Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving at High Camp

Well it is the last day of November and I am reflecting back on our wonderful Thanksgiving event at High Camp last week.  We celebrated with 24 people on Friday evening.  It was wonderful.  I cooked a 21 pound turkey and a 7 pound turkey breast.  They tasted great as I brined them the night before...moist and tender.  Everyone brought side dishes which added to the festivities.  The food was devine!  Who knows, this may become a tradition.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 13

August 21, 2012 –mystery lake on Bishop Pass - Bishop
Mileage:  9.5

All night long lightening flickered across the sky.  About 1:00 am thunder started and by 3:00 am we had rain.  It stormed the rest of the night.  The rain let up at 6:30 am, so we began to plan our soggy exit.  Don had slept pretty well until the storms hit hard.  His hand was throbbing.  We needed to get going and get him to the hospital in Bishop today!  The trail gained 2000 feet in elevation in the next three miles, and then dropped 3000 feet in 6 miles to the trailhead, where we hoped to catch a ride the 21 miles down into Bishop.

We headed out in the cool, cloudy morning.  The pass was totally socked in with clouds.  We had no map for this trail and with the visibility difficulties, we were concerned about getting over the pass before storms hit again.  Sounds like time for VIA!  Found a rocky area with a beautiful view and brewed up some coffee.  As we sipped the cloud cover raised and we could see our destination.  Bishop Pass is just under 1200 feet and a very nice climb from the west side through areas of meadows and trees. 
Injured Don on Bishop Pass

We rested on the top and took in the towering peaks all around us.  Then we started down.  It was a totally different environment, tall mountains, rocky outcroppings and a steep drop.  The trail was etched into the rock with airy switchbacks.  We looked down on big blue lakes below, but had no idea what the names were.  We hoped the trail would be easier when we got down to lake level.  But, alas no, lots of rocks!  We continued down as the rocks around us turned from grey to red.  There were more trees, but the trail was still very rocky.  We asked people that we met if they were going out to Bishop that day but no luck. 

Although the scenery was gorgeous Don and I were worn down by the stress of the injury, exit and the rocky trail.  We were anxious about getting a ride!  We had been told that the dislocated finger had to be taken care of within 24 – 30 hours of injury.  Right near the bottom there was an older woman on the trail with a young woman walking slowly with her.  She was carefully hiking uphill.  We said hello as we passed.  Then I looked back and noticed they were heading down.  Don asked if they were heading into Bishop.  They said no, since they were staying at a resort near the trailhead.  Then, they asked why.  When he showed his hand and explained our situation, they said they were going to Bishop now!  Sarah was the mother and this was the first time she had ever hiked.  She was from Philadelphia.  She was truly thrilled to hear our story and to take care of us.  This brought tears for me!  I had not realized how tense I had been about getting Don to the hospital.  Emily, Sarah’s daughter, is an artist and architect from Los Angeles.  She drove us the 21 miles to the Bishop Hospital.  On the way we shared our stories all enjoying learning about very different individual lives.  When we got to Bishop they would have stayed with us at the hospital but we sent them on their way with one thousand thank yous! 

In Bishop we hiked into the hospital packs, hiking sticks and all.  We trudged down the hallways by nurse’s stations, doctors and patients on our way to the emergency room which turned out to be at the back.  When we arrived a nurse was with Don immediately, before we even registered.  Over the course of the next two hours he was x-rayed, doped up and reset.  It was a severe dislocation and Dr. Black stressed resting the finger.  There were other follow up procedures.  It was a relief that she was so firm about this.  It made our decision to end the hike a no decision at all.
We checked into the Tree Motel, an older traditional motel which was friendly, clean, and comfortable.  After delicious showers, we walked into town for a great Mexican meal at El Rancho, a little cafĂ©.  Taking the long way back to the motel we strolled, winding down after an arduous day.  We were asleep by 8:30!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 12

August 21, 2012 –Sapphire Lake to mystery lake on Bishop Pass
Mileage:  15               Elevation:  10,900 feet

