The John Muir Trail shares about 170 miles of the PCT through the High Sierras, which are some of the most stunning landscapes I have ever seen.
At this point I was used to passing maybe one or two NOBOs in a day, a few day hikers here or there and would usually arrive, at night, to an empty camp. However, when the JMT and PCT overlap the shear hordes of hikers is overwhelming.
Understand, I have been hiking alone, camping alone, swimming alone, eating alone…flat out, all alone for months. By now, I was used to functioning completely and comfortably, alone.
Then, I hit Yosemite. I can not deny that I was craving my maildrop, the excitement of the park and any sort of human interaction I could work up. However, I was not really prepared for what lay in store.
I’m going to say it, JMT hikers and PCT hikers are very different. If you’ve spent time on the trail, you know what is meant by that statement.
While traversing the 200 miles of the Sierras, I was in some of the most beautiful country in the world. Trust me on that, I’ve seen many places. However, I was the least relaxed I’ve been in all the previous miles. I was stressed, that’s an over exaggeration, however, compared to the free and relaxed feeling I found on the trail, this was the opposite.
It spawned from the shattering of my solitude and serenity. At first, I approached the increase in people in a very positive way, I met many wonderful people, who had captivating stories…however, I fell into the JMT slog. I slowed way down, started making camp earlier and taking more breaks. I wasn’t shaken out of this slump until I was overtaken by two other SOBOs who caught up to me when I stopped at 5pm to make camp… yeah, 5pm, I was that bad. We chatted a bit and they encouraged me to crank out another pass with them. I turned them down and they continued on without me. As I watched them ascend the pass I kicked myself for not going with them. So, I threw on my pack and ascended the pass, then kicked out another handful of miles before dark. I never saw those guys again but they helped me out of my JMT slog.
I was despondent, which I attributed to my erosion of tolerance for the hordes of people. Mostly, they were awesome hikers, however, it was the compounding of the few; the loud valley speak well past hiker midnight in every congested camp, it was the unspoken pressure to slow down or speed up by the many hikers right before or right after you when crossing a pass, it was the selfie sticks obstructing every overlook, it was never having a moment to yourself to take it all in. How I see it, is that you come to nature to get away from the hustle, the crowds and trivialities of modern day and my slog only made it worse. I’m glad I ran into the other SOBOs and that I went over that second pass that day which kicked my hike back into gear.
By time I was in the Southern Sierras, I was so happy Mt. Whitney was approaching and my lonely days would be back again.