JMT Day 4 – June 4, 2012

Tuolumne walk-in backpacker camp – Lyell Canyon

8670 – 8900 (+ 230 ft) – @ 5 miles.

Free Maps Online – Day 4 – Map 16, 15, and 14

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Another cold night sleeping in almost all my clothes. I am beginning to think that something needs to be done. We are not even at 9,000 feet yet.

Jake and I liked Tuolumne, and the grill, enough that we decided to do another half-day. We would eat breakfast at the grill, then go through our gear and the “new” supplies from our box and collect the excess to leave in the hiker box. Jake was thinking about mailing some stuff home as well. By that time, the grill would be serving lunch and we could eat a little more and pack out more food for another night of “no-cook” town eatin’ out in the woods!

I was also very focused on searching the store for more layers. I needed another shirt of some sort and a winter hat to go over my balaclava at night. If I could buy a sleeping bag or down jacket off a hiker or store worker, I would do that too.

The nice folks at the grill let me leave my phone in there charging while we did chores. I was underwhelmed by the additional warm clothing selection at the store, and was “joking” with the cashier about buying his jacket and he said, “Why don’t you go down the street to the Mountaineering shop?” Turns out that the gas station we had seen has a decent outfitter inside!

One of the nice clerks helped me out and I got both an awesome long sleeve very lightweight (mass that is) fleece shirt and a new synthetic sleeping bag (rated 20 degrees) for less than $150.00! (Thanks Dad!) The sleeping bag I had with me was a synthetic rated at 20 degrees, but it is 16 years old, and because I did not know any better, I kept it inside a stuff sack all those years. I had washed and dried it to try and bring some of the warm and loft back – but my feeling and the best guess of the clerk was that the bag was probably rated between 50 and 60 degrees now.

We bought a combo pack – hat, gloves, and scarf, that came in a bag made of the same soft and warm material as all the items inside. Jake wanted a hat too, so we split it up. He took the hat and scarf and I used the bag they came in as my hat. We mailed my old sleeping bag the new gloves and a few other things back to PA and left a TON of stuff in the hiker box.

Feeling much better about life, we ate a little lunch, packed out more sandwiches for dinner and headed back out on the trail.

We met our first on-duty Ranger in Lyell Canyon as the temperature dropped and the clouds gathered and headed our way. The Ranger did ask if we had a permit, but did not ask to see it. He did not even ask us if we had bear canisters. I guess we seemed like honest folks. He had no real intel to share on the storm and we moved on.

The first mile or two of Lyell Canyon comprises meadows with the now familiar 1-3 foot muddy trench for a trail. Still bent on following the rules, Leave No Trace principles, and wanting to preserve the meadow –  I slogged on through the middle of the muddy trench. The the first drops of sleet began to fall, and quickly turned into hail. Luckily, we were just clearing the 4 mile “no camping” zone and in a short time found a place to set-up and ride out the storm.

Just before bed, I took my gross mud covered shoes (I could not even see the laces anymore) to the river and cleaned them. I was almost positive they would freeze overnight regardless. So I chose clean and frozen over gross and frozen.

In other news – i am starting to get blisters on my heels!

I put on my standard sleep gear, plus my new fleece and hat, and i remembered another trick i read somewhere. I put my feet inside an empty stuff sack inside my sleeping bag. What a difference! It was like having foot mittens!

Stay Tuned for Day 5

JMT Day 3 – June 3, 2012

Upper Cathedral lake to Tuolumne walk-in backpacker camp

9,425 – 8670 (- 755 ft) – @ 5.8 miles

Free Maps Online – Day 3 – Map 16

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

I slept in the same amount of gear as the previous evening and again I was very cold all through the night. But the sun warmed me soon enough and it was a nice half day into “town”. We got our box. Got food at the grill, and found the Backpacker’s Camp deserted. We could not even figure out how to pay as there was no honor box. I found some Rangers who said that the camp was closed but that we could stay there if we were respectful and used the privies in “town”.

I used the afternoon to rinse out all my clothes and gave myself a quick rinse too. We got a few beers from the store and played cards at the picnic table at our camp. We got a nice dinner from the grill, made a fire and enjoyed the evening.

We discovered that there was a Search and Rescue party camped nearby doing some training and because of that, one of the outhouses in the woods was unlocked, which was something of a relief for us!

I was starting to mellow out a bit, getting into the swing of the hike by the time we settled down in our tents for the night.

Stay tuned for Day 4.

