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!
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 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!:)