Planning your John Muir Trail hike may not be quite as much fun as actually walking the trail, but it can be a significant part of the enjoyment. If you’re a reader, learning about the mountains you are about to wander through can be fascinating. Here are five volumes you might want to add to your library.
Norman Clyde: Legendary Mountaineer of California’s Sierra Nevada by Robert C. Pavlik. If there is anyone who knew the Sierra Nevada even better than John Muir, Norman Clyde is the guy. Clyde had over a hundred of first ascents credited to him, and was a key player in Sierra Nevada search and rescue before it was even called search and rescue. In 1920, he travelled the approximate path of the John Muir Trail, long before it was known as such, from Happy Isles to the Evolution Valley. You can’t read this book without concluding that men were made of sturdier stuff back then.
Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country by Steve Roper. I don’t know if I’ll ever try this route, but I sure enjoyed reading about it. Roper’s text describes a hike – almost all of which is off-trail – that is extraordinarily difficult, and he has been accused by some of making it sound easier than it actually is. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to hike the John Muir Trail before there was any trail, this is probably as good an account as any.
History of the Sierra Nevada by Francis P. Farquhar. This is one of my favorites. If you are only going to read one book about the Gentle Wilderness, this has to be it. Would you like to even enjoy this book more? Keep a good map of the Sierra Nevada near you while you are reading and refer to it often.
Galen Rowell’s Sierra Nevada by Galen Rowell. This book of gorgeous photography is hard to find – and will likely cost more than a few bucks – but it is well worth it if you are appreciative of the finest Sierra Nevada photography. As a photographer I am amazed by what Mr. Rowell was able to get straight out of his camera. These photos were made well before the era of digital photo editors, but were beautifully composed using a variety of neutral-density filters and, most of all, by getting his camera places where few could go.
Speaking of Bears: The Bear Crisis and a Tale of Rewilding from Yosemite, Sequoia, and Other National Parks by Rachel Mazur. Ever wonder how we got to the point where we are all carrying our treats in bear-proof canisters? As you might imagine, it’s an interesting story. Mazur’s book covers more than just the Sierra Nevada, but after reading it you’ll never look at our ursine friends quite the same.
Good hiking, Ray