John Muir Trail 1971 Home Movies (235.5 MB, 640 x 480 pixels, 15:22). Scanned and converted from Super 8 Kodachrome film: dusty, blurry, and scratched, but barely viewable. Quick Time plug-in or iOS required. 6 mbps (or higher) download speed strongly recommended.

Way back in the beginning of my hiking career, I sought to do this banner trail through the High Sierra. On my first hike in Yosemite, I was impressed to see the mileage sign at Happy Isles, with the destination of Mt. Whitney, 211 miles away! I didn’t think that I’d ever be doing that, as it was stated to be for skilled outdoorsmen, and extremely determined people! But, I fell in love with the Sierra, and this was the best way to see the best of the mountains.

Working at a local coffee bar for the summer of 1971, they took a vacation break for two weeks. I got a small check for a vacation, and having some backpacking gear, resolved to try to do the best parts, through the National Parks. I read an article about the mountaineering school in Yosemite, too, and wanted to learn rock climbing. I had climbed Mt. Whitney in three days in 1970, and also had done Half Dome in a backpack trip. I also did some snow camping in Desolation Wilderness, with an overnight at Lake Aloha. It’d be an adventure.


With no car or transportation money, I hitchhiked down to Bishop, CA, and to South Lake trailhead. That went well, with friendly enough drivers and safe passage. It took several rides, and back then, many people hitchhiked. I kept a journal, and had my Super 8 movie camera to do some filming. I had to stop overnight in Markleeville, CA, staying up by the roadway. I did some walking up CA 89, since I didn’t get a quick ride, and someone then picked me up.

July 3

Finally, on the afternoon of July 3, I began my backpack trip after a ride from a local packer. I started out from South Lake trailhead at about 3 p.m. Hiking to Bishop Pass by 6:10 p.m., I had to backtrack, thinking that I had left my notebook somewhere. I forgot that I had it in my pocket. I camped in Dusy Basin, having some protein snack, with my Pemmican bars, and Tang, powdered orange juice, with some powdered milk.

I had to be frugal, with so little to spend, as freeze-dried meals were just too expensive for me. Much of my food I purchased from REI mail order. I didn’t even have a stove, with just a grill, fired by cans of Sterno, a liquid gel that made for fuel. Boiling or purifying water was not done. I simply drank straight out of streams and lakes. My backpack weighed only about 25 pounds, so I could go fast and light. No down bag, vest, or jacket, or anything, as for me, then, this was a no frills trip. I had some synthetic, cheapo fill, sleeping bag, from a discount store, as temperatures would not get too cold. A pea coat was all that I had for warm wear. Jeans for my legs. I had a plastic tube tent or tarp for rain, and army surplus Vietnam jungle boots for footwear. Not even wool socks. I built small tinder fires to stay warm, and to have some camp cheer. Starr’s Guide, the “red book,” would be my directions, and I had no topo maps, being that I could not afford them. I was doing this as a dirt poor student, the cheapest life experience that I had available, and doable, by me.

July 4

Waking up cold at about 5 a.m., I made a fire and laid out my gear to dry. My bag and tarp had gotten some condensation, and I knew enough to dry my gear. Three guys camped nearby, and gave me some pan-fried trout for breakfast. I ran into the park ranger, and showed my wilderness permit. He was good enough to pose for a movie clip.

At 10:10 a.m., I arrived at the Muir Trail junction, way down into the Kings River Canyon. I took a rest, and started south. Reaching Palisade Lakes, I put on some of my Cutter’s mosquito repellant. This worked pretty well. I stopped to decide whether to go over Mather Pass, this day. The wisdom says to climb in the mornings, when it is cooler, or in the afternoons, when there is snow. It would be softer, then. I found a campsite about 1,200 feet below Mather Pass, and had some banana chips and chocolate malted milk energy tablets for dinner. Making a campfire, my spirits were good.