Muir Hut on Muir Pass
Well, Bishop Pass is not on the JMT, but we will get to that later.  This morning we rose early ready to attack Muir Pass.  We were out of camp at 7 am and on the pass by 9.  We had beautiful weather with great views of rocky peaks and stark expanses.  Muir Pass has a cool rock hut built in John Muir’s name to shelter hikers who get caught in storms.  It has stone benches, a mantle, and fireplace that is “plugged” with rock.  Where in the world would they get wood for a fire anyway?
We began our descent over steep rock through canyons and waterfalls.  A very special beauty here, with very tedious hiking.  We ate lunch with Mary and Justin and planned our next camp.  Mather Pass is a long ways!  Later, during the descent Don and I soaked our feet in a delicious rushing stream.  We walked by a campsite with a huge rock that someone had added eyes and pointed teeth to, creating a whale sculpture.  There were chairs formed with rocks with arms and backs around a campfire circle …very clever.
Well rested, we continued on down the trail.  Suddenly I heard a huge noise!  I turned around and ran back up the trail.  Don had tripped and fallen, he was in terrible pain.  I had no idea what had happened.  I screamed for help, feeling very much in the middle of nowhere.  I also blew my distress whistle.  Within two minutes people came running.  There was a Conservation Corps group working on the trail below us.  First person there was an EMT…I was so relieved.

When we got Don settled we realized he had a badly dislocated middle finger.  There was a ranger station one mile down the trail.  Lilia, a young woman from the corps helped carry Don’s pack and we walked to the station.  At this point we fully intended to continue hiking after the ranger “popped” his finger back in place.  During the walk down, Don realized he no longer had the camera.  Lilia was going back up to the work area after she brought us to the ranger station and she promised to look for the camera. 

At Le Conte Station, Ranger George Durkee spoke with Don about his injury and radioed a hospital in Fresno for advice on how to proceed.  They agreed that if the ranger could reset the finger we could continue.  Don wanted to face this procedure and not worry about me, so I walked back up the trail to search for the camera.  Upon my return Don gave thumbs down.  After many tries and radio help from a physician they were unable to reset the finger.  Don and I were told we had to get to a hospital within 30 hours or there could be permanent tendon damage.  We were BROKEN HEARTED. 

Bishop Pass is six miles above the ranger station at 12000 feet.  Then 6 miles below the pass is the trailhead.  Beyond that is a 21 mile drive to Bishop, the nearest hospital.  It was 4:30 pm.  Don and I set out to climb half way up the pass to a little no name lake to camp.  This would put us in Bishop tomorrow, if all went well.  The trail took us straight up from the 8900 foot level of the ranger station to our campsite at 10,900 feet!  It was a huge hike after a very emotional day.  Lilia had returned with our camera! We left some food and a bear barrel at the station to lighten Don’s load.  They will mail those back to us in the fall.  So this night we are camping at a beautiful lofty campsite on a ledge high up on Bishop Pass for a quick exit out of the Sierra’s tomorrow.  It was a super sad day!

Friday, November 2, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 11

August 20, 2012 –Piute Pass Junction to Sapphire Lake
Mileage:  14.5            Elevation:  10,900 feet

Early out this morning due to positioning for Muir Pass tomorrow and extremely heavy packs!  We are hiking by 7:00am.  The trail follows a canyon created by the San Joaquim River.  At the Goodard Pass turn off we start the steep switchbacks into Evolution Valley and McClure Meadow.  The trail climbs a huge waterfall and the views are exceptional.
Mary and Justine crossing Evolution Creek
Upon entering Evolution Valley the ascent is more gradual.  The valley is very long with glimpses of high peaks and waterfalls.  Ranger David checks our permit and gives us a positive weather report for the next few days. 
Evolution Valley

At the end of the valley we cross the creek and then start the steep climb that will take us to Evolution Lake.  We have seen pictures of this lake in most of the guide books about the JMT and are excited to visit.  It is a tough trail, but the lure of the lake calls us.  As we round a bend and the water comes into view it brings tears to my eyes…it is that beautiful!
Evolution Lake
But!  We are not stopping since there are more hiking hours in the day.  We continue on around huge Evolution Lake, with its towering peaks all around, then up to Sapphire Lake.  We set up camp at this high windy rocky area, just 4 miles from Muir Pass.
Campsite at Sapphire Lake

We hiked with Mary and Justin on and off today and are camped near them.  Together we work out a plan to hike the next 5 passes most efficiently.  Tomorrow may have to be a 20 mile day if we plan to get over Mather Pass the following day.

Evening at Sapphire Lake is exquisite.  We are surrounded by great walls of stone and high peaks.  The setting sun brings out the deep color and texture in the rocks.  It is a very special place.

