The 2002 John Muir Trail Hike


  • Our camp on the slopes of Mt. Shasta during the drive south to Yosemite Our camp on the slopes of Mt. Shasta during the drive south to Yosemite
  • Pat and Peter starting on the JMT at Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station Pat and Peter starting on the JMT at Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station
  • Peter and Pat at the high crossing of Lyell Creek below Donahue Pass Peter and Pat at the high crossing of Lyell Creek below Donahue Pass
  • On the JMT, passing through the burnt forest immediately south of Reds Meadow On the JMT, passing through the burnt forest immediately south of Reds Meadow
  • The creek outlet near the campsites on Purple Lake The creek outlet near the campsites on Purple Lake
  • The girls of Purple Lake ... Hillary and Heather from the Bay area The girls of Purple Lake ... Hillary and Heather from the Bay area
  • Peter, going solo on Silver Pass Peter, going solo on Silver Pass
  • On the Edison Ferry with fellow JMT hikers On the Edison Ferry with fellow JMT hikers
  • With hiking companion, Jim Slade, relaxing at Marie Lake With hiking companion, Jim Slade, relaxing at Marie Lake
  • Jim by our tents at the hot springs campsite near Muir Ranch Jim by our tents at the hot springs campsite near Muir Ranch
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My intent was never to walk the John Muir Trail (JMT) solo. From early this year, it was tentatively agreed with Jeff Warner and Pat Jenkins, the three of us that hiked the PCT from Steven’s Pass to Stehekin last year, that we would walk the JMT this summer. The start date was locked to August 15, with a permit for three to depart Tuolumne Meadows in the Yosemite National Park, southbound on the JMT, wih an approximate completion date of September 31 on thesummit of Mt. Whitney.

Two months before our start date, Jeff was diagnosed with a medical problem, although not very serious, did put in doubt his safety along the more isolated sections of the JMT. With Jeff out, Pat and I decided to continue with the plan, driving south from Vancouver to California on August 12 with two vehicles.

We spent the first night on the slopes of Mt. Shasta at the Bunny Flat trailhead (7,000 feet); a good altitude adjustment for the days ahead. The next day had us at the Shady Rest campground in Mammoth Lakes township (8,000 feet).


On August 14, we positioned my truck at Whitney Portal, for our eventual exit there at the end of the month. We then drove back to the Shady Rest that afternoon in Pat’s SUV, where we were joined by Jim Keogh, whom I'd invited to fill the empty permit slot from Yosemite, south on the JMT to Reds Meadow. He would then exit to Mammoth to pick up his car and Pat and I would continue on the JMT.
The JMT is a trail of 212 miles in length, has a cumulative climb of 43,000 feet, rarely drops below an elevation of 10,000 feet and requires crossing many Passes that are over 11,000 feet, including two that are well over 13,000 feet. The only positive factor is weather; it is California, and the Sierra Nevada range is one of the most benign high elevation regions in the world, making most days on the JMT relatively safe and without surprises

 

However, the first two days of the journey resulted in me going it alone for the remaining sixteen days; from Reds Meadow to Mt. Whitney. Jim left as planned from Mammoth, but so did Pat; suffering from severe sinus problems and lack of sleep. And so it was with some sadness, trepidation, doubts and a much heavier pack than planned, that I headed south from Reds Meadow on August 18th. That first night "solo", I shared a campsite at Purple Lake with two lovely ladies from the Bay Area; Hillary and Heather, on their first ever backpacking trip and making a fine effort at the task. I moved ahead the next morning, spending that night at Pocket Meadow, a short distance from the Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) ferry pickup point on Lake Edison.

VVR is the last bit of civilization for well over one hundred miles when travelling south on the JMT. It provides real beds, hot showers, great meals and trail food resupply to through hikers. I spent a very relaxing 24 hours at VVR and had the good fortune to meet a fellow solo hiker, Jim Slade, also southbound on the JMT.

  • Sign near Muir Ranch ... north to Canada, south to Mexico Sign near Muir Ranch ... north to Canada, south to Mexico
  • Jim wading Evolution Creek at the easy, not-so-deep crossing Jim wading Evolution Creek at the easy, not-so-deep crossing
  • Peter holding up Muir Hut on Muir Pass Peter holding up Muir Hut on Muir Pass
  • The damage that bears can do .. failed to break into the canister, but drank the gasoline! The damage that bears can do .. failed to break into the canister, but drank the gasoline!
  • Peter standing on Mather Pass ... the 14,000' plus peaks of the Palisades behind Peter standing on Mather Pass ... the 14,000' plus peaks of the Palisades behind
  • Peter and Jim leaving Rae Lakes for Bubbs Creek Peter and Jim leaving Rae Lakes for Bubbs Creek
  • Jim with fellow JMT thru-hikers at our camp on Vidette Meadow Jim with fellow JMT thru-hikers at our camp on Vidette Meadow
  • The end of the JMT ... standing on the summit of Mt. Whitney The end of the JMT ... standing on the summit of Mt. Whitney
  • Peter in lower Dusy Basin, recovering empty food canisters Peter in lower Dusy Basin, recovering empty food canisters
  • The weather is changing for the worst over the Sierra Nevada ... time to leave! The weather is changing for the worst over the Sierra Nevada ... time to leave!
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Anyway, after leaving Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) that next morning, Jim and I teamed up for the remainder of what became an Incredible Journey.  He's younger than me (54), but had a much heavier pack, so we were able to move along at similar speeds, finally stabilizing at a sensible 10 miles per day.  He'd also studied the up and down profile in much more detail than I and had formulated a pattern of camping below Passes each PM, climbing them in the cool and fitness of the mornings and then falling down the other side in the hot afternoons.  A good plan, particularly since the really high Passes are about 10 miles apart.

I'd placed a cache of food and fuel below Bishop Pass and close to the JMT/PCT.  It required a climb of 800' from the trail intersection, which I did in fine style ... completely out of food and darn hungry!  The cache had been there for almost three months, giving the local bear herd plenty of time to vent their frustration on the bear canister holding the food, which they didn't penetrate and the two gasoline fuel cans, which they did.  So, the food was intact, including some added (Clif Bars) by Good Samaritans who'd found the chewed fuel cans and figured I'd need the extra sustenance to walk out to Bishop for fuel.  I have their email address and will be thanking them accordingly.  Not to be delayed, I grabbed the food and then scrounged some fuel off two departing climbers that I passed on the descent back to the JMT (you can always depend on climbers ... a good class of people!).

Thank Heather for the use of her nail clippers at VVR.  In my quiet panic to save weight when I knew I'd be doing the JMT solo, I tossed my essential clippers for fingers and toes ... must have items for long distance hiking.  Everything else I carried, I used; sleeping cold on a few high altitude nights and running out of daily calories because of food rationing.  They say you burn at least 4000 cals/day on the PCT, so probably 4500 to 5000 on the JMT section.  My daily intake for the last 10 days was no more than 1800 cals, so it's no surprise that I lost 15 lbs.  A great and guaranteed weight loss program!

Stood on the summit of Mt. Whitney at 9:30 am on Sunday, September 1;  one day later than scheduled, but in pretty good shape for a 63 year old.  Probably 15 lbs. lighter than I'd started (me, not the darn pack ... it was still dragging me down), no blisters, no sprains, no bear mauling scars and bloody fit! Check out the 2002 JMT Schedule

 

©Peter W Tremayne Vancouver, WA October, 2002

 

 

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