My John Muir Trail fails

I am a member of a number of Facebook groups about the John Muir Trail and I really enjoy reading about other people’s experiences. One of the things that I’ve seen people commenting about recently, is feeling bad or slightly ashamed at having not had a ‘successful’ hike. This could be to do with a range of reasons, from the more serious (illness and injury) to a general sense of not having enjoyed it as much as they ‘should’ have.

It is hard to go into an adventure like this without having high hopes of a positive experience. This expectation is often reinforced by the sheer amount of people seemingly having the awesome life changing experience that you expected to have, all over social media.

I was one of the people lucky enough to have had a really amazing and relatively calamity free experience. I feel very grateful for this, especially as I’d been quite worried about injury – or some other unknown disaster – before setting out. However, these comment threads led me to reflect on my experience, and the fact that (as with everything in life) it wasn’t perfect.

So, in solidarity with my fellow hikers who feel that their trail didn’t go as expected and perhaps as a bit of bonus guidance (/oversharing, depending on your view) for the JMT class of 2018, here are my personal top five #JMTfails.

1) Minor meltdown

I had a day of feeling awful, both mentally and physically for no particular reason. I cried at the top of hill for about half an hour (whilst listening to Elton John) and was about ready to give up. I only made it through the day after drinking some whiskey and being asked if I was OK some seriously hot trail workers. It’s amazing how effective a pick me up that combination is.

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3pm whiskey (and dirty fingernails)

2) Getting sick one night

This was a pretty low moment, involving the retrospective digging of a hole, in the dark (say no more).

3) Losing a companion

I was hiking with two friends … and managed to lose one of them. He slept in, we arranged a place to meet later that day and he didn’t show up. Cue 24 hours of worry, confused SPOT device messages and a trip to a ranger station before we knew that he was safe.

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Have you seen this man?

4) Not having enough food

I made a rather last minute decision to not resupply between Muir Trail Ranch and Mount Whitney. Due to my eleventh hour planning I ended up short by almost a days’ worth of food. I only realised this a day and a half away from MTR, so was faced with the unattractive options of hiking back, hiking out, or potentially running out of food on my way. Fortunately, I bumped into some friends who were looking to offload a lot of food – I was very happy to oblige!

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My lovely food (and Fireball) providing friends; Mike, Tracey and John. Also thanks to Victor for the ramen!

5) Going for a skinny dip and being joined by a guided group

I mean that says it all really. But I’ll pick my swim spots a little better next time.

Do any of these resonate with you? What are your #JMTfails?

2 thoughts on “My John Muir Trail fails

  1. Thanks for sharing! I can especially relate to feeling terrible (mood-wise) for no reason at all. A delayed flight messed up my itinerary, causing me to start my hike on the wrong foot. I was a stressball worried about completing miles and could never quite reel it back in. I hiked solo and my husband planned to meet me at Mt. Whitney. Even though we were both flexible with our plans, I missed him and wanted to make it to him on the originally planned date. I ended up pushing too hard and exiting 30 miles early due to terrible knee pain. Loved the hike, just wish I could have done it with less anxiety 🙂


  2. Hello, thank you so much for sharing your story ☺️ ah I’m so sorry to hear that, although I totally understand how it could have happened. I think it’s quite hard these days to really slow down! I literally had nowhere to be (and no one meeting me) yet had to really stop myself from rushing through the trail. I wonder where it comes from- modern life maybe. I hope your knee is recovered and that you’ll perhaps consider another try in future years (or maybe doing Mount Whitney on it’s own!) ☺️


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