8 comments on “Miles That Count

  1. Great post Guthook!

    When thru-hiking the PCT, my hiking partner and I took a couple of days to hike down into the Yoesmite Valley. Neither of us had been there before and we figured that we couldn’t miss it if we were so close. We spent two days hiking off-trail miles, but they were some of my favorite miles of the entire trip. We slept on top of Clouds Rest overlooking the valley and hiked Half Dome the next day. Both days were unbelievable. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Yosemite Valley on a high ridge just below Clouds Rest. To this day I don’t think that I’ve ever been so amazed by such immense beauty.

    We also hiked off trail to the top of Mt. Whitney, which is pretty common for PCT hikers. It’s a 16 mile detour, but you get to hike the highest peak in the lower 48 while you’re in the best shape of your life. I would highly recommend both off-trail trips. True, you could be pressing forward towards Canada, but what’s really the end goal?

    Thanks for giving me a great reminder of what’s important.

    Take care,


    • I hadn’t even thought of the JMT miles when writing this– good point! Actually, it seems like those side trips are the most common for PCT hikers not just because they’re extraordinary places, but because so many hikers seem to justify it to themselves by saying “well I just have to hike those miles to ALSO finish the John Muir Trail.” So rather than saying “it’s just a nice side trip”, they’re making the miles “count”.

      There’s really never enough time to check out all the side trails I want, but that is one thing that’s really nice about a through-hike– you can get a taste of lots of different places, then decide which of those you want to come back to visit when you have more time.

  2. Very good timing Ryan. I’m getting ready to walk the section of the Maine AT with Mt Abraham in it and asking myself if I should detour to the summit of it and Sugarloaf. I think you helped me make up my mind!

    • Most AT hikers seem to hit Sugarloaf because it’s much closer. I recommend both, but Abe is waaaaay cooler. Spaulding Mountain Lean-to is only a little way away from the side trail, too. Which reminds me… the Crocker Cirque campsite is another place that is well worth a side trip. Beautiful place!

      • I definitely planned to check that out. I was checking out the NE67 last night and realized I’ll only be missing 2 peaks in Maine after this hike, Reddington and North Brother. Have to come back to Maine for those and other wilderness adventures in Baxter of course!

  3. Love the blog. Timely post for me. I’ve thru hiked the AT, 2009, and the JMT, 2012, and I still have to make myself STOP and take it easy. Even on day hikes. As I type this, I sit in a bar in Burlington, VT ready to start my E2E SOBO Long Trail hike tomorrow morning, and I keep telling myself I must slow down and also take some side trails and find some great miles that don’t count!!!

    • Enjoy the trail, Lunatic! The LT, especially the northern end, is one of the finest trails anywhere. You will have a wonderful time out there… And don’t forget to check out the Laura Cowles Trail, speaking of miles that “don’t count.” I think they count even more than on-trail miles sometimes.

  4. Cloud pond is a perfect example. I stopped in to see it on my 100 mw trip this summer. Other hikers had scoffed at the idea of going the 0.4 mi. I was amazed that we were the only ones there soaking up the sun on the beautiful shore. I didn’t camp there but plan to on my hike through next summer. I imagine there are few people camping there as well. I agree that some things are better just left to the few that can appreciate them and are willing to make the effort to get there.

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