(Buckets of food and other backpack paraphernalia.)

(First week’s grub)

Today begins my John Muir Trail quest. A year’s worth of planning, gear purchases, route planning, food recipes, resupply buckets, reservations, training and pack weighing has all come to this moment. Here I sit at 5 am with a new New Mexico address and a Hawaii liscence at the Albuquerque airport ready to board my flight to Reno, Nevada. I’m numb from the constant barrage of stress that I’ve had over the last 6 months of life. A possible move to New Hampshire, the failed move to New Hampshire, the job offer in Albuquerque, the discussions of moving, the logistics of moving, leaving my job and training someone new, packing, cleaning, saying goodbye to 11 years of Maui life and friends we love, living in a hotel and an empty rental home, getting our son registered for school, trying to make last minute arrangements, spending hours on food preparations and making sure my resupply got mailed out in time. Does my writing sound disjointed and chaotic? Well, that’s just how it’s been for months now. Exciting? Yes, but right now I just feel a bone-weary tiredness and numbness that isn’t letting up. Today just feels like yet another day of stress. Did I leave my wallet at the house in Makawao? Did I separate what I need in Albuquerque right away from what goes to John Muir and what gets put on a cargo ship? Oh wait...that was a couple of weeks ago. Now is now. One day at a time. Today it’s, will I get to Reno in time to catch the bus? Will my permit really be waiting for me at the visitor center outside of Lone Pine, CA? Will Delta lose my 31 pound backpack that has all of my life essentials for the next 30 days? DID I FORGET ANYTHING???!!! Deep breathe...just go with it...worrying will do you no good. If it can be fixed, then fIx it. If it is out of your control it can’t be helped.


That is the Japanese saying for, “It can’t be helped”.

Going on a trek like this is a lot like having a kid..,you’re NEVER ready.

Now I’m sitting in the Salt Lake City airport bound for Reno. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the mountains look a two-dimensional shade of brown. Is this smoke haze or just typical atmospheric dust that is characteristic of a high-desert climate always subject to a high-pressure weather system? Smoke haze...yeah...fires in Yosemite. Thanks to the Furgeson Fire that has chewed up 95,000 acres, Yosemite is closed. Is it still going to be closed a month from now when I am scheduled to exit the northern terminus of the JMT before flying home? Is the bus still running from the Yosemite visitor center to get me to Fresno? Will I see much of anything on this hike or will I be smoked out? Right now, I’m not sure how I will return home. Right now, I need to just think about today. Flight to Reno, bus to Lone Pine.

(Flight over Salt Lake)

Lovely Reno...visibility is a whopping 4 miles today. Furgeson Fire in Yosemite is roughly 180 miles south of here. Now I get to sit here at the airport for several hours and then take a 5.5 hour bus ride to Lone Pine. \240What should I do? \240Gamble away all of my money? \240I think I’ll find a relaxing place to get a bite to eat instead. \240

(You know your in Reno when...)

(Kudos Delta for not losing my pack!!)

And I’m off like a dirty shirt, wizzing along the highway in a bus enroute to Lone Pine! I’ve already met a couple of other JTM hikers. One of them is starting north and ending south so I will likely pass him on the trail. The scenery is gorgeous, but smoky. \240

(Nevada, somewhere along 395)

I finally reached Lone Pine after sitting on a bus for 5.5 hours. \240At one point the smoke haze was so thick you could look directly at the sun. \240The farther south we went though, it cleared up considerably. \240Smoke haze is still here, but not as bad as closer to Yosemite. \240I was in good company on the bus. \240All six of us were chatting about...what else? \240Hiking the JMT! \240Two folks just finished and I met a mom and her daughter who are going the same direction as I am. \240Everyone is so helpful and friendly. \240I can already feel the trail magic tingling! \240Tomorrow I get my permit and head for the Sierras!

(Mt Whitney looming in the distance)

It’s Wilderness permit day! I booked myself in the hotel that is closest to the visitor center that is holding my slip of dream, my coveted permit. Last night after the bus dropped me off I walked a mile to the hotel through Lone Pine. The southern end of the town is pretty derelict and I felt like I was out in the middle of nowhere. I’m guessing the town itself exists north of here. Today I’ve had a shower and some breakfast and then I’ll take a mile walk to get the permit. After that, I will have to walk to one of 4 sporting goods stores to buy fuel for my stove, grab lunch and then go back to the hotel to await my ride to Horseshoe Meadow. It’s 7:30 and it’s already hot.

