Looking west across the stark, but beautiful landscape of the Bighorn Plateau

 

The 2014 John Muir Trail Hike: Almost Famous!


 

My JMT journey this year was influenced by a series of hikes early in the summer, primarily in the Hoover Wilderness and northern Yosemite area. During most of these hikes, I experienced days of rain and came to the conclusion that my single person tent, a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1, provided limited accommodation during these long periods of rain. I figured the only remedy for this problem was to research a two-person tent close to the same carry weight ... a tent that would give me the extra floor area for wet clothes, backpack and the space to easily cook in the vestibule.

After some trial and error, I finally settled on the 2014 version of the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2, that surprisingly weighed the same as my 2011 version of the UL 1. So this tent was a keeper, providing excellent protection from rain and wind for the JMT hike. In addition, I acquired an inflatable pillow made by Exped and swapped out my SPOT for a DeLorme inReach sat-com device. Both proved to be of great use, in particular the 160 character two-way texting capability of the inReach.

  • Brian talking with Mr Ed during our first day hiking along the Lyell Canyon section of the JMT Brian talking with Mr Ed during our first day hiking along the Lyell Canyon section of the JMT
  • Benjamin on the granite slabs of the Tuolumne River Benjamin on the granite slabs of the Tuolumne River
  • Our first camp at Lyell Canyon footbridge. Jeanne, Brian and Benjamin Our first camp at Lyell Canyon footbridge. Jeanne, Brian and Benjamin
  • Our first camp at the Lyell Canyon footbridge. Brian, Jeanne and Benjamin Our first camp at the Lyell Canyon footbridge. Brian, Jeanne and Benjamin
  • Fitness workout by trail maintenance workers below Donahue Pass. No takers from us! Fitness workout by trail maintenance workers below Donahue Pass. No takers from us!
  • Brian and Jeanne with Thousand Island Lake and Banner Peak behind Brian and Jeanne with Thousand Island Lake and Banner Peak behind
  • The Minarets as seen from the JMT on the descent to the Shadow Creek trail. The Minarets as seen from the JMT on the descent to the Shadow Creek trail.
  • David, Jeanne and self at the Duck Pass trailhead David, Jeanne and self at the Duck Pass trailhead
  • Jeanne on the second morning south of Mammoth. Climbing south from Purple Lake Jeanne on the second morning south of Mammoth. Climbing south from Purple Lake
  • David climbing south on the JMT from Purple Lake, up to Lake Virginia. David climbing south on the JMT from Purple Lake, up to Lake Virginia.
  • Jeanne and David on the JMT above Squaw Lake on our way to Goodale Pass Jeanne and David on the JMT above Squaw Lake on our way to Goodale Pass
  • Jeanne approaching the summit of Goodale Pass from the eastern side Jeanne approaching the summit of Goodale Pass from the eastern side
  • David approaching the summit of Goodale Pass from the eastern side David approaching the summit of Goodale Pass from the eastern side
  • The last bridge crossing leading to VVR from Goodale Pass The last bridge crossing leading to VVR from Goodale Pass
  • Finally arriving at VVR after the Goodale Pass crossing Finally arriving at VVR after the Goodale Pass crossing
  • Evening at VVR with two PCT southbound thru-hikers and Allen the mule-wrangler Evening at VVR with two PCT southbound thru-hikers and Allen the mule-wrangler
  • Stacy from Mendocino and Jeanne at our Bear Creek camp Stacy from Mendocino and Jeanne at our Bear Creek camp
  • A beautiful sunset from our camp at Bear Creek A beautiful sunset from our camp at Bear Creek
  • Stacy, Jeanne and David taking a dip at Marie Lakes Stacy, Jeanne and David taking a dip at Marie Lakes
  • Stacy and Jeanne warming up after their cold swim at Marie Lakes Stacy and Jeanne warming up after their cold swim at Marie Lakes
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However, the most significant aspect of this year's stroll down the JMT was a certain notoriety we received from three articles posted in the Reno Gazette -Journal by their Outdoor Editor, Benjamin Spillman. These can be found at the following links:


 


I'd invited Benjamin to join my small group of JMT hikers from our start point at Tuolumne Meadows through to Devils Postpile ... a four day section, beginning on August 18th. Jeanne and I had planned to be JMT/PCT thru-hikers from Yosemite to Cottonwood Pass over a period of 27 days, that included one day out at Mammoth, one day out at VVR, one day out at Independence and a day climb of Mount Whitney from Crabtree Meadow. We also expected to have a rotation of guest hikers who would fill the two spare Wilderness Permit positions we had available for the full length of the hike. In the beginning, from Tuolumne to Devil's Postpile we would be accompanied by Benjamin the Reno reporter and Brian the Yosemite Ranger. Then from Red's Meadow to our final exit we would be joined by David, a friend of Jeanne from Hawaii. Then finally, for the last section from Onion Valley [Kearsarge Pass trailhead] we'd have Bob, my friend from Reno, through to Horseshoe Meadow [Cottonwood Pass trailhead]. In the event, as the trip unfolded, various problems occurred that necessitated schedule changes. See the 2014 JMT Actual Schedule.

