JMT Day 8: Hump Day! Reaching the Halfway Point

Date: 8/25/17 | Miles Hiked: 16.2 | Passes: Selden

This day wasn’t what I needed it to be. What was supposed to be a joyous occasion — the halfway mark and a resupply at Muir Trail Ranch — left me feeling disappointed.

The day started with Selden Pass, which was a real tease. I kept getting ready for a final push to the summit and was instead met with gradual climbing and turning corners to see more trail instead of the clear path to the top I’d expected.

John Muir Trail Marie Lake

I stopped for a snack at Marie Lake before reaching the summit of Selden Pass. It was a beautiful place for a break. An older man tried his luck at fly fishing while his wife watched and enjoyed the stillness. They had been fishing at this lake for years but didn’t catch anything that day.

Selden’s summit was small. With little space to sit and enjoy views, I hiked straight to Sallie Keys Lake for a quick lunch before moving on to the main event: Muir Trail Ranch.

The sun was hot and my knees and feet ached as I made my way down to MTR. The heat put me in a terrible mood, and the steep, unstopping downhill switchbacks contributed. I craved a Gatorade and bag of chips, something I was sure I could get at the ranch.

When I finally made it to MTR I was disappointed. It had none of the luxuries Red’s Meadow offered and it quickly became clear that my expectations had been too high. No restaurant serving hot meals. No convenience stores selling snacks and drinks. No cell service. No available phone. I could pay to use a laptop with an internet connection, but that was about it.

Muir Trail Ranch

What Muir Trail Ranch did have was a water pump, buckets filled with unwanted food and supplies that were free for the taking, and a scale for those dying to know the weight of the pack they’d be carrying for another week.

I grabbed my resupply bucket and sat on a bench under a tarp where other backpackers quickly transferred food from large pails to bear canisters, deciding what was and wasn’t necessary to get them through the rest of the hike. I sulked and watched other backpackers treat their resupply as a team effort, making sure the other hikers in their groups had enough food to continue. I spotted my Chinese camp neighbor but didn’t say hi. He’d packed much of the same type of food I had.

After finally working up the energy to pack the food I’d sent to myself weeks earlier, I rifled through the unwanted snacks and supplies. The saving grace of this resupply stop.

I took two packs of Ramen Noodles, bug spray, one pack of oatmeal, a handful of water flavoring packets, and, against my better judgement, a thick-ish book by an author I’d liked in college. Also against my better judgement? I decided to keep all the M&Ms and Sour Patch Kids I had sent myself. As I held the gallon-sized Ziploc in my arms like a precious, precious baby, I guessed its weight to be two pounds.

I ditched some beef jerky, a travel-sized aerosol of dry shampoo (what’s the point?), and my travel-sized deodorant (again, pointless).

I felt pretty satisfied with my haul and took a few more minutes to sit in an attempt to gain some mental energy.

A woman stood in the center of the resupply area and began calling out food she was getting rid of. Like a vendor at a sporting event, she called item after item and watched for other backpackers to perk up or call dibs.

“Tuna! Oatmeal! Nutella! Peanut M&Ms!” The list went on. I selfishly grabbed the M&Ms even though I had plenty in my pack. I quickly ate almost half of the woman’s Ziploc bag before donating the rest to a bin of freebies for someone else to enjoy.

After spending about two hours at Muir Trail Ranch, I reluctantly decided to start the climb out of the valley. On my way out I weighed my pack. Nine days worth of food, one liter of water plus all of my gear put me at 42 pounds. Barf.

I was thankful for clouds and cool weather as I gained elevation with my freshly loaded pack, but the weather decided to go above and beyond by adding rain to the mix.

bridge King's Canyon National Park

In just over two miles I exited the John Muir Wilderness and crossed a large bridge into King’s Canyon National Park, which is where I camped for the evening. The sun came out as I settled into my spot near a group of backpackers who I had seen at MTR. The evening really came together with the special treat of Ramen for dinner. I was back on track and ready to enjoy the last half of the hike.

John Muir Trail Tent

During the first half of my hike I ran into several hikers who had completed the trail once before. They all said that after Muir Trail Ranch everything comes together. You get your legs under you and the second half of the trail just clicks.

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