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Granite and Gold: A Hike along the John Muir Trail

Aaron Zagrodnick

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Aaron Zagrodnick

“Just take three steps, stop, and breathe.” The anthem I sang to myself scaling Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental U.S. I had started down in the Owens Valley 7,000 feet ago, with a backpack loaded with a week’s worth of food. Now, each step that I gain in altitude makes the pack seem heavier and heavier. The Whitney Portal Trail comes to a T. I could either veer right and tag the summit and the official start of the John Muir Trail, or head left and down in elevation to Crabtree Meadows. With months of planning I swallowed the pain and took the exit ramp right up to Whitney. With my three steps, stop, and breathe ethos, that beat led me to my first 14,000 foot summit and an unforgettable view. The backpack was removed from my shoulders and I began to catch my breath. My gaze veered down to a lake below. Flashes of gold darted out from the lake and up into the creek flowing into it. The California state fish, the golden trout, frolic in this high alpine environment – a fish I’d pursue with each step along the 211-mile trail...

@jansenjournals shares this story detailing his hike of the John Muir Trail - check out the article below in Issue 49:

Granite and Gold: A Hike along the John Muir Trail

Backpacking and Fishing the John Muir Trail

Issue 49 Page 1

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  • 4 months later...

Hi Aaron,

Great post. I couldn't agree more. Whitney is one of the most scenic trail hikes I've ever experienced. In September of 2019 I managed to get a permit in the lottery and took my family on a summit attempt. The great thing about this hike is there is truly something for everyone. My daughter and I got an early morning start before sunrise and broke out of the 99 switchbacks before the sun came up. I think you are spot on with your title "Granite and Gold."  I'll never forget the golden hue of the sunrise hitting the rock spires as we made our final trek to the summit.  Unlike you, I only had a light summit pack. I can just imagine what it would have been like with a week's worth of food!  Fortunately, we had amazing weather - not even windy. On the way down we got caught in a thunderstorm but at least we were at the treeline. Meantime, my wife stayed back at Outpost Camp where we set up our tent. She snapped some photos that we still treasure to this day. I agree, this is one trail you don't want to miss!

Whitney Camp Site2.jpg

Whitney Lake.jpg

Whitney Summit.jpg


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