July 5

Up at 6 a.m., I gathered wood to make another small fire. I wished that I had brought soap to wash my hands. Hiking at 7:21 a.m., I noted hard snow on my climb up the trail. I had no crampons. The frozen snow buried the trail, so I had to try to cross the hard crust. Needless to say then, too, I had no ice ax. Stepping from rock to rock, I decided to have to slide down to get to a better route, and my wallet slipped out of my back pocket. It ran into a moat by a rock, and I didn’t know that was where it had gone. I noted it lost, and searched for it. I saw it then about a few feet down in the snow crack, and used my pack makeshift frame poles to dig for it. I had to use them finally as chopsticks to pull it out. Losing a couple hours on this, I learned my lesson about a wallet in my back pocket, and sliding on snow. I had all my cash in it, so it was a relief that I got it back.

11:20 a.m.: I reached Mather Pass! At 1:40 p.m., I came to the Taboose Pass Trail junction. I applied more bug repellant, and refreshed myself with more Tang and banana chips. I got wet feet from crossing the South Fork of the Kings River, then had to think about the trail that I was on. I thought that I maybe had taken the wrong trail, so backtracked a half hour to find that I was going right. Some times, those trail signs aren’t too clear about which way to go. Oh, for a good topo map!

4:30 p.m., Lake Marjorie. I passed four guys who had passed by while I was searching for my wallet. The sign reads, “11,104 feet.” Continuing on, I came to Pinchot Pass at 6:52 p.m. Taking pictures, I spoke with a guy headed for Lake Tahoe from Mt. Whitney. He said there was a lot of snow on the north side of Forester Pass. By 9:40 p.m., I stopped to camp just above Twin Lakes. There had been a lot of bullfrogs at the lakes passed further back.

July 6

Waking up at 5:50 a.m., sore and tired, I thought that I’d be lucky to get over Glen Pass, some 3,500 feet of gain. I packed up, and started hiking to find a nice place to eat breakfast. Past Twin Lakes, I had a cup of Tang, with a package of blueberry protein snack, two sticks of beef jerky, and malted milk tablets, with one Pemmican bar. I came to the Woods Lake trail, and had to use a cathole, as mostly every day. I always adhered to the rules about water sources, and did not yet believe in packing my poop, or burning it. There is just too much to have to dispose of quickly, outside of burying it in catholes, 6” deep. Travelers are few and far to worry about privacy, most of the time. You can usually find a tree or rock to relieve yourself, behind.

Not worried about parasites in the water, yet, too, I noted a sonic boom from a jet. The big popularity of backpacking had not yet begun. Only recently had Kelty frame packs had been introduced, the Cadillac of backpacks, then, and I could not afford those. I spent about 20 dollars for my pack and frame, with two aluminum poles as extenders that I had bought from a hardware store. The Keltys ran about 50, then.

Eating up my beef jerky, I set my day’s goal as Rae Lakes. I ran into two guys who I traded food with. I saw more hikers, and enjoyed speaking with some of them. At 4:45 p.m., I was arriving to Rae Lakes. I kept note of the sign trail mileages, and at dinner, prepared a dehydrated salad mix, my piece de resistance for the trip. I drank down some Swiss Miss chocolate drink, good, hot or cold, The fishing here was the best that I saw, with maybe ten people here. I noted the swarms of mosquitoes, so glad that I had my Cutter’s, and wished that I had more food. Also, a fishing pole. Turned in at 9 p.m.

July 7

Awake at 6 a.m., I lay there in my bag to 7:10 a.m., then made a small fire. I had my breakfast, then started my hiking with two other guys. At 10:25 a.m., I topped out at Glen Pass. The pass views made for my photo ops. I had my picture taken hiking on the snow by one other guy, and met some more Yosemite bound hikers. I got a Hershey’s bar and peanuts from some generous hikers, and at 12:58 p.m., came to the junction with the Kearsarge Pass Trail.

I had more Tang, and water, then Pemmican bars. Forester Pass was visible ahead, and I camped at timberline, halting early at 5:35 p.m. There was wood, and some shelter from wind. I set up my tube tent, making this the best prepared camp for the trip. I would go over the pass the next morning, and get close to Whitney. I was told of a ten pound food cache abandoned ahead by a campsite, but never found it.

