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The Best Hikes in Ansel Adams Wilderness

28 Triplog Reviews in the Ansel Adams Wilderness
Most recent of 14 deeper Triplog Reviews
212 mi • 46,000 ft aeg
John Muir Trail
Hiked the John Muir Trail, heading southbound, from Tuolumne Meadows to Whitney Portal. Including a climb over Kearsarge Pass for resupply, the total distance was apx. 212 miles. I went solo, but can't really say that I was alone. I met a lot of cool people on the trail.

The smoke from the Ferguson fire was somewhat of an issue, but not enough to really affect progress on the trail. You will notice the smoke in some of the pictures. Once I got south of Vermillion Valley Resort, it was pretty much completely clear.

One of the aforementioned cool people was a gentleman from Cave Creek. It was great to meet someone who was familiar with our local trails. We talked about how important a resource HAZ is for us AZ residents.

It was a great experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who can free up a few weeks.

8.7 mi • 2,435 ft aeg
We arrived at the smaller Agnew Meadows Parking lot at about 6:40 AM. I don’t think I got any sleep the night before. Brother-in-law Vern wasn’t feeling well. Not good, because he also was not in shape for this hike. We were on trail by about 7:00 AM. I made it to Thousand Island Lake and made it a little before 1 PM.

While searching for a campsite on the north side of the lake we past a large group, mostly high school kids with a couple of guys that I assume were chaperones. They are setting up camp on a slope on top of vegetation. A no-no. We found a campsite just past where this group was.

Right after sunset Vern told me to grab my camera, Just about 20 yards uphill from my tent was a line of 5 bucks walking by. I've been hiking in and around Mammoth Lakes for several decades and this was the first time I ever saw a buck. Not only did I see 1 buck, but 5 bucks at Thousand Island Lakes as well as 8-10 bucks on two separate days around the edge of town.

About 1AM the next morning I awoke to load yells and screams and bright lights flashing in every direction. I figured out that the noise was coming from the large group on the other side of the ridge from us. I could also hear the word “bear several times. I didn’t have my rain fly on my tent so I sat up and looked out my tent while all of this was going on. Suddenly, the bear that they were yelling at came up over the rocks and ran right by my tent and our bear canister and continued on up the hill toward the JMT. I was awakened two more times that night by the same group. Apparently the bear kept coming back and apparently, the group did not store their food very well.

The next day and night were uneventful. I shot more than a thousand photos on this camping trip. I just couldn’t get enough of the place.

By the way, the water out of Thousand Island Lake is the best water I've ever tasted.
4.7 mi • 900 ft aeg
I pushed off from the trailhead at 7:30 with a temperature of 52 degrees. The hike up to Parker was very pretty and follows Parker Creek. This lake is nestled up against surrounding cliffs and it mirrored these cliffs in the morning light. It's supposed to be deep in the center and provide good fishing. I met a nice Australian couple camping by the lake. Originally, I had planned on hiking over the ridge to Silver Lake and hitch hiking back, but that was sounding like too much work. And when I got to the first ridge up from Parker Lake the rest of the trail to Silver Lake didn't look very inviting as it was out of the trees and largely in scrub bush. So I just headed back to the trailhead from there. The trek came in at 4.7 miles with 900 feet of AEG in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
26.66 mi • 4,673 ft aeg
Ansel Adams Wilderness
DAY 1--HURRAY! ~Commence long anticipated backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierra!

After our departure from car camping in Mammoth, 9L and I grabbed breakfast and headed over to the lift area to figure out the shuttle system. Tickets were $7.00 and this included the return. We filed in a long line and watched as a bus was filling to capacity. Luckily, the next shuttle appeared almost instantly. It seems that it follows the 15 minute schedule very loosely? Considering it was Thursday of a holiday weekend the parking at the lift area was pretty full as was the shuttle. Luckily our trailhead was at the first shuttle stop. We had to make sure the driver knew that we were getting off there because it turned out we were the only two hikers for this stop. Most
other people were going to see the popular hike known as Devils Postpile.

We were dropped off on a wide dirt road, wooded on both sides. Further along we came along to a few parking areas for the trail head and it’s still uncertain why these people have access to park there but we were informed to take the shuttle :-s .

We soon left the road to for the true trail which overlooked the beautiful views of Agnew Meadows. There were wooded areas too and 9L pointed out there were a lot of fallen trees lining the trail that must have been a lot of work for whoever was responsible for maintaining the trail. Eventually the trail gradually picks up in elevation so I was able to still go at a decent pace, but it was really humid. We really enjoyed the views of the river and checking out idyllic campsites along the water. The trail continues to gradually pick up elevation and we saw only a few people the whole time. I was grateful to get to our high point for the day which also marked being close to our destination-Thousand Island Lake and eventually our camp. The elevation is about right at the tree line and we kept our eyes out for tundra critters- MARMOTS. The views never stop along this trail and as we drop down toward the lake and I'm beyond happy to know that we will be staying there for two nights and have time to explore the area. We found an absolutely PERFECT campsite- situated just off the trail. Boulders and some dense trees encompass the site and provide such awesome shelter --we had so much privacy. The privacy was appreciated considering that this is such a popular location and we continued to see other backpackers trickle in throughout the day and evening. Camp was set up and camp chores were done. Dinner and beer were enjoyed on a large boulder that bordered our campsite on the east. From our high boulder perch we could see so much of the shoreline beyond our camp and picturesque views of Mt. Banner directly to our south across the lake. In the distance we spotted two cascades running down from Mt. Banner. After dinner I felt like an exploratory walk around our neighborhood was in order (otherwise I would be passing out too early^^) It was awesome to check out the beauty of the lakeshore and we saw an abundance of great camping options (though none as perfect as ours :) ) Back at camp we settled in pretty early. I slept so wonderfully, though I briefly awakened to the storm that passed by which only enhanced my sleep. :zzz: The sound of rain from the inside of a tent is Heavan~

DAY 2- Lakes, Waterfalls and Sunburns^^^

We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely morning. Breakfast and coffee was enhanced by all of the amazing views in EVERY DIRECTION in spite of the loud and excited college kids with bad Matthew McConaughey impressions. We prepared camp for our day trip to prevent 9L's marmot friends from taking advantage of us while we were out. It was sooo nice to strap on daypacks and head for an easy day. We walked along the lake and made our way towards Banner and towards a waterfall/ cascade that we had spotted from our camp the night before. At the cascade 9L took advantage of drinking the fresh water and I tried to catch some cute frogs that were hanging out there.

After leaving the waterfall we made up way to the pass we needed to cross in order to check out Garnet Lake. This was an easy 400 feet of gain to a ridgeline. The views opened up in all directions. The ridgeline rose higher to the north so we decided to follow it and profit from all the scenic views and photo ops. After getting our fill of the views we dropped down into Garnet Lake which eventually put us in view of another cascade that drained into Garnet Lake. There is so much to see and explore we would need days and days^^. We found a comfortable rock along the water for some lunch and water filtration. The temps felt great and there was no one visible for miles ( unlike our camp at Thousand Island Lake). I noticed that I was getting a sunburn around this time. Strong sunshine up in these parts. The shoreline of Garnet Lake is more rugged than 1,000 Island Lake which is rocky but flat overall. After break we followed the rocky trail along Garnet Lake and ultimately connected to another trail looping us back to camp while passing several other glacial lakes along the way.

At camp I ate devoured food because I'm ALWAYS hungry while backpacking (unlike 9L), while he greeted arriving backpackers and guided them to great campsites, far away lol. I settled down on my awesome boulder overlooking the lake to watch some other campers swimming in the lake to an island, and another group was fishing. Before too long I got restless and we made dinner. Afterwards, I promptly passed out on accident due to food coma ( in the tent) :zzz: and woke up two hours later in the evening. It was a bummer to have missed out on the evening of our last night. 9L was kind enough to share his last beer with me while we looked over the lake and that was pretty much it for our last night.

Day 3- Addios! The wilderness was good to us!...

Another leisure morning taking our time again with breakfast and drinking in the views for the last day. I walked down to the lake and waded in the water while 9L hung out with his marmot friends again ;) . It’s difficult to leave such a beautiful place, but I started to get my stuff together reluctantly. We both took our time and still managed to leave mid-morning. The overcast temps were wonderful and I got to feel like a "cool JMT hiker" getting in 6 miles of beautiful John Muir trail. This stretch is beautiful and I'd love to see more of the JMT. Who wouldn't want to spend more time in the Sierra??? I could really appreciate the wildflowers blooming in abundance and bursting color all over. After a lovely and colorful portion of downhill trail and we ended up taking a break near a bridge that 9L had remembered from his previous trip. We stopped again to rest at Shadow Lake- a popular destination for day hikers and the place where he had to leave the JMT :(

We made really awesome time going back so this is pretty much a blur for me of fast walking. We completed the lasso loop and all too soon we are back at the trailhead awaiting the shuttle.

