Monday, September 20, 2010

Lora's John Muir Trip

Lora recently took a 14 day 156 mile hike on the John Muir trail.

My great adventure on the JMT

August 24th

Got off work, picked up my gear from home, said bye to the dogs and off to Nashville for the EARLY morning flight. California here we come! Thank you Diane and Zvi for sharing your lovely home for our sleepover. We had breakfast at the Dallas/Ft.Worth airport then flew into Fresno, got picked up, quick stop at REI for fuel and then the drive to Yosemite National Park. Beautiful scenery driving to Yosemite Valley; we drove thru a tunnel and then WOW look at those peaks! What a preview of what we would be going up. At the campground we met Zvi and got some supper at the store. Rode a shuttle to the camping area and found our campsite for the night.

Day 1

Went to bed early, woke up way too early, still on Tennessee time.

A trip to the bathhouse to charge my phone and call Craig. Came out and Hey there’s a bear! It was taking an early morning stroll around the campground going in the direction I needed to go. He minded his business and I stayed out of his way.

Everybody up, pack up, here we go! 12 miles to our campsite at Clouds Rest. Wonder why they named it that? Uphill all day. Amazing views of the backside of Half Dome and Nevada Falls. Stopped for lunch at Nevada Falls where Zvi had a swim. Up Up Up. Wow I’m out of breath and light headed. Why can’t I catch my breath? What happened to all of the oxygen? Is California short on oxygen? Might need some shipped in from TN. Spotted some baby grouse with mama watching close by. Saw stellar jays, chipmunks and lots of squirrels, and a deer. Pretty wildflowers, Indian Paintbrush. Pretty campsite next to a creek. Beautiful sunset.

7 miles

Day 2

No problem sleeping last night. Early start this morning. Left camp to go to Half Dome. Thought I would feel stronger after exercising my lungs so much yesterday. Oops, still huffing and puffing up the trail. Hope there’s more oxygen at the top.

I would like to applaude whoever cut out all those steps climbing up the subdome. Impressive work. Pyramid experience? When we finally made it to the bottom of the cables, I looked up at where we would climb to and said “We’ve got to be crazy! It’s straight UP! Where’s the steps? Footholds?” Picked out a mismatched pair of gloves and followed Tony up the Dome with Diane and Ann right behind me. Good upper body workout hanging on for dear life as you pull yourself up. Tony disappeared and I thought he was at the top. Nope just over a rise. Keep climbing girl. All the time going up I was wondering how in the world would I get down. At the top you yell WOO HOO!!! 360 degree views on top. What a view. And Windy! Diane and I decided to decend backward going down the cables. You can feel your feet sliding on that big ol rock. We had to let people climbing up pass us. A group of about 10 coming up made me want to get out of their way. I sat down on a small crevice outside the cables and held on as they passed. The last one stopped to chat. Nice to meet you Andrew. He said they hiked up from Yosemite Valley that morning to come climb Half Dome. I was impressed and so glad I’d hiked that part yesterday.

Met the nice Ranger checking permits as we got to the bottom. Permits checked. Back to camp. In the campsite I thought I would make a quick trip to the woods. Started out the little path I had used the evening before and stopped real quick when I saw Mr. Black Bear sitting in my spot. I yelled BEAR and Tony and Zvi came running. Zvi took a picture and Mr. Bear took off. I really didn’t have to go anymore. He can have that spot.

Pack up and on up the trail we go 6 miles to Sunrise Creek to our camp.

11 miles

Day 3

Hot breakfast and UP we go! Sunrise Mountain has gorgeous views with lots to see and say Wow and OH my and that’s so pretty! We walked under Jeffrey Pines, Red Fir, White Pine, juniper and lodgepole pines. We kept spotting pretty red berries that I think were currants and wanted to eat some. Not knowing for sure what they were I didn’t eat them. Where’s Randy Hedgepath when you need him? Long Meadow was a welcome break from UP and DOWN. The High Sierra Camp was here and Tony went up to inquire about the weather. There was a cold wind blowing and the extra clothing came in handy. Weather report says winter storm possible next two days in high elevation (like our next camp). When we made it to the beautiful Cathederal Lake we met Ranger Becky and her horse Dusty. The Ranger comfirmed the weather report for lows of around 20 with snow showers. A quick vote added a few more mils to Tuolumne Meadows to get us lower than the snow. Pretty campground. Store with food. Charged my phone and called home. Hey everybody! Love you! Miss you! Still alive and well. Thanks Tony and Zvi for the warm fire. At dark there was a campfire ring with a Ranger giving a talk on black bears. Ranger Jack gave a fine talk about people being the most dangerous animal in the park. Very entertaining story and the guitar and singing were a plus. Good job. Stars were incredible.