Resolving then to get a foam pad for sleeping, and also a foam pad for under my feet in my boots, I would never go again with such discomfort as I had been forced, or too ignorant to avoid. I’d mail off my film as I got back to civilization, too, and made some plans for the rest of my vacation. I looked at my life travel goals, with Colorado, Canada, and Idaho. Never would I imagine that I’d do so much, later in my life! I’d get gloves, too, as my feet, hands, face, and legs were my coldest parts during the night, in that order. I had to use my socks as gloves to keep my hands warm, but knew enough to have a warm cap. My spoon broke while eating a can of Pemmican, so I had to use my pocket knife. I ate my fruit galaxy snack, and at 8:21 p.m., I turned in.

July 8

By 6:10 a.m., I had a good sized fire going, then had a breakfast of powdered milk, protein snack, then put out the fire, good. I had some Pemmican bars for the trail, then shed my jackets, and at 9:35 a.m., I was at Forester Pass with four other guys. Hiking down, I signed in a trail register, and at 1:05 p.m., came to the Tyndall Creek Junction where I looked for the food cache. Not finding it, I gave up after a half hour, and by 2:33 p.m., came to the Bighorn Plateau. Passing many trail junctions with signs, I was walking along at a good speed. Mt. Whitney was my next goal.

At 6 p.m., I came to the Crabtree Ranger Station. It had been ransacked during the winter, but the ranger was friendly and spoke with me. I continued on to camp at Timberline Lake, and ran into two guys who needed mosquito repellant. They traded me a dollar plus some food for my Cutter’s, since I slathered plenty on and wouldn’t need more to the end of the backpack. I also traded four Pemmican bars for a can of tuna fish, and we talked for a while.

July 9

Up at a good hour, I had oatmeal, from those guys, and cashews, raisins, and dried apricots, mixed with powdered milk. They had thumbed from North Carolina in two weeks, by them. They were still asleep, so I hiked on. It was up to Trail Crest and Mt. Whitney, and, for my last day on this leg of the trip. Starting at 7:10 a.m., I was to the Mt. Whitney summit trail junction at 10:01 a.m. I’d leave my pack here, taking my camera, water, some food, wallet, and guidebook.

By 11:30 p.m., I summited. There was about 16 people on top, with Boy Scouts from Costa Mesa. As I sat on the edge, a jet roared closely by. Scaring me nearly to death, it did a barrel roll, and flew back for another pass. I had my camera ready for a great photo op, if there ever was one. I ate my last Pemmican bar, and one of the scouts gave me some bubble gum.

At 12:30 p.m., I started down, and at 1:40 p.m., was back to the junction and my pack. At 3:07 p.m., I was to Trail Camp, and further along, spoke with a father and son from Hawaii. They gave me some beef jerky. At 6:10 p.m., I was to Whitney Portal, the end of my 100.6 mile backpack. So, it took me from the 3rd to the 9th.

At 7:37 p.m., I got a ride out to Lone Pine, CA. I mailed some postcards and dumped my trash. By 8 p.m., I got a ride to Mammoth from a Chinese-American man, Glen, from L.A., who was building a cabin there. There at 10:30 p.m., I bought some food from the market there, and Glen made me a chicken hamburger at his place. I had bought more food, Chapstick, and Cutter’s, writing more postcards.

July 10

I went to a nearby pancake house for a hearty breakfast, running $2.21, then. Even then, I left a 36 cent tip. I offered to help with work for my driver, but he said that I had better get going. He made me more breakfast, with bacon, eggs, and toast. His generosity exceeded anyone’s that I had ever met to then. I got another permit at the ranger station, and got two rides to take me towards the Postpiles. I stopped at Minaret Vista, and got another ride to Agnew Meadows, then to the Postpiles, with a last ride.

At 10:51 a.m., I started northbound on the Muir Trail. I made a wrong turn, then was back on the trail. Over the San Joaquin River, I made it to Shadow Lake at 3:20 p.m. I was headed north on the Muir Trail, now, and felt good. I had good food, too, and camped by Thousand Island Lake. Good views of Banner and Ritter, two famous Sierra peaks. Eating well, I turned in, still hungry.

July 11

Laid in my bag for awhile and took pictures. At 8:13 a.m., I set out for Tuolumne Meadows. At 9:01 a.m., I crossed Island Pass, noting many frogs at a nearby lake. At Noon, I topped over Donahue Pass. Past Vogelsang turnoff, I caught up with two guys, Bruce and Bob, that I passed back earlier at Palisades Lake while I was headed south on my first leg of my two stage backpack. One of them was Oregon bound.