This trip marks second time in the Sierra and it's always a memorable trip! In addition this would be the highest in elevation that I've ever camped. I've done a lot of high elevation hiking but I've not camped in Tundra until this- its close enough to the treeline and is very windy, rocky and mossy and ultimately pristine wilderness :) :) :)
26.66 mi • 4,673 ft aeg
Ansel Adams Wilderness
Two years ago I hiked through one of the most amazing stretches of trail I have ever seen! I was three days into the JMT and cruised through here totally in awe. One of my big regrets was not spending more time in this section known as The Minarets in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. I said then I would return and here I am accompanied by Claire for three days in pure heaven!

Day 1 - Agnew Meadows to Thousand Island Lake
Our journey started on the Reds Meadow Shuttle that costs seven dollars for each of us. We took this shuttle and were dropped off at Agnew Meadow. We got situated and started hiking on the River Trail. The PCT comes through here and follows the High Trail. We meet again near Thousand Island Lake.

The first few miles of trail are easy going with nice views and good trail as you descend into a valley and then start the climb roughly 3.5 miles in. The next few miles make a steady climb as you parallel the river. There were lots of cool campsites and the water was gushing and the views were just stunning! We continued up and passed a couple of trail junctions and then turned to the west where we caught our first glimpse of Banner Peak. It dominants the landscape with it's beauty and grandeur! Next up was Thousand Island Lake and an intersection with the John Muir Trail. We continued west and found a sweet camp nestled between some boulders and a few trees. It's perfect!

The rest of the day was spent setting up camp and doing camp chores. We eventually settled in and soaked in the views. This place is truly spectacular! After dinner we went for a walk to the west along the lake. This place is pure magic and it goes on and on. There is pretty much unlimited camping the farther west you went. You cannot go wrong. We returned to camp and settled in as it didn't get dark to after 8:30pm. Some JMT hikers came into the area. It was noisy for a bit buy dead silence as dusk set in. Thru hikers go to bed early!

A storm moved in overnight and lasted about thirty minutes. There was moderate rain accompanied with flashes followed closely by thunder. It was a little unnerving but was fine.

Day 2 - Day hike around Thousand Island and Garnet Lakes
We had a relaxing morning where we ate oatmeal and drank coffee. I watched a marmot and chipmunk battle for territory. They were sparring in our camp and it was very entertaining!

Later in the morning we got our day packs put together and headed out for a day hike. The going was very easy as we worked our way west along the north shore of Thousand Island Lake. Before long we turned south and stopped at a cascade coming off Banner. I drank a bunch of unfiltered water and it was cold and delicious!

Our next goal was the pass separating Thousand Island and Garnet Lakes. It required hiking up 400 ft of easy off-trail with some scrambling. Once up top we followed the ridgeline to the northeast for the best views. Thousand Island Lake sits to the north while Garnet Lake lies below us to the south. Words cannot describe the beauty. We sat in awe!

From there we dropped down to Garnet Lake and settled in for some lunch and relaxation. It was a beautiful and clear day and life was good! After lunch we continued east on a use trail that lead back to the JMT. From there it was roughly two miles north to return to camp. We found several large groups showed up. Luckily it wasn't a big deal as everyone was in bed early. That's the good thing about backpacking...too tired to stay up late.

Day 3 - Thousand Island Lake to Agnew Meadow via the JMT and Shadow Lake
We woke on day three and again took our time. All the big groups from last night packed up early and hiked out. We enjoyed our last view and then tore down camp and packed up. We hit the trail around mid-morning. Our plan is to follow the JMT six miles south and exit view Shadow Lake.

We started off with overcast skies but no threat of rain. The going was very easy as we passed Emerald and Ruby Lakes. There is a nice set of switchbacks leading up from Ruby. Once up top we continued across and dropped down the outlet below Garnet Lake. We took a break in the exact same spot I rested two years ago. We ate some snacks and filtered some water. I used the standard Sawyer Squeeze for this trip and it worked wonderfully.

After lunch we headed up more switchbacks and continued south. The next few miles flew by as it was all downhill. We passed the Ediza Lake turnoff, lot's of good camping here, and continued on towards Shadow Lake. We official left the JMT above Shadown. We took another break at the lake and then proceeded down Shadow Creek where we reconnected onto the River Trail. From there it was a few easy miles back to Agnew Meadows where we picked up the bus and completed another memorable trip.
202.87 mi • 40,561 ft aeg
JMT-Tuolumne Meadows to Mount Whitney
Inspired by the trips of Dave1 and 9L, I decided to give the John Muir Trail a shot this summer. Yosemite is very tough to get an entry permit from, so I started at Tuolumne. Therefore, we can call this a JMT light or a segment hike and I will go back and suffer through the crowds of Yosemite valley another time to complete the final segment.

I dropped the dogs off late Sunday morning on June 14 and headed for California. Having never been to California before, that turned out to be a minor adventure in itself. I missed the first turn for Yosemite and google rerouted me up the west coast. I toured Pasadena drove on a road I think they call the grape vine and was nearing Fresno when I realized it was not the way I wanted to go. I then took highway 58 across the bottom of the Sierra Nevada range and made my way back to the eastern side via a series of state roads. My detour only cost me about three and a half extra hours and 200 plus miles. I ended up seeing some more of California, but did not make Yosemite on the 14.

I finally arrived at the permits office around nine the next morning. The ranger informed me that if I wanted I could start a day early. Initially, I had planned to day hike Yosemite on the 15 and start my trek on the 16. However, the previous day's driving fiasco had me extra annoyed, I did not want to spend anymore money and the thought of hiking the sidewalks of Yosemite on a Sunday afternoon made me cringe. Consequently, after about a five minute deliberation in my head, I said let's start now! There would only be one small issue, I really only had four days worth of food until my resupply and this would be adding in an extra day, but I had some extra snacks in the car and I knew I would be fine splitting a Mountain House.

Day 1: Tuolumne Meadows to Lyell Fork Bridge (11.3 miles)

No reason to rush at all on this day one, as with an early entry date, any miles I gained would just be a nice little head start on the miles I would need to cover to complete the trail in my original permit dates of the 16-30. Not rush is exactly what I did on day one. I spent my late morning and early afternoon just absolute awestruck at the beauty of Lyell Canyon and the picturesque Tuolumne River. I stayed near where John camped in 2013. A great spot along the Lyell fork of Tuolomne, near the forks bridge. I set up camp and took a signature FOTG nap, woke up, ate half a mountain house and went back to bed. Perfect site, perfect day, perfect start to trek.

Day 2: Lyell Fork Bridge to Gladys Lake (20 miles)

I hit the trail at 0630 on day two. This would be my latest start time of the entire trek. I quickly developed a pretty efficient morning routine that had me leaving camp usually on or just before six the rest of the way. The climb up Donohue Pass was nothing short of majestic with: partially frozen basins, a snowy backdrop, water gushing from every drainage and amazing views. Speaking of views, they only got better as I crested the pass and gazed south. From there I headed down down Rush Creek and up Island Pass. Island Pass is where things simply got breathtaking. I can't put into words the beauty of Thousand Island Lake and the several other crystal clear lakes the trail drops into and out of during this simply amazing stretch of JMT. I kept with John's 2013 itinerary and stayed at Gladys Lake, but at the south end. Another perfect campsite another perfect day.

Day 3: Gladys Lake to Purple Lake (22.7 miles)

Even though it was only day three, I woke up eager to get to Red's Meadow. I thought a quick bite to eat would not hurt and I had a few things I could trow away as well. However, as I was making my way down to the Devil's Postpile area, I decided I did not really need to go to Red's Meadow. I was afraid it would undo my two days in the wilderness and make me soft or yearn for things I could not have, besides I was getting resupplied in potentially another day anyways. From Devils Postpile it was through the eerie Ansel Adams Wilderness that has been recently impacted by a forest fire and a tremendous wind storm that took out several thousand trees. The next stretch of trail many find mundane and boring according to the Wenk book, however, I had no problem with it and enjoyed the views along with the very well-maintained trail. I was still keeping with John's old itinerary when I finally deviated at Duck Creek. He had selected an awesome and relatively popular site in 2013 from the looks of it. However, I did not stop at Reds and had hit Duck Creek a little early in the afternoon. I decided I would push up the trail to Purple Lake a lake formed by thousands of years of purple rain according to the guide book. Reaching Purple Lake included a pretty nasty little climb out of the Duck Creek drainage, but it proved to be worth it. I got a great spot nestled just inside the tree line and among some large slabs with a nicely flowing creek to avoid long walks to the lake for water. Ate well, slept well and enjoyed a cool but not cold evening.

