John Muir Trail Section Hike, 2016

 
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The John Muir Trail (JMT) travels 210 miles through some of the most spectacular mountain country in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Construction of the trail was begun in 1915, just one year after the famous naturalist John Muir’s death. But it took another 46 years to completely finish the trail over the high and remote Forester Pass (13,153 ft).

Today the trail draws backpackers and hikers from all over the world to the Happy Isles trailhead in spectacular Yosemite Valley, the official start of the JMT. As of 2016, over 3500 people per year are granted Wilderness Permits for the traditional 210 mile JMT trek. Due to such high demand for permits and the need to preserve and maintain the wilderness for future generations, last year Yosemite National Park instituted a quota system for permits. The new quotas allow only 45 hikers per day to exit the Park over Donohue Pass on the JMT. Most people attempt the JMT in the short summer hiking season of mid-June through mid-September. That means that for a typical summer starting date, hundreds of people submit permit applications nearly 6 months in advance, but only 45 actual permit reservations are granted for each day.

Experiencing the JMT

Having never backpacked in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the JMT seemed like the perfect way for my friend Barney Bernhard and I to experience this amazing mountain range. Because of the challenges getting southbound permits for the traditional JMT, we decided to apply for permits using alternative trails to exit the National Park, and then reconnect with the JMT just South of the Park boundary. We also planned to exit the JMT at an alternative location further South, further extending our trip and making the permit even easier to secure. Our route would add an estimated 3 or 4 days to the trip compared to doing the traditional JMT and would require two separate wilderness permits. Our route also went through arguably more scenic country than the traditional JMT through Yosemite, including the highest pass we would hike over on the entire trip.

Preparation for the trip began nearly a year before the start. It took several months to research, acquire and break in all of the light weight backpacking gear we wanted to use. Planning our food needs, resupply points and making our home-dehydrated meals also took quite a bit of time. Submitting permit applications, ongoing physical training, gear testing and refinement and arranging to be away from home for nearly a month rounded out the nearly expedition-scaled preparations.

So after all the planning, training and preparation, Barney and I drove 16 hours South from Bremerton WA to Tuolumne Meadows to begin our hike on August 23. As with any big trip, an entire story could be told about the drive down and back, or about each and every eventful day along the trail. What follows is a gallery of photos from our trip, a compilation of video clips and stills along the hike, and a summary of each day of the hike, along with a closer look at several key aspects of the trip. A big thanks to Barney for sharing several of the photos and videos below and for being a great hiking partner on the trip. For a detailed trip report, continue reading below the photos and video below.

Photo Gallery

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Video Compilation


 
 

Day 1d-03038
Aug 23, 10 miles, +3600x ft, -1200x ft

After a pleasant night’s sleep near Mammoth Lakes, CA, we drove to Tuolumne meadows, picked up our wilderness permit for Leg 1 of the hike and caught the bus for the two hour drive down to Yosemite Valley. After a 1 mile hike up the road to Pohono Tunnel View, we officially started our hike at 2:30 PM. It was a hot, sunny trail with over 3000 ft of climbing and a 4.5 hour hike to camp at Bridalveil Creek. Lots of grand overlooks of Yosemite Valley along the hike, with stunning views of El Capitan and the other monolithic rock formations of Yosemite Valley. The air was a little hazy from all the forest fires burning further West in California, but good views nonetheless. We also saw many surprisingly big trees, including the tallest Ponderosa pines I’ve ever seen. Getting into camp at 7:00PM, it was a little late so we ate a cold dinner, washed up a bit in the creek and hit the sack by 8: pm.

Fires are an increasingly troublesome factor affecting people who hike the JMT and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). During fire season large sections of both trails may be closed to hiking. In the past, hikers generally considered late summer and early Fall to be the perfect time of year to hike the JMT. But with the risk of fires closing down large sections of the trail, more people are opting to hike earlier in the summer, despite the heavier snow pack, wetter weather and abundance of mosquitoes.
 

Day 2d-03070
Aug 24, 16 miles, +3500 ft, -3600 ft

It was a cool but comfortable 37F last night. We were up and on the trail hiking by 6:30 am on another sunny day. We enjoyed the cool morning air and great overlooks of the Valley below. After a quick water stop at the tourist facilities at Glacier Point, we descended all the way to Little Yosemite Valley (LYV), with gorgeous views of Nevada Falls and Half Dome most of the way. At Nevada Falls we encountered dozens of day hikers from Yosemite Valley, along with backpackers just starting their JMT hike. We intersected the official John Muir Trail for the first time, which we would only follow for less than a mile today on our route.

