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Posts Tagged ‘JMT’

After two and a half days of shenanigans in Mammoth, we finally made it back up the free trolley to the free bus to the pay bus to Reds Meadow where we chilled with Snow Turtle and Aggassi.  Eventually, we left around 5pm and went about five miles up the trail.  It was buggy, but graded decently and the trail crews had cleared an amazing amount of downed trees.  There were also a ba-zillion side trails going every which way to and from shuttle stops.

We had a nice little campsite tucked into some trees, but so many mosquitos!  The bloodsuckers got me good a few times.

In the morning, we got to walking after a large coat of deet.  The trail climbed slowly pretty much all day unless it went up steeper.  Only a few times the trail went down that day.

For 14 beautiful miles we got our trail back; the PCT went high on a ridge and the JMT went down in the valley by a bunch of lakes.  It was pleasant not to have a herd of them hiking south, at us, for a change.

We had a scenic overlook lunch where someone had left a pair of boots unceremoniously.  Inspector Gadget had yogi’ed a fresh tomato from some Russian day walkers despite not liking tomatoes, so he gave it to Hop-a-long and me.

At 1000 Islands Lake, the JMT met back up and immediately we saw a swarm of JMTers, one of which was shooting medium format actual film who decided Dead Animal and I were good film subjects.

We had to climb over Island “Pass” which really was just a small ridge and wasn’t “passy” at all.  After a short descent we had to climb up Donohue Pass, which wasn’t too difficult, but being at miles 17-19 of a 20 mile day, I was tired and pissed at all the damn JMTers, most of whom didn’t know the person going uphill has the right-of-way.  I gave several of them dirty looks when I had to stop for them or I almost ran straight into them.

Dead Animal and I got to the top of Donohue pass around 6:30pm and had it all to ourselves.  We didn’t stay long, just did ESPN, ate a bar, and hiked down a mile to a lake with a large outlet stream.  Hop-a-long and Inspector ended up camping two miles before the pass.

We got up and hiked down to Tuolomne Meadows.  It was 3 miles down and 8 miles through a meadow.  The closer we got, the more people we saw. It was a wave of people hiking south.  I asked four hikers with large packs and water testing poles if they were signaling the mothership and they said “something like that I reckon!”

The Tuolomne Meadows store/post office/grill was all in the same temporary structure with some wonderful picnic tables outside in the shade.  As I walked up, I was surprised to see Neon, Onna Move, Trip, and even Drop Zone.  I grabbed some vegan chili from the grill and caught up with a bunch of them over some beer.  I slapped a Yosemite sticker on my bear canister that I packed for the last time. Natty, Swanson, and Magellan walked in and joined us.

We stayed there for quite some time, just hanging out on the picnic tables when Cactus, Extra Credit, Dubs, Wiz, Cheesecake (now maybe Mancake……..), Snowflake, Gator, Ornie, Ornie’s girlfriend who’s now hiking and Waffles jumped off the bus that came up from Yosemite Valley. When we realized what a crew we had, we went over to the campground with campfire food and took over a large chunk of the backpacker section. Leave it to the thru-hikers to be the other backpackers up past 8:30pm drinking and cooking on a campfire.

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We hit the trees and had a small obstacle course of blowdowns to navigate when I found a water bottle that I somehow identified as one belonging to one of the three JMTers who went north: Nice, Steady, or Katz.  I threw it onto my pack and we found them at the bottom of the valley to return it.

Once again, we climbed.  This time, the grade was decent for the first few miles and we passed through incredibly still, peaceful meadows filled with deer that knew no humans could hurt them.  They stayed in the middle of the trail or right next to it until we were almost on top of them.  We also found wild onions and picked some to add to dinner.

Finding a campsite was pretty easy; hiding from the mosquitos was another story.  Snax and Zoner passed us who had hiked the PCT in 2010 and 2008 respectively and were out for the JMT going north for a section.

We managed to get up and moving at a good time for once and began our way up Muir Pass, another long, drawn out climb strangely similar to Pinchot, but not as shitty.  There was only one really annoyingly steep section of short, rocky switchbacks next to a waterfall and the rest of the climb consisted of figuring out which lake we were at because there were so many.  Lake Helen right before the top is actually one of the highest on the PCT at 11,617 ft above sea level.

The top of Muir Pass had a rock hut on top made in the 1930s by the Sierra Club in memory of John Muir.  The more I hiked in the Sierras, the crazier I think he was to explore that much then, without trails and with loaves of bread and tea for food.

