Images of the John Muir Trail
August 1963by Don H. Meredith

It was the summer of 1963 —

  • President Kennedy had not yet been assassinated.
  • Vietnam was just an exotic name on a map.
  • The so-called "'60s" hadn't started yet.
  • The baby-boomers had just started high school.
  • "Hippy" was a term that described someone who was putting on weight.
  • Overpopulation was something that was happening elsewhere — despite the fact that Southern California had already drained dry the Owens River, and was starting to do the same to Colorado River system.
  • There was still plenty of uncrowded wilderness (even in California) without reservation systems and designated camp sites.

In short, the legacy of "Huck Finn" was not yet dead, although maybe staggering with age.

This was the time I decided to explore the California mountain wilderness of the Sierra Nevada by hiking the John Muir Trail from Yosemite National Park (Tuolumne Meadows) to the summit of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park (205 miles, 330 km). The trail was named for the famous 19th century naturalist, John Muir, who wrote volumes about the Sierra Nevada and was instrumental in convincing Theodore Roosevelt that a national park system was necessary to help conserve American wilderness.

Although I organized this trip, it would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends and trail companions. The one person who really became the linchpin, making this trip work, was Carl Deden. He volunteered to join us when, out of the blue, he and John Welcomb visited our Explorer Scout (Post 1, Van Nuys, California) booth at a sportsman's show in Los Angeles. He saw our dream and made it his own, both before and during the trip. I also have good memories of Bob Paris and the others who shared the dream and the adventure for one month in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

On August 5, 1963, Carl Deden, Bob Paris and I started hiking south from Tuolumne Meadows with full packs and adventure on our minds. We reached the summit of Mount Whitney (the southern end of the trail) on August 30, 1963. Others joined our party along the way to share the trail with us for a few days. Among them were John Welcomb and Jim Dixon.

My parents, Elmo and Marguerite Meredith, transported us to the start of the trail, picked us up at the end, and ensured our food was delivered to the people who were resupplying us along the way. My dad also made an emergency trip in the middle of the night to keep the trip alive.

The following is a brief slide show of some of the images I captured using my old Argus C3, 35 mm camera. The images have been scanned from the Kodachrome slides:

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