2016 John Muir Trail: The 8 Mile-per-Day Hike


 

Following the experiences of our JMT hike in September 2015, this year we decided to try something different: shorter daily distances and more resupply points. The new schedule was based on an average of 8 miles per day, with resupplies at VVR, South Lake and Kearsarge Pass. Once again, our start point would be over Duck Pass from Mammoth Lakes, in order to avoid the Permit hassles of Yosemite, but with a finish at Cottonwood Pass and Horseshoe Meadow. No Whitney Portal Trail-Trash!

Our rationale for this changed schedule was driven by last year's JMT experience. It was in September, with reduced daylight, longer nights and only one resupply point [Muir Ranch] between Mammoth and Whitney Portal. Following a few weather delays, we were always behind schedule, and the heavy resupply load out of Muir Ranch was almost unbearable for two guys in their late 70's. However, we did make it to Whitney Portal, with some help from Ben Spillman, bringing snacks and fuel over Kearsarge Pass.

  • Arrowhead Lake on the trail up to Duck Pass Arrowhead Lake on the trail up to Duck Pass
  • The western end of Chief Lake ... as seen from our campsite The western end of Chief Lake ... as seen from our campsite
  • On the JMT, south of Silver Pass and to one side of Silver Lake On the JMT, south of Silver Pass and to one side of Silver Lake
  • Fireside drinking and stimulating conversation at VVR Fireside drinking and stimulating conversation at VVR
  • Our surprise campsite on the Bear Creek Trail Our surprise campsite on the Bear Creek Trail
  • Looking down Bear Creek from our campsite Looking down Bear Creek from our campsite
  • Fantastic root structure alongside Bear Creek Fantastic root structure alongside Bear Creek
  • On the granite slabs near the intersection of Bear Creek Trail and the JMT On the granite slabs near the intersection of Bear Creek Trail and the JMT
  • Bob and Peter at the Bear Creek intersection with the JMT Bob and Peter at the Bear Creek intersection with the JMT
  • Mike Fox on the shores of Marie Lake Mike Fox on the shores of Marie Lake
  • The Fallen Tree campsite ... this dead hulk was still standing last year The Fallen Tree campsite ... this dead hulk was still standing last year
  • The John Muir Hut alongside the JMT, one mile north of the Kings Canyon Steel Bridge The John Muir Hut alongside the JMT, one mile north of the Kings Canyon Steel Bridge
  • Ben Spillman standing by the Sierra Juniper at John Muir Corner Ben Spillman standing by the Sierra Juniper at John Muir Corner
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This year, the first three days to VVR were easy going, including the pleasant option of crossing Silver Pass on the JMT, instead of using Goodale Pass to walk into VVR. It'd been four years since Edison Lake had contained sufficient water to operate the VVR ferry from the JMT landing point. All very exciting and novel to once more pass Silver Lake, drop down the rock-face switchbacks to Pocket Meadow and descend Mott Creek to Quail Meadows and the VVR landing. Also different, the three of us [ Me, Bob Williams and Mike Fox] had spent the night before at Chief Lake, a nice change from the busy Squaw Lake or the limited Papoose Lake.

After two pleasant nights at VVR; busy with hikers even in this second week of September, we took the option of hiking the Bear Creek Cutoff and Bear Creek Trail back to the JMT, spending one night below the JMT intersection and the next at Rosemarie Meadow. Woke to a 25° morning with frozen water containers and tent flaps. Finally back on schedule the next night after hoofing it 11.4 miles down to a stealth campsite [Fallen Tree] along the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. Early the next morning we met up with Benjamin Spillman [Outdoor Editor of Reno Gazette Journal], who'd crossed over Piute Pass the previous day. Ben would travel with us for the next four days through the Evolution Valley and crossing the Muir and Bishop Passes.

On our way through the Evolution, we spent the first night at another of my stealth camps and then the next at Sapphire Lake [another first for me]. After crossing Muir Pass we made one last stop at Little Pete Meadow before heading out over Bishop Pass for the planned resupply. For a variety of reasons, a decision was made not to return to the JMT over Bishop Pass, but rather to drive south to Independence, stay at Strider's motel, leave a vehicle there and have Strider drive us to Onion Valley. At this juncture both Ben and Bob had returned home to Reno, leaving Mike Fox [from Australia] and me to complete the section over Kearsarge Pass, south to Horseshoe Meadow, a six day hike.

 

  • Ben interviewing Ranger Dario [age 71] at the McClure Meadow Ranger Station Ben interviewing Ranger Dario [age 71] at the McClure Meadow Ranger Station
  • Our campsite at the outlet of Sapphire Lake Our campsite at the outlet of Sapphire Lake
  • Bob, Peter, Mike and Ben standing by the Muir Hut, on Muir Pass [12,000'] Bob, Peter, Mike and Ben standing by the Muir Hut, on Muir Pass [12,000']
  • Ben on the first section of the climb from LeConte Canyon to cross Bishop Pass Ben on the first section of the climb from LeConte Canyon to cross Bishop Pass
  • The end of the Bishop Pass crossing at the South Lake trailhead The end of the Bishop Pass crossing at the South Lake trailhead
  • Mike and Self camped at the Forester High Camp [11,200'] Mike and Self camped at the Forester High Camp [11,200']
  • Peter with friends on the summit of the 13,200' Forester Pass Peter with friends on the summit of the 13,200' Forester Pass
  • Tyndal Creek campsite: Peter having breakfast with a couple from Wisconsin Tyndal Creek campsite: Peter having breakfast with a couple from Wisconsin
  • Mike Fox climbing out of Tyndal Creek onto the Bighorn Plateau Mike Fox climbing out of Tyndal Creek onto the Bighorn Plateau
  • Horseshoe Meadow as seen from Cottonwood Pass Horseshoe Meadow as seen from Cottonwood Pass
  • Breakfast at Strider's Mount Williamson Motel, Independence Breakfast at Strider's Mount Williamson Motel, Independence
  • Strider's Motel: Fellow JMT hikers standing on rocks in the backyard Strider's Motel: Fellow JMT hikers standing on rocks in the backyard
  • The JMT Elite: Tinman, Strider and Mike Fox on rocks in the backyard The JMT Elite: Tinman, Strider and Mike Fox on rocks in the backyard
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The first day over Kearsarge Pass and down to the Bullfrog Pond was done in very cold conditions and high wind. Overnight the temperature dropped to 18° ... once again, frozen water containers and split Sawyer Filter. Fortunately, the weather improved for the next five days, providing pleasant camping at the Forester High Camp, Tyndal Creek, Crabtree Meadow and Soldier Lake.

As arranged from Independence, "Lone Pine Kurt" arrived on time at Horseshoe Meadow to drive us back to Strider's Motel ... for a reasonable fee. You can find him at:
Lone Pine Kurt@aol.com or Cell: 661-972-9476

On the last night near Soldier Lake, I was bitten on th neck, while sleeping, by numerous large black ants [or spiders?] Due to infection, these bites took three weeks to heal ... taking powerful antibiotics.

See our actual: 2016 JMT Schedule

 

©2016 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

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