We took an extended break up there with the hut, enjoying the sweeping views into Evolution Valley on the other side with these things we hadn’t seen in a long time: clouds!  They made our pictures just that much better.

When we finally left, we stopped a few miles later at Lake Wanda where we got cooked in the sun and soaked our feet in the cold water.  I also watched Inspector Gadget cannonball in and then run screaming out of the icy, snow melt lake.

We meandered down Evolution Valley which, in my opinion, was one of the most beautiful that we passed through, despite the mosquitos.  Muir Pass was our last almost 12,000 ft pass we had to do, which was somewhat of a relief, but we still had miles to go before we slept.

Camping down in a meadow, we battled some intense mosquitos that actually were up and biting at 5am.  I actually hiked with the damn mosquito headnet on for quite some time.

Evolution Creek crossing is usually an intense ford that PCT hikers worry about every year, but when we hit it, it was only knee-deep and a breeze to wade across.  Lucky us!  The mosquitos were terrible there though!  Deet time.

The trail followed the creek down where it would change drastically from mellow, meandering through meadows, to raging waterfalls down steep, slick rocks.  It plunged into another creek that we crossed on a bridge and continued down to the Muir Trail Ranch side trail where we found Griffin hiking sobo through that section and he gave us some intel.

“It’s great!  I see all the PCTers because I’m hiking the opposite direction and I see all the JMTers because I out hike them!  They only go like 12 miles a day or something and 50 pound packs are the lightweight ones!” He joked.

After lunch with him, we headed up Selden Pass, supposedly the easiest Sierra Pass.  The hard part was the almost 2,000 feet of switchbacks coming out of the valley, then the rest went in steps: it would go flat around a lake, go up a step to another lake and so on until the top.  We cooked at the top of the switchbacks where Dead Animal used the deep creek to find the hole in his Neoair he got the night before.  We suspect either a small critter or a fight between the Neoair and his bear canister in his pack.  I took the opportunity to wash my shorts, hang them on my pack and hike up in my underwear.

We hit the pass that evening, did the quite naked ritual, then headed down to camp somewhere.  Unfortunately, the spot we found had a lot of moisture and our sleeping bags were all wet.  We waited until the sun came and dried us off, then set out down trail cruising downhill until we had to cross Bear Creek, another ford that usually consists of horror stories of chest high water with packs on shoulders.  It only came up mid-calf.  The next two feeder streams had complicated rock hops, so I plunged straight through those too since my feet were wet anyway.
Once we hit the bottom of the valley, we of course had to climb again.  This time, it was not to a pass, just up and over a large ridge in the way with 1200 ft of steep switchbacks and 2000 ft of steep switchbacks going down, which made my knees sore.  The amount of JMTers coming up astounded me, almost all of their packs went higher than their head and some were hunched over under the weight of them.

We hit the VVR ferry side trail and I had to pull Dead Animal away from its temptations.  A hiker friendly resort, but they start you a tab and the cheapest anyone gets out for is $70 and horror stories have reached over $400, even with the first beer and night tenting free.  We skipped it and began climbing to Silver Pass.  Its main challenge was one rocky jump off 600 ft in half a mile with a waterfall ford in the middle, which for us was a careful rock hop.

Camping a mile and about 500 ft of climbing to go, we spent another moist night where we waited for the sun to dry everything off.  We hit the pass, then descended past large alpine lakes until a few large bumps we had to go up and over.

Once we started descending toward Purple Lake, we began hitting the blowdowns.  The Sierras had 140 something mph sustained northerly winds in November and December knocking down thousands of trees that kept the Reds Meadow Rd closed until June 29th this year.  Luckily, they weren’t too bad because so many trail crews were out and diligently clearing the trail.  There were also a few annoying ones back a few miles around Tully Hole, but completely manageable.

After one more bump, we pretty much descended for 10ish miles down to Reds Meadow where trail crews had done amazing work.  We passed mile 900 and realized we had 3G for the first time in a week, so we sat on our phones for a wee bit and managed to finish the section in 7 days instead of the 8 that we planned.

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Sorry for not posting, we took out eight days of food and I had no internet for that long.  Mt. Whitney pictures are at the bottom which wouldn’t upload before as well.  Thanks for your patience!