The first section from Yosemite to Mammoth went as planned, with Benjamin and Brian providing excellent company for regular long-distance hikers like myself and Jeanne. Benjamin posed such questions as our reasons for 'being out here' - returning year after year for the same three week ordeal on the Trail, with limited food and occasional harsh conditions - obvious questions from a journalist, but not easy for me or Jeanne to provide simple answers. Our best guess is that we're out there for the adventure and to delight in the wilderness experience with like minded companions.

For the next section from Reds Meadow to Onion Valley, now joined by David, we decided to shorten the first day by hiking over Duck Pass from the Mammoth Lakes trailhead to join the JMT at the Duck Creek crossing. This was an easy day back on the trail and allowed for a camp that night at Purple Lake - a pleasant change from the limited Duck Creek campsites that were on our original schedule. For the next eight days we stayed on schedule, enjoying a zero day at VVR after hiking in over Goodale Pass and returning to the JMT via the Bear Creek cutoff trail. Our resupply at Muir Trail Ranch was straightforward and the camps at Evolution Meadow, Evolution Lake and a mile above Big Pete Meadow were all enjoyable. However, on reaching Le Conte Ranger Station by mid morning of September 1st, David was suffering from nausea and headaches. For him, the idea of continuing south on the JMT for the next five days to Onion Valley - a section that includes four 12,000' Passes, was not a wise choice. So we decided to opt for climbing out over Bishop Pass, particularly since we'd stopped by the Le Conte/South Lake Trail intersection. Better now, than heading further down the JMT and then having to backtrack if David's condition worsened.


  • David, Peter and Jeanne under the Sierra Juniper at the Piute Creek intersection. David, Peter and Jeanne under the Sierra Juniper at the Piute Creek intersection.
  • Jeanne with Ranger Dario at McClure Meadow Jeanne with Ranger Dario at McClure Meadow
  • A senior moment: Tinman [at 75] chatting with Ranger Dario [at 69] A senior moment: Tinman [at 75] chatting with Ranger Dario [at 69]
  • Our delightful campsites at Evolution Lake Our delightful campsites at Evolution Lake
  • Alpenglow on Mount Mendal seen from our Evolution Lake camp Alpenglow on Mount Mendal seen from our Evolution Lake camp
  • Evolution Lake in the morning with Mount Spencer in the background Evolution Lake in the morning with Mount Spencer in the background
  • Crossing the inlet from Sapphire Lake to Evolution Lake Crossing the inlet from Sapphire Lake to Evolution Lake
  • David, Peter and Jeanne resting at Muir Hut David, Peter and Jeanne resting at Muir Hut
  • Jeanne in the mouth of the Rock-with-Teeth Jeanne in the mouth of the Rock-with-Teeth
  • Peter tree-hugging his favorite Sierra Juniper on the granite slabs above Le Conte RS Peter tree-hugging his favorite Sierra Juniper on the granite slabs above Le Conte RS
  • Jeanne tree-hugging the Sierra Juniper on the granite slabs above Le Conte RS Jeanne tree-hugging the Sierra Juniper on the granite slabs above Le Conte RS
  • Jeanne and Peter on the summit of Knapsack Pass. Nth Palisade & Polomonium peaks behind Jeanne and Peter on the summit of Knapsack Pass. Nth Palisade & Polomonium peaks behind
  • Peter taking his time, and great care, in descending Knapsack Pass Peter taking his time, and great care, in descending Knapsack Pass
  • The chain of lakes in the lower Dusy Basin, as seen from Knapsack Pass The chain of lakes in the lower Dusy Basin, as seen from Knapsack Pass
  • The most excellent motel for PCT & JMT hikers in the town of Independence The most excellent motel for PCT & JMT hikers in the town of Independence
  • Long-distance hiker [trail name 'Strider'].  Co-owner of the Mount Williamson Motel. Long-distance hiker [trail name 'Strider']. Co-owner of the Mount Williamson Motel.
  • Strider with Jeanne and Bob, joined by Mark and Louise from Portland, OR Strider with Jeanne and Bob, joined by Mark and Louise from Portland, OR
  • Bob, Mark, Louise, Jeanne and Peter on the trail above Onion Valley Bob, Mark, Louise, Jeanne and Peter on the trail above Onion Valley
  • A mule train crossing the summit of Kearsarge Pass A mule train crossing the summit of Kearsarge Pass
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Once we'd made the move to leave the JMT at Le Conte, it made no sense to consider coming back in the same way. Instead, our revised plan was to take a few easy days in Dusy Basin and return to the JMT from Onion Valley on our original schedule ... and have Bob meet us at the South lake trailhead, then drive to the Mount Williamson Motel at Independence. While waiting for Bob to meet us on September 4th, we spent two pleasant days camped in lower Dusy Basin, a time for David to rest up and for me and Jeanne to climb the nearby Knapsack Pass.

