Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The JMT part 6

5-Banner or Ritter
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)
Early morning found us still dry thank goodness.
And the cloudless sky overhead was a great omen!  Packing up after breakfast,  we headed south on the JMT with only one goal in mind that day....a new tent!  Within minutes we passed our first trail sign.  We looked at the turn off briefly, but were not too interested in a trail that took us down to a river and out of the views.   So, we didn't spend much time pondering it,  but marched on by.  It would not be long however before we realized we had actually passed our turnoff.   The sign we had passed had not mentioned the JMT and in our single minded determination to get to Red's...we just marched right past the JMT with blinders.  By the time we realized what had happened... in studying the map,  we realized there were actually three parallel trails to the Minarets Road.   We were actually on the PCT High Trail and no  longer on the JMT.  But looking closely at our topo...we realized also that it would be quite a delay to backtrack and the trail we were on would take us where we wanted to go anyway.  So we stayed on the High Trail.  In the end,  I can't say how many actually hike the High Trail to Agnews...whether while hiking the JMT or otherwise.  I am guessing most folks take the more glamorous JMT.   But, our accident took us over the most amazing trail that we would probably never have set foot on if it were not for our haste.  All along the High Trail you are up close to 10,000 feet, and the High Trail takes you out along  along the canyon's East rim for most of it's distance.  You have unencumbered far reaching views of the wilderness west, and  of the Minarets and of the canyon and the JMT below.  To this day my husband and I can't figure out why the High Trail is not the JMT!
So, "forced" to take in the magnificent views,  we enjoyed our hike to Red's immensely and still arrived at the road in plenty of time to take one of the shuttle buses back to Mammoth before the stores closed for the night.  Once we got on the bus though, we realized we were in a bit of more trouble.  I had only brought a minimal amount of cash...who needs cash in the wilderness!  And the shuttle was very pricey!   The driver heard our predicament though and told us first of all how to get from the Mammoth lifts where her run ended, to town,  and then she told us to watch for her when we came back and she would not charge us for the return trip to Red's!  Trail Magic!
Once we got to the Mammoth lifts, we had a bit of wait for the shuttle to take us to town so we confronted our next conundrum...how to pay for our tent!  Again, who needs credit cards in the wilderness?  Our cards were not on us!  We got to a pay phone...and had just enough change to call our daughter collect.  Next problem unfolded very quickly....you cannot call  collect to cell phones!   The operator was very efficient in telling me that before she disconnected.  I called the operator again and begged her not to hang up on me.  This time I got one willing to listen.  I explained my situation and she came up with the solution....she put us through to someone we knew who had a landline who would accept the charges and then the operator made a conference call with our nephew who had the landline and our daughter who had a credit card we could use!  After some very tense moments when I feared our trip might be in jeopardy,  our tent situation was solved.  From previous travels I already knew the name of a store in Mammoth that sold tents.  So my daughter said she would call ahead to  Kittredge Sports and tell them to sell a tent to us using her credit card...YEA!  Hopping on the bus to town we arrived at Kittredge post haste.  Walking in the door with three days grime and our fully loaded backpacks, a clerk made a beeline for us and asked if we perhaps were there to buy a tent!   My daughter had described us well it seems.  Securing a new tent and thanking them profusely for their help,  we hopped back on the bus up to the lifts.  Ah....relief!  Arriving at the lifts however,  one more small hurdle...the bus driver we were waiting for never arrived!  After a couple of buses came and went, we finally asked a driver about her.  It seems she was gone for the day.  Sigh.  But, after explaining what had happened to the new driver, he told us to hop on anyway and that he'd take us down to Red's.  More trail magic.   The moral of the story of course is never travel without money and cards!
Arriving at Red's rather late,  the restaurant was about to close for the night.   We told no sob story this time however, and yet,  the waitress took a long look at us then told us to have a seat that she could just fit us in!   I can't say enough about how hard the folks in Mammoth and at Red's try and make JMTers have a great trip!  Getting a great dinner and  our resupply from the store was simply perfect, and yet our Red's experience was not over...the natural spring hot showers were simply sublime!
We blissfully settled into the campground for backpackers at Red's Meadow well fed and showered and resupplied and slept that night in our brand new lightweight, waterproof tent!
9-Night 3, Reds Meadow Resupply
Three days and so many adventures....what else could this journey possibly hold for us???  To be continued....