JMT Day 2 – June 2, 2012

Cloud’s Rest Junction to Upper Cathedral lake

7,190 ft – 9,425 (+ 2,235 ft) – 11.3 miles *Cathedral Pass

Free Maps Online – Day 2 – Maps 17 and 16

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Last evening was a bit challenging for me because I was rather cold. I went to sleep wearing my long johns, Adventure Pants, socks, long sleeve Under Armor base-layer, clean hiking shirt, rain jacket, gloves, and balaclava – inside my sleeping bag, inside my tent with the rain fly on. And I was still cold. Not “OH MY GOD! We are all going to DIE!” cold, but still cold.

I woke early and tramped about camp trying to warm up while waiting on the sun.

Once the sun hit me, I felt better. Today it felt like the hike REALLY began. The difference between waking up in the woods to hike and waking up in a hotel room an hour and half away from the woods with a few hours of “town chores” left to do is immense.

The views changed dramatically just a quarter-mile or so out of our camp. Today we got our first real glimpse of the High Sierras and a little taste of ridge trail hiking. We conquered our first pass as well. It does not compare to the passes in the later part of the journey – in part because it is one of two passes on the JMT that do not really seem like passes, and that have no distinguishing marks to identify them as such – neither sign, marker, nor even a vista.

The mosquitoes began to make their presence known a mile or so prior to ascending Cathedral Pass, and they stayed with us for most of the day. Once you descend from Cathedral Pass, you see your first of the High Sierra meadows. I had read many guide books and trail journals, but they don’t really prepare you for the sight. Lush grasses, little streams, flowers and skeeters, in the middle of tall, snow-covered peaks!

This land is rather delicate and the trail becomes a trench, often more than 2 feet below the level of the meadow and filled with delicious shoe-stealing mud.

Slogging through the meadows in the mud with my many new bitey winged friends, I decided not to stop and check out the High Sierra Camp, but pushed on towards Cathedral Lakes.

We found a nice place to camp at Upper Cathedral lake, dried our boots and socks on rocks in the sun and ate while soaking in the view and reflecting on the day – trying to recognize where we were and what we were doing. I have heard stories from many a distance hiker, but it is hard to describe until you experience it – it is simply difficult to transition your brain out of “town mode” and into “woods mode”. I will return to this a few times over the tale and hopefully be able to paint some kind of picture.

Stay Tuned for Day 3

JMT Day 1 – June 1, 2012

Happy Isles to Cloud’s Rest Junction

4,035 ft – 7,190 ft (+ 3,155 ft) – 6.5 miles

Photos open to the public on Facebook

Free Maps Online – Day 1 – Maps 18 and 17 – these are not perfect, nor the maps we used, but they are one of the better, free, online options.

We used Tom Harrison’s Map Pack.

We left our Yosemite Valley base camp (America’s Best Value Inn in Oakhurst CA) loaded with our gear and sandwiches from Von’s for dinner, and drove to Tuolumne Meadows to drop off a box of supplies. It turns out that this was an unnecessary trip as one can do a full resupply from Tuolumne easily. But we did not know that and i had made 9 tasty easy cook meals at home and wanted to enjoy them on the trail. With a resupply so close to the start of the trail (about 24 miles in) it was too tempting to leave ourselves a box there and only hike with 3 nights worth of food.

Along the way, we picked up a hiker, Eli, hitching to Tuolumne. We had time and space in the car and wanted to help as well as stock up some hitchhiking karma for later in the journey.

After dropping the box and exploring the store, we returned to Yosemite Valley, carefully moved all items with scent from the car to the bear box and began our journey in earnest at 1 PM.

The beginning of the hike is lovely, but less than a wilderness experience. The first few miles of the trail are paved and there are tons of day hikers from all over the world, with varying degrees of knowledge about trail etiquette. It is quite a steep haul from the valley to the top of Nevada Falls, and we were grateful to have as little food as we did.

This was the beginning of my quest to discover better water carrying practices for distance hiking. On day hikes, and overnight trips with my dog, i have usually carried 5 liters at a time – which is about 10 pounds. I knew i could not do that on this trip. I started with 3 liters, having noted the last point to re-supply by treated tap water, and the likely stream crossings.

At the top of Vernal Falls, i remembered something i read a long time ago and found a small pebble to suck on. Sucking on a small stone helps keep the saliva flowing in your mouth and makes me feel less of a need to drink – particularly on ascents. I did this every day for the rest of the trip, hiked with a rock in my mouth.

The crowds thinned out a good deal at the top of Nevada Falls and once we passed Little Yosemite Valley, we were mostly alone. We found a nice camp past the Cloud’s Rest Trail junction on the top of a hill and had some nice views.

There were loads of deer in the area. I saw at least 15 from our camp and heard more. 3 or four came within 5 feet of me and we stood looking at each other for a while before they moved on.

Sleep was quick in coming for us both. It had been a good day, the hike was truly begun, and we would not encounter crowds like that again – not even at Mt. Whitney.

Stay tuned for Day 2…