Monday, October 29, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 10

August 19, 2012 –Rose Marie Meadow to Piute Pass Junction
Mileage:  13               Elevation:  8050 feet

We rose to more clouds!  We tried to dry things out a little, but the weather would not cooperate.  Finally, we packed up wet and headed out.  We climbed past high and exposed Marie Lakes as we headed up Seldon Pass.  The sun came out at the pass and we spent some time there drying our clothes.
Marie Lakes and Seldon Pass
Don at Heart Lake

Then, we dropped down to Heart Lake and on to beautiful Sally Keyes Lakes.  The trail then crossed Senger Creek and descending thousands of switchbacks to our second cache at Muir Trail Ranch.  The ranch turned out to be a cluster of very old buildings and a stable open only in the summer.  There was a bell to ring when we arrived at the gate to announce that we needed to pick up our cache.  Many other hikers were there sorting food on old wooden tables under awnings to protect from sun and rain.  The area was well organized with places to sort garbage and recycling, plus catalogued bins for overbought food and supplies to leave for others.  Patt was in charge of the operation with Jake, from London, England, assisting her.  Mary and Justin, a young pediatrician and professor from Bend were sorting food also.  We had met them at Rose Meadow the night before.  Turns out they have the same permit schedule as we do, so we will see them along the way.

After reloading our packs we hefted our incredibly heavy loads of food for the next nine days and headed up to a hiker camp at the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, where Piute Creek meets the San Joaquin River.  Really great camping, clean and dry, but crowded.  We were able to finish drying our gear out and have a relaxing evening with NO RAIN!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 9

August 18, 2012 –Quail Meadow to Rose Marie Meadow
Mileage:  10               Elevation:  10,000 feet

In the beautiful calm of the early morning at Quail Meadows we had no idea what lay in store for us this day.  We packed up and got on the trail knowing that our first challenge was a 2000 foot climb of Bear Ridge with very little water.  The Pacific Crest Trail has a very friendly angle.  It was cool and shaded; we made the climb pretty easily.  Along the way we met a couple.  He had through hiked the PCT and felt we could make Seldon Pass and Sally Keys Lakes.  That really got us excited – we had not planned to hike that far.

The trail was good and the hiking smooth.  By 12:30 we were soaking our feet in a rushing stream, enjoying the sunshine with 8 miles hiked.  We realized that Seldon Pass was within our grasp. 
Bear Creek


At 1:49 we heard the first thunder.  This had happened most days so we weren’t alarmed.  We appreciated the coolness of the clouds moving in and continued on.  It began to rain just a little … we hiked on through.  Suddenly the rain became stronger, so we pulled off the trail to wait out the squall.  We put on our Gortex jackets and pack covers.  As the rain began to let up we moved on.  But it really wasn’t abating!  Thunder was rolling.  We knew we were close to Rose Marie Meadows, so we hiked up and hunkered down in a dry area under a tree.  We were pretty wet and the rain was pouring down…we also were not as protected as we thought.
Lightning joined the thunder and it was close!  We tried to find a safer place to wait the storm out, but it was difficult.  During our wandering around Don did locate a well drained campsite for future consideration, but we needed a break in the weather to set up camp.  We returned to the original somewhat protected area, choosing death by lightening over hypothermia.  We pulled out our tent fly and wrapped ourselves in it.  Although we were completely soaked to the skin, we began to warm up.  After an hour we noticed a slight break in the storm and threw ourselves into rain drill mode to set up camp. 
As the storm increased once again we dove into our tent.  Both of us were pre-hypothermic.  We changed to dry clothes and warmed up in our sleeping bag.  Thunder and lightning continued to rage.  We rolled our eyes, read, did crosswords and hoped the intense storm would let up.  Finally after another hour we were able to crawl out of our tent.  Don made soup and hot chocolate!  We wandered through the meadow to check on other campers.  Everyone was soaked, tents were swamped, but all were doing well.  This was the worst storm we had ever seen on a backpack trip and it felt good to be on the other side of it.  Drying out would take some time…so much for the “sunny Sierras”


Friday, October 19, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 8

August 17, 2012 –Lake Virginia to Quail Meadow
Mileage:  13               Elevation:  7750 feet

Earliest start yet since we wanted to get to Silver Pass before the bad weather set in.  Forecasts are not good for the next few days.  The sky was cloudy when we woke, but cleared while we prepared to leave.  As the sun was rising the remaining clouds turned pink.  Lake Virginia was glowing and the distant mountains were lighting up.  It was 6:20 a.m. A sunrise like that makes an early start easier.

