John Muir Trail Days 13-15 – Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite Valley

Day 13 – We Needed Naps

Even if you don’t see them, you know they are there.

July 20

High Trail to Lyell Canyon – 20 miles

Morning LIght on the HIgh Trail
Thousand Island Lake
Island Pass – Feeling Melancholy and Lazy
Donahue Pass
Lyell Canyon

Day 14  – Whoa Nellie Deli – Sarah is Back

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.”
~ Adelle Davis

July 21
Lyell Canyon to Cathedral Lake – 10 miles (evening hike)

We hit Tuolumne Meadows at 8:00 AM hoping to get food and a permit to hike Half Dome. As a bonus, today Sarah was driving our car to Happy Isle to leave for the end of our trip. Her 20 blisters and bad knee prevented her from continuing the hike.

With no cell service, pay phone, or anything open except the Ranger Station, I decided we needed to hitch out to Lee Vining (for cell service), contact Sarah, and of course, eat at the Whoa Nellie Deli. All went smoothly.

  1. Ranger Station said we did not need a permit because our permit left from Cottonwood Lakes and not Whitney Portal. I don’t really know why and would not trust this. I would recommend double checking this information. Anyway, we were good to go.
  2. All hitches went great on the way to and back from Lee Vining. We met great people and the food was a huge bonus. I had salmon salad, a Dr. Pepper, and bought more chips.
  3. Sarah wants to finish the hike with her new knee brace, taped up feet, and Bryn’s bigger shoes with new insoles. That girl hitched from Happy Isle to Tuolumne Meadows to meet us at 4:00 and we headed off for scenic Cathedral Lakes.


Early morning Lyell Canyon
Eating together – THE BEST – Sunset – Cathedral Lake – Yosemite
Sunset – Cathedral Lake
Cathedral Peak Camp

Day 15 – Finishing with Half Dome

A good climb renews the spirit.

July 22

Cathedral Lake to top of Half Dome to Happy Isle – 22 miles

Well, we are done. And what a humdinger of a day. Our team kept on the move, we summited Half Dome (the highlight for me), made it to Happy Isle before dark, and celebrated with pizza and salads at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley.

This trip was quite a ride for me. I still get light-headed just thinking about those creek crossings and the force of strong currents ready to take me away.

Hiking with a big group was a new skill set for me and I learned a lot. Upcoming will be a summary blog post with our gear, food, logistics, training, and tips for hiking the JMT.

Thank you, readers, for following along. I appreciate each of your comments and emails. You all are inspiring and I am thankful.

Just a morning reflection I thought was pretty neat
Sunrise over Cathedral Peak
Large burn area
Cooling off
Climbing the steps up to Half Dome Cables
Group shot before starting the climb
On the way up the Half Dome cables
On the way up the Half Dome cables
Top of Half Dome
Top of Half Dome
Nevada Falls from the Mist Trail
Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail
Happy Isle in the Merced River – the completion of the John Muir Trail



  1. I did this hike 5 years ago. Brings back lots of great memories.
    Great article and I love the photos! Keep up the good work!

  2. Mark Goldfain

    Wow. The coolest photos in Yosemite. My favorite is the one of 4 of you (taken by the 5th?) sitting on the top, your arms raised. I keep thinking, one might think that guy is in a dangerous spot. But not at all. If he should slip, he’s got no less than 3 angels to save him.

  3. Well done. Loved the photos and the energy they conveyed. You guys are awesome. And to top it off, you climbed Half Dome! Wow! Thanks for another amazing journey.

  4. Thanks for letting me tag along.

  5. Love your blog. Thank you so much for sharing. Your photos and stories are luring me to the high Sierra. I’ll meet my daughter in Mammoth early next month for a high country hike. I hope any stream crossings will be tame by then. You guys are tough and have my greatest respect.

  6. Brian Mortakis

    Another fantastic montage …Are you sure your not related to Ansel Adams ?

  7. Wow! Congrats! This was one tough group! I have been following along on on Instagram and now your blog, and waiting for this last segment. We leave on Monday from Agnew Meadows just to Tuolumne Meadows, with some side trips. Looks like the crazy stream crossings were further south for you, so I have my fingers crossed! On my fist Backpacking trip two years ago, our first night was at your camp spot at Lower Cathedral Lakes, or looks very similar. Lets just say that I can’t get enough after that first night! Anyway, I still can’t wrap my head around how you all do 20 mile days, never mind in these conditions. Maybe when you get a chance, share your training regime.

  8. I hope to do the JMT one day. But it sure won’t be during a high-snow year. You all are so tough!

    Sarah is apparently tough too: glad you came back out and finished. Just awesome.

  9. Subscribing to your blog has been timely for me, as we start our trip in about 2 1/2 weeks. Thanks for the encouragement and the amazing photos! Can’t wait to read more!

  10. Congrats on another great trip! Happy that no one was lost in all those water crossings. Your photos are only getting better and better! Looking forward to reading your followup notes.

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