JMT Day 22 – June 22, 2012

1 mile past Glen Pass – Onion Valley/Town of Independence

11,000 – 9,200 (+ 845/ – 2,645) –  8.5 miles * Kearsarge Pass

Free Maps Online – Day 22 – Map 4 and 3 (near the top of Map 3, we head East towards Kearsarge Pass)

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

The Valley in Shadow
The Valley in Shadow

Another cold morning. As usual, it warmed up once the shadows passed our position as the sun rose. Part of my routine on the colder mornings, I made some tea (BIG thanks to my friend Maria who turned me on to this lovely non caffeinated beverage) and watched the light hit the valley.

Sunlit Valley
Sunlit Valley

Despite the pending conclusion of our hiking time together, we were all still in pretty good spirits, enjoying the day, the scenery, and admittedly many thoughts of what we would do once we got to TOWN: pizza, beer, salad, showers, hot and cold running electricity to charge up our chargeables, oh the possibilities!

Roads! We can see signs of Onion Valley Campground!
Roads! We can see signs of Onion Valley Campground!

A few miles from camp we left the JMT and hiked over Kearsarge Pass and down into Onion Valley where we planned to hitch into Independence CA and would likely meet Joe’s wife Terry and have access to a car for some re-supply action! But we had been hearing about some good “Trail Magic”.

  • a brief aside, it is called “Bone of Contention” after all. I do not care for the term, “Trail Magic”. I do respect and appreciate “Trail Angels” and find that term apt. Trail “Magic” makes it easy for people to take the efforts involved for granted. “It just appeared, as if by Magic!” No. Someone had to buy/make/find that stuff then drive, hike, and carry it to wherever you encountered it and I feel that referring to it as “Magic” is insufficient. Perhaps “Trail Sacrifice” since that holds more logical and epistemic consistency. “Whoever left this Trail Sacrifice MUST be a Trail Angel!” On with your program, maybe…

A lady Joe knows named…

  • I also generally dislike “Trail Names”. I don’t understand the point and find them at minimum confusing, and often intentionally confrontational. Take my hiking partner Jake. We’ve been buds since 1996. He has been Jason or Jake to me since 1996. Now I gotta remember to call him “Floyd” to not confuse all the folks he is introducing himself to as “Floyd”. This would be the mildly inconvenient/confusing end of the scale. At the other end of the scale one finds names like “Überbitch”. UB is a very kind person. A former hiker spending her summer as a mobile support station for PCT hikers, she moves from spot to spot providing rides to and from town to trail as well as cold drinks (even BEER), food, and other random aid where needed. Why would you want to be called UB? When I asked her this she did not have some funny story about a thing that happened once and well it just stuck ha ha ha. No. She looks me right in the eye and says, “you haven’t seen me angry” and not in a spoofy Bruce Banner imitation kinda way either. She is serious, or thinks she is, and this puts me off in a very big way. I am not in the least frightened, but i do instantly think much less of someone who behaves in this fashion. This causes huge cognitive dissonance in my head because i like UB. She is nice. She is being nice to me at that exact moment, but the thing with choosing, using, and fully accepting such a name, and thrusting it at people – weird. Norma, from Day 17 and 18, hates her trail name. The name does come from a very memorable and amusing story, but she hates the name. So what does she do, she tells me HER FREAKING NAME and that is how i refer to her, Norma.

…UB. She is parked and camped in Onion Valley with food, cold drinks, and is going up and down the mountain into town about once an hour. As we descended from Kearsarge, we got confirmation that she was still in Onion Valley and that was quite a boon to us. None of us are averse to hitchhiking especially in areas and at times known for hikers, like the area around Onion Valley and Independence. But it can be a long wait and not easy to find one ride for three stinky folks and their packs. We are, obviously, not averse to a bit of a walk either, but do bear in mind: Kearsarge – 11,845 ft, Onion Valley – 5 miles away – 9,185 ft, the town of Independence – 13 miles from Onion Valley – 3,925 ft – it is a bit a walk down the hill to town from the trailhead at Onion Valley.

Fox Force Four! Final Pass of 2012.
Fox Force Four! Final Pass of 2012.