We dropped down to Tully Hole, a beautiful meadow, and continued to lose elevation until we crossed Fish Creek; then we began our climb up to Silver Pass.  Along the way we met John and Lisa, joining them in the ascent.  As we neared the pass views opened up all around….mountains everywhere, a bonus as we climbed.
 At the pass we shared Snickers bars with John and Lisa.  They took our picture as we remembered Erik and Lena’s (our son and daughter in law) tenth anniversary celebrated that day.  Don could not help but share a reading from Sunburnt Country as we sat and enjoyed the summit.  It was a social event!

We hiked down the pass through the wide rocky slopes that surround Silver Pass Lakes.  Part of the descent drops beside a magnificent wide rock waterfall with steep rocky switchbacks for hundreds of feet!  At the bottom we soak our feet in the cold rushing water of Mono Creek.  The trail follows the creek down to our lowest elevation yet, 7750 feet.  Here there is a camping area which we happily use since once again the rains are moving in.  This is getting tiresome!
The rain is brief, so we crawl out and make dinner.  It is early so we decide to walk the 1¼ mile to Lake Edison.  We are curious since the water level of the lake is said to be extremely low and the ferry to Vermillion Resort, where many people stop for respite, is not running.  As we leave the camping area we find a note from John and Lisa, they have hiked on toward Vermillion where they will spend tomorrow night and pick up their cache.  It is good to get their note and contact information.  As we near Lake Edison we come upon John and Lisa’s campsite and have a chance to say good bye in person around their campfire.  Fun!  The lake is down so low it is mostly rocks…and this is a large lake!

Upon returning to our campsite Scott and Benjamin, a father and son from Chicago, have built a little fire.  We spend the rest of the evening talking mountains.  They have done the JMT before and can give us lots of information.  Ben is spending next winter as a ski bum and might visit us.

It is a warm night and we fall asleep dry and happy.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

John Muir Trail Day 7

August 16, 2012 – Crater Meadows to Lake Virginia
Mileage:  12               Elevation:  10338 feet

Early out from Crater Meadows, we hike a lovely forested trail to Deer Creek, where we fill up our water bottles since the next 5 ½ miles is dry.  The elevation gain is gradual which makes for quick hiking.  At one point a lone trail runner comes by.  He is racing to meet his girlfriend who is attempting to break the Whitney to Yosemite “hiking” record of 3 days 15 hours!  He expects to meet up with her in the next few hours. We hike on pretty excited to show our support for her effort as she passes us. 
Soaking feet below Purple Lake
At Duck Creek we get water, still waiting to see the runner.  The trail heading off the JMT to Duck Pass looks inviting; there is so much to see in the Sierras!  Purple Lake is our next break, a perfect place to soak our feet, but not great camping.  We meet John and Lisa there, a couple from Florida also hiking the JMT.  We have been leap frogging each other over the last 4 days.

We also encounter two pack trains of mules with the US Forest Service.  They have been working to clear trails of downed timber due to the devastating wind storm of November 2011.  They have received special governmental permission to use chain saws in the wilderness during the early season for this, but then had to go to cross cut saws later in the season.  The US Forest Service has worked closely with the Pacific Crest Trail Association in this effort.  The damage has been noticeable during our hike since the Red’s Meadow area.  It has been an incredible effort and the trail is now completely clear!

The lone runner returns along the trail.  He has not met up with his girlfriend.  He is worried, but believes she probably left the trail at Vermilion Resort.

We head up the last two miles toward Lake Virginia as the weather begins to cloud up!  The coolness makes the climb easier.  As we arrive at high, exposed Lake Virginia the force of the storm has increased and we are engulfed in thunder, lightning and rain.  We quickly move into “rain drill” mode, throw up the tent in a somewhat protected area and dive in.  After two hours we crawl out as the skies are clearing.  By evening the views are exceptional with high mountains reflected in Lake Virginia and receding clouds lit up as the sun sets. 