The mostly level hike up LYV was hot, dusty and very beautiful, with graceful granite domes and walls flanking both sides of the valley. The cool waters of Merced Creek danced their way down over granite slabs on the way to the larger Yosemite Valley below. We found a good campsite by 4:30 pm and enjoyed a long dip in the best swimming hole of the entire trip, on Merced Creek. The water temps were fairly comfortable and there was a large low angle granite slab running all the way into a huge neck-deep pool in the creek, right at the base of a pretty cascade. At one point I could feel fish swimming past my leg.

The engineering, effort and resources that were put into making the trails in this part of Yosemite National Park are amazing. They just don’t build trails like this anymore. This trail and many others across the National Park system were built in the 1930’s as part of the large public works projects of that era. Along many stretches of trail are obvious signs of dynamiting at almost every step. Steeper sections of trail have huge stepping stones placed strategically for hikers and horses. And the sections of cobblestone trail are truly a work of art. These trails, enjoyed by thousands of hikers each year, are a lasting memorial to the hard work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and other public works projects of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal nearly a century ago.
 

Day 3d-03098
Aug 25, 13 miles, +5000 ft, -1400 ft

It was warm and cozy last night, only got down to 51F on the thermometer. We were up at 6:00 and on the trail by 7:00 am, once again enjoying the pretty canyon and the cool morning air. Merced Lake was very nice and larger than we expected, with a large well-developed horse camp and big campsite full of canvas tents near the shores.

Today had a big climb out of LYV all the way to Vogelsang Camp at 10,100 feet, another horse camp with adjacent backpacker’s camping area. Thankfully the sunny climb was not too hot, with a nice breeze and plenty of water to cool our heads and wet our shirts and hats from time to time. At camp near treeline by 3:00 pm, there was a cool breeze blowing, but we took another dip in the lake anyway (Fletcher Lake), which was much colder than yesterday’s swim. I slept out under the stars without setting up the tarp to enjoy the perfectly clear sky.

It’s strange to see people so deep in the wilderness wearing nice clothes, smelling of perfume and looking like they just had a hair styling and manicure. Horse camps like this one allow folks who would normally never see this kind of country to experience it in comfort and style. Horses kick up a lot of dust and put a lot of wear and tear on the trails, and many hikers would rather not encounter them. But these trails were built by horses and mules for use by horses and mules, and equestrians have as much right as we do to use the trails.
 

Day 4d-03107
Aug 26, 8 miles, +200 ft, -1900 ft

A short day today, hiking down to Tuolumne Meadows to resupply, relax and rest up a bit before leg two of the trip. There was frost on the ground and the thermometer read 33 F at 6:00 am when we got up. I slept so-so last night with lots of tossing and turning and strange dreams, probably due to the altitude, which we’re still acclimatizing to. Sleeping out under the stars was nice but I got dew all over the sleeping bag (easy to dry later in the day).

Getting to Tuolumne by late morning, we first picked up our second and last wilderness permit for the trip. Next we cleaned up with a swim in the creek and picked up our first resupply box at the post office with food and other consumable items for the next leg of the trip. Later in the day we took an afternoon nap, enjoyed a double burger with bacon at the grill (yum!) and camped in the Backpackers Campground along with dozens and dozens of other JMT hikers. Many hikers start their JMT hike here in Tuolumne to avoid the crowds of Yosemite Valley and because it’s an easier wilderness permit to obtain. There were some clouds today and the wind shifted from West to North, bringing clearer skies with less smoke in the air. We’ll see if the sunny weather we’ve been enjoying for the last several days holds.

The new permit system and quotas in Yosemite National Park have been a big challenge for hikers trying to do the JMT. If you want to hike the traditional JMT, starting at the Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite Valley, your chances of getting a permit for a particular starting date are very very slim. Many people submit permit applications day after day for a month or more before finally lucking out and getting a permit. But that requires a lot of flexibility as to when your start date will be. Some people show up the day before the hike and try to get one of the limited walk-up permits, sometimes waiting in line multiple days to get one. A growing number of people are now doing the JMT in reverse, starting at Mount Whitney and hiking northbound to end in Yosemite, because it’s easier to get a permit. Still other hikers (such as us) use alternative entry trailheads, and/or exit the Park via alternative trails rather than using the JMT.
 

