The end of civilization and the start of the JMT
Note: the photos are not in any order and do not line up with the text!
We are all set to go on our big hike. 20 days on the John Muir Trail, well away from civilization. We have done the two food drops. Tomorrow we are on a train and bus into Yosemite with our packs loaded with our usual gear and all our food in bear canisters. Lots of bears on the JMT! The food drops have been an expedition on their own.
The first was at Reds Meadow and was an easy bus ride from Mammoth Lakes. Although it did cost us heaps in the outdoor gear shop. Pauline hates a sale😊
The second was at Vermillion Resort on lake Edison, East of Fresno. The road in is marked as narrow and windy. I looked on google earth. Bitumen all the way. The Cadillac can handle it, no problem. And it did, but Pauline was not so happy. We took video of some of it. In places it is as wide as one car, cliff on one side, sheer drop on the other. Goes on for about 20 miles through boulders and trees like this. They didn’t level out the ground before they tarred it, so there are the top of boulders sticking out. Pretty bumpy, no problem in a hire car😄
We won’t have internet for a while. I expect we can do email from Reds Meadow about the 16th and at Vermillion resort about 20th (they have satellite link $5 for 30min). After that it will be from the end at Lone Pine.
From Lone Pine we are catching a bus to Reno where we have left the rest of our luggage at the Comfort Inn motel.
We were sad to hand the Cadillac back to the hire company today. It has been a very comfortable companion. We clocked up over 4000 miles in it in the last few weeks. Glad we had unlimited miles and fuel at $4 a gallon. Never cost more than $50 to fill which got us about 500 miles down the road. It’s not quite as clean as when we picked it up.
We have made it to Reds Meadow near Mammoth Lakes OK. Bit tired, Pauline has sore feet and started out with a head cold which has almost cleared. My plan of 10 miles a day turns out to be a bit ambitious in this terrain.
The first day out from Yosemite the Rangers force you to stop at Little Yosemite valley which is only a couple of hours walk from Yosemite. This put us most of a day behind. If I had known that no one checks I would have ignored this. We tried to climb half dome but had to give it a miss as a thunderstorm was coming in. High places and steel climbing rails in a storm don’t mix. The rangers were all bailing out!
The views of Yosemite have been very Smokey due to the fire to the north. Since we left Yosemite and headed south and up, up, up things have steadily improved. Spectacular mountains and glacial lakes everywhere.😊
Today we are off towards vermillion resort on lake Thomas Edison where our next food drop is waiting. Should take us about 4 days. They have internet access on satellite for a fee! Might even take a day off.
We made it to Vermillion Resort on lake Thomas Edison Ok. Pauline has smartened her act up and is now managing 10 miles per day. Her cold has cleared up and she has gotten used to the altitude. The trail has also improved a lot. We are told that it gets harder again from here on. So we will see how we go.
We have met people that are doing 20 miles a day. Dawn till dusk, way too far for us.
We saw another bear in the wild. I walked up to about 10m from him/her before we both saw each other. The bear ran up the hill while we madly tried to film it. It stopped about 50m away and began eating grubs from a stump. We spent a good 10 mins filming it. Pauline got some great video of it all.
We met a ranger the next day and let her know. Apparently it’s the first real sighting in the area this season. There were two others, but these were where the dumb hikers had hung their rubbish in a tree. The bears can smell this sort of thing from miles away. Dumb!
Last night we slept near Silver pass at 3200m, it got well below freezing. You don’t actually notice it as it is so dry there is no frost or dew. Glad we got new Western Mountaineering sleeping bags.
The weather is predicting snow in the mountains in a couple of days. Its a bit vague actually where. We will play it as it comes. If there is too much snow we will bail out.
Ps Tried to send this from vermillion resort on the satellite link, but it failed. So it cost us $8 just to pick up email and not send any😒
We left Vermillion Resort and hiked back to the JMT with our food drop all loaded up, about 11 days food. It’s the heaviest packs we have ever carried. The food is all crammed into two bear canisters which weigh over a kilo each and are really awkward to pack around. My pack was around 32lb, Pauline had 28lb.
Now that we have talked to a number of other hikers we know that we could have done more food drops, though not strictly legitimate. The rangers have all gone home anyway. The govt has cut their funding so it’s a short season for them.
The second day we met up with a few other hikers that we have been leapfrogging for a few days. We all crossed Selden Pass (10880ft) together. We left them at Sallie Keyes lakes as they were going fishing.
Camped the following night in Evolution Valley. The snow that had been forecast finally appeared. We had gusty winds and about 2cm of small corn snow overnight. The next day was back to normal Sierra Nevada weather, blue sky’s, no wind. So we are still going.
We had our coldest night so far, camped just below Muir Pass at 11955ft. No wind, clear skies! Much harder walking as the snow is still on the ground and has turned to ice on the track, very slippery.
Tonight we are at Le Conte Canyon. The locals are saying snow again in the next couple of days. We are also getting low on food and the long days and heavy packs are taking a toll. Our plan is now to exit at Onion Flat and get a ride to Independence, which is the nearest town. This is still a full four days walk from here. The scenery is still some of the most spectacular we have ever seen so it is all worth it.😊
PS. For other hikers coming to the US, The Backpackers Pantry freeze dried meals are excellent. The others we have tried are crap. You can’t bring dried meals or meat into the US. For other supplies, look for health food stores, the supermarkets don’t have much dried food at all. You can’t get full cream powdered milk in the US 😦
We are finally out of the woods and camping in a motel in Lone Pine. Off on the bus to Reno on Monday to pick up the rest of our gear.
The last few days have been some of the hardest miles we have ever done. Lots of big climbs and descents. The trail has been much rockier, with huge steps, so much slower going. It is also the most beautiful, with the Ray Lakes area the pick of them all.
The weather has been getting rapidly colder. Three nights ago the tent was frozen inside and out by 5pm. We hadn’t even gotten in to it. We think it got down to -10 overnight. We now know the signs, very high cloud by lunchtime and a pickup in the wind, usually means snow by nightfall.
We decided to bail out at Kersage pass near independence. This is about 3 days short of doing the whole JMT. We were out of food and the weather was getting worse and we had seen all the best bits. It has been a fantastic hike but I’m glad we now have a bed to sleep in and we were a bit smelly after 10 days without a shower😊
Forgot to mention we saw a Californian Long Horn sheep near Ray Lakes, apparently they are quite rare to see. Photo below is from a long way off.