Evening light at Lake Virginia


Friday, September 28, 2012

John Muir Trail Day 6

August 15, 2012 –Rosalie Lake to Crater Meadows
Mileage:  12               Elevation:  8500 feet

The Minerets
Left Rosalie at 7 am heading for Red's Meadow to pick up our cache.  The trail out was much prettier than we expected as we gradually dropped in elevation.  The trail rises to Lake Gladys then drops to Trinity Lakes and Johnson Lakes.  The John Muir Trail passes above Devil’s Post Pile National Monument.  As the day progressed it grew hotter and dustier.  After 9 miles we arrived at Red's Meadow at 11:45.
Our Cache

First stop was the store for cold drinks!  Then we picked up our cache bucket and repacked our food.  We realized we planned for too many trail snacks, so we made a huge donation to the “hiker barrel” at the store.  The campground at Red's costs $20 and there aren’t even showers!  It was early in the day to camp anyway, so we decided to head south.
Left for hikers in need
Rainbow Fire Burn
In the heat of the day we set out across a recent burn with no shade!  The Rainbow Fire destroyed a lot of land south of Red’s Meadow.  The game was:  How far can Chris hike powered by a huge ice cream sandwich purchased Reds?  After we got our newly heavy packs on we entered the burned out forest area, making decent progress.  After 3 miles we crossed a beautiful creek and found the campsite of our dreams!  We were cooling our heals in the stream in no time.  A lovely spot shaded by tall trees, much more comfortable than the campground at Red's Meadow.
In the evening we climbed the North Red Cone, a huge cinder formation, and enjoyed great views of the mountains we had just hiked through and peaks we would be visiting the next few days.  When we got down we found our camping area population had grown by 5.  It was a merry noisy evening.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 5

August 14, 2012 –Garnet Lake to Rosalie Lake
Mileage:  5                 Elevation:  9250 feet

Each morning we wake up to sunny clear skies.  It is so hopeful!  Our tent is sopping wet from yesterday’s rain.  We drag it over to some sunny rocks to dry out along with the rest of our gear.  Laundry is drying also, so we relax and enjoy one of the most beautiful lakes on earth!  The altimeter did not change overnight, so maybe no rain today!  That would be nice, but we aren’t so sure, so as our wet gear dries we plan our “rain drill” for setting up camp in a downpour efficiently.  We are now ready for anything!

We are beginning to pack up to leave when we hear a voice.  A man calls Hello!  From across the way.  He tells us he is with a group of painters who came in on horses.  They are painting all week.  He says, “Come on over and bring your VISA!”  We do head over and meet the happy group of artists catered by Rebecca.  They are set up very comfortably.  They have easels with little umbrellas to shade the project.  Delightful people!  We exchange names, cards, blogs and websites and say our goodbyes.

By now it is 11:30 and we head out.  We have 14 miles to do in two days, not sure where we will end up as we hike up and out of Garnet Lake.  This area is very popular and many people are on the trail…even day hikers.  We descend from Garnet to Shadow Lake, then we climb back up over a ridge to Rosalie.  As we climb it clouds up and thunder rolls through the mountains.  Word on that trail is that the bad weather is moving out…but it hasn’t yet!  Using our “rain drill”, although it is not that wet, we set up camp and hunker down as the storms move through.  It is much calmer than the last two nights.  As it clears up we make dinner, then take an evening hike to an awesome viewpoint…it feels great.  In the fading light we read aloud outside on a rock gazing at lovely Lake Rosalie.   

Saturday, September 15, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 4

August 13, 2012 –Rush Creek Fork to Garnet Lake

Mileage:  6                 Elevation:  9600 feet
Got up to clear skies!  We took time to dry everything out in the warm sunshine.  Bear barrels cooperated, Steripen did not.  This was our new water treatment system, a magic wand of UV rays that cleaned water in less than 2 minutes!  It was time to change batteries and when resealing the unit the main screw would not catch to close it.  We ended up tightly duct taping it down….works great, looks ugly! We have back up iodine, but don’t want to use it over a long period of time.