Day 5d-03112
Aug 27, 17 miles, +3600 ft, -4200 ft

A perfect day. We left the Tuolumne campground by 6:30 am and walked to the main road so we could hitchhike 5 miles to the trailhead for Mono/Parker Pass. Within 10 seconds of hitchhiking, we were picked up by two female rock climbers headed to an alpine climb North of Tioga Pass. They were great to chat with and recommended some enjoyable moderate climbs for us for a future trip to Yosemite.

It was well below freezing on the first hour of the hike up a cool, shady and pretty sub-alpine valley in the morning. When we came into the sun near Mono Pass it felt like the temperature climbed instantly by 20 degrees – a typical experience in the high, dry dessert mountains of the Eastern Sierras. An easy 2 miles of hiking brought us to Parker Pass with its huge gentle expanses of tundra and gravel in all directions, with big peaks sweeping above. We ran into a few groups of trail runners this morning: one group running up to the top of Koip Pass and back and another doing a 25 mile trail run the whole way to Mammoth Lakes.

From Parker Pass the trail traversed under Kuna Peak (13,002 ft), giving us our first view of the 23 switchbacks zigzagging up the flanks of Parker Peak toward the Koip Pass. The climb up the switchbacks looked like a real grunt, but it turned out to be quite enjoyable, with a nice smooth trail bed cut into the mountain at a moderate angle with exceptional views – perfect mountain hiking. As we got higher, views of the huge 45,000 acre Mono Lake opened up far below us, a highly alkaline lake with pillars of salt surrounding its shores.

As we crested Koip Pass at 12,250 ft, an endless sea of Sierra mountains extended to the South revealing some of the country we would be hiking through over the coming weeks. After descending past beautiful Alger Lakes, we continued hiking down the mountain to Gem Lake, getting into camp at 5:30 pm, tired but happy after a 17+ mile day. A quick swim, dinner and then off to sleep after a long, high altitude day.

The JMT is a long, rugged and demanding trail. Our preparation for the rigors of the hike focused on two main things: 1) hike and backpack as much as possible before the trip for physical conditioning and, 2) carry as little weight on our backs as reasonably possible. The hiking part was pretty easy – there are lots of good day hikes and short backpacks in the Olympic Mountains and in the Cascades. As for acclimatization, our chosen route began at just 4000 feet and spent 5 days gradually increasing in altitude before hitting our first high pass.

To reduce weight, we adopted the principles of light weight backpacking, seeking out the lightest possible equipment that would safely and effectively meet our needs, plus leaving unnecessary gear at home. The difference between traditional backpacking and light weight backpacking is like night and day. On some days of our hike, the weight we carried was little more than most people’s day packs. Going light makes it a joy to backpack in the mountains, even over rough terrain. All the time and money we spent acquiring and testing new light weight equipment really paid off.
 

Day 6d-03130
Aug 28, 15 miles, +4000 ft, -3900x ft

After a restful night we were up by 6:00 am and hiking by 6:30 am. Today we intercepted the John Muir Trail at beautiful Thousand Island Lake, and this time we would remain on the JMT. As soon as we hit the JMT we began seeing many more backpackers than the days before. The trails we hiked on the first leg of our trip were popular enough, seeing hiking groups every 2 or 3 hours. But on his section of the JMT we passed by backpackers, day hikers and trail runners every 5 to 10 minutes, sometimes in large groups. One JMT hiker we met had been doing some calculations and estimated that 1000 people were spread along the entire 210 miles of the JMT at that time.

Paralleling the jagged Minaret range, today’s stretch of the JMT rolls up and down crossing several valleys as it heads South, each valley holding a beautiful lake. After hearing several good reports about the beauty of Ediza Lake from hikers along the trail, we decided to venture off the JMT over 2 miles to camp at the Lake tonight. The side trail to Ediza Lake was a pretty hike with a beautiful stream. Ediza Lake is considered by many people to be the most scenic lake in this region of the Sierras, and it did not fail to impress us. Into camp by 2:30 pm after a fast 15 mile day, we had plenty of time to swim and relax before dinner. We were off to bed early for a 5:15 wake-up time for sunrise photography of the lake.

The increasing popularity of hiking and backpacking in the U.S. is putting a strain on the JMT. Even with quotas for permits there are a lot of people out there on the trail during the summer months. While most of the JMT is through Wilderness, it’s easy to forget it’s wilderness because of all the people you see. While we expected crowds and did not mind it much, some folks seemed surprised and disappointed by the number of other people they encountered along the trail. It’s good to see more people who care about wilderness and have a vested interest in helping to preserve it. But too many people can also lead to resource damage and overuse of some areas, especially delicate alpine meadows. As with many things in life, it’s all about balance. In this case, it’s a matter of balance between preservation and recreation, both of which are important. At least the wear and tear caused by so much traffic is confined to a narrow strip along the JMT corridor. As one long-time Sierra hiker told us during the hike “I volunteer for JMT trail maintenance so that everyone keeps using the JMT, while I use all the other trails in the area where nobody else goes”.
 

