Friday, July 18, 2014

The John Muir Trail - part 3

Along the John Muir Trail...
Along the John Muir Trail...
A remote point to point 200 plus mile backpack spanning from Yosemite to the top of Mt Whitney (with another 11 miles from the top of Mt Whitney to the trailhead)

I remember reading a post made by a long distance hiker one time in a backpacking forum.  That long distance hiker had simply said that if you really want to hike a long distance trail, then that is what you choose to do over family, career, mortgages etc.  So true of course.  However, I already had family, career, mortgages etc so his advice wasn't of much help to me.  But,  over the years the JMT continued to beckon. And  finally in 2006,  there came a time in my life when I had the ability to take a few weeks off work, and so did my husband,  and we knew the JMT was ours!
Preparation began in earnest weeks ahead of our trip, and as the time crept closer to our departure date, the mountain of things on our "to-do" list grew,  like obtaining our wilderness permit, arranging horse care, house and pet care, paying bills, preparing and mailing food drops,  but by the end, we had done it all!  All except pack that is.  Packing was low down on our list as we were frequent backpackers with a printed checklist and all our gear in crates so we simply needed to pull out the crates and using the checklist, pack everything in our packs that we already had preassembled.  Easy as can be and we'd done it a hundred times just that way.
Our crates setting on the bed slowly got emptier and the packs got fuller.  Sleeping bags at the bottom, followed by thicker clothes or tent.  Fully loaded bear canister set vertically in next so it was easily accessible throughout the day.  All the other clothes not being worn stuffed around the outside of the bear can to stabilize it and make it more comfy against our backs.   Ditty bags checked for whatever little misc items we might need.  Water bottles filled and put in their pockets etc etc etc.  We were ready!
The next morning bright and early we set our packs in the car and set off for Yosemite.  We had chosen a Northbound to Southbound trip starting in Yosemite and ending at Mount Whitney for the simple reason that we didn't want to start our trip with the gnarly climb up Whitney from the trailhead.   Rather we wanted to wait til our packs were the lightest and our legs and lungs the strongest at the end of our trip for the climb up Whitney.
Our first day was not spent hiking however, but was instead spent doing a car shuttle and resupply drop off. Going across the Sierra Nevada over Tioga Rd through Yosemite,  and down highway 395,  we made a stop at Red's Meadow via the mandatory shuttle bus, and dropped off the one resupply we did not mail ahead of time.  Getting back in our cars, we drove uneventfully to our JMT exit point at Whitney Portal where we left one car.  We then drove back to Yosemite where we would leave the other car...hiking the 200 miles on the JMT where we would meet up with the car we had left at Whitney Portal once again.
Spending the night in Yosemite at Tuolumne Meadows gave us one much needed night to acclimate to the altitude before hiking.   But, once morning's warm rays hit our faces, we were up and going.  A quick breakfast, donning our packs, locking the car and off we went!
Having set aside 25 days to complete the JMT...we set off anticipating three and a half weeks of the most marvelous hiking journey ever replete with wildflowers, shooting stars, animals  and animal tracks in abundance all ahead of us.   And the promise also of sparkling jewel like lakes ahead, lordly mountain peaks and grandiose vistas all added to the intoxication of finally setting foot on the trail!
In many previous journeys, we already had set foot on the JMT section between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne, and had summited Half Dome as well, so we decided this trip to start our JMT in Tuolumne, and head up Lyell Canyon for our first leg.  Enjoying the warm morning sun and anticipation of weeks of like mornings hiking together, we passed the miles chit chatting and pausing occasionally to savor the river rippling by our side and enticing views of the trail ahead.  It would be hours before the realization would hit us  that we had made a terrible planning and preparation mistake that could jeopardize our whole journey...
To be continued....