Banner Peak

We headed out around 8:30, crossing the creek and then climbing up to big broad Island Pass.  We knew Thousand Island Lake was just on the other side and it pulled us over like a magnet.  At first view we stopped for second breakfast.  Banner Peak stood proudly over the lake.  Banner in the Sky, one of our favorite books.  We continued to enjoy great vistas of the lake as we dropped down to the shore.  Ansel Adams photographed this scene and made this area very popular. 
Reflection in Thousand Island Lake
We climbed up out of the lake basin and almost immediately dropped down to beautiful Emerald Lake.  Then up and over another ridge to Ruby Lake, nestled deep within rock walls.  A steep climb led us up and over the next ridge to Garnet Lake.  This is another perfect combination of lake and peaks, recognizable in many Sierra photos.  Mt Ritter and Banner Peak tower over Garnet Lake making a gorgeous combination.
Ritter and Banner Peaks over Garnet Lake

Clouds had been piling up and thunder was in the distance as we arrived.  We knew of great campsites on the north shore.  We hiked in and set up camp next to our own private swimming pool.  We took a quick dip in the fading sunshine.  As soon as we got settled huge thunderstorms rolled through with wind, rain and lightning strikes.  We were happily tucked in with maps, puzzles and reading.  We found a protected area to cook dinner as the rain let up and the sky turned orange with the sunset.  A beautiful evening. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 3

August 12, 2012 –Lyell Canyon to Rush Creek Fork

Mileage:  11               Elevation:  9600 feet

Woke up to clear skies but a wet tent, so we spent a little time drying out.  There was low fog hanging over the river, our coldest morning yet.  To our shock the bear barrels opened pretty easily this morning…we still have little faith!  We were hiking by 7.  The trail was pretty flat going up the canyon, then climbed like crazy to Donahue Pass at 11074 feet.  This is our first major Sierra pass and we are excited.  We rise from one bench to another as water cascades down via wild rushing streams and gorgeous waterfalls.  It felt like the gateway to the Sierras!
Lyell Glacier
As thunder clouds gathered and the sky darkened, we kept up a good pace.  Reaching the pass at 12:30, there was thunder all around us.  We quickly dropped down through beautiful meadows of yellow and purple grasses, dotted with the last of the wild flowers.  As the rains came the colors deepened and the valley was glowing.

We reached camp at 2:30 deciding to stop due to the weather.  We threw up the tent and fly, got water and hunkered down.  It was great!  The weather created rest our bodies needed after some grueling hiking days.  Our read aloud for the hike is In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.  Don cut the book into thirds and placed the last two portions in each cache.  So, during the storm, we went to Australia!  The writing is both interesting and hilarious!  Between that, maps and the New York Times Crosswords we were truly happy campers.
The rain began to let up a little so we crawled out of our tent and found a sheltered area for cooking dinner.  A brilliant rainbow appeared across the valley.  We took a short walk as the skies cleared, then hit the sack!





Monday, September 10, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 2

Cathedral Lake
Cathedral Peak

August 11, 2012U – Sunrise Ridge to Lyell Canyon

Mileage:  16               Elevation:  8900 feet

Sunrise Ridge held to its name and gently awakened us at about 5:30 am.  This worked well, since we hit the sack early last night.  We were primed for an early start, but ran up against Big Bear Barrel issues!  We could not open one of our bear barrels.  We both tried; we pried with a knife, one of us would hold the other would turn…nothing!  Finally, after much anxiety we got it open, but we have to figure out why it sticks!


We got on the trail just before 7am hiking toward our first of the ten passes on the JMT, Cathedral Pass.  We could feel the weariness in our bodies from the day before.  After second breakfast we felt much better.  The hike down to Cathedral Lakes was gorgeous.  As we hiked down into Tuolumne Meadows more and more people were on the trail.  We were suddenly hit with civilization.  We enjoyed the restrooms at this eastern access to Yosemite National Park, but felt crowded by all the people.  We located the JMT and hiked through the meadows to the Lyell Canyon trail.  Thunderheads were gathering and we could hear rumbling in the distance.  Light rain off and on with a cool breeze made for a comfortable hike up the Lyell Fork.  The trail was flat and easy up a tranquil canyon through a wide meadow with a lovely river.  When we exited the no camping zone after a 16 mile day we quickly found a great spot to camp.  Far across the valley we could see a herd of elk. 


We set our tent up with the fly since weather was questionable.  Our brainstorm solution on the bear barrel issue was to wash out the barrels, especially the rings at the top and the inside of the lid.  Grime from past backpacks had accumulated and hopefully cleaning it off would smooth out the lid movement.  Well, when we tried it still stuck…so we greased the inside with sunscreen!  That seemed to help, but the truth would be told tomorrow when we attempted to open our bear barrels for breakfast.  Tucked in our tent for the night with raindrops clattering down, we slept well!