We had lovely refreshment at UB’s camp and met many other hikers. Joe called Terry and she was on her way to meet us in Independence. We took the next shuttle down with UB and on the way she told me that Independence and the area surrounding it and the real life battles over water rights, that’s what the movie Chinatown is all about. I have seen Chinatown but when I watch it again it will be much more meaningful. This is one of the beautiful elements of travel – local knowledge. The difference between reading about a subject, a place, a people, and actually interacting with the people and visiting the location, getting to observe and participate in the lives of others cannot be over stated. Not to put down the book learnin’. If you can’t go “there” or meet “them”, definitely read about it.

* This post is already a bit longer than my regular readers prefer, and i think i have had some after effects of discussing cognitive dissonance, so i am going to stop here and break the one entry per day format. The next entry will cover Town: the evening and the next morning, then we should be able to return to one entry per day for the remainder.

JMT Day 21 – June 21, 2012

Woods Creek Junction – 1 mile past Glen Pass

8,492 – 11,000 (+ 3,448/ – 960) –  9.7 miles * Glen Pass

Free Maps Online – Day 21 – Map 4 and 3

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Naked Hiker Day! Or Another Day in Paradise!

We did not get a very early start, but had a pleasant and relaxed morning breaking camp and gearing up. Before hiking out, one of the many budding journalists out on trail wanted to get some tape of Papa Joe talking about hiking and his experience as one of the most well known PCT trail Angels. It was nice to see Papa Joe get that kind of recognition. Joe is a humble man, but there is difference between seeking notoriety and accepting gratitude and acknowledgment.

What a gorgeous day! We talked about this almost every day – that we were running out of words to describe the loveliness we were living in and passing through, but that a failure of human vocabulary did nothing to lessen the impact of being there and soaking it in. Another day of varied terrain, beginning in forest, climbing to meadows dotted with clear blue lakes, and rugged alpine peaks.


We told stories as we walked and enjoyed being together. Knowing that this time in our lives was coming to an end did not yet sully our moods or darken our spirits. This is the day we found a place that Joe had seen as a youngster on a camping trip. Near the Rae Lakes, a boulder stands alone in the middle of the creek. And on this camping trip many years ago, young Joe and his buddies saw naked hippies lounging on the rock and playing in the water. We were not that lucky, but how cool is that to come back to the same spot some length of years later and you can still recognize it! That said, it was naked hiker day and Joe still got a little show.

Beautiful lakes!
Beautiful lakes!

Papa Joe's grin after capturing a surreptitious Casa de Luna Salute!
Who Me?!

(Papa Joe Pic Credit for both above.)

Not long after I finished the coldest swim of my life, we rested, snacked, and enjoyed a lounge in the sun. Then we ran into Hee-Haw! Hee-Haw was an awesome guy and one of the more appreciative of Joe’s hospitality at Casa de Luna. Of course, a guy named Hee-Haw doesn’t go wandering the woods without a travel guitar and he busted it out and played us a tune.

Hee-Haw! (Papa Joe Pic Credit.)

I think Jake got it all recorded on his phone. It took me longer to turn my phone on and get set to record, so I only captured the end, but Hee-Haw was raring to go and it seemed inappropriate, bad feng shui if you will, to ask him to stop and wait for my recording device to be ready.

The rest of the ascent to Glen Pass was amazing. Parts were challenging and we did have a few very small snow fields to contend with, but the views were rewarding.

Nick and Jake fight the good fight in the snow field
Nick and Jake in the snow field. Papa Joe Pic Credit.

We did enjoy some time at the Pass, but it was getting on towards sundown and we wanted to get down somewhere and make camp. We found a nice spot about a mile from the pass and got setup before dark. We cooked, ate, and cleaned up quickly in the cold, and then sat together as long as we could stand it to watch the end of sunset and a beautiful moonrise. Sadly the pictures don’t do it justice, but it was a wonderful tableau for our last night on trail as Fox Force Four!