Day 4: Purple Lake to the Junction with Bear Creek (24.2 miles)

Silver was another superb pass. It was preceded by a knee rattling drop down into the beautiful and robust flowing Fish Creek drainage and then followed by an even more aggressive drop into Tully Hole then a 2100 foot climb up Bear Ridge and another 1000 foot plus drop back down into Bear Creek. I took advantage of the tremendous downhills, the relative ease of the Bear Ridge Climb along with the great trail conditions and knocked out a 24 mile day that was not overly strenuous. Bear Creek is a powerful little creek pushing a lot of water. I enjoyed a pretty built up site near the trail, but not as close to the water as some of the nicer sites that I came across the next morning.

Day 5: Bear Creek Junction to Muir Trail Ranch, Hot Springs and finally Piute Creek Junction (16 miles, 1.6 miles, 4 miles)

I arrived at Muir Trail Ranch early in every way. I arrived just before noon and a day early. I was gambling that I could pick up my food bucket a day early and either push up the trail more, or get an earlier start on the following day. The worker at ranch had no problem grabbing my bucket a day early, however, immediately there was an issue. My bucket was not there, however, she was very confident it would be arriving on the five o'clock truck and told me I could come back and check later to ease my worries. Although slightly worried, it was tough to be too down. The hot springs were great and I was having a pretty good time socializing with the several backpackers that were slowly trickling in. Although, I was nearly swept down stream fording the very fast moving San Joaquin River not once, but twice. its amazing what a little quality time around the hot springs will drive one to do. Then the wheels came off my little vacation day at the ranch. My bucket never arrived. Under normal circumstances this is not that big of an issue, as M.T.R. is known for its great "community" bin. However, this was the day before the ranch opened officially and the only food they had available was left over from last year. I had no problem finding four days worth of Mountain Houses, however, there was nothing to take for a breakfast, nothing with electrolytes and no nice quick burning sugary snacks. I went from expecting to receive six days worth of my own hand selected dinners, snacks, breakfasts and comfort foods to four mountain houses of which only three I really liked and about 4.5 days worth of expired cliff bars and Kind bars. Oh when I say expired I mean expired with dates ranging from as early as April 2015 to as far back as August 2014. At this point I almost convinced myself to grab enough food to make it to Bishop and call the trek off for events that were obviously out of my control.

As I am mulling over what to do, one of the workers comes out and says, "Now I remember why your name sounded familiar!" I eagerly say, "yes?" as if he is going to pull my bucket out of his pocket. He then says, " A letter arrived for you today." I was completely perplexed, I took the letter and it was from my sister. My sister obviously realized that I could survive ten days without a correspondence from her, but she wanted to surprise me with something fun I guess. The letter was very nice. It had some personal things about my father, some words of encouragement about my new job and gave me way too much credit for undertaking a pretty modest 200 mile trek. Anyways, how does a guy say he is quitting the J.M.T after that? I said to myself quit being a little bitch grab what food you can, shorten the hike to five days and make do. I made a quick appeal to my new found friends at the river and collected some granola and homemade trail mix. Great! I went from coffee in the morning, circus peanuts, chips and my hand picked favorites to bird food and 12 expired cliff bars. At least now my greatest threat was a bird attacking me for my food and not a bear. Can't wait to see how 0500 goes now without a little instant coffee in the system.

Everyone was sympathetic to my situation, but they were all waiting on resupply as well. A couple cool girls I had met in passing the day before offered some breakfast the following morning, but by this point I was tired of being social and slightly annoyed by the situation, so I decided to get a few miles head start on Muir Pass and left M.T.R. sometime after six. I certainly had some anxiety about my food situation and had a feeling those hot springs may have been the place to be in the Sierras that night, but I left anyways and committed to completing the trail. Ended up staying near Karl and John's site from the year before. I shared a site with a PCT guy. Very cool kid, 24 years old, was living off fresh trout and wild onion as he slowly made his way through the Sierras. His name was Breaks and he was tackling the PCT after only one trip to Glacier national park! He was doing well though when I met up with him and was confident he would reach Canada before winter. We had a few pretty good conversations and he helped ease my anxiety over my very modest rations, saying something to the extent of, "don't worry the trail will take care of you."

Day 6: Piute Creek Junction to Big Pete's Meadow Crossing (24 miles)

I got a nice early start just before six. All of a sudden my morning routine had become considerably shorter with no oatmeal to cook or coffee to drink. Day six was also my first day where I felt I should start covering some ground. Muir Pass was beautiful but a tough climb for me with my newly albeit partially stocked five day pack. What compounded matters was that even with my head start from the night before, I was reached the pass at around mile 19 when I was not exactly at my most spry. Luckily, the beauty of Evolution Creek, valley and the basin area more than made up for the tough climb. The descent down the south side was amazing, more cascades, partially frozen lakes and quick trail with some amazing views of what lies ahead; the second of the M&M brothers, Mather Pass.

Day 7: Big Pete's Meadow to three miles before Pinchot Pass (24.7 miles)

If Muir Pass broke me off, than Mather Pass got medieval on my #$%. I cursed and crawled my way up the 12,000 foot plus devil pass, but was then able to enjoy a relative highway of a trail down the other side up a quick 800 feet to my campsite on an unnamed lake, just north of Lake Marjorie and just below 11,000 feet. Today, I realized after I dipped into some snacks reserved for another day, that my food rationing system may been a little optimistic. I was simply not getting what I needed, I am not saying my sugary snacks would have saved the day, but the old school year old Cliff Bars were certainly not meeting my nutritional needs on the trail.

Day 8: 3 miles before Pinchot Pass to Bubbs Creek Junction Area (23.8 miles)

My results of a lack of quality snacks, or at least quality snacks and food in my opinion came to fruition today. Day 8 was a big day. I had to start the day off with a three mile 1500 or so feet climb up Pinchot than a drop down to 8500 feet only to climb back up to just under 12,000 in order to get over Glen Pass. Day eight marked the first time during my entire trek that I was passed by hikers. It was by a considerably fresher group on day 12 of the same south bound hike, so I naturally passed them later and never saw them again, but they went by me like I was standing still on the way up to Pinchot. I literally took nearly two hours to cover those three hours and was feeling very worried about my overall level of energy all of a sudden. My boots felt like cement, hard to describe, but I could barely lift my feet during those first few hours of day light. Day 8 was kind of zero day for snacks, not a lot to go around, nothing at all for breakfast and three bars for the whole day, not counting dinner. I started to pick up some energy and speed with the downhill, but I was absolutely dreading Glen Pass. Then I met a pretty knowledgeable local hiker and fisherman named Mike. After filtering some water, several conversations about trout fishing and a couple miles of hiking we parted ways. However, before he left he gave me a packet of almond butter mixed with a touch of maple syrup and promised me that it would get me up Glen. I don't know if it was psychological, but that almond butter hit that spot and provided the energy he said it would. I cleared the first 2500 feet of the climb in two plus mile an hour fashion. I guess the trail does find away of taking care of one. With about a little less than half the ascent complete, I passed a few sites with stationary bear boxes provided by the forest service. For some crazy reason I stopped and went over and opened one. It was packed with food! It was an illegal, but definitely a community cache of supplies and food. There were several bags of food inside, some trash and a lot of basic trail supplies. I started going through the bags and this was my take: one row of Ritz crackers, one row of Oreos (not crushed amazingly), four granola bars, (you know the unhealthy kind that taste like candy) three small packages of peanut butter and get this a package of Lifesavers and four prepackaged Gatorade mixes! Not wanting to be greedy, but positive I had not raided some poor hikers supplies, I shut up the storage bin and headed for the pass grinning ear to ear. I told myself the Lifesavers would have to wait until after Glen, but I immediately had a Gatorade mix. The allure of new snacks quickly wore off and I had perhaps what I think is one of the steepest and toughest passes of the JMT ahead. It broke me off, but mentally all was good and I pushed all the way back down to 9500 feet after clearing the pass. I was now in a pretty good spot to tackle Forester and I was feeling so much better about my food situation. The trail had taken care of me. I got an awesome spot, but then the Bad Scouts of America showed up and ruined my night, but not worth the cliche rant about unruly scouts and poor scout masters.