Thursday, September 6, 2012

John Muir Trail Day 1

Vernal Falls
August 10, 2012 – Yosemite Valley  to a high ridge above Sierra Sunrise Camp

Mileage:  13               Elevation:  9600 feet

We leave the Backpacker Camp at 6:30 AM after a light breakfast.  It is about .8 mile to the John Muir Trail Head.  Even at that early hour the asphalted trail is teeming with Half Dome climbers.  It will be a hot day and they want to complete their 16 mile round trip early.  We hop in line choosing the Mist Trail access – but alas no mist, the drought has really effected this area.  Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls are gorgeous. 

Today we are trying a new breakfast plan:   quick breakfast bar with water in the early morning, so we can get on the trail, and then a “second breakfast” of coffee and cereal with fruit and nuts a couple hours later.  The important part of second breakfasts is the venue – there must be a view and a beam of sunshine in which to sit and enjoy it.  Our second breakfast happened high above Yosemite Valley with open views, but this time in the shade!  The day was already hot.

After 6 miles the JMT separates and we are on our own!  After hiking up with crowds of crazy tourists (one gentleman has 2 GI Joe's sticking out of his backpack) we are grateful for the tranquility.  As we hike we meet others heading down to Yosemite Valley and hear about water problems at Sunrise Camp which is our destination.  We will need to set up a dry camp tonight…which is not a problem as long as you are prepared for it!

Today’s trek turns out to be our most challenging ever, with a huge elevation gain of 5600 feet in very hot weather.  We manage to make it to the ridge above Sunrise by 5:30 PM, face planting in the first campsite we come to.  The views to the east are grand!  Heavenly camping!  As we set up camp we hear bagpipes in the distance.  Sunrise Sierra Camp, an expensive back country camp that is totally posh and catered, is nearby.  No fly on our tent tonight!  We happily eat dinner, clean up and roll into bed to watch the sunset, read and finally fall asleep in our cozy tent.





Tuesday, September 4, 2012

JMT Yosemite Valley

John Muir Trail Journal – August 2012

“In the practice of contemplation, one comes eventually to embrace an apophatic* anthropology, letting go of everything one might have imagined as constituting the self –one’s thoughts, one’s desires, all ones compulsive needs.  Joined in the silence of prayer to a God beyond knowing.  I no longer have to scramble to sustain a fragile ego, but discern instead the source and ground of my being in the fierce landscape of God alone.”
Belden Lane The Solace of Fierce Landscapes

August 9, 2012 – Yosemite Valley elevation 4000 feet

Don and I arrived at Yosemite Valley in the heat of the day on the YART bus from Mammoth, California where we had left our car.  Checking in at the Wilderness Office we experience a very personal introduction by a ranger to the challenges of our hike; bears and bear canisters, waste disposal, water treatment, low water areas, appropriate campsites.  We then head to the Backpackers Camp by the longest route possible as we try to decipher Yosemite Valley Mapping 101.  A hot 1 ½ mile walk with the end result being a delightfully shaded area across a creek, separated from the crowds and RV madness in the valley.
After we set up camp we venture out in the heat once again to lovely Happy Isle, to locate our trailhead for the next morning.  Temperatures are in the 90s and rising over the weekend.  We decide to go for an early start to avoid heat of the day hiking at lower elevations.  There is a display showing native plants of the area and information on how the valley was shaped by the rock falling from the high surrounding cliffs.
In camp we have befriended a young engaged couple from Charleston, South Carolina.  We talk trail and gear, eager to see how other people approach this long trek.  During our chat an official vehicle drives up and four uniformed individuals leap out.  The leader is holding an antenna high.  He marches into the brush tracking a bear seen earlier.  The three others follow in a parade behind with huge guns ready to drug the bear for removal to another area.  Exciting stuff!
Ready for dinner we wisely hop a Yosemite Shuttle – cool, quite, air conditioned and head to the cafeteria at Yosemite Lodge for a great dinner.  Ice cream tops the evening.  Back in camp we put all food and personal creams into the bear locker.  It has been a long day and we are ready to rest.  It is still very warm, we will sleep on top or our bags tonight.  The good news is the higher we go the cooler it will get.  We are ready to exit Yosemite Valley!  As we fall asleep, we hear campers across the creek yelling at bears!

*negative theology – what God is not