We resupplied by taking a side trail east over Kearsarge Pass down into the Onion Valley to a road which would take us several thousand feet down to the small town of Independence, CA.  Taking the Bullfrog Lake trail up to the pass, we caught amazing views of the Penacles and beautifully blue alpine lakes that reflected the image of the mountains in them.  The pass stood at 11,780 feet; although it wasn’t on the PCT, we took it as a bonus pass and got naked for it anyway just to keep up ESPN.  It was definitely the longest I’ve ever hiked to a resupply…usually I hit a road and stick out my thumb, conveniently getting a ride to food and beer.  Nope.  Nine miles to a road.  Then we had to depend on day walkers, all of which were inconveniently staying at the campground there and enjoying the outdoors, not Subway, beer, cheap motels, and hot tubs.

Eventually, we did get a ride down in a beat-up white pickup with a guy who charged $5 a head and had taken up a load of thru-hikers including Neon, Onna Move, Bolt, Ornie, Waffles, Cheesecake, and Snowflake.  Astro, Magellan, Dead Animal and I jumped in and put our heads down every time he took a turn fast and yelled at us to hold onto our hats while we bounced in the bed of the truck.

We got dropped off at the Chevron gas station and Subway where I had the amazing resupply guru, my mother, send me a package of seven days of food.  I got it after I wolfed down a foot long veggie sub in about five minutes or less, then all of us jumped on the regional bus up to Bishop, a bigger town 40 miles north.  Inspector Gadget and Hop-a-long had gotten ahead of us to catch the post office hours for his laptop bounce box and gotten Gadget’s dad’s Holiday Inn points for a room in Bishop.

A nice zero was in order where we relaxed, played in the pool, checked out Bishop’s three outfitters, and ate copious amounts of food.  The next day, we got back to the Chevron via the local mid-day bus and began hitching back up to Onion Valley.  We picked up House and Lunchbox, so we split up to try for rides.  Eventually, Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, House, and Lunchbox got a squeezed ride up while Dead Animal and I waited.  Before long a car pulled up and screeched to a stop.  Bounce Box, Major Upchuck, and the Indiana Boys jumped out with one of their girlfriends who was going to hike for a while.  Bounce and Upchuck were actually heading back to Lone Pine where they got off, so they got back in the car while a nice woman named Debbie drove the five of us left up to the Onion Valley trailhead.

Hop-a-long had left her poles in a rides car going down.  The trail is good though because the ride gave them to a hiker at the Chevron who posted on the PCT-l (PCT email list) that they left them with the Onion Valley Campground Host.  However, when we got there, the host had lent them out to a family with kids two and a half miles up the trail.  We began walking and we found the kids who returned her poles one at a time.

That evening, Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, Lunchbox, House, and I camped near a lake about halfway up to Kearsarge pass.  We hit the pass in the morning for a second time and took the pass trail back to the PCT where we immediately climbed over Glen Pass.

We had naked time on top to continue ESPN, then hiked down to Rae Lakes where we went swimming in the alpine lake and got eaten by mosquitos.  The downhill continued to right before mile 800 where we camped in the last bear box campsite we saw with lots of JMTers.

The PCT and the JMT (John Muir Trail) are the same for a large chunk of the Sierras and most of the JMTers hike sobo to finish on Mt. Whitney with their extremely large packs.

The next day was trying for me.  Pinchot Pass kicked my ass, the seven days of food weighed me down, and I cursed the bear canister which was trying to rub blisters on my back.  The pass just climbed and climbed and climbed on obnoxiously large rock steps and for most of it, I kept thinking I was farther than I was, probably because we tried to hike faster to out-hike the mosquitos, then running out of breath and expending energy killing them as they tried to suck our blood.

We took a decent break on top, getting naked to spite the evil pass that took incredibly too long to climb, then we descended slowly.  I was so beat by the bottom, Dead Animal and I camped there with the mosquitos while Hop-a-long and Inspector went on another 40 minutes or so.

In the morning, Dead Animal realized that some creature had eaten large holes out of his new socks that he had only worn once.  The probable suspects were either a mouse or a chipmunk.

We found Inspector Gadget and Hop-a-long not too far up the next morning and they talked about frost.  We all got to the top of Mather Pass, did the usual naked ritual, and began a hideous decent which actually hurt my knees a bit for the first time this trip.  Following a waterfall down, switch back after rocky switch back, we passed lots of JMTers and their large packs going up.  There were beautiful look out points where we could see deep into the valley that we would plunge down into, almost down to 8,000 ft.

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