I’m thinking about one of the women I met on the bus yesterday. She and her family are from Arkansas and they bought and trained a donkey specifically for the JMT trek. The donkey will be lugging their food so their packs are only 20 pounds. My pack (with water) is coming in at about 33 pounds. That’s the heaviest it will be and will get progressively lighter as I consume food until my next resupply. I think the weight is pretty good as I was worried it would be 40 pounds and my pack is only rated to hold 35 pounds, and so is my body.

I was warned about the 45 minute drive up to the campground where I will be spending my first night. They told me it is all switchbacks along a cliff and it just drops off at the edge of the road. I’ll have to trust my driver on that one!

After getting the permit, I headed back in the heat and walked to town. Lone Pine reminds me of Socorro, New Mexico. There are a handful of restaurants, motels, sun-bleached houses, and trailers. It’s a tourist town and considered the gateway to the Sierras near Mt. Whitney. Apparently it’s also a historic western movie town. Spaghetti Weatern anyone??? In a town of 2000 people, I had no problem finding fuel in one of four camp supply stores. I spent an arm and a leg getting tyvek by the foot to use as a ground cloth as mine didn’t get mailed to me on time.

Permit and fuel in hand, I found I had no other options but to stuff my face at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. So stuff it I did!

Next it was back out into the heat to walk back to the hotel and go over my gear one last time. The pack feels heavier today. I forgot I’d have to put the fuel in. It feels like it’s approaching 35 pounds. At least I’ll be eating dinner and breakfast out of the food supply today so it should lose about a pound by the time I begin hiking tomorrow. My ride should be here in 45 minutes.

As it turned out my ride was over an hour late. He texted to let me know. I sat in the coolness of the hotel lobby all afternoon. Finally the guy showed up and I was on the road. I found the paved, two-way road to be an easy ride. It was no where near as frightening as the old road to Langmuir Lab in New Mexico or the crazy single lane dirt road along the cliff side at the west side of Maui and out past Kaupo. We arrived at Horseshoe Meadow and the parking lot was completely full. He dropped me off near the hiker campground. I walked through it and it was Tent City. There wasn’t a single spot open. What do you do when the campground is full? Hit the trail!

I hadn’t planned on starting today, but it was warm and sunny and there was still plenty of daylight. The mobs of people were quickly far behind me as I began meandering through a beautiful pine forest. I hiked as though I were just taking a stroll in the park.

(Cottonwood Lakes Trail)

About a mile or so into the hike, the trail began to descend to a stream. I crossed it and began to wonder how much farther I should go and where I should camp for the night. Just then a family told me that if I just hiked about a half mile on a lesser known trail that follows the stream, I’d soon come to some large flat sandy areas. I took their advice and set up camp l am trying to do the recommended camp etiquette and camp at least 100 feet from the trail, 200 feet from water and don’t camp on any vegetation. I’d say my tent is maybe 50 feet from the stream. I’ll make sure I take a walk farther from the water in order to pee. Making my first meal 200 feet from my tent was interesting. I am using the freezer bag cook method, where you put dehydrated food in a Ziplock freezer bag and put the boiled water directly in the bag to reconstitute. Food from a bag for 30 days. Yay. This meal of Thai peanut rice Ramen was quite tasty, but very soupy. It leaked through my ziplock and I had to grab another bag to catch the dripping soup that was going in the ground. Ahhhh! I don’t want to attract bear! I buried the soup that had soaked into the ground. I realized that I had forgotten my Loksac trash bag. Great...now I’ll have to use the freezer bags from my meals as trash and they will be all wet and gross. Oh well. That’s a minor inconvenience. All smellables are locked in the bear can and that has been placed quite a distance from my tent. Early to bed tonight. I’m looking forward to hiking to Soldier Lake tomorrow. Now I’m laying in my sleeping bag listening to the pristine bubbling brook. \240Good night!