Day 7d-03157
Aug 29, 13 miles, +1900 ft, -2100 ft

Up at 5:15 am to pack up camp and be at the East side of Ediza Lake for sunrise photography. Excellent alpenglow light and perfect reflections – it doesn’t get any better than this for mountain photography. After a cool walk 2.3 miles down valley we hit the JMT again. Today’s hike went past three more pretty lakes and then a long descent to Red’s Meadow Resort near Devils Postpile National Monument, where we had our second resupply package waiting.

Got in to Red’s at 12:30 (early) and snagged a campsite in the backpackers area of the campground. Next we walked to Red’s Meadow resort and took a long warm shower (excellent), washed a load of clothes, cleaned our glasses, ate a well-prepared meal at the resort’s diner (yummy), and picked up our resupply box. In the campground we spent a bit of time talking with Rob and his daughter from Bainbridge Island WA, just a few miles from where Barney lives. They were just ending a 5 day section hike and planning some sightseeing around Mammoth and the National Monument.

One of the coolest things about the JMT is all the great people you meet. Hikers, and especially backpackers, tend to be great people. Who else would sacrifice convenience and comfort for the sake of peace, beauty and communion with nature? It’s fun how you keep running across the same people from time to time on the trail – sometimes they pass you, other times you pass them. We’re all on the same journey, which gives us all something in common, despite our different cultures, nationalities and the roles we may play back in the so-called “real world”. Most long-time backpackers would probably agree that the “real world” is actually out here on the trail, not in the frenetic hustle and bustle of civilization.
 

Day 8d-03167
Aug 30, 16 miles, +4100 ft, -1100 ft

It has been a week now since starting our hike. We’re feeling strong, acclimatized to the altitude and ready to tackle the next section of the JMT. We left Red’s Meadow reluctantly as the diner was opening for breakfast – really hard to pass up, let me tell you. But both Barney and I like to get going early in the mornings. The first several miles out of Red’s climbed gradually along a mountain side through dry but pretty forests to Deer Creek – last water for 5 miles, until reaching Duck Creek. After Duck Creek we passed pretty Purple Lake. We finally made it to camp on the far side of Lake Virginia at 4:00 pm after a 16 mile day. We camped at over 10,500 ft, our highest campsite yet.

Barney was pretty tired at the end of the day and he ended up cutting his toe open while stepping over a rock barefoot near the shore of the lake. He stopped the bleeding and we bandaged up his toe as well as we could. Fortunately, Barney has excellent first aid training, having taken a week-long Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. He was upset at the possibility of a trip-ending injury, and I was thinking of the fastest escape from the wilderness if need be. We’ll see tomorrow how his foot feels and how it handles hiking.

According to the extensive JMT hiker survey, 27% of people have to shorten their trip for some reason, often due to injury. Wildfires are another common reason people have to change or delay their plans. For the much longer Pacific Crest Trail (2600+ miles), it is estimated that only 10% of people who start the hike finish the whole thing. Having to cut the trip short is something that every long distance hiker wants to avoid but has to plan for, just in case.

 

Day 9d-03179
Aug 31, 13 miles, +1800 ft, -4300 ft

It was quite warm last night (48 F by 6:30 am) and we both slept well. Thankfully Barney’s toe did OK overnight with no new bleeding and we were on the trail by 7:00 am. He could hike OK, just a little slower than usual. Ascending to Silver Pass was very pretty, with intimate little meadows, babbling streams and several lakes of all sizes, all surrounded by shapely mountains on all sides. The South side of the pass was also very pretty but dry and windy. As we got near North Mono Creek, the trail dropped steeply, with a rocky uneven trail bed and big rock steps to negotiate on the hot, sunny descent. I would not want to be hiking up this bit of trail in the heat of mid-day, but plenty of people were. Tonight’s camp was just past the footbridge over Mono Creek and at the base of the notorious Bear Ridge – our big climb for tomorrow.