Fox Force Four on Glenn Pass
Fox Force Four on Glenn Pass

* As i did a quick bit of research and debated adding a link to naked hiker day for the curious, i noticed many sites calling June 20,2012 naked hiker day. I don’t know what the “Authentic” day was, but everyone near us on trail called it the 21st and did their bit of naked hiking on the 21st, so that is when we celebrated it. When in the Sierras…


JMT Day 20 – June 20, 2012

South Fork of Kings River Crossing – Woods Creek Junction

10,040 – 8,492 (+ 2,090/ – 3,638) – miles 11.8  * Pinchot Pass

Free Maps Online – Day 20 – Map 5 and 4

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

It has been almost three months since we left off with the JMT saga. If you need or want a refresher…

The Werewolf of Chevron was gone when we got up. I thought I heard him moving about, so I stayed in my tent, but it turns out that I was hearing Joe. After completing our morning routines, we began the day’s 2,000 foot ascent.

It was a nice climb, spread over about 4 miles and through a few different kinds of terrain. In the morning, we were still in the woods near the Kings River. We climbed into a grassy pocket valley, and found some lovely clear lakes near Pinchot Pass.  The views from the Pass were nice. You could not see the trail ahead quite as clearly as from Mather Pass, but still some beautiful panoramic scenes of high alpine peaks.

Tarn near Pinchot Pass
Tarn near Pinchot Pass

At some point during the day, we met a father/daughter team out for a few days together. The girl was a young teenager and they had been doing hiking trips together for years. We were excited for them both to choose to spend time together and out in these glorious mountains.

Fox Force Shadow (Pappa Joe Pic Credit)
Fox Force Shadow (Papa Joe Pic Credit)

The descent was smooth and afforded some nice views. Mostly I enjoyed the walk, again passing through differing terrains, listening to the creeks the trail paralleled for much of the day, and filling my head with joyful nothing. Near sunset we came to the famous suspension bridge and our second “big crowd” of the trip. There were 6 or 7 groups setup at campsites near the bridge and more came in as night fell. We found a spot for ourselves and scouted about a bit locating a spot for the father/daughter team that we knew would be rolling in soon.  They were grateful for the advance scouting and we even remembered to warn them to be prepared since tomorrow would be the infamous “Naked Hiker Day”!

Jake/Floyd on the Suspension Bridge
Jake/Floyd on the Suspension Bridge

We were all tired and it was starting to get cold again, so we quickly made camp, did our chores and got into our bags for the night.

Next Up: Rae Lakes and Glen Pass

To promote or not promote

Kelly, for you i break internet silence a little bit sooner than i had planned.

My super cool friend had an interesting question come up on her SECOND blog and a proper reply required pictures, so i figured a post was more appropriate than a simple comment.

The story begins here at One Of Those Women.

I don’t generally promote my blog as i put up content far to irregularly to actively encourage followers whom will probably become disenchanted with the spotty flow of stories. But i have had business cards of one sort or another since 2001 and i L O V E them.

Initially i felt a little strange because they say stuff like “CEO”, “Senior Partner”, “Owner” and other kinds of pretentious things. But, the value of not having to use my terrible handwriting to relay info or spell my name, email address, and website data over and over – irreplaceable!

And i am Card crazy. I have a few in my wallet for those everyday needs.

I have a fancy-ish brown case i use for Suit and Tie gigs and a simpler black case that i keep in my car – along with a baggie of cards for re-fills.


On a slightly related note, i just discovered this app for turning your iPhone into a card scanner. It works great, better than my old stand alone biz card scanner, saves directly into the native Mac address book, and is super cheap when compared to the several hundred dollar stand alone models.


I am not sure about finding cooler looking containers for less stuffy occasions than the suit and tie crowd, but i usually find these in the men’s section of large department stores or luggage stores.

(Notice how i am shamelessly cross-promoting both of our blogs?)

I liked your answer and approach to the question and think you are right on the money. At the same time, you write good stuff, and often. Outside of kid related affairs, i’d say promote the peanuts out of that site and your bad self.

As for me – i should be pumping out some updates this week and resume and conclude the John Muir Saga as well. I intend to briefly go over some of the post JMT events at Casa de Luna, the never ending drive back across the country, and a few events back in a little town in South East PA.

Brief Interlude

I apologize for the delay in concluding the JMT posts.

Chickens in Sandston VA
Chickens in Sandston VA

I have returned to a little town in South East PA where my folks and my mail live and have a long list of chores to get sorted.

I still have Jun with me, probably until Saturday night.

And, back in the JMT story, we are coming up on the end of two things – hiking with Pappa Joe and the end of the JMT.

