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