer and closer to Mount Whitney. Although you're still appreciating the experience you're thinking about pizza and beer in Lone Pine at this point.
We only brought one tent so most of us had to dry our gear out if we had the time. Sleeping under the stars each night is such a great experience. The JMT has thrown all types of weather at us and a tarp has saved us every time. Were we jealous of Stahl's tent at times? Yes.
Kasey Hofer amongst his morning "yard sale". I always tried to be packed up and ready to go before anyone else. It afforded me more opportunities to document my friends throughout the trip.
A bottle of whiskey and a soak. Enough said.
All of our camera gear was recharged by a Brunton solar panel. It worked out well and it really is the only way to keep everything running if documenting your experience important to you.
Stahl wrangling up the troops so that we can make some progress. Camping near the Muir Ranch can spoil the hiker a little bit. Resupply days mean a heavy pack and a full belly.
Red's Meadow allows for a phone call to mom to say hello.
The stillness that is the High Sierra.
A storm approaches from Forester Pass. Our trip started in late August and continued into September. The weather can go either way this time of year.
Mornings at Helen Lake are magical.
The best nights on the trail are when you get to camp with time to spare. You quickly learn that enjoying yourself is big part of the experience. After all it's not a race.
Splitting up tasks and sharing duties is what makes a great team. Cooking, cleaning and getting water got slit up evenly to spread the workload.
The team covering ground and on the home stretch.
2 am wake up call to start up the backside of Mount Whitney for an epic sunrise.
Meeting other hikers and sharing moments is a meaningful part of the experience. There's a great sense of camaraderie on the JMT.
The last sunrise on the trail is always mixed emotions. Your body desperately wants food but you don't want the experience to end.
Topping out at 14,496 feet. It's all downhill from here Curtis Major!
Hitchhiking home is tradition. The beauty of finishing a trip like the JMT is that once it's over we still have to figure out a way to get home. This is how we like to end it.