Friday, January 23, 2015

The John Muir Trail part 5

Thousand Island Lake
Thousand Island Lake
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)
As soon as we made our decision to hike on, the shock was replaced by determination.  Originally we had planned to camp a few miles down Lyell Canyon, and save the climb to Donohue Pass for morning when we were fresh.  However,  the lack of tent gave us incentive to push on.  Forging on all the way to the end of the flat canyon walk, we then made it part way up what was to be the next day's climb to Donohue before we called it a day.  Finding a lovely little bench with a view down canyon we spread out our bags and fixed supper. We truly enjoyed the stars overhead that night...thankful for clear skies!
The next morning we powered up Donohue Pass relatively quickly as we were part way there already, and our legs were strong and fresh after a good night's sleep.   Having been on Donohue Pass before,  we knew what a treat that view was so we stayed for a short time enjoying the view east and south towards Mammoth Mountain...but then hurried on.
The next stretch of trail led to unremarkable Island Pass and then onto Thousand Island Lake, and from Rush Creek junction, we were on new trail!   As long time hikers,  we always cherish new trail and the adventures ahead as so many of our high Sierra hikes criss cross previously hiked trails.   And to add to the treat of the new trail, we saw not one hiker that day on that trail.   In fact,  we saw not one other soul from about half way down Lyell Canyon until  almost to Reds Meadow!  May all on-trail hikers have as good a luck in their journeys!
Wildflowers!
Wildflowers!
Arriving before dinner at Thousand Island Lake, we found an isolated spot a long ways above the lake...replete with a stunning view down onto the lake!   And still clear skies graced us overhead!  As day two came to a close,  we knew we had a long day three ahead and were keeping our fingers crossed for no rain.   And with no choice but to yet again  lay  our bags under the open skies...we took full advantage of our forced situation and  once again also savored the amazing show above us  to the fullest.
But still...as we lay under the stars that night savoring the stillness and quietude and display of amazing stars sprinkled with shooting stars...there was yet always that little bit of unease marking those days and nights of the gamble we were taking by hiking so far with no shelter of any kind.  Would our foolishness be our undoing?  Would we make it  that last night before Red's Meadow and civilization and through that next long day til we could make it to shelter?
To be continued.....

The John Muir Trail Part 4

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)
Crashed on a bench above Lyell Canyon in Yosemite
As we meandered up the rare flat section of trail that extends the length of Lyell Canyon in Yosemite, we enjoyed the morning sun's rays and quietly babbling waters sliding past us  downstream traveling  the opposite direction as us.  Several miles passed in this idyllic fashion before I suddenly realized I no longer heard Gary's footsteps behind me and turned to see what could have stalled him.   I will never forget the frozen blank look on his face.   Trying  urgently to get him to answer me and tell me what was the matter, it was probably only moments but seemed like minutes before he finally uttered the words  "we have no tent."
I think Gary and I must have stood there staring at each other a good two minutes while we each digested what had happened to bring us miles into our JMT hike with no tent or shelter between us.   We then stood spinning possible solutions to our dilemma in our minds,  then mulling over our options together.    A couple things were decided.    First, that neither of us wanted to double back to the car and take the resulting drive to an outfitter to find a new tent,  and secondly,  that we had a pretty good gamble on about three days good weather due to Gary's having studied the weather intently the night before we left.  We also knew for sure by now though,  that between us, we had no shelter of any kind.   In year's past we had always carried a tube tent, a tubular piece of plastic that is a great quick shelter once a string is passed thru it and tied to trees, that could also double as a ground sheet under tents or bags.   But alas,   we didn't even have our  tube tent with us as in an effort to shave ounces on our ground sheet,  we had opted instead for a lighter tiny piece of filmy plastic weighing only 2 ounces.   Thus,  we had no tent,  no tarp, no ground sheet large enuf to cover us...we had absolutely nothing large enough to cover us in our bags should we be caught out in the rain!
After standing in the meadow for several minutes while each  shifted our weight from foot to foot compensating for the heft of our packs without the forward motion of hiking to take our minds off them, ultimately we did indeed decide to continue on.  We had allotted 5 days til our first resupply at Red's Meadow near Devil's Postpile.   Not trusting the weather to hold for five full days now however,  we decided if we were to gamble on making it without shelter to our first resupply, that we needed to double time it and shoot for Red's in three days!
Once making the decision to continue on,  and to hike faster than before, we poured on the coals.   Making it the rest of the way up Lyell Canyon,  we found a lovely bench above the canyon affording us a wonderful view back down canyon to Tuolumne meadows.
First night above Lyell Canyon
First night's camp above Lyell Canyon
Would we make it to Red's Meadow resupply in three days?
Would we make it to shelter before any storms overtook us?
To be continued....:)

My First Sleeping Bag!


Christmas and I’m 4 yrs old…my brothers,   5 and 7 years older than me, get brand new flannel lined sleeping bags and I don’t get one!  I cry my eyes out inconsolably.  All I want is a sleeping bag like my brothers so I can  sleep outside too.  After awhile my mom gets a fantastic idea to solve this, and takes 2 old cotton blankets and folds them lengthwise and sews them together leaving the top couple of feet unsewed so I can get in and out.  I am thrilled!  My first sleeping bag! Summer comes and I am camping out in the backyard in my homemade sleeping bag under the stars with my big brothers, and they are telling me all about the constellations and how far the stars are from us…. and I discover some of life’s greatest pleasures!  That was 55 years ago and I have been hiking and camping and backpacking ever since.  Watch this site grow as I share the secrets that kept me happy in the backcountry: the right equipment, the places to go, the tools of the trade…with stories to entertain you as you learn!:)