Day 9: Bubbs Creek to Crabtree Creek south of the ranger station (23.4)

My food was not as big of an issue now and I really only had to have a decent day to set myself up for a Whitney Summit and Whitney Portal exit. But first loomed Forester a legitimate 13,000 plus foot pass to clear within the first eight miles of my hike. Surprisingly, Forester was a breeze! Imagine that hit a pass with a little food in your belly and hit the pass before mile 18 and all is well. Not to mention the grade and trail up to the pass from the north side were probably the best out of all of the other passes. Some talus to navigate, but not like Mather and Muir, generally long sandy or gravel switchbacks most of the way. A race track down Forester, but I will say the final 8-10 miles to Crabtree were my least favorite of the JMT, just dry and not a lot going on in the scenery department along with some annoying little 400 and 600 foot climbs mixed in there.

Day 10: Crabtree Creek to Whitney Portal (19.3 miles)

Final food count for the last day was two expired cliff bars for the climb and exit. However, for breakfast three Oreos, a left over chicken breast from the previous night's Mountain House and a cup of hot cocoa. My largest and most filling breakfast since about day four I think. The breakfast did not help, nor did the last day mentality, climbing Whitney with a full pack just hurt! Although, I should note there is a convenient spot at 13,000 feet where you can leave your pack, so that leaves you only a 3000 foot climb with your full pack. The other 1400 you get to do like a rock star pack free with a nalgene bottle and puffy coat. I met a group of cool guys on the top, relished my moment a little, reflected on what I had done and then started down. However, during conversation the group I met, not only insisted that I accompany them to Lone Pine for celebratory brew and food after, but they also offered a ride back to Yosemite, as they were going that way. My problem of getting back to Yosemite was all of a sudden solved in five minutes, and believe me I had no real plan to get back, so it was a tremendous break for me. The summit of Whitney to the trail head can be summed up with one word switchback. I hiked out with my new friends after they packed up at base camp. They were all super cool guys a surfer, a lawyer and a couple of green thumbs from Santa Cruz, who could go wrong with that company? I confidently ordered a Stone IPA like I knew what I was doing, chugged it down and ate my food quicker than the entire table. I hopped in a car with Charlie the surfer and we had a nice safe, relaxing pleasant ride back to Yosemite. Next, I hopped in my car and drove straight through the night to get back to Cup and Blanco, I passed out for about an hour or two outside of Vegas and somehow arrived at Chumleys by about nine in the morning for my long awaited reunion with Cup and Blanco. A much quicker and efficient route home than the one there!

Final Notes

Had my food arrived this would have been a longer trek and less taxing on the body, but when the food situation became sketchy I had to turn it on a little. The only problem with this strategy was, I was now completing nearly an ultra light weight style hike with miles and AEG, but I was carrying nearly a 40 pound pack. I can do 12-15 miles all day with 35 plus pounds on the back, but once you start going over 20 the days can drag a tad out there.

A special thanks to John for help with the planning/logistics from the very first day I secured a permit and his other guidance along the way. Some more HAZ appreciation Dave1's way of course, he seems to be the inspiration behind most of my more ambitious hikes lately and he always remains a good source of info. Both Dave and John wrote great triplogs for JMT, must reads if doing trail in future. Finally, a very grateful thanks to Chumley for taking the pups on for ten days! Oh and I almost forgot, thank you Oregonhiker for sharing your California topo on Garmin and downloading the first 78 miles of the track for me, it certainly made the other 120 miles more interesting.

On the night I left M.T.R. I ran into two PCT guys that were in pretty rough shape, down to nothing for food and they had not ate much in the last few days. They still needed to make it to V.V.R. to resupply, so I went back to M.T.R grabbed two Mountain Houses for them and gave them two of the packages of trail mix that the girls had just given me. Two days later I found a ton of food and snacks, maybe in some weird way trail karma had came around to me for my good deed. I mean after all I did get a ride back to Tuolumne after only about five minutes on the top of Whitney.

I am not sure how I will go back to hiking in Arizona after spending ten days in an area I am now classifying as one of our nation's natural wonders, but I think I will manage. Similarly, I am now very intrigued by this PCT thing, I guess its that or the AZT up next ;)

I know the triplog is long and the photo-set will be excessive, however, no apologies. It was an amazing trip every step of the way and while its certainly not the feat of the century, I do have a strong sense of accomplishment after this one. The miles and days were modest, but I think I accomplished it under some less than ideal situations and with some trials and tribulations along the way.
4 mi • 600 ft aeg
On my way back to Mammoth Lakes from Lundy Lake on Thursday I took the June Lake Loop so that I could stop at June Lake Brewery to pick up a growler. I spotted lots of aspens on the road to Parker Lake and decided to head there today.

So up the dirt road I went, shortly before reaching the trailhead I spotted what had caught my attention two days ago, a long line of beautiful aspens with yellow and red leaves, lining a small unnamed stream. There are no trails along this stream so unless I wants to bushwhack through dense scrub I was limited to two short access roads. The second access road did not disappoint.

After shooting some photos at the stream, on I went to the Parker Lake Trailhead. This is no secret spot. The parking lot was full and cars lined the road over a quarter mile down from the parking lot. Make that a quarter mile plus one dirty 4Runner now. By the time I got my knee braces on and grabbed my camera and hip pack, four cars had parked below me.

On I went up a steep chaparral lined trail. Just as I reach the top of the bluff the canyon that Parker Creek runs through came into view. It is lined with lots of aspens than their leaves were giving a show. Some very high peaks behind Parker Lake also came into view.

As I neared Parker Lake the trail became more forested and the terrain flatted out. Parker Creek runs beside the trail and its waters were placid. There are lots of fallen trees along the creek. My guess is that this happened in 2011 when Mammoth Mountain received nearly 700 inches of snow. My guess is that the creek flooded and undermined the roots of many of the trees lining the creek.

I reached Parker Lake and my first impression was “Way too crowded”! I quickly decided to cross Parker Creek and get away from the crowds. Crossing the creek wasn’t easy. I’m glad my boots are waterproof. My GPS was having on my pack and it popped off into the creek. I’m glad my GPS is water resistant. My camera lens hit a fallen tree while I was negotiating my way across the creek and the lens cap popped off. I’m glad it landed on the fallen tree and didn’t get wet.

Alas, I made it across the creek and escaped the majority of the crowd. I found a good place to eat lunch and shoot a few photos. Beautiful scenery everywhere.

On my way back to the trailhead I was greeted by a panoramic view of Mono Lake.
4.1 mi • 750 ft aeg
This was supposed to be a day of rest after a full day of hiking the day before. The plan was to drive around the June Lake Loop off of HW395 and look for an interesting place to hike the next day. I had only gone a short distance on the Loop starting at the north end when I saw a dirt road heading up to a small canyon. The sign said Parker Lake so I went to investigate. Info from the Inyo Nat Forest visitor center at Mono Lake said this was a short hike so off I went. It was a short and easy hike, ideal for my day off from more strenuous hikes. As the trail ascended up Parker Creek there were good views of Mono Lake. Some of the trees along this trail are quite massive and beautiful - not sure what kind. We don't have them in AZ.

The lake is in a picturesque setting closed in on two sides by high canyon walls carved out by an ancient glacier. Being the middle of the week and late in the season there were only a few people. A couple with two dogs had stopped on the shore of the lake. Three ducks came flying in over the lake and landed about 20 yds off shore. The ducks started cruising towards the two people on shore probably looking for a handout and seemed to be oblivious of the dogs. One of the dogs starting swimming out towards the ducks while the ducks continued on their course towards shore. I started snapping pictures to capture this curious event. The dog and the ducks closed to within just a few feet of each other before the ducks took flight splashing the dog in their haste providing a little entertainment on a quite afternoon.
222 mi • 46,000 ft aeg
John Muir Trail
This was a trip I had been planning for about 6 months. The longest hike I've ever done. My goal was to finish in 7 days but really I had no idea if I'd be able to handle a trip this long and was expecting to drop out after day 3 or 4. I know most people do this trail in 2 or 3 weeks or more but I just can't get that much time off from work nor do I want to be away from home that long. I have to thank HAZ member keepmoving for bringing this trail to my attention about 2 years ago. Since reading his trip report and seeing his pictures, I've dreamed of hiking it. I started the hike from the official start point at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley and hiked it south to Whitney Portal, near Lone Pine, Ca. (I didn't bring a GPS so daily mileages are estimated based on the maps I brought along.)