Day 4

38 degrees. Cold start. Easy day hiking thru the meadows into Lyell Canyon. Pretty wildflowers everywhere. We spotted what looked like a prairie dog. Got to camp early enough to do some laundry and enjoy the sunshine by the creek, too cold for a swim here at the end of August. I’m sure it’s in the 90’s at home. We gathered firewood as we watched storm clouds move across the mountain peaks and settle there blowing cold winds across the camp. Thanks for the warm fire Firemaster. Cook fast need hot food. Storm clouds disappear and stars popped out.

7 miles

Day 5

Woke up at daylight to a frozen tent. Tony got our fire going so we could warm up to eat. Walked thru Lyell Canyon-absolutely beautiful. Started climbing from 9000 feet up to Lyell Forks at 9600 feet. On the way up we saw trail maintenance being done on the stone steps-nice work. We saw glaciers on some of the peaks. The water in the lakes being fed by the glaciers—no thank you to swimming here. Zvi doesn’t seem to mind the icy water. Then UP 4 miles to Donahue Pass at 11,060 feet—whew! What a climb. I thought my lungs had decided to go home to Tennessee to find oxygen. Fortunately the wind was blowing really hard to help me out with that. Saw my first marmots on the rocks going up the Pass. We set up camp by Rush Creek. Carried some water to the top of the rocks where the sun was still shining to take a quick bath. Thanks again guys for a warm fire. 3 guys came in and set up camp by us. Sky came over to warm up by the fire. A very nice young man; enjoyed hearing about his studies in India. Incredible star show tonight.

12 miles

Day 6

Tony restarted the fire and it felt good. Sky and his 2 friends Nick and Will gathered there too Nice to meet you guys; happy hiking. Hiked UP again to Island Pass. The rocks here looked a lot different, volcanic rock instead of granite. Lots of marshy tarns up here and pretty wildflowers. 10,205 feet. Now we’re on the other side of the crest where all the water runs into the San Joaquin River. Down we go to 1000 Island Lake. It’s really dry here, we’re walking in lots of gritty dirt. Remember Pigpen from the Charlie Brown cartoons? That’s how we look as we hike along the trail. Beautiful views of Ritter Range and Banner Peak. We ate a good lunch at Garnet Lake where Zvi took a dip. I soaked up some warm sunshine. Passed 3 more really pretty lakes. We camped at Trinity Lakes at 9045 feet. Got a cell signal and picked up txt messages, called Mom and Dad, Nick and Sissy and Craig. That was the highlight of my day. Thanks Zvi for the lovely music at supper. The star show was awesome.

12.7 miles

Day 7

Today is re-supply day. Got up at 5:30 for an early start to run down the mountainside to get to Red’s Meadow at 7700 feet.On the way we stopped at Devil’s Postpile National Monument. Cool rock formation. At Red’s Meadow Campground we made good use of the hot showers at the bathhouse. Heated spring water washed about 2 lbs of dirt off, clothes clean again. Opening the resupply boxes revealed I packed too much food. I donated to the Hiker Supply box inside the store. Charged my cell, called Craig to say I miss home, ate a great tomato/cheese sandwich with a root beer. Yummy. Oh my gosh my backpack is heavy! And guess what? We’re climbing UP out of Red’s Meadow. I need a nap! Got a blister on my heel. Dr. Ann (Patches) fixed me up. Lovely views of granite top peaks and Red Cones. Upper Crater Meadow had beautiful wildflowers. Up and over Mammoth Pass.

Set up camp at Deer Creek at 9100 feet. As we ate supper so did the mosquitoes.