(The stream near my camp)

I survived night one, but it was a bit rough. I bedded down fairly early but it took a long time to fall asleep. I kept wondering if I left my “kitchen” clean and neat with no food remnants and the stream fooled me into thinking someone was lurking nearby. Sleep finally came, but by 4:30 I was scrambling for my first aid kit. I woke up feeling totally dried out and with a pounding migraine. I popped 2 ibupfrofin and started thinking of a game plan in case I needed to throw up. I didn’t want to vomit in this pure stream, but I didn’t have a hole dug either. Note to self: Dig the Cat Hole before bed each night. After a while the headache eased up enough for me to eventually fall back to sleep. It could be the altitude, it could be that I didn’t drink enough water, or it could be sleeping with my Sea to Summit airpillow which is less than comfortable. Needless to say, I’m getting a late start today. I probably won’t hit the trail until 11. I’ve got to get through New Army Pass that tops 12,000 feet. Right now though I’m sitting in the sunny, cool morning enjoying the stream. This camp chair has been worth every penny and every ounce! I’m still getting used to the bear canister and trying to be meticulous about not getting food on my clothing. I’m so paranoid that as soon as I open it to get something out, I close it again immediately. I didn’t have any visitors last night, not even a mouse. It is also a challenge to get the sunscreen off by way of rinsing with my water bottle before wading in the stream. It’s just lovely here. I could stay all day.

I didn’t get on the trail until 11, and later on in the day I paid for my late start. Very enjoyable morning trek through the pines to the first lake.

I entered the John Muir Wilderness. As the trail began to gradually increase in gradient, my pace was even slower. I’m just not acclimated yet. I’m guessing I was only doing about a mile per hour. That is extremely slow compared to my usual pace, but I wanted to go easy on my heart for the first day or so. I had to stop to eat and refill water at a stream and couldn’t believe that I was still quite a ways from the first lake. Feeling replenished, I hiked on to Lake One. \240Dang clever whoever thought up that name. \240Guess what the next lake’s name is? \240Lake Two!

(Lake One along the New Army Pass Trail.)

It was slow going, very hot and dry. I needed to eat more food so I stopped at Long Lake to take off the pack. I immediately stripped down to my underwear and took a dip. Ahh. Felt so nice. Afterward I sat on a rock to dry off and eat the rest of my lunch. I felt refreshed and was happy to return to the trail. I’d been watching the clouds gather over the mountain pass and as soon as I donned my pack I heard thunder. It was nearly 3 in the afternoon and I still had roughly 5 miles to get to a Soldier Lake where I had planned on spending the night. I hiked higher and the trees gave way to a barren landscape of granite boulders and slabs. No place to hide from a storm. I hated to do it, but I abandoned the pass and \240turned back to Long Lake to make camp for the night. Second night and I’m already off schedule. Oh well. Better safe than sorry. Tomorrow I’ll get up at 5:00 with the hopes of getting in at least 15 miles tomorrow to make up for the delay. I am trying to stay on schedule as I have a ride to my next resupply lined up and don’t want to be a day behind. As I sit in my chair, the threat of thunder seems to have dissspated. Sigh. It’s too late to pack up now. I’ll enjoy a hot meal and hopefully some sleep.

(Long Lake)

(Long Lake at my turn-around spot)

(New Army Pass in the distance)

Sleep didn’t come easily. I had anxiety about being behind schedule, but I just had to let that go. I was quite comfortable and there were several other campers around so I didn’t feel alone. I awoke at 2:30 am with the urge to purge. Sigh. I guess that fiber pill did its job. I took my shovel, toilet paper and headlamp and began to walk up the rocky slope above the lake. Just then I saw two shiny eyes and then a second set staring at me. I pointed my headlamp at them but it didn’t phase them. They didn’t act like deer and they seemed too agile and stealthy to be bear. One of them seemed to crouch down as if trying to scope me out. These were hunters. Oh my God. I’ve got to get out of here! I didn’t run, but walked briskly back toward my camp. Three sets of eyes peered at me near the lake. They didn’t pursue and I kept shining my flashlight all around in an attempt to confuse them. I returned to the relative safety of my tent. I was a bit shaken and certainly didn’t get the toilet made, but whatever they were nearly scared the poo out of me. My guess is could have been coyote, bobcat, or the feared Mountain Lion. I’ve never heard of Puma attacking someone in a tent, but a strange human out alone at three in the morning trying to follow environmental rules for poo is fair game.

I had fitful sleep the rest of the night. I really couldn’t sleep. It was all because of those awful, awful yellow eyes. When dawn came, I began to pack up, got a hasty breakfast and by 7:30 I was on the trail. Amazing how long it still took me to pack up.