Day 1, Sunday June 29th, 10 miles:
I left Phoenix late Saturday night and arrived in Mammoth Lakes early Sunday morning on no sleep. I parked my truck at Mammoth RV Park for $25 for 8 days. The reason I parked in Mammoth is because in the event I couldn't finish the entire JMT, I figured Mammoth would be easier to get back to than Whitney Portal or the other towns. In front of McDonalds just .3 miles from the RV park, I hopped on the 8:30a YARTS bus to Yosemite Valley. The ride took over 4 hours but it was a nice coach with comfortable seats and a restroom in the back. Cost was $18, paid in cash to driver. BTW, if you're looking for an extra challenge, try peeing in the back of a bus while it negotiates the switchbacks up Lee Vining Canyon. Good times! I got to the Wilderness Center (Yosemite's version of the backcountry office) to pick up my permit, which started on Monday, and was excited to find out they had one more permit left starting Sunday! This meant I could start hiking right away and didn't have to spend the night in the Valley's backpacker's campground. The ranger said I'd have to camp in Little Yosemite Valley so this would be a short day of just 4.5 miles. I was on trail by 1:30 and took my time getting up to Nevada Falls. Staying on the official JMT meant I would have to miss the Mist Trail and Vernal Falls and take a slightly longer route to Nevada Falls. The lower section of the alternate trail is obviously used frequently by equestrian stock as it's completely covered with feces.

With plenty of daylight left (sunset was at 8:30), I lounged around the Merced River above Nevada Falls along with many other park visitors, enjoying the refreshing water. After a while I went over to Little Yosemite Valley Campground and then to the adjacent section of the Merced to refill my water. Some guy said he saw a bear on the other side of the river and so he went over to LYV CG to gather as many people as possible to bring back and gawk. Well the bear never appeared but seeing all those people made me realize quickly I didn't want to sleep anywhere near here. I took another look at my permit and noticed it said "you must get to LYV before camping". So that's what I did and I took off up the trail. I ended up spending the first night about 5 miles beyond LYV, on a ridge with nice views of Half Dome. There were a few annoying mosquitoes out while I set up my tent. Little did know just how bad the mosquito situation would get in the succeeding days... I was low on water so I skipped dinner. Had cell phone reception and was able to call home.

Day 2, Monday June 30th, 27 miles:
Up at 5:30 and on trail by 6. Ate breakfast (a Larabar) and then brushed my teeth while walking. This would be the reoccurring theme for the week. Passed by Long Meadow and then Cathedral Lakes. Some guy asked me to join him for a trip to Merced Lake. No thanks, I got too much trail to cover. Started seeing a lot more people and then began hearing traffic noise. I must be near Tuolumne Meadows.

I stopped at Tuolumne Meadows Store and Grill. There was quite a crowd of tourists and hikers hanging out. Bought a few Gatorades and 2 cheeseburgers. Burgers were good but I was pretty hungry so that may have clouded my judgment. I took a long break here from the mid-day sun, just doing a lot of people watching. On the way back to the trail, I stopped by the restroom to help conserve my limited supply of toilet paper.

Lyell Fork is a long, flat, wide open creek/meadow-deal. It took a while to get through this area. Supposedly this is a hot spot for bears, but not today. I was heading for Donahue Pass and I could see and hear thunder clouds approaching right over the pass. Hopefully they would pass before I got there. And they mostly did. The clouds gave a welcome break from the searing sun. Made it over 11,073' Donahue Pass without much trouble, I must be acclimating well to the elevation. I camped about a mile past Donahue on a granite slab surrounded by marsh. The mosquitoes became more prevalent this evening. Had cell reception so I was able to check in with my wife. Feels comforting to hear her familiar voice before bed. Had Mountain House Rice & Chicken for dinner.

Day 3, Tuesday July 1st, 29 miles:
Woke up to a cool morning, about 40 degrees. On trail by 5:45. Passed by lots of still-sleeping campers, especially near Rush Creek and Island Pass. This is a popular camping area. Most camp right next to the trail. It amazes me how late people get started in the morning, they're all missing the early morning light bouncing of the peaks! Some were still in bed at 9am! Island Pass went by quickly. On to the greatly anticipated Thousand Island Lake! Thousand was awesome but a large and very noise group camped along the shore spoiled it slightly. Ruby Lake became one of my favorites. I like the enclosed, quiet feeling of it. On to another big highlight of the trip: Shadow Creek. I love these high-flow, fast moving, steep creeks!

On the narrow, steep switchbacks leading up to Rosalie Lake, I met head to head with a growling, off leash dog. I picked up a large rock as my only defense. Along comes the owner: "He's friendly." Really? Could have fooled me. I long to be back in a national park where dogs aren't allowed on trails.

Devil's Postpile National Monument was a bit of a slog. Deep sand on the trail, little shade, and a fiery sun beating down on me weren't much fun. Also there was no shortage of horse droppings blanketing the trail. I would call this the low point of the trip. I was happy to find Reds Meadow store still open at 5pm. Got some more Gatorade and then a cheeseburger with fruit salad at the restaurant. After Reds I took a shortcut trail back to the JMT. After a while I expected to see a JMT sign or a merging trail but saw nothing. Up ahead I see a rugged looking forest service worker carrying a shovel and a hand saw. This guy looks like Grizzly Adams' grandfather. Surely he knows if I am on the right trail. "Hello sir, is this the JMT" I asked sheepishly. "I don't know, this is my first day here" he replies. You gotta be kidding me? Further up I ran into a northbound hiker. I ask him the same and he just laughs. Ok, I'll figure it out myself. One thing I do figured out is all the northbound hikers are doing the PCT, all have epic beards (and the women have hairy legs), and only about half are friendly or will give ascending hikers the right of way.

The Pacific Crest Trail runs about 2600 miles from Mexico to Canada. Most hike it northbound in about 5-6 months. And most have already started a couple of months ago. I would pass a PCT hiker just about every hour. Coming in December, look for Reese Witherspoon playing an over-sexed drug addict who embarks on a PCT journey in Wild.

I find camp about half way between Deer Creek and Duck Lake. This is also known as the driest section of trail, with about 6 miles between water sources. I do spot a very slight creek running into a dank pocket of water but the whole place is chocked with poisonous Corn Lilies. Fortunately I have enough water. The ground is steep above and below the trail but I'm able to find a flat spot built up behind a fallen tree to set up my bivy. The mosquitoes welcome me with open arms. For dinner, Mountain House Spaghetti & Meat Sauce mixed with a dry cheddar cheese packet from Annie's mac & cheese. Not bad, might try that again.

Day 4, Wednesday July 2nd, 31 miles:
Another early morning. Lots of people camped next to the creek flowing from Duck Lake. I stop at Virginia Lake to fill up my water and clean up a bit. I try to get all my water from either the larger lakes or from a high flowing creek. I find a hiking shoe on the Virginia Lake bridge. How do you leave behind one shoe? I drop down the long switchbacks into Tully Hole and begin the trek along Fish Creek. Another awesome creek with breathtaking waterfalls! The mosquitoes continue to build up their force. No more extended breaks for me. All breaks must be one minute or less, they demand. Silver Pass (10,900') gets checked off.

The climb up from Mono Creek to Bear Ridge is supposed to be 2,000' but feels 10 times that. These are the longest, most unrelenting switchbacks I have ever experienced. I hope to get a view of Lake Edison from Bear Ridge but the trees prevent it. I also make what would be the last phone call to my wife on top of BR. After this I would have no more cell reception and would communicate with her by Delorme inReach instead.

I reach Bear Creek and find myself at ground zero of the mosquito territory. I need water but get absolutely swarmed with those bastards. It's painful but necessary. I learn exactly how long each bite will itch for. I meet up with a German? PCT hiker. He has an interesting bug shelter and is dressed from head to toe in nylon. Must be steamy by the creek. We are completely covered with mozzies as we talk for just a few minutes. I have on my wind breaker for protection even though it's a warm and humid evening. They bite right through my double layers. Camp is found on a granite slab about 500' feet from the creek. I set up in record time. Mountain House Pasta Primavera for dinner. Meh. Egads! The mosquitoes find a way in between where the two zipper pulls meet! I send these kamikaze pilots to an early grave and then seal up the zipper with duct tape. After laying on my mattress for about a half hour, I noticed I was now feeling the granite slab under me. Damn! My mattress has a hole! Not able to find it while inside the bivy and not wanting to go outside and fight the mosquitoes to find a softer campsite, I suffer through a near sleepless night.


Day 5, Thursday July 3rd, 27 miles:
Wasn't able to get much sleep so the mosquitoes and I packed up early and hit the trail. Almost immediately we have to make a wet crossing of Bear Creek. Fortunately the creek is only ankle-deep but that cold water sure wakes me up quick. Later, I stopped at Marie Lakes and dunked my mattress into the water to find the leak. Found it and made a mental note of the location so I could tape it up later tonight. Hopefully tonight I'll get some much needed sleep. Selden Pass was a breeze at 10,880'.

