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Thru-Hiking the JMT: Over Pinchot Pass to Woods Creek

Lake Marjorie Panorama

Day 17 on the John Muir Trail…

We awoke just before sunrise, with frozen beads of condensation clinging to outside of our tent. It was chilly. Boil water! Make coffee! Stat!

John Muir Trail Day 17
Distance: 11.1 miles
Cumulative Distance: 169.5 miles
Total Ascent: 2,194 ft
Cumulative Ascent: 44,734 ft
Harrison Map Sheets 4 and 3
Most of this trip, we were spending all day in shorts and short sleeves. I put on my knit cap at night to keep my head warm, but rarely needed more than my Marmot fleece jacket after sundown. This morning was an exception. I had the fingerless wool gloves on, the knit cap, the fleece and my shell on. It was cold. We ate our breakfast and headed downhill to our Kings River crossing. This was a pretty big crossing, but we were able to get across without removing our boots. And then we began our climb leading us to today’s pass — 12,130ft Pinchot Pass.

Crossing Kings River

As we headed up towards Lake Marjorie, we saw a note from Jeffrey and Hari taped to one of the trail signs. We were instructed to “stop by the ranger station.” We took a break and wandered about a 1/4 mile off trail to the ranger station — no more than a seasonal tent cabin. We chatted with the rangers and learned that Jeffrey and Hari were doing fine (as were we). They would relay a radio message up ahead to let them know all was well. Good communication and collaboration from all involved. Lake Marjorie was a beautiful blue that mirrored the blue skies we enjoyed. The air was brisk, but the sun warm, and with 5.5 miles behind us, we were feeling good. We stopped for lunch on a rock outcropping overlooking the last unnamed lake before Pinchot Pass.


Resting at Lake Marjorie

Pinchot was a pretty easy pass, as far as passes go. Our vertical gain was “only” about 2,200 feet. When we reached the pass, we stopped and visited with a trio of backpackers on a week-long trip.

Party on Pinchot Pass

Passes, Peaks, and Creek Crossings
JMT-JeffAs much as I love coffee, there are (thankfully) no Starbucks on the JMT. But there are natural gathering places where hikers tend to congregate, enjoy a break and swap stories. Throughout our day, we would come to a creek crossing, or a mountain pass, and almost every time there would be other hikers taking the opportunity to rest, take photos, or just take a load off. Take the time to say hello. The people we met on the JMT were an awesome, friendly bunch. When you’re out there, say hello and strike up a conversation. We’re all connected through the shared experience of the trail.
From Pinchot Pass, we descended over 2,600 feet in five miles. The trail was easy, but we were weary by the time we reached Woods Creek. 

Upper Woods Creek

We followed the creek down the basin into a narrow canyon dotted with waterfalls, and stopped for the night at the first campsite we found, sharing with a young couple from Quebec.

Camping Here for Day 17

Our Evening Ritual on the JMT

Each night at camp, we went through more or less the same routine. Our evening ritual began with setting up the tent. Then, down to the creek to filter water. We would typically fill the four 32-ounce bottles, pumping the water through the filter. It’s a chore, but a necessary part of the routine. After refilling our water, we’d settle down to preparing dinner. Pumping and priming my white fuel stove, then boiling water for a hot beverage and our rehydrated dinner. We’d use our bear canisters as stools as we filled our bellies with a warm meal, then clean everything up. Most nights, we were in bed by 9pm. Sometimes, we’d take turns reading aloud from a cheesy paperback novel we brought along, or simply talking about the day behind… or the day ahead. Sleep comes easily, and is well-earned on the John Muir Trail.

Trail Map: Kings River to Pinchot Pass to Woods Creek

Download file: JMT-Day-17.gpx

JMT Day 17 Photo Gallery

Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.

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Tomorrow, we head from Woods Creek to Rae Lakes.

Originally hiked on August 12, 2010.

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