One of the very best parts of any John Muir Trail hike is the unexpected. On my first thru-hike I met, at the top of Forester Pass, a gentleman who worked on the same tiny spit of land, on the same island, in the middle of the Pacific, as I do today, only he had worked there several years earlier. What a coincidence.
Last year, I kept running into readers who had purchased my book and recognized me from the photos inside.
Although you certainly expect to have encounters with wildlife, they often come as a surprise, when you least expect it, like the time I turned a corner to find three bears straddling the trail.
Perhaps my most memorable surprise occurred in LeConte Canyon, early one morning. I had hiked a couple of hours before dawn and it was time for me to stop for a breakfast break. The morning was young and I hadn’t yet seen man or beast. As I sat on a log, enjoying my mix of granola, dried berries, nuts, and reconstituted powdered milk, there wasn’t even a breeze to rustle a branch. It was so quiet I ought to have been able to hear a hiker from one hundred yards down the trail, or a mouse crawling along the log that made my make-shift dining table and chair.
Breakfast over and feeling strong, it was time for me to get on my way.
Now, “getting on my way” is a bit of a process. After putting everything away, I have to sling my camera case over my shoulder, put on my backpack, make at least five or six adjustments to the variety of straps, put on my gloves, put on my hat, pick up my trekking poles, loop my hands through the straps, look around my feet to ensure I haven’t left anything, and then take a step.
All that takes at least a couple of minutes. During those minutes, I wasn’t really paying much attention to what was going on around me.
When I finally looked up and turned to take my first step, the photo below was what I saw, no more than a two or three yards from me. I had no idea they were there and never heard a single sound.
I don’t read deer minds, but based on the look on Mom’s face, I feel pretty sure that the caption on the photo accurately describes her thoughts.
What will be the best part of your John Muir Trail hike? No one knows, and that might be one of the best things about it.
Good hiking, Ray