After reaching the Mount Williamson motel on the afternoon of the 4th, David decided to return to Hawaii the next day, which left Jeanne, Bob and myself to complete the last section of our JMT trip from Onion Valley to Horseshoe Meadow, still planning a Whitney climb from Crabtree.

Accordingly, we positioned a vehicle at Horseshoe Meadow, then had ' Strider' drive us up to Onion Valley on the morning of the 6th, to begin our seven day hike south on the JMT/PCT.

 

 

 

The first two days back on the JMT went well, but had to camp below the Forester High Camp because of a mule-supported group of 24 [veterans] taking up the limited sites. As it happened, our lower camp at Bubbs Creek turned out to be a fortuitous location: In the early hours of September 8th it began raining, a rain that continued unabated throughout the day. We decided to stay in place, accepting that we would lose our day climbing Whitney because of food limitations. On the morning of the 9th we woke to clear skies, but a temperature of 18° F, that froze the wet zips on our tent. Had to crawl out from under the vestibules and then a long wait for the sun to melt and dry the tents for packing.

Despite the delays, we climbed over Forester Pass in fine style and made the easy walk down to Tyndal Creek for that night. A wonderful morning hiking over the Bighorn Plateau on our way to the Crabtree Meadow campsites [a first for the three of us]. The last two days were easy going, following the Rock Creek Trail up to the pond below Soldier Lake for the last camp, and then rejoining the PCT from the Siberian Pass Trail for the last section over Cottonwood Pass to Horseshoe Meadow.

 

©2014 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

  • Bob on the summit of Kearsarge Pass Bob on the summit of Kearsarge Pass
  • Another large mule-train crossing Kearsarge Pass Another large mule-train crossing Kearsarge Pass
  • A serious discusson with the guides of the 24 veterans group - about campsites! A serious discusson with the guides of the 24 veterans group - about campsites!
  • Moonrise on the evening at our camp above Bullfrog Lake Moonrise on the evening at our camp above Bullfrog Lake
  • Bubbs Creek nightmare: frozen in our tents - Peter crawling out under the vestibule fly Bubbs Creek nightmare: frozen in our tents - Peter crawling out under the vestibule fly
  • Bubbs Creek nightmare: Jeanne's frozen tent Bubbs Creek nightmare: Jeanne's frozen tent
  • The Tinman and the Ninja! The Tinman and the Ninja!
  • Jeanne in her Ninja disguise, waiting for her nightly star-gazing extravaganza Jeanne in her Ninja disguise, waiting for her nightly star-gazing extravaganza
  • Approaching the northern side of Forester Pass Approaching the northern side of Forester Pass
  • Bob, Jeanne and Peter on the summit of Forester Pass. Tyndal Creek in the distance. Bob, Jeanne and Peter on the summit of Forester Pass. Tyndal Creek in the distance.
  • Jeanne on the summit of the 13,200' Forester Pass Jeanne on the summit of the 13,200' Forester Pass
  • Peter on the narrow rock trail below the summit on the southern side of Forester Peter on the narrow rock trail below the summit on the southern side of Forester
  • Peter tree-hugging his favorite Foxtail Pine on the Bighorn Plateau Peter tree-hugging his favorite Foxtail Pine on the Bighorn Plateau
  • Louise, Mark, Jeanne and Bob resting on the highest point of the Bighorn Plateau Louise, Mark, Jeanne and Bob resting on the highest point of the Bighorn Plateau
  • The northwestern flank of Mount Whitney, as seem from the Bighorn Plateau The northwestern flank of Mount Whitney, as seem from the Bighorn Plateau
  • Jeanne circling the pond on the Bighorn Plateau Jeanne circling the pond on the Bighorn Plateau
  • Looking west across the stark, but beautiful landscape of the Bighorn Plateau. Looking west across the stark, but beautiful landscape of the Bighorn Plateau.
  • Now on the Pacific Crest Trail south of Crabtree Meadow Now on the Pacific Crest Trail south of Crabtree Meadow
  • Jeanne and Bob amazed at the ancient bones of a fallen Foxtail Pine Jeanne and Bob amazed at the ancient bones of a fallen Foxtail Pine
  • Bob and Peter resting on the gentle Guyot Pass, a few miles north of Rock Creek Bob and Peter resting on the gentle Guyot Pass, a few miles north of Rock Creek
  • The evening alpenglow on the peaks above the Soldier Lakes. The evening alpenglow on the peaks above the Soldier Lakes.
  • Knot-tying excercise at our last camp below Soldier Lakes. Knot-tying excercise at our last camp below Soldier Lakes.
  • Looking southwest from Chicken Spring Lake down to Big Whitney Meadow Looking southwest from Chicken Spring Lake down to Big Whitney Meadow
  • Our last breakfast at Mount Williamson Motel. Co-owner, Doug, at the back left. Our last breakfast at Mount Williamson Motel. Co-owner, Doug, at the back left.
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