I don’t know if it is unusual or not, but it is almost as hard to write about those two endings as it was to live through them the first time around.

I won’t leave you hanging too long, and i will throw you a bone…

N: “The werewolf doesn’t get us.”

JS: “What?”

N: “We boys don’t get eaten by the werewolf.”

JS: “What’d you go and tell me that for?”

N: “Well, you looked nervous…”

– –

Cows in Sandston VA
Cows in Sandston VA

More soon.


JMT Day 19 – June 19, 2012

Lower Palisade Lake – South Fork of Kings River Crossing

10,615 – 10,040 (+ 1,485/ – 2,060) – 9.3 miles  * Mather Pass

Free Maps Online – Day 19 – Map 6 and 5

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Morning was also still a little cold up high by the mountain lakes. We lazed about as Busted Magic got ready to split for Northern territory. Sanjay was taking a zero so he was mellow and just hanging out with us as we slowly packed up camp. Suddenly a fellow came around the corner. This was beautiful to witness. He saw and started to recognize Joe, just as Jake/Floyd was recognizing him and he turned and saw Jake and there was quite a reunion. It was High Life! Jake has met High Life on the AT two or three times over the years. I have heard many High Life stories – none of which I will be sharing here. Truthfully, I don’t remember many of them. (Jake has a lot of AT stories.) And the ones I do remember are not really for this forum. But it was cool to watch the reunion and to meet High Life and get some pictures.

The rest of the ascent to Mather Pass was breathtaking, but the views from the top are indescribable. This was the first time that we could clearly see the trail going off for over a mile and could also pick out where we would walk through the next valley and up into the next series of peaks. Truly awesome.

The descent went well and quickly and soon we were back in tree cover, down in a valley, and searching for a camp. We found a great place that could have fit at least 40 tents. After we were set up and starting dinner, a fellow approached and camped with us. I won’t describe too much of our visit with him. He was a weird guy, having an odd hike, and he had a few strange habits. He had done a re-supply at the Chevron in the town of Independence – the town we would hike to for our resupply in a few days. He made the weirdest meal I have ever even heard of – Ramen and Doritos. He heated the water, put the ramen inside his Doritos bag, and then added the water and let it sit. A few minutes later, he had what looked kinda like a cross between a burrito and a loaf of bread, made entirely of Doritos and Ramen Noodles. Weird.

After he left early the next morning, we named him “The Werewolf of Chevron” and sung many a verse we made up to the tune of Werewolves of London.

“He’s a hairy handed gent, who doesn’t use a tent. Lately he’s been overheard in High Ridge.” “You better stay away from him, he’ll steal your last slim jim, and he kinda smells like pee-pee.” There were many more, but you get the idea. (Kelly, I was totally remembering “Cross-Eyed Baby” from the one day I took you to Church!)

We slept well and long. I had been planning to leave my rainfly off and enjoy the trees and sky through the mesh of my tent, but the Werewolf creeped me out enough that I put it on for some privacy. Even Joe erected the tarp that night – though that could have had more to do with protection from mosquitoes than the Werewolf…

JMT Day 18 – June 18, 2012

Le Conte Ranger Station – Lower Palisade Lake

8,720 – 10,615 (+ 1,895) – 10.3 miles

Free Maps Online – Day 18 – Map 7 and 6

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

We had a nice breakfast with Norma, Marty, and Dewey. As we cleaned up the kitchen and started to break camp, the boys were getting ready to start work on the cabin for the day. Joe used to both build and sell log cabins and was familiar with the process. I love all forms of construction and was interested to see how the thing was made.

Marty explained some of the process to us. This was the second of three planned new Ranger Stations he would build. They learned quite a bit on the first one and the second was going together quickly. We helped move a log, set it in place, and hammer it home. Norma was a camera wizard and took many pictures with three different cameras! Joe received an old hard hat as a memento. Jake found more horseshoes and left Le Conte carrying three. (That guy carries a ton of stuff!)

Then Norma called us over to the kitchen and filled our food sacks! We all got some extra dinners and tons of snack foods. I got a fresh supply of duct tape to keep my feet blister free and Norma gave me some moleskin! Norma topped off our powdered gatorade supply and added some other flavored juice drinks as well. I had very little to share, but I did leave Norma one of my favorite naturally non-caffeinated teas.