I ran into a Sierra NF ranger on the way down to Muir Trail Ranch. We had a nice conversation, mostly about the mosquitoes. He then checked my permit. This would be the only time a ranger asked to see my permit during the entire trip. Muir Trail Ranch is a private ranch located just off the JMT near mile 108 (north to south). They offer resupply services for hikers and riders. They also have cabins and mules for rent. They have a very small store with a few supplies but no food. MTR is one of four popular resupply points for JMT hikers. The others being: Tuolumne Meadows, Reds Meadow, and Vermillion Valley Ranch. MTR is last one you'll pass if you're one of the 90% of JMT hikers that are hiking north to south.

I got to MTR and picked up my resupply bucket that I had sent to them 3 weeks prior. The cost for them to pick up the bucket from the nearest post office and hold it for me was $65. Add to that the USPS postage and this gets expensive. I hadn't been eating much and had so much food left over that I probably could have skipped the resupply. I did need some more freeze-dried dinners though. And it was nice to change into some fresh, clean socks. I ended up shipping most of the food back home. Cost was $27 to ship in a priority mail box. I would have just donated the extra food but I had some other items I didn't need and wanted to ship home. The value of the food was probably about $27 so it ended up being a wash. Don't ask me why MTR requires you to ship stuff to them in a 5-gallon bucket yet you can ship stuff out from there in a cardboard box. Anyways, others donate their extra food and it's put into buckets that anyone can take from. It's usually Pacific Crest Trail hikers that raid the buckets. The buckets contain everything from prepackaged food to home-made food, clothing, batteries, fuel, gear, etc... When I was there a couple was receiving 2 buckets of food (mostly REI-type stuff, Mountain House, Probars, etc...) but they were ending their trip early so they donating everything. There were some very happy PCT hikers that day! They broke out their stoves and immediately started cooking!

After leaving MTR, the temps seamed to soar. Not like AZ of course but the intense sun made it seam brutal. I passed over the San Joaquin River via a bridge and entered Kings Canyon National Park. The SJ was really awesome! Huge water flow and so many amazing waterfalls. Saw a NPS ranger and we exchanges hellos. Fast forward to Evolution Creek, this would be the second of two water crossing on this trip (and the deepest) requiring me to get wet. There is a sign at the crossing stating that if the creek is too high to cross, one can take an alternate trail about a half mile up creek and cross at a meadow. Not knowing whether it was higher than normal or not, I opted to check out the meadow. It was almost exactly the same. I just kept my sneakers and socks on and forded the knee deep water. My sneakers remained wet for the remainder of the day and my feet became itchy and uncomfortable. Looking back, I should have removed my footwear as the creek bottom was mostly soft sand.

I follow along Evolution Creek for quite a ways, passing the ranger cabin at McClure Meadow. I may have found some wild onions alongside the trail. I'm not brave enough to try them. By evening I am making the steep climb up to Evolution Lake where I'll spend the night. My campsites get higher and higher as this one is at 10,800'. The mosquitoes give me a slight break, sending just a few 3rd stringers out to say hi. MH Rice & Chicken with dry mixed vegetables for dinner, one of my favorites.

Day 6, Friday July 4th, 31 miles:
Knocked out 2 big passes today. Muir Pass (11,955') and Mather Pass (12,080'). Feeling more confident that I may finish this by Sunday or Monday! I was excited to get up to Muir Pass so I could check out the stone hut on top but when I arrive I find a group camped inside. They're all smoking weed, as if they weren't high enough. As I drop down into Le Conte Canyon, I discover the infamous shark rock! Smile, you son of a bitch! I take an extended break at North Fork Kings River to do some laundry. Mather Pass is a long climb up from Palisade Creek and I topped out with just about an hour of daylight left. I hoof it down the tundra to seek out a suitable camp, still above tree line but not so high I can't breathe. Another Granite slab, the best surface to avoid condensation in the morning. MH Mexican Rice & Chicken with added mixed vegetables for dinner. Very good! My new favorite?

Day 7, Saturday July 5th, 32 miles:
I visit Pinchot Pass (12,100') early in the day and run into some southbound JMT hikers. We are a rarity in these parts. After Pinchot, I drop down into Woods Creek as the temperature climbs. The creeks are still too cold to jump fully in so I took a "bandana" shower today and rinsed my clothes out in a creek. Feeling fresh now! At the intersection of Woods and South Baxter Creeks, I meet the whacky suspension bridge. This thing is fun! It looks stable at first but as you cross, the bridge bounces up and down and sways side to side. On top of that, some of the slats are missing or loose so you have to watch every step. The trail along Baxter becomes a slog as all I can think about is fresh fruit and not what I am carrying in my bear canister.

Fortunately the trail levels out for a while and I get some welcome overcast clouds. The walk through Arrowhead and Rae lakes is pleasant but soon ends when the steep climb up to Glen Pass (11,978') rears its ugly head. After Glen I drop back down to Bubbs Creek at 9515'. Up and down is the theme of this hike. I pass through Vidette Meadows which is a popular area for campers, and thus bears. I don't want to camp here so I try to pick up the pace as best I can.

I continue climbing up along Bubbs Creek and past tree line. It's 15 minutes after sunset and I need to find a spot soon but the trail is the only flat land around. I round a corner and luckily find a huge, unoccupied camp. It has multiple level spots for me to choose from and is just a short walk to a feeder creek for Bubbs. This will do. I quickly set up camp as darkness sets in and then wash my feet and legs in the freezing creek as the mozzies get a quick snack. This will be my highest camp at 11,200'. MH Mac & Cheese for dinner. Ok but at least it gives me 950 calories.

Day 8, Sunday July 6th, 35 miles:
I got up early today and was moving by 5:40. I need to get Forester Pass and Whitney done today so I can go home! This has been a long trip!

At 12,000' I'm still breathing easy. My lungs sip o2 like a Prius sips gas. I feel invincible. I top Forester and am at the highest elevation I've ever been, 13,180'. Forester Pass comes and goes but I notice lots of clouds moving in from all directions. Will this be my first rain day? How will my cheap plastic poncho hold up? I high-tail it across the tundra below Forester and rain starts sprinkling. The cool air feels good and I'm moving faster than any of the previous days. Good thing too because this will be my highest mileage day if I want to finish.

I drop down into Wallace Creek at 10,400'. This is going to be a major effort to get up to Whitney at 14,495'. As I get closer to Guitar Lake, the weather starts getting worse. The wind is picking up considerably and the rain is spitting harder. I pass several guys who will be terminating their summit bid at Guitar for fear of lightning on Whitney. Many are setting up camp, and it's only 1pm. The clouds over Whitney are dark and ominous. But a blue spot appears over what may be Trail Crest. I continue on cautiously. I meet another group who is coming down from Trail Crest. They inform me that the rangers have instructed everyone to get off the mountain due to lightning danger. The fear builds but so does the blue spot. I continue on. By now I'm determined to just get over Trail Crest so I can descend down into Whitney Portal. Whitney will have to be done another time. I'm disappointed but determined to finish today. As I reach Trail Crest (13,650') on this usually busy but now deserted trail, the clouds indeed were clearing over me but were building again over Whitney. I made the right decision to avoid the summit. I cruised down the many switchbacks from Trail Crest and passed through a bustling Trail Camp. I suppose many were waiting for the weather to break or maybe just acclimating for a summit bid tomorrow. The trail down to Lone Pine Lake is steep and rocky and my knees and feet have had all they could take. This needs to end soon! I swear this is the worst trail I've ever been on (it's not)!

I stopped by the small restaurant and store at Whitney Portal and got a cheeseburger and fries. Not the best I ever had but luckily I was hungry. Rested for a bit and then started out for the long 9 mile walk down to the town of Lone Pine, hoping I wouldn't have to walk long before someone would pick me up. Well I guess I had that scary no-shower-in-eight-days look about me because it took about 5 miles and many passing cars before I got a ride. A nice couple who happened to live in Lone Pine picked me up. Just in time too, my feet were so sore. I would need to get on the Eastern Sierra Transit bus heading north to Mammoth to pick up my truck but the next bus was the following morning at 6:15am. I got a room at Portal Motel in the center of town and took the most satisfying and needed shower of my life! Think the shower scene from Silkwood.

Overall it was a good trip with awesome scenery and an endless number of lakes, creeks and water falls. I just wish I could have completed the final trek to Whitney. Also the mosquitoes and intense mid-day sun sucked out a lot of the enjoyment. It was also way more physically and mentally difficult than I was expecting. Mid-week, when I was less than half-way, just knowing I would be hiking from sun up to sun down for the next 4 or 5 days was very mentally draining. I'm glad I stuck it out though.