12 miles

Day 8

Left camp at 8:30. Climbed 4 miles to Cascade Valley. More pretty flowers. Blister worse-tired feet. Saw lots of birds, chipmunks and squirrels. Lunch at Duck Creek then UP we go again, down to Virginia Lakes, where we decided to keep going to Tully Ho. Cool Bridge. Saw a giant cedar today. Great sandy campsite. No phone signal all day! Lost the zip off portion of my pants. Too far back to go look for. Stars were awesome.

13 miles

Day 9

Started uphill today for something different Awesome views and more lakes today. Zvi takes another dip. Just can’t make myself go in that freezing cold water. We stopped for lunch at Silver Pass at 10,700 feet. Then down, down down, and yes my feet hurt! Crossed a cool bridge to campsite. Pretty creek to take a bath in. Sat down to start my Jetboil and discovered a yellow jacket nest by my feet. Think we’ll move over a ways. Went for a potty break and found a little spring bubbling up in the dirt. No it wasn’t black gold, Texas Tea. At the campfire we were waiting for the stars to pop out and saw a huge bright light in the sky. Ann’s binoculars didn’t help us figure out what it was but it was sitting on top of that big mountain. Another incredible star show thanks to a really dark sky. Feels like you can reach up and touch the Milky Way. Wish my true love was here with me. I miss home!

13 miles

Day 10

Slow start for me, taping up toes and heels. Feet sore. Good day for a pity party. Uphill the first 5 miles. On the way up Pee Wee from Portland, Oregon stopped me to say she got a cell signal on Bear Ridge and for me to try mine when I got there. That make climbing the mountain easier thinking I could call home at the top. No such luck-no service for Verizon customers. Pee Wee had AT&T. Glad you got to talk to your boyfriend, nice meeting you. Stopped for a potty break, told Ann to go on and I’d catch up. The rotting topless tree I picked to squat behind was evidently being used by something else as I started hearing scratching noises that got louder in just a few seconds. Get the heck out of here! Didn’t hand around to see what might climb out of that big stump. I’m sure it’s bigger than me. I stayed behind everybody all day, climbing up and down, up and down, up for the view, down for the lakes. Lunch by a beautiful creek. Made camp by beautiful Marie Lake. Wanted to swim but we couldn’t have a fire up here-over 10,000 feet. Not sure what you would burn up here. Maybe the sign post saying “No Fires over 10,000 feet.” Everyone ate supper in the cold wind and went to bed. I stayed up for the star show. Above tree line, wide open sky, just a hint of a moon, perfect for star gazing. Are you watching too Baby?

12.9 miles

Day 11

Only 1 mile uphill to start the day. Seldon Pass. Then down 5.9 miles, my knees are saying HOWDY. Brakes needed on my shoes. Saw lots of giant cedars and pines. Met some really nice ladies on the trail that were staying at Muir Ranch and enjoying day hikes. They were telling us about the wonderful food and the spa options available at the Ranch. I think I want to go with them. Oh well. Met Ranger Doug in McClure Crossed into Kings Canyon. Piute Pass Junction. Set up camp and jumped in the creek. Once you’re numb the water feels great. Washed all the trail dirt out of my hair and dried it in the warm sunshine. Everyone crashed after a good supper. I hung out by the fire and dried my socks for the next day (don’t know how they get so dirty?) and waited to the stars to pop out. Another beautiful starry sky.

10.4 miles

Day 12

Happy Holiday Labor Day

Bandage both heels and three toes. Here we go! A gentle assent to River Canyon. Beautiful day of hiking. Had lunch watching a waterfall spilling from the top of the canyon wall. Need another nap. Stopped to catch my breath (again) and met Steve from Oregon hiking the opposite way. We discussed the virtues of California vs. Tennessee. (Paradise vs. Garden of Eden) He lightened his pack by giving me a bar of organic dark chocolate. Yumm! You made my day so much better. Thank you!