It is difficult to recreate how much we shared in that short time and how close we all became. I got to spend a few hours talking with Norma and we bonded over many things. Getting to hear part of her life story was interesting and inspiring. I have been in touch with Norma and Marty and imagine that we will keep in touch – now friends for life. I also bonded with Dewey and hope to reunite with him one day. He spends most every winter in South America and is looking to buy property in Ecuador. I hope to do a South America trip one day and would love to get to see Dewey in Ecuador!

Eventually, the time came and we had to move along. We were sad to leave, but happy to be back on the trail. The rest of the descent was enjoyable, and eventually we started to climb again on our way to The Golden Staircase! This was the last section of the John Muir Trail to be constructed and it is an admirable feat of engineering. But it is also a long climb. I stayed out front and reached the summit first and then started hunting for a campsite near the lower Palisade lake. This was the first time we were going to camp near many folks, and was actually the most crowded area for us on the whole trip. The pickings were slim, but I found an area that would work – though it was far from ideal. When Pappa Joe and Jake joined me, of course we found folks that Joe knew well and set-up near them. Sanjay and Busted Magic.

It got cold quickly and we ate dinner fast and settled into our tents. This was one of the few times that Joe set up his tarp tent instead of cowboy camping. You needed something to help trap your body heat and block the wind!

Up Next: Morning brings a Surprise Guest! We reach a new sort of terrain and different vista than we have seen thus far…

JMT Day 17 – June 17, 2012

Halfway between Muir Pass and Le Conte Ranger Station – Le Conte Ranger Station

10,200 – 8,720 (- 1,480) – 4 miles

Free Maps Online – Day 17 – Map 7

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

We continued down the mountain and made it into Le Conte Ranger Station – and YES there was trail magic. Marty and Norma were the two past PCT hikers that Joe knew who were also running this Ranger Station Construction Project.

They had quite a large crew for the previous week as supplies and cabin pieces were helicoptered in to the work site. There was a new food shipment set to arrive Tuesday and they had loads of food left over. Knowing what distance hiking is like, they opened their camp to the hikers for the weekend. Quesadillas, salads, Gatorade, and good companionship.

We liked Norma and Marty right off, and we also met one of the other construction crew workers, Dewey. Those three folks were very welcoming, interested in hearing about this year’s hiker experience, and sharing information about the area, the construction project, and much more.

Norma had a hand washing station set-up with A NAIL BRUSH!! My hands were never as clean as the time we spent at Le Conte. I jumped behind the counter with Norma and helped make salads and chop things for quesadillas. Many groups of hikers came through during the day and we spent time with them and helped feed them all. Norma and Marty invited the three of us to stay the night, have dinner, a nice breakfast and move on the next day.

Marty knew quite a bit about the local history and shared stories of planes found in nearby glaciers and disappearing rangers. We ate and talked around the fire for a few hours and everyone retired for a very peaceful sleep.

Stay Tuned: these three slow moving hikers receive many boons from Norma!

JMT Day 16 – June 16, 2012

the end of Evolution Valley – Halfway between Muir Pass and Le Conte Ranger Station

10,200 – 10,200 (+ 1,780/ – 1,780) – 11.5 miles  * Muir Pass

Free Maps Online – Day 16 – Map 8 and 7

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Today we finished at camp quickly and headed up the final set of switchbacks into Evolution Basin and some astounding views.

It was so lovely up there, we stopped next to one lake for more than an hour, soaking up the sun, enjoying the vistas, and relaxing on the grass.

The climb up to Muir Pass felt very long, and we could not figure out where the pass and the hut were located. As our spirits were taking a very small downward turn, we met another awesome trail worker named Diego who stopped to chat with us for ten minutes or so. First, he pointed out where Muir Pass was located and we could see the top of the roof! It was much closer than we imagined. Next we talked about baseball and LA a bit and shared some snacks. We got the impression that Diego was not necessarily supposed to share snacks with us, but we were very grateful that he did – dried sliced Mangos, a few pieces of fresh fruit, pop-tarts, and some trail mix. Yum! Diego also confirmed a rumor we had been hearing all day – Trail Magic at the Le Conte Ranger Station. Diego was coming from there and verified that two former PCT hikers that Joe knew were running a construction project there and were feeding hikers this weekend (it was Saturday, with Father’s Day coming in the morning). We parted company with Diego in much better spirits.