Distance is based on the Tom Harrison maps stating 220.4 miles from Happy Isles to Whitney Portal. My distance excludes the 3.8 mile round trip to Whitney Summit from Trail Crest and includes about 5 miles on Whitney Portal Road until I got a ride. Elevation gain is based on various internet sources stating anywhere from 46k to 48k AEG, hiking north to south. I'll split the difference and call it 47k, minus 900' for not going all the way up to Whitney from Trail Crest at 13,600'. I didn't keep track of my water usage but it was probably something like 3-4 liters per day. I took over 950 pictures throughout the week so I'll see if I can narrow them down to 15 or so.

As for signage, most of the trail junctions have signs posted but not all of them say JMT. The national parks seem to be better at labeling JMT signs than the national forests. I don't think a GPS is necessary but I would definitely recommend a set of maps. I don't think the JMT is an official trail so it gets sporadic signage.

Wildlife was somewhat rare during my trek. I usually saw about 2-3 deer per day and a few marmots per day at higher elevations. Lots of chipmunks and just one lizard and one prairie dog. I saw no bear scat or bear prints at all. I'm not so sure bears are as common here as the land managers lead you to believe.

When I got home I was happy to see I only lost about 6 lbs. I thought I would lose more due to only eating 1800 calories per day.


Gear
Shelter: I used a Nemo GoGo Elite (24.5oz) which is a hybrid tent/bivy. This wouldn't have been bad if not for the mosquitoes. Having to dress, eat, pack and do everything else inside when I didn't have enough room to sit was difficult to say the least. This was the first trip (and probably the last) I've used it on.

Sleeping bag: I brought my Western Mountaineering Highlite (16.5oz) bag which I've had for a few years. It's rated down to 35 degrees. This worked out well as it only got down to 40 and some nights I had to keep it unzipped.

Pad: I picked up a REI Flash pad (16.8oz) right before the trip and didn't get to test it beforehand. Luckily it worked out well, well until it got a hole. It's comfortable, kept me insulated from the ground, and is easy to inflate and deflate. I don't know if I can complain about its durability as something sharp in my pack may have abraded it, causing the hole.

Pack: Osprey Exos 38. This was the perfect size pack for my gear. It's reasonably comfortable with a 25 lbs load and my back stayed well ventilated with the trampoline back panel. The load stayed on my hips as long as I kept the hipbelt tight, which needed to be adjusted quite often. That's my only complaint is that the straps don't hold their tension for long.

Food protection: Last year I bought a Bare Boxer (26.3oz) bear canister. This is the smallest and lightest on Yosemite's approved list. I was able to stuff about 4 days' worth of food in it as long as I brought calorically-dense food.

Footwear: Upon recommendation by Johnlp, I picked a pair of Brooks Cascadia 8. They felt great for the first 3 days and then I started getting blisters. Probably inevitable no matter what shoe. Still the best trail shoe I've tried so far. Thanks, John!
131.57 mi • 30,022 ft aeg
John Muir Trail to Piute Pass
So a lot went down on the trip. Basically the JMT was a dream at first and then the smoke moved in from the Aspen Fire. It got very heavy and was ruining my trip. I set a hard pace averaging around 19 miles per day. It was too much for my ankle and I ended up straining it on day 5. I continued on for another two days but it only got worse and I had no choice but to bail. I hiked out Piute Pass and met two fishermen that drove me back to my jeep. They were both a lot of fun!

Here is my trip report by day. Enjoy and message me if you have any questions about the John Muir Trail. I highly recommend the hike. It will change your life!


Day 1 - July 21 - 13.41 Miles, 6,735 AEG
My trip is off and running! I started from the Half Dome parking area around 7:30am. Chumley, Larry and Haley saw me off. Thanks for the help with the shuttle! My plan is to hike the 220+ miles to Mount Whitney over the next two weeks. My jeep is waiting for me at Whitney Portal.

The start of my hike was uneventful. I followed the JMT up and passed Nevada Falls. I’ve been to this area several times before so I cruised on through. I continued to the Half Dome junction and then headed east and took my first break at Sunrise Creek. The water was flowing cool and clear. During my break a group of a dozen people from Sacramento joined me. We chatted and they shared some food with me. They were good company.

I continued my solo hike on the JMT and followed the trail up and up. I was planning on pushing all the way to Sunrise High Sierra Camp which is over 6,000 ft of gain from Yosemite Valley. Along the hike up I took another break next to a creek at roughly the 10 mile mark. I still had another 1,000 ft of elevation to gain before the camp. I was running low on energy. After my break I continued and started following switchbacks up. During this ascent some rain started falling and got heavier. I stopped and busted out my rain coat and pack cover. I geared up and continued in relative comfort as the rain increased. Within an hour the rain stopped and I then reached the camp. I was done for the day and picked out a site that was close to potable water and a bear locker. My site had a fire ring but the area was too wet to start a fire. I turned in early after eating dinner and writing this journal. It was a good and exhausting day. Day two will be much easier.

Day 2 - July 22 - 20.68 Miles, 2,560 AEG
I woke around 7am and had coffee and oatmeal. I had a good night’s sleep and I feel strong! I plan on hiking 20 miles to the base of Donahue Pass. I want to stop in Tuolumne Meadow at the grille and then pass through Lyell Canyon. Most of this hiking is flat and I should make good time.

I started my hike and made my way to Cathedral Pass. The view of Cathedral Peak and Cathedral Lake is just awesome! I continued as the trail drops in elevation on the way to Tuolumne Meadow. Along the way I hiked with an Ian from Sacramento. He was a lot of fun. We parted ways at the grille where I had a breakfast sandwich. It was too early for lunch. From there I headed towards Lyell Canyon. About two miles in a ranger stopped me to check my permit. I continued and rain started falling again. Once again I busted out my rain coat and pack cover. From there I did a mixture of hiking and stopping when the rain got heavy. Eventually the rain died down and I started the climb towards Donahue Pass. Along the way I talked to some North Bound (NOBO) hikers and they said there is a great camping area up ahead. I pushed on and reached the camp situated next to a river with a bridge over it. I thought about going over Donahue Pass but decided to wait until the morning.

This was a hell of a day! I feel like I really hit my stride today as I hiked over 20 miles. I feel very confident on this hike. Too confident in fact.

Day 3 - July 23 - 17.81 Miles, 4,212 AEG
It started raining last night around 9pm and continued for a few hours. I woke this morning to dry weather but the clouds look ominous so I quickly packed up camp and started the hike across Donahue Pass. My plan was a 17 mile day and I would camp somewhere in the Minarets near Thousand Island Lake or Garnett Lake.

I started the climb towards the pass and a lite rain started falling. Once again I put on my rain coat and pack cover. I do not have rain pants and I never missed them. The hike to the pass includes numerous switchbacks and lots of water. This area is truly breathtaking. I wish I could take my time but the clouds and rain are making me nervous so I continue. After much effort I reached Donahue Pass where I took a few pics and then started down the south side. I did not like the weather and wanted to get to lower elevation right away.

I was now in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. This area is very rocky and lush with lots of small ponds and creeks. Most of the vegetation is brown after a dry summer. Today the area was soaked from the rain. I continued my trek and passed over Island Pass which is unmarked. As I continued I could see Banner and Ritter Peaks to the south. I would pass near those two and what a treat that would be. They are spectacular! I continued and headed toward Thousand Island Lake. The JMT skirts next to it and the views are once again jaw dropping! I could spend days in this area!

Next up was Garnett Lake and I took an extended break there. The lake sits below Banner and Ritter and what a site it is! I soaked my feet in the cold water as I ate my lunch and reflected on the past few days. The JMT was everything I hoped it would be. I’m in heaven! I hiked a few more miles and called it a day at Gladys Lake. There was no one else around and Gladys sits next to a deep valley. I could see Mammoth off in the distance and I had cell signal. I sent off a few texts letting people know I was okay. Afterward I had dinner and turned in for the night. After I laid down I heard a pack of coyotes howl. They were very close and it was a little unnerving. I had to remind myself they wouldn’t bother me. I was asleep soon after.

Day 4 - July 24 - 20.29 Miles, 3,666 AEG
The start of Day 4 was a little concerning for me. Smoke moved in during the night. I had no idea where it was coming from. I had my breakfast and coffee and started the hike towards Reds Meadow near Mammoth. I planned on taking a break there and would treat myself to a cheeseburger and fries. I would also charge up my phone and camera. I planned on camping south of Reds Meadow.