Nearly every day we planned our campsites so that we could hike up the next big uphill section of the trail early in the morning, while it was still cool and shady. This strategy worked really well for us, sparing us a lot of sweat, energy and time. Plenty of people enjoy the JMT by camping wherever strikes their fancy. While I like the idea of flexibility and going with the flow, it’s also good to give a little thought to campsite selection if it can save energy, make things more comfortable, or potentially be safer.
 

Day 10d-03188
Sep 1, 13 miles, +3700 ft, -1000 ft

The first of September with a cool hint of Fall in the morning air. On the trail before 7:00 am, nice and cool and shady. The switchbacks up Bear Ridge were well constructed and easy to hike. There was water near the top and on the way down the other side. The notoriously grueling and dry climb up and over Bear Ridge ended up being pleasurable and easy. Barney’s toe did very well today and seems to have healed up nicely. Upper Bear Creek was quite scenic: a large open valley with scattered trees, granite slabs and domes and a cool stream. Lake Marie was a pretty place to camp and provided some nice sunset reflection photos.

Photography has always been a passion of mine and I usually carry a lot of heavy photo gear on backpacking trips. For this trip we decided to save weight and take Barney’s high quality point-and-shoot camera rather than my DSLR. We also opted for a 3 ounce homemade trekking pole – tripod adapter rather than a traditional (heavy) tripod. In the end the camera performed above expectations and the tripod system worked well enough for most of our needs. Carrying such limited photo gear does limit your photo options occasionally, but it’s a trade off I’d make again in a heartbeat on a long hike like the JMT.
 

Day 11d-03195
Sep 2, 14 miles, +1100 ft, -3100 ft

Up at 5:30 am and on the trail by 6:30 am – Seldon Pass went by quickly. The descent down the South side of the pass was very picturesque. Sally Keys Lakes were perhaps my favorite lakes of the trip. If I had to build a cabin and live someplace along the trail we’ve hiked on this trip, Sally Keys Lakes would be the spot. As we descended further we got good views of the San Juaquin valley and the area around Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), where we would pick up our third and largest resupply package (a 5 gallon bucket) of the trip.

The MTR resupply went fairly smoothly, but MTR is not a place I’d want to linger longer, as least not as a backpacker. The place was dusty, hot and smelled of horse (not that there’s anything wrong with horses). MTR caters to their clients who pay $200 per night to ride a horse to the ranch, sleep in a comfy cabin with a shower, lounge in the client-only hot springs, and get fed a gourmet meal by a chef. For backpackers, the services provided are: 1) resupply bucket storage and pickup, 2) a running potable water spigot , 3) a tiny store with maybe 5 items for sale, and 4) a way-to-small power strip for 20 odd backpackers to recharge all their electrical devices. No bathroom for hikers – unbelievable. They would rather hikers take a dump behind a tree on the edge of their property, I guess.

One nice thing about MTR was all of the hiker barrels. Hikers with extra or unneeded food, gear and other items leave them behind in the bins. You never know what you’ll find and most people find at least something they find useful. I found 2 of my favorite flavored trail bars and some extra hand sanitizer.

We left MTR by 12:30 pm and hiked another 7 miles up the hot but scenic San Juaquin valley. We found a great campsite near the creek and had plenty of time to wash up and relax in the afternoon. Tomorrow we go into the Muir Pass area – southern JMT high-country at its best.

Planning and preparing resupply packages is one of the main logistical considerations for any long distance hike. For the JMT, some fast hikers only resupply once at MTR, carrying a week’s worth of food before and after MTR for a two week trip. Since our route was actually longer than the traditional JMT by four days, we opted to resupply more often. Frequent resupply means that you can carry less weight on your back. However, it takes time to resupply, especially if you have to hike a significant distance off of the JMT into a town. It also takes time to plan, prepare and ship each resupply package, plus the costs of shipping and storage fees that some resupply points charge (it’s $70 plus shipping for MTR to horse-pack your resupply barrel up to the ranch).
 

Day 12jmt-914
Sep 3, 12 miles, +3000 ft, -100 ft

After a good night’s sleep we were on the trail by 6:15 am for the hike up to Evolution Valley, a hanging valley high above the main San Juaquin valley. As we were hiking up the rocky switchbacks into Evolution Valley, Barney twisted his ankle on one of the rock steps, doubling up on the ground in pain. After a rest he was able to hike again reasonably well with the help of his trekking poles. Fording the cold waters of Evolution Creek at Evolution Meadow helped reduce the swelling in his ankle and he continued hiking relatively well the rest of the day.

