Photo provided by Jillian Ivey
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My Trail Story featuring The Purple People

Jillian and Logan Ivey, a.k.a The Purple People or The Mailboxes, experienced some serious "hiker hunger" on their thru-hike of the John Muir Trail in 2018.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       06/05/2019
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story
06/05/2019

Trail Names

Collectively: The Purple People

Jillian Ivey: Gully

Logan Ivey: Mudslide

Trails

John Muir Trail NOBO August 2018

Appalachian Trail NOBO 2019 (Current)

Ages

Jillian 28

Logan 29

Two hikers in all purple clothes and gear hugging.
Photo provided by Jillian Ivey

My name is Jillian Ivey and I am currently hiking the Appalachian Trail with my partner and bandmate, Logan. We just started thru-hiking in 2018 and fell in love with it and the hiking community. We are also in a band together called The Mailboxes so we are playing music for fellow hikers on the trail, and one of our dreams is to be Triple Crowners!

One of our favorite thru-hiking stories to tell is about our second to last day on the John Muir Trail. It was our first thru-hike ever and we decided to go utilitarian and eat meal bars for lunch and dinner, which was a big mistake. After a few days I didn’t want to see another meal bar ever again, and the JMT doesn’t have many resupply points where you can switch out food. Logan expected we’d be so hungry we would eat anything, but turns out I’m still picky even when starving. Now that I’m on my second thru-hike I know variety is key when it comes to food on a thru-hike.

To get the variety we craved and avoid eating meal bars we relied on other hikers giving us food they didn’t want anymore – which was surprisingly often. We were NOBO hikers so we started at Mt. Whitney and ended in Yosemite. Most hikers hike the John Muir Trail SOBO, so at the beginning of our hike they were at the end of theirs, and they had extra food they didn’t want to carry anymore. Despite the gifts of other hikers we had a real bad case of hiker “hanger” – Logan especially – by the end of our trip. We both lost a considerable amount of weight for an 18 day hike.

Two hikers smiling on the Appalachian Trail.
Photo by Jillian Ivey

The closer we got to Yosemite and the end of our hike the more opportunities we had to go to restaurants and resupply points. On our second to last day, Logan, who was particularly hangry, noticed on our Guthook Guides app that there was a restaurant coming up in Tuolomne Meadows. We had been taking it pretty slow and easy all day. It was a relatively flat stretch compared to most days on the JMT. We went over our last pass of the whole trail that morning and were on track to finish in Yosemite the next day. Fifteen miles into our day, Logan asked me if I wanted to go to this restaurant he saw was coming up on Guthook. At first I hesitated. I asked if it was far off trail. I didn’t want to get off track since we were close to finishing the hike. Logan looked at me and replied, “IT’S A RESTAURANT.” As if to say he didn’t care because real food sounded too good to pass up. After remembering how hangry I was, I finally was on board.

Town food did sound pretty amazing – but I asked him to check what time it closed to make sure we would make it in time. He looked at the Guthook app which told us the restaurant closed at 6pm and was five and a half miles away. We checked the clock and saw it was already 4:30pm! We would have to book it to make it on time. We looked at each other and then just started running. We kept passing other hikers who I’m sure we’re confused why thru-hikers with enormous packs we’re running as fast as they could. Some knew the restaurant was coming up and cheered us on. It was mostly crazy because only 16 days prior, five miles was a hard day for me and now I had just hiked 15 miles and was about to run five and a half miles to a restaurant. It’s amazing what you can do when you have something you really want in front of you. In our case the dangling carrot was a hot meal!

Thankfully most of the hike wasn’t too steep. We hustled and hustled until we finally got to a road that was supposed to take us to the restaurant. We asked a park ranger where the restaurant was because we were a little lost on where to go next. She said it was a short walk up the road, so we started to walk on the road in the direction she pointed. We kept going but saw no restaurant in sight. The park ranger even passed us on the road in her truck after we’d been walking a few minutes and we were sad (and maybe a little bitter) that she didn’t just give us a hitch in the back of her truck to the restaurant.

Two hikers in purple clothes sitting.
Photo provided by Jillian Ivey

We were tired and time was running out. I was worried we were lost and was feeling desperate for town food. We got off the main road to a gravel road that Logan thought was the right way. We kept going for what felt like forever on that road. I was exhausted and the gap between Logan and I was widening. I was feeling pathetic, and I could tell Logan was stressed and concerned about us making it on time. I yelled out to him pathetically “Where are we?!” to which he responded in his hangriest voice “I DON’T F***ING KNOW.” I wanted to burst into tears, but I knew we wouldn’t get there if I didn’t pick up pace, so I started running again to catch up. We were just going to have to keep going. This was the most upset and defeated we had felt thus far on the trail but we pushed through until we finally saw what we were so desperately looking for up ahead.

We walked grumpily to the restaurant we saw down the road. We were both in horrible moods and dragged our bodies inside the tiny restaurant that looked like it used to be a gas station. I’m sure we looked totally drained of life to the woman who took our order. We had made it with only 15 minutes until closing time so I’m sure she was anxious for us to order so she could close up shop. We ordered two veggie burgers, veggie chili, fries, and two soft serve ice cream cones from the counter. There were no chairs, just a bar you could stand up at to eat, so once they gave me my ice cream I sank down and sat on the concrete floor trying to remember what it meant to be human.

With each bite it felt like life was coming back into my body. The rest of our food arrived and it was so delicious, especially compared to what we had been eating on trail. I have never enjoyed a meal more in my life. I went from feeling like crying to complete joy in a matter of minutes – all over a veggie burger. We ate all our food then even went next door to the general store and bought snacks there and ate those too. We laughed at how upset we were just a few minutes before and were so glad we had made it on time. Hiker hunger is so real and on the AT we’ve definitely learned to indulge and bring all the yummy treats and foods on trail. I’m proud to say after three months on the AT we haven’t lost any weight and I haven’t eaten a single meal bar. I’ll never forget that day and what it taught me about how far my body can go when it wants to and how good a warm meal is after a long hike.


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John Muir Trail

Named after the great environmentalist, the John Muir Trail runs for over 200 miles (338 km) through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It starts in Yosemite Valley and travels to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

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East Vidette, Southern Sierra, John Muir Trail
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East Vidette, Southern Sierra, John Muir Trail
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John Muir Trail

Named after the great environmentalist, the John Muir Trail runs for over 200 miles (338 km) through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It starts in Yosemite Valley and travels to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

210 miles
$14.99 full guide
Explore the Trail
About the Author
A woman wearing a baseball cap and American flag tank top stands in front of a beautiful view.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people and places and nature, which might explain why she has almost 23,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things social media/marketing-related and might be seen frolicking around Flagstaff taking photos of the Arizona Trail.