I started the descent down the JMT and the smoke grew heavier. After a couple of hours I passed a NOBO hiker and he said the fire is to the west and the smoke is drifting in. The JMT is open! I continued hiking and passed through The Devils Postpile which was choked in with smoke. I continued and stopped at Reds Meadow where I ate a burger and downed several glasses of soda. The burger was good but upset my stomach. During my break I charged my electronics and once again made contact with people back in the world.

After Reds Meadow I continued hiking and cruised up the trail that once again was gaining elevation. My belly was full and I was highly caffeinated and made good time. I slowed after five miles and my energy crashed as I continued. I eventually reached Duck Creek where I found a small campsite situated next to the creek. There was a family hanging out nearby. I struck up a conversation with them. They were spending eight days along the JMT and had several kids with them that ranged in age from 8-12. They had a ton of food and shared quite a bit with me. They turned me on to chocolate covered espresso beans which were amazing!

I turned in for the night as soon as it got dark. I was exhausted from the long day. My plan for the next day is to hike over Silver Pass and then camp near the junction with the Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR). I’m 50-50 on heading to the resort. We’ll see.

Day 5 - July 25 - 17.82 Miles, 3,329 AEG
The morning started off clear. I said goodbye to my neighbors and started my day. I passed Purple Lake in roughly an hour. It was another beautiful lake! There was a group of eight starting their day as I passed. I continued and started gaining elevation as I approached Silver Pass. Along the way I passed Squaw Lake. It sits at roughly 10,500 ft and is just stunning! I noticed over in a far corner a group of “active adults” skinny dipping. Needless to say I kept my distance.

I carried on and soon after I topped out on Silver Pass. You actually hike above the pass and then drop down to the actual pass. Once I was on the south side of the pass I stopped for lunch which would be cut short due to more rain moving in. Once again I put on my rain coat and pack cover and started making my way downhill. As I was hiking downhill I felt a slight tweak in my ankle. I didn’t think much of it. The smoke also returned and grew very heavy and ruined my views. I talked to two NOBO hikers and they said there wasn’t any smoke on the south side of Seldon Pass but that was two days ago.

I continued on and arrived at the junction with VVR. The smoke was extremely heavy in this area. I wanted to go over to the resort but figured the smoke might be heavier because it was closer to the fire. I settled in for the night and had oatmeal and trail mix for dinner. Such is life on the JMT.

Day 6 - July 26 - 21.26 Miles, 4,712 AEG
I woke early and started hiking right away. I wanted to get away from the smoke which was a little better this morning. From the VVR junction, there is a hardy climb of 2,000 ft in less than four miles. I made my way up as I ate espresso beans I got from my neighbors a few days earlier. The climb up wasn’t too bad.

The JMT levels off for a bit and then starts a modest descent for a few miles. I cruised through this section and then started the climb up to Seldon Pass. I took my time as I made the climb up and stopped for a few short breaks. My ankle was bothering me a bit. I continued on and reached Bear Creek. My feet got a little wet as I crossed this creek. This was the first time I got my feet wet on the hike. It was not a big deal.

With a lot of effort I reached Seldon Pass and took a long break. During that break another SOBO hike named Sean reached the pass. We would hike together for the next few miles.

I finished my day at the Muir Trail Ranch. I arrived right after it closed. I’ll check on my resupply in the morning. I was very glad to be done because my ankle hurts a lot. It’s only getting worse. I set up camp in the backpacker’s camp and enjoyed dinner with a few other backpackers like myself. I really enjoyed their company! I may take a zero day tomorrow. I want to see how my ankle feels in the morning. I’m about halfway done.

Day 7 - July 27 - 16.05 Miles, 4,726 AEG
My day started at the Muir Trail Ranch but would end in a very unlikely place. I started my morning by hobbling over to the ranch to pick up my resupply. I arrived at the ranch and asked for my resupply and patiently waited about ten minutes. Finally the girl comes out and says they have not received my resupply. It turns out the Post Office got my bucket mixed up and it arrived a week later. The good thing about MTR is they have lots of extra food and gave me first dibs on some missed out resupplies. My bucket will eventually be given away to others in my same circumstance. I grabbed a variety of food including snickers and dehydrated meals. I had plenty of food.

I walked back to camp and my ankle was very uncomfortable. Every step hurt and I noticed some swelling. After a lot of soul searching and internal debate I admit my ankle is in bad shape and I cannot complete the JMT. I will need to exit the trail and return to Phoenix. I know I can still hike so I chose a 20 mile route that exits over Piute Pass. This will take me to Bishop and I know I can find a ride to Lone Pine and then back to my jeep at Whitney Portal.

I started hiking around 11am and reached the Piute Bridge and officially left the JMT. At this point I turned to the northeast and followed the trail that runs parallel to Piute Creek. The smoke from the fire was extremely bad today. My hiking up this canyon was very slow and uncomfortable. I took four ibuprofen and took a lot of breaks. The terrain was fairly steep and very rocky. My ankle hurt with each step and I knew there was no way I could have finished the JMT.

It started drizzling around the 12 mile mark. Piute Pass was roughly 3 miles away and the North Lake trailhead was over 7 miles. My goal for the day was to cross Piute Pass and then camp one last night. I continued in the rain and was hiking at roughly 10,000 ft when I saw a flash of lightning. This was very unnerving and I decided to throw my tent down to wait out the storm. I found a flat area nestled in some trees. Right as I started setting up my tent the skies opened and it started pouring! I erected my tent as quickly as possible but everything gets soaked! I get inside my tent with backpack and all and start wiping down the water with my bandannas. I’m cold and wet and it’s pouring outside and the lightning is very close. I see a flash and hear the report 2-3 seconds later. The lightning is close! I sit in my tent for the next 30+ minutes as the storm finally tapers off and moves on. I’m very cold and it’s about 6:15pm. I decided I need to warm up and the best way to do that is to move so I hastily pack up my gear and start hiking for Piute Pass. I know it gets dark around 8:45pm so I have some time.

Once again I’m on the move. I took four more ibuprofen and start moving at an aggressive pace. I’m full of adrenaline. Luckily the skies are clear and the trail is wet but easy to follow. The miles tick by as my adrenaline and energy crash. Within an hour or two the pass comes into site and I struggle the last stretch. Right below the pass there is Summit Lake and I see several different backpacking groups there. This feels very reassuring for me seeing others in the area. By now my body has warmed up and I know I’ll be fine. I crossed Piute Pass at 11,400 ft and then dropped down a few hundred yards on the other side and grabbed the first flat spot I saw. Dusk was setting in as I set my tent back up and finished drying it out with two bandannas. I then got my sleeping bag out and lay down to sleep. Right after closing my eyes I heard a mountain lion roar nearby. I figure I’m on its turf. I made a bunch of loud noises and then played some music on my iPhone’s external speaker. After ten minutes I shut it off and slept!

Day 8 - July 28 - 4.16 Miles, -1,846 AEG
I woke early and had a look around at my surroundings and must say this place is spectacular! I’m surrounded by peaks and high walls. Water is everywhere. It’s quite a sight to behold! I have some breakfast and then pack up my gear. I know this is the last time I’ll do this on this trip. I hope to be home later tonight. My plan is to hike out and then hitch hike back to Lone Pine and Whitney Portal. I know I’ll get there.

I pick up the trail right where I left off last night. I’m heading downhill and there are steps carved into the trail. Each step hurts my ankle. It reaffirms my decision to exit the JMT. I proceed slowly and the sun rises and warms this drainage. I continue and up ahead are two guys fishing. I notice they both have large backpacks and figure they spent the night out here. We strike up a conversation and I tell them of my situation. They are brothers named Jim and Rick. One is from Havasu and the other is from San Diego. They were spending a long weekend fishing in the area. They tell me they are driving south and will drive me to Lone Pine. I was so humbled and gracious they would do this for me.

We spent the rest of the morning together as we discussed healthcare reform, the navy, family and my JMT experiences. We hiked out the last four miles to North Lake and then drove down into Bishop. After a couple of quick stops we headed south on the 395. I texted family and friends to let them know I was coming home early. As we neared Lone Pine Jim asked me where the turn off was for Whitney Portal. I directed him to it and said he could drop me off and I would hitch hike up to my jeep. Jim immediately said “we’re not going to abandon you like that”. This is one of those comments that moved me so much that I will remember it to my final days on this earth. We drove up to WP and it started to rain which was a fitting conclusion to my trip. Once up top they drove me to my jeep and we said our goodbyes. I offered them some gas money but they said to pay it forward. Thanks guys you’ve made a big difference in my life and I will never forget you!


So that ends my JMT journey. I learned a lot about… the wilderness, about slowing things down, about pacing, about people and how wonderful total strangers can be and most importantly I learned a lot about myself. This was one hell of a trip and I will return to finish what I started!
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