Evolution Valley was a special place, with pastoral meadows and stately trees against a majestic backdrop of rugged mountain peaks. Further up-valley in Evolution Basin, Evolution and Sapphire Lakes were breathtakingly beautiful, as were the wispy clouds in the crisp blue sky. As we entered the upper part of Evolution Basin, we met a group of three backpackers (two sisters and their brother) from the Southeast U.S. hiking the JMT Northbound. They were fun to talk with and had a lot of experience hiking. They have been hiking a different section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) each year and have backpacked much of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), including most of the PCT in Washington State.

We camped high above 11,000 ft – our highest and likely coldest campsite of the trip so far. Sunset from the ponds near camp was amazing, with moody clouds of red and orange and picture-perfect reflections of peaks bathed in alpenglow. Despite the ominous clouds this afternoon, the InReach satellite forecast called for at least 3 more days of sunny weather coming up (sounds good to me). We have not had a single drop of rain yet for 12 days.

Most people who do a long through hike have to deal with at least one recurring challenge throughout their trip. For many hikers that challenge is blisters on their feet. So many through hikers are constantly having to tend their feet, applying special tapes and solutions to ease the pain of blisters or prevent more from forming. It’s also common for long distance hikers to have recurring foot problems unrelated to blisters. For other people, chaffing of their skin becomes a issue, as it did for me. I had never had problems with chaffing before, even on week-long backpack trips. But on a longer trip, any number of unforeseen challenges can crop up. For Barney, his recurring challenge was his ankles, for which he had a history of past strains or sprains.
 

Day 13d-03258
Sep 4, 11 miles, +700 ft, -3300 ft

It got into the high 20’s last night. There was a fair amount of ice in the water bottles and my breath froze a little on my growing beard and mustache. This morning was an enjoyable and chilly hike past huge Wanda Lake then up to Muir Pass. The historic Muir Pass hut was bigger than I imagined and it’s well constructed rock walls and ceiling look like they’ll last another 80 years, no problem.

The South side of the pass was a long, steep and rocky descent into the dramatic Middle Fork of Kings Canyon. Barney had been hiking well all morning and yesterday afternoon. But on the long descent from the pass, his pace slowed down and his ankle flared up in pain. We cut the day short and camped near the intersection with Bishop Pass trail – the closest and easiest way to exit the wilderness tomorrow if needed.

We discussed the prospects for his ankle and the potential exit points further South along the JMT. We concluded that the ankle would not be able to heal well as long as he kept hiking. While the ankle did well in the mornings and while hiking uphill or level, descending seemed to aggravate it. Also, Bishop Pass is the last convenient exit from the JMT for a few days heading South. And some of the roughest terrain on the JMT still lay in front of us, including one of the biggest downhill stretches on the entire trail. Therefore, we reluctantly decided to cut the trip short by exiting over Bishop Pass to South Lake trailhead.
 

Day 14jmt-1067
Sep 5, 11 miles, +3700 ft, -2600 ft

We hiked up the better part of 4000 vertical feet over Bishop Pass, with excellent views of the 14,000 ft peaks of the Palisades, home to some of the largest remaining glaciers in the Sierras. From the pass it was a dry but scenic hike down to South Lake trailhead, were we were fortunate to get a ride down to Bishop CA from two long-time residents of the town who were day hiking near the lake.

We spent the night in a hostel in Bishop and enjoyed some really good food and locally brewed beer at a local pub. After looking at the timing constraints, logistics and transportation options to get back to WA by myself, I came to the conclusion that continuing the hike by myself would not work well logistically. So the decision was made for us to start the trip back home to WA tomorrow morning.
 

After an early morning bus ride and a short hitchhike back to Tuolumne Meadows, we picked up Barney’s car and began the long drive home well before noon. We had an unexpected layover for the night just 30 minutes to the North in Bridgeport CA. After losing power on the road and getting a lift into town, we found out that Barney’s car needed a new alternator, which was thankfully installed early the following morning. Despite the car trouble, we were blessed by excellent timing and the generous assistance of the folks in Bridgeport.

All things considered, we had an excellent backpacking trip with a full two weeks and over 180 miles on the trail in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains. In total, we hiked nearly 87% of the mileage found on a traditional JMT hike. For us, hiking the traditional JMT was secondary to enjoying ourselves, experiencing the beautiful Sierras, and immersing ourselves in the joy of living life simply and efficiently on the trail. For John Muir, spending time in the wilderness was about deeply experiencing each passing moment, renewal of body and mind, and developing a deeper connection with something much greater than himself. By John Muir’s standards I’d say we had a very successful trip.

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