Day 4-6 on the John Muir Trail

This article tells the story of the JMT2013 thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. Enjoy the photos and use this information to plan your own backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail. For the beginning of this trip start here: John Muir Trail Day 1-3 and more more information on this adventure check out the Muir Miles Page.



Day 4: Boundary Creek to Fish Creek

Day 4 started like the two days before, we woke up at 6 am, made breakfast and tore down camp. Each day we've left camp at 7:30 and each day we talk about how it shouldn't take 1.5 hours to get ready but it does.

Muir Trail Day 4

We were expecting a much each easier day than the 18.8 miles we hiked the day before. The morning started with a long straight uphill. Directly out of camp we battled some quick switchbacks which gained about 800 feet in the first mile. Soon we were in Crater Meadow where we watched deer munch on grass between two large red mountains.

Reading the Map

The next nine miles were relatively flat. The trail followed the contour of the mountains and we were able to see high mountain peaks all around us. It was amazing. We could even see back to Donahue pass which we had climbed on day 2.

We crossed from the Ansel Adams Wilderness to the John Muir Wilderness. This section of the Sierra National Forest is filled with very tall pine trees. The forest appears very healthy with trees spaced pretty far apart. We came across a ranger who was checking for permits and rehabilitating campsite that were too close to the water.

John Muir Trail

From the Duck Lake Junction we dropped about 200 feet in elevation over 2 miles which led us to Purple Lake. At this point we already had 11 miles under our belts and the heat of the sun was beginning to get to us. Purple Lake is a breathtaking lake with tall mountain peaks surrounding it.

Fly Fishing Purple Lake Paul Fly Fishing at Purple Lake


When we arrived at Purple Lake Paul grabbed his fishing pole and tried some fishing. I couldn't take the heat anymore so I hopped right in to the fresh mountain lake. It was cold yet refreshing. With the hot sunshine beating down the lake water was bearable and a quick swim was just what I needed.

Purple Lake Purple Lake


After this longer than normal break at Purple Lake we headed straight up another 500 feet or so  then back down in just 3 miles. We arrived at Virgina Lake which was larger than Purple lake and just as beautiful. We had reached the 14 mile mark and I was personally feeling the pain in my feet. We all have sore muscles, aches and pains. Chris finally showed me the blisters on the back of his heels. They were really nasty blisters and needed to tend to. The reality of a couple normal guys hiking 200 miles in 14 days is starting to settle in. We can do it but it won't mine easy.

Lake Virginia Lake Virginia


Being totally wiped out, Chris and I took a short nap under large pine trees along the banks of Virginia Lake. Meanwhile Paul did a little more fishing and prepared trout sushi right on the spot. It was a nice treat. We went ahead a prepared the rest of our dinner making our time at Virgina Lake a 2.5 hour stop. I can't speak for Paul but Chris and I needed the rest.

Our plan for the day was to camp in Tully Hole. We hiked the short distance past lake Virginia and descended down steep switchbacks into Tully Hole. From up above it looked like a grassy meadow surrounded by steep mountains. It was quite pretty but I keep thinking to myself that it looked like a perfect place for a bear to hang out.

As we approached the meadow we realized there was a major mosquito problem in this area (something that other hikers laughed about latter when we said we planned on camping at Tully Hole). The mosquitoes drove us downstream for another half mile or so. We were tired and ready to stop so we picked a nice flat campsite just off of Fish Creek. There were still many mosquitoes but with the long day including breaks, we pretty much set up camp and crawled into our tents for the night.

The day ended up being 16.8 tough miles but with some long breaks we were able to roll into camp with smiles on our faces. We've now completed 59 miles in 4 days and we're a quarter of the way finished with our trek on the John Muir Trail. Earlier in the day we were fighting hard to keep moving but back at camp we are sad to see the days going so fast. This is quite an adventure.

Day 5: Fish Creek to Quail Meadows

The major obstacle on day 5 was Silver Pass. We had to climb from 9080 feet at the Cascade Valley Junction to 10,895 at the top of the pass in just 3.6 miles. From the top of Silver pass we could see Chief lake, Warrior Lake and Squaw Lake.

Muir Trail Day 5 Chris Pumping Water


From the pass we started a long downhill which dropped all the way to 7870 at Quail Meadows. The elevation gain and drop was pretty tough on our legs and since we were stilled pretty wiped out from the day before, we cut our day short and set up camp at just about 11 miles for the day.

John Muir Trail Day 5

We welcomed a shorter day and were happy to have set up camp early enough in the day to relax for a while. We played in the creek, washed out some of our laundry and laid in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day to relax by the creek and it took my mind off of the pain
Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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