But we still had some descending to do before we could make camp. Descending from Muir was challenging. Like most of the passes, I am sure it was worse in bigger snow years, but for our descent, we were facing challenges brought on by melted snow. As water tends to do, the snow melt formed into small creeks and rivers seeking the path of least resistance downhill, which happened to be the trail we were trying to walk. We spent a few hours carefully negotiating a way around the water and down the mountain near to the path. We made it about 4 miles from the pass before finding a decent spot to camp for the night. Dinner was a short affair and everyone sacked out as quickly as possible. We did not talk about it much, but I believe that we were all thinking and dreaming of what we might find at the Le Conte Ranger Station in the morning!

Stay Tuned: Will there be trail magic?

JMT Day 15 – June 15, 2012

just pass the Piute Creek junction – the end of Evolution Valley, adjacent to The Hermit

8,050 – 10,200 (+ 2,150) – about 10 miles

Free Maps Online – Day 15 – Map 9 and 8

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

I love sleeping next to running water, and last night was another water-side camp and a refreshing slumber.

Early in the day’s hike, we ran into a few hikers near the junction with Goddard Canyon. While we were stopped and chatting, more and more groups of PCT hikers came by and stopped to talk. At the height, I believe there were 13 of us sitting and talking.

— I have been debating how much and what exactly to tell you all about Joe. I had hoped to stick just to our experiences together, but I think that depriving you of any background would gloss over some of the experiences we had. Pappa Joe and his wife, Terry, are Pacific Crest Trail Angels. They live near where the PCT crosses the Mojave Desert, and maintain a water cache in the middle of nowhere to aid thirsty hikers. They also open their home to thru-hikers during hiking season. This year, Joe decided that he wanted to hike and he wanted to get to meet some of his PCT hiker pals out on the trail. The PCT hikers generally walk north from Mexico to Canada which is why he was walking Southbound (like me and Jake). So, almost every PCT hiker we met after we started walking with Joe had been to the water cache (called “the Oasis”) and many had stayed at “Casa de Luna.” This is why we ended up with many hikers in a circle excited to see Joe and hear about his hike.

A few miles after the PCT gathering, we came across a vision made flesh – the apotheosis of Female Power Trail Goddesses. We were going up a gentle grade that she was descending. Looking up, we saw her standing above us, raven hair blowing gently in a light breeze, sunlight streaming around her. Both her arms were raised, hands resting easy on the ends of two long, thick, metal bars – held across her shoulders and crossed in back. On her back was a small backpack with a hefty shovel strapped on its length. I think it is fair to say that we were all awestruck. None of us could muster the forethought to reach for a camera, and had the thought occurred to us, we might have been too stunned to attempt to ask for a photo. We did manage some small conversation and learned some about this trail crew’s mission and campsite. That meeting was all too brief, and it was not long after she went on her way that we began to realize with horror that we did not manage a picture. I wish I could draw and I may have to start learning just to be able to re-create the image that lives in my head. (Though hopefully I have not done too poorly with words…).

This was a long day of gentle climbing. We crossed the dreaded Evolution Creek! Joe found a nice place to cross just 10 feet upstream from the main trail while Jake was changing footwear. I used one of two tricks that I picked up from SilkE and got barefoot. Had the stream been deep or the current strong, I would have kept my shoes on, but fording gentle streams barefoot was actually safe and refreshing!

The mosquitoes were thick and intense around the creek. I guess they knew we were at their mercy until we reached the far side. I was so ready to get free of them that I did not bother with going upstream to the fording point Joe found and just plunged through at the trail crossing. It was deep enough to wet the bottom of my shorts in the middle, but that was the worst of it.

The rest of the day we walked through Evolution Valley. This was not my favorite valley/meadow, but there were a few nice views, and we saw several deer lounging on a small island in the middle of the creek. We stopped next to a lovely mountain, The Hermit, at the base of the last series of switchbacks that would lead us into Evolution Basin and some of the more infamous sites on the JMT.

Tomorrow: New Faces, good karma, and the place where creek/waterfall and trail become one…