As we hiked thru McClure Meadow we spotted the Ranger Station and looked in awe of the giant of a mountain called the Hermit on one side of the meadow and several mountain peaks of the Evolution Basin on the other side. Along the way we met Ranger Doug from McClure Meadow who shared the weather report and signed our trail pass. I asked about phone service and he kinda smiled and said not till Bishop Pass unless I had an URGENT message to get out. Just tell my MOM I’m still on the trail. Met a hiker named Kurt from Switzerland and talked about blueberries. Saw him further up the trail where he was studying his trail map and I asked if he could see Tennessee on it. NO? Shucks. We hiked into Evolution Valley and Tony and Zvi started the search for a camp spot and decided on a spot by one of the beautiful lakes. Cool winds blowing and sun not warm enough to convince me to jump in. Let’s just wade. Another starry night with a few shooting stars thru the night sky. Awesome.

13 miles

Day 13

Tape feet for the day ahead. It’s an uphill climb out of Evolution Valley to the stone shelter at Muir Pass. It was a cold climb and a tough one. I know at this point I was praying God get me off this pile of rocks! Another pity party for me, grumbling about tired feet, blisters, my shoes were griping about walking so far, my pack was griping about being carried so far, tired of rocks, tired of dirt, homesick, whine whine whine. Finally found enough oxygen to get up to the shelter and inside out of the wind at 11,980 feet. Dropped my pack and said hi to Kurt from yesterday who was having a snack inside the shelter. He generously offered us Swiss chocolate and YES I want some! We shared the bar and then he offered more and guess who of course said YES GIVE IT TO ME! So much for my pity party. Thanks Kurt! Now it’s downhill slip and slide on the rocky path 6.5 miles to LeConte Canyon where we found a pretty camp spot by the Ranger Station. The Rangers came over for a chat. We gathered water and cooked supper and enjoyed Zvi’s music (thank you Zvi for the country music). I sat by the last campfire of this trip and watched the stars pop pop pop. Last night under the starry sky of California.

12.5 miles

Day 14

Zvi set his alarm for 4:30 am. Packed up under the light of our headlamps and Tony restarted the fire to warm up our cold fingers. Quick breakfast—lets go home! We have to hike 6.5 miles straight up to get to Bishop Pass. On the way up we met Smudge who has been on PCT since April. You GO Girl!!!! We leap frogged thru the day. She passed me on the way up the pass. Our group was spread out over the side of the switchbacks as we watched big black and gray clouds gather in the sky that had been so blue every other day but one. The wind gusts were blowing me and my pack around till I thought it would blow me off the side of the mountain. Plant your feet on each step up thru the loose sandy gravels(?) what is this stuff? Finally made it to the pass to find Smudge at the top by the sign letting you know you survived to make it this far. Picture time! Get over the top and out of the wind! NOW we can go down 6 miles. Thought the down would be easier—wrong. That’s some trick footing on those switchbacks as it looks like it’s in the middle of an avalanche spot. How do those pack animals make it up this? Oh here’s a sign saying don’t go this way-slide area. Walk softly thru this section of boulders balancing on pebbles. Don’t sneeze! Wow! After 9 miles of hiking we finally made it down under the tree line and stopped for a quick lunch out of the wind. Just down the hill Diane found a spot with a cell signal and called our shuttle lady to make sure we had a ride to Bishop. Cell signal????? Call Craig! I’m coming home baby! Hiked past South Lake to the parking lot. It started spitting snow as we took off our packs and put on the goose down jacket, gloves and wow it’s cold. Ann and Tony caught a ride with Kurt and his friend to Bishop. Victoria got there a few minutes later and it felt so gooooooooood to get in her SUV with a heater and soft, luxurious seats and NOW I can take a nap.

12.6 miles

Bishop has a wonderful bakery where I had to go preview our breakfast for the next morning. Samples! Ate a nice dinner at Whiskey Joe’s to celebrate our 156 mile (?) journey on the JMT. Public transportation back to Reno the next day. Shopping at REI, Sierra Trading Post, and Patagonia. Then a night in Reno at the Atlantis with a huge buffet supper. Up the next morning at 5 to catch our flight back to Nashville and Zvi’s flight to the Mexican Riviera. Thanks to Garnett for our ride back to Diane and Zvi’s. Thank you Diane for all your planning and organizing this trip of a lifetime. You’re awesome! Diane, Zvi, Tony and Ann you’re great to backpack with. Thanks for inviting me to go with you. I had a wonderful time.

This Tennessee mountain girl is glad to be back home!


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