At 6 p.m., I arrived at Tuolumne Meadows. I went to the coffee shop where I had a hamburger, orange juice, and ice cream for $1.52 with tax. I walked to the campground where I got a spot with the two guys, and saw a bear and deer.

July 12

At 7:47 a.m., I was at the climbing school, with classes starting at 8:30 a.m. I went back to the store and got orange juice, M&M’s, and beef jerky ($1.39). I signed up for rock climbing class, at $12, for the first day. Two instructors, Barry and Beth, ran over knots and belay practice, and rope usage. Barry was the lead free climber in the Valley, and led a short route at Puppy Dome to show us how it was done. We followed, and I did my first 5.5. I was pretty dirty looking from my backpacking, but they didn’t mind. Several others were taking the class, with some not doing so well. Class was over at 3 p.m.

Going back to the campground, the other two backpackers were gone. I had a cheeseburger, chocolate milkshake, and chicken noodle soup ($1.99 total) at the coffeeshop. One of the students from the rock class came by my campsite to talk with me, leaving after awhile. The carpenter ants were mating, and I reviewed what I had learned from the school. I found out about the book, Freedom of the Hills, by Harvey Manning. The other student loaned me a foam pad for my sleeping, and I returned it in the morning.

July 13

From 9 to 4 p.m., I had more climbing class, with more rock climbing to 5.8, and a 150 foot, free-hanging rappel. I said goodbye to the instructors, and started backpacking again at 4:10 p.m. It was 8.7 miles to Sunrise Camp. Back on the Muir Trail after a wrong turn to Cathedral Lake, I made it to Sunrise Camp at 8:30 p.m. Lots of mosquitoes. I turned in at 9:37 p.m.

July 14

The sun was up at 6:45 a.m. All that I had for breakfast was freeze dried peanut butter spread, all that I could afford, that I got from the Mountain Shop. Starting for the Valley at 7:16 a.m., it was 13.7 miles away. I passed the Half Dome Trail junction at 10:27 a.m., then finally came to Happy Isles at 12:31 p.m. I washed up at Curry Village, but couldn’t get my checks cashed at the bank.

At 2:49 p.m., I started to hitchhike out of the Valley, with no problems from any rangers. I got a ride at 6 p.m., and got back to Tuolumne Meadows. All that I had to eat was candy. I camped again, and saw that other student from the climbing class again.

July 15

I got up, bought a poster ($1.63) from the Mountain Shop, and started to hitchhike out again. It had been cooler to sleep, up here. I got rides back to Manteca, and then north on Highway 99. A way to meet people. Home at 6 p.m., I had done it, safely enough. I had kept track of my expenses, and figured that I had spent about $50 total. Having no car and being totally on foot, I never paid any entrance fees for both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, or for Yosemite, either.

Completing the Muir Trail segments in the National Parks, then, I had a 90 mile stretch left to do, from South Lake to Reds Meadow. This would all be in the Inyo National Forest. I was back to work, and quit that job later in the summer, living then at home. It was a life of extreme poverty, and no good job, being that I had dropped out of school. But then, I was to find out about the Sierra Club, and secure some transportation, their way.


August 6

Joining the Sierra Club hike to Round Top (10,381'), I was able to hitch another ride south with a doctor hiker associate. Now previously, I had done the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail, about 186 miles, starting at Tuolumne Meadows, going all the way to Meeks Bay, Lake Tahoe, over July 23 to August 1, 1972, so now had better experience and gear. After finishing up the Muir Trail, I will have done all of the way, on foot, between Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney. Thank the Lord for this magnificent opportunity and achievement!

They left me off at the Tioga Pass Highway, so I hitchhiked on to Reds Meadow. I couldn’t get my wilderness permit that night, so had to wait somewhere.

August 7

After a wait, I got my wilderness permit at an entrance station, then started walking and hitchhiking to my trailhead. I got breakfast at the Reds Meadow cafe, then wandered about, lost trying to get to the John Muir Trail southbound. The ranger girl had suggested taking the Duck Pass trail to get to South Lake, but I wished to hike every last foot of the Muir Trail, so made sure to start off exactly where I had left off the year before. Heading south, I was to do better hiking, with some money. I hiked along the rim of the Fish Creek Gorge, to drop into it, and then towards Silver Pass. I camped a few miles before the pass at Helen Lake. One other backpacker was searching for scorpions using a ultra-violet lamp.

