We broke down our temporary camp at Guitar Lake and were on trail by about 4pm. Over the next couple hours we would hike 4.5 miles and gain over 3,000 feet of elevation.
The magnitude of the terrain was also hard to take in. We were standing above nearly everything around us. I felt very small as I looked down through one of the "needles" at the Owens Valley, 10,000 feet below us.
The last half mile of trail took us in one long, circling switchback to the summit. The trail was steeper than the ridge line section, but was a bit easier to navigate through the rocks. I was definitely struggling with the effort to make the summit, and came pretty close to throwing a full-blown hissy fit about 5 minutes before the metal-roofed summit building came into view.
Instead, I got to feel amazingly proud of myself for pushing through and making it to the official end of the John Muir Trail.
Eventually we got our tent set up on a sandy spot surrounded by rock walls on three sides. It was probably one of the best protected sites on the summit, hopefully offering us a bit of warmth and protection from the wind later in the night.
The sun set through a thin bank of clouds that helped to enhance the colours and the light. It eventually dropped through a small notch in the peaks of the Great Western Divide.
As the evening breeze picked up, most of the other hikers who had watched sunset started on their way back down the trail. We stayed out to watch the light change a little bit longer and then snuggled down into our tent, with the alarm set to wake us 5 a.m. the next morning.
Our last night on the John Muir Trail was truly out of the ordinary.