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