August 8

I hiked up to Silver Pass, which I had believed gained its fame from the sunrise. The sun does not hit it till well up from the horizon, but rays of the sun made for a glorious sight. I ran into a large church group, and two other backpackers joined me to head for South Lake. We hiked together over Bear Ridge, a 2,000 foot climb, and descended into Kip Camp. I wanted to make good time, so set the pace. Reaching Selden Pass by sunset, the peaks made a fantastic scene. Using a weak flashlight, we descended to a site, by Sally Keyes Lakes, with a large group of campers. While laying in my sleeping bag, I enjoyed the sight of hundreds of meteorites of the Perseid shower. I saw perhaps a shooting star every minute, it was so clear at altitude, above 10,000 feet, and so intense!

August 9

Starting early in the morning, I was determined to hike 25 miles this day. Near Selden Creek was a string of license plates high on trees for the ski tourers. During our descent into the South Fork of the San Joaquin River Canyon, one of my companions hurt his ankle, and they decided to exit by Piute Pass. I rushed on to keep my schedule. At about Colby Meadow, I met the ranger.

About an hour before sunset, I reached Muir Pass. So, some 26 miles that day. I camped inside the hut, a rock structure atop the pass.

August 10

The next morning, I had to chase after a packer who had forgotten his knife. We studied wildflowers on the hike down. Coming to the Bishop Pass junction, that completed the Muir Trail for me. I had to get out, now. I hiked up to Dusy Basin, where I camped, once again. There was a spectacular lightning show across the basin, on the far peaks to the west. I camped at the last lake before the pass.

August 11

Hiking to Bishop Pass, I wished to climb Mt. Agassiz (13,891’). Leaving my pack at the bottom, I topped out after two hours. Looking down at the Palisade Glaciers, I had climbed my first big trailless Sierra peak. I had wished to join the Peak and Gorge, Northern Alpine Section, which required some 25 ascents back then, out of a list of peaks chosen by the section creator. They had quoted no experience on refusing me attendence, so I had to get some!

Finishing my food atop this summit, I came to South Lake trailhead at 3 p.m. Someone wanted to know the Democratic choice for Vice President. I began to hitchhike home, north, with an adventure that turned out badly for a drunk driver, and stayed about Meyers Junction to get another ride home that next day, the 12th. I felt poorly about this all, and wasn’t in a good mood. I thought of myself as depressed. It was over.


Doing more activities with the local Sierra Club during the rest of the summer, I had done the cream of my backpacking accomplishments. I had a typewriter, but no still camera to keep photo notes. Still young, I figured that I might well be doing this again. Later, there was a Club chapter trip to also do the entire Muir Trail, but they wanted to do it a different way, and though interested in joining or helping, they didn’t seem too enthused about my participation. They took three trips to do it, and most of them didn’t do it. None or very few of them are interested in long distance backpacking, and though some rugged hikers said to do the Muir Trail in a week’s time, they didn’t take any photos. That same doctor who gave me a ride to Tioga Pass, at age 79, did the Muir Trail again, by him, though he doesn’t take pictures.

There are logistical problems for me to do it again. I don’t want to have to hitch-hike. Shuttle transportation is expensive to secure. I have no backpacking partners. On the Net, I had some loose offers to help Muir Trail hikers, at one time, where I’d solo hike Mt. Whitney, and thusly pick up people at the southern end of the trail, but with no return offer for gas sharing. I would have to drop them off back in Yosemite Valley, out of the way, headed home.

I need a good challenge to lose weight, and backpacking has always done it for me. With a good friend, we could drive our cars, and do our own transportation from end to end. I’d love to see it all again. I watch You Tube videos of the hiking, by some, envious of youth and fitness. Though I haven’t backpacked for years, I have the best gear, now, and plenty of experience. It is a grand adventure, still to this day.

I have thought of doing other trails, as the High Uintas, and Toiyabe Crest trails. But none of them appeal to me as much as the High Sierra, with peaks to do. The Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian Trails are much too much. But as it goes with peak climbing, I assume none of it appeals to others as much as it does to me!