John Muir Trail: Zero Days, Part 1 of 3

March 1st, 2013 → 3:15 am @ // 7 Comments

john muir trailAre “zero days” a good idea on your thru-hike of the John Muir Trail? As it is with many things, the answer is: it depends. (A zero day means that you walk zero miles; it’s also known as a rest day.)

Start with an honest evaluation of your overall fitness. The question isn’t so much: can you walk ten or twelve or fifteen miles a day. The question is: can you walk ten or twelve or fifteen miles a day, FOR FIFTEEN OR TWENTY DAYS IN A ROW? Many can answer the first question, “Yes.” Few can answer the second question that way.

This is particularly true if you are in your forties, fifties, sixties or beyond. Three days of unusually demanding exertion, followed by thirty-six hours of recuperation, can first stress your body and then allow it to repair and recover in a way that leaves you stronger. Follow that with a period of five to eight days of similar exertions, punctuated with another rest day, and you’ll find yourself ready to push through to the end of the trail.

Alternatively, without time off your feet, you may find yourself getting progressively more beat up, setting yourself up for injury (or disappointment, when you find you just don’t have the capability to continue).

On the other hand, if you are young enough to recover overnight (oh yes, I remember those days!), or if you are already accustomed to this sort of relentless effort, without rest, zero days serve no purpose, other than to allow you to loiter in a particular area for a while. (Loitering in a particular area can be a VERY good reason.)

My advice: unless you are sure you can do this hike without taking a day off, schedule at least two.

If you are hiking southbound, there are four places where you can take zero days during the first half of the trip—and pamper yourself a bit in the process.

  • Tuolumne Meadow (~24 miles from the Happy Isles trailhead)
  • Red’s Meadow (~57 miles from the Happy Isles trailhead & ~33 miles from Tuolumne)
  • Vermillion Valley Resort (~87 miles from the Happy Isles trailhead & ~30 miles from Red’s Meadow)
  • Muir Trail Ranch (~108 miles from the Happy Isles trailhead & ~21 miles from VVR)

They all have accommodations and they all feed you, one way or another. They all have advantages and disadvantages.

More, in the next two weeks, regarding each of these locations.

Good hiking, Ray

john muir trail


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7 Comments → “John Muir Trail: Zero Days, Part 1 of 3”


  1. Steve Netherby

    1 year ago

    Hi, Ray. Last September, I finished the JMT four days before my 70th birthday. Took no zero days, because I started three days behind schedule and had to push hard to make up the days to hit a rendezvous/resupply at Onion Valley, off the Kearsarge Pass. Did indulge myself with four nights in off-trail beds, though I hiked even those days. Have to say I felt strong each day, and finished strong at Whitney Portal, but felt the beat-up part at home after the hike. Had lost 20 pounds—much of it upper-body muscle, and one of my knees is still recovering. Would have loved some zero days for fishing, swimming, exploring, and allowing the muscle recovery you mention. Great post as always! Thanks. P.S. Muir Trail Ranch had no rooms available when I arrived there, and they don’t sell beer!

    Reply

    • Ray

      1 year ago

      Thanks, Steve. When I retire my intent is to take more zero days, just to spend more time in these lovely places. I could easily see myself spending two nights and a full day at Marie Lake, for example. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply

  2. Darryl Abrahms

    1 year ago

    Thanks, Ray. Great post!

    Reply

  3. Kelly Fitzgerald

    1 year ago

    What!? No beer at Muir Trail Ranch!!??

    Reply

    • Ray

      1 year ago

      Not without a reservation! (Actually, now that you mention it, I’m not sure they have beer even with a reservation, but then I’m not a beer drinker, and I wouldn’t have noticed.)

      Reply

  4. Jim

    1 year ago

    Remember to leave space in your MTR resupply bucket for that beer or other refreshing beverage.

    Nice article about zero days. I look forward to the next installment.

    Jim

    Reply

    • Ray

      1 year ago

      Thanks, Jim! Appreciate the comment and good idea. You would have to send it UPS, though. No alcohol in the US Mail.

      Reply

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