(Sunrise over Long Lake)

I was glad I was on my way. I was energized and ready. \240One thing I know for sure is that so far the nights have been the hardest. \240So far I’ve only had one night where I was truly alone. \240When you are uncomfortable, hearing noises, or seeing yellow eyes, the night seems to last an eternity. \240New Army Pass was clear of weather and I felt pretty good with the ascent to 12,000 feet. \240Some young 20-something’s blew past me carrying only day packs. \240Well good for them. \240I just kept my pace. \240

(Ascending the pass)

It was so barren up there. The trees gave up long ago at about 11,000 feet. It seemed the only vegetation clinging to life up here were the occasional hardy wildflower and stunted greenery reaching for the sun between granite crevices.

I stopped for a spell to enjoy the view below. \240

(View of Long Lake from the pass)

On I climbed until I finally reached the top. \240The view of the mountains beyond the pass looked bleak and barren. \240It kind of gave me the creeps. \240I prefer trees to zero vegetation and nothing but rock. \240

(Top of New Army Pass)

Next it was a descent to the valley below. When the trail finally leveled out, it became a quick and easy hike in the edge of marshlands. I knew I needed to eat something and fill up my water bottles, so I stopped briefly for a snack in one of the most picturesque scenes so far.

(Just outside Soldier Lake)

Five miles down, about 11 to go. For the next 4 miles, the trail was an easy hike through meadows and pine forest with the rushing brook to my left. I was making good time doing about 3.5 miles per hour. It was heading for noon and already I was watching grey clouds gather and the ominous sound of thunder ahead. I was desperately trying to get over Goyot Pass. I hiked as fast as I could. 10 miles in and I needed food again. I stopped at Rock Creek for a 15 minute break for lunch and then donned the pack again. From this point, there was a nasty little climb that really kicked my butt. No- Named Pass, I call it. Now I was getting really nervous. I hadn’t seen anyone for at least an hour and it was beginning to rain. Thunder rolled just to the west. Would Guyot Pass be just as barren and treeless as New Army? I just kept climbing. Suddenly I passed 3 hikers who told me the pass isn’t that significant and it has tree cover the whole way. Yippie! \240I also noticed it was much brighter where I was headed. I reached the top of Guyot and breathed a sigh of relief. The storms went off in a different direction, but left a cloudy chill in the air. I kept my raincoat on.

(Top of Guyot Pass)

After the pass, I slowed my pace considerably. \240The descent was starting to aggrevate my left hip. \240Thank God for trekking poles! \240Soon I was slogging through the sand that lead through a foxtail pine forest. \240Many of the trees were spent. \240Their twisted and gnarled trunks evident of a long life that ended in old age or fire. \240

I hadn’t had water in a while, but I could tell that I’d be descending to another stream valley. My body was tired and wanted to be done. A couple more miles to go. I hiked on through a lovely stream valley with pristine meadows. My pace got slower and slower. Finally I reached the outskirts of Crabtree Meadow. I decided to camp near the ranger station because it was sparsely populated. I set up my camp, bathed as best I could and ate my dinner next to the steam. Ahhh. Beautiful evening. Tomorrow I will try to summit Mt Whitney. Another 16 miler tomorrow. At least my camp will stay set up so my pack will be very light.

(Meadow along the PCT)

(Last couple of miles. \240Beautiful)

(My dinner spot)

It’s Mt Whitney day! I’m going off of a 16 miler yesterday and 10 hours rest. I hope the body holds up because today’s hike is 15 miles round trip and nearly 5000 feet of an ascent. I slept better last night though it was chilly. I had on my light down jacket and a hat all night. I was happy to find a pit toilet this morning. Oh the joy! Toilets are such a luxury. It’s almost 7 and I’m about to leave. A lot of these crazy people leave at 2 in the morning to get up there for sunrise. No thanks. Remember the yellow eyes in the night? I don’t want to see any of those. Granted, Mt Whitney is basically a single-file line of people so I doubt the wildlife would be around much. Hey, if mountain lion just hung out on the trail, they’d have their fill for an eternity. \240All kidding aside, I hope that never happens to anyone. Well...time to go. My body is already stiff with cold and hurting. Guess what? I left my prescription anti-inflammatory home. Gotta wait for resupply for that. Ibuprofen to the rescue. I stretched and put on my ultralight pack. It only has the essentials for a day hike and my nice camp will be all set up by the time I get back.

(Beautiful summer morning!)

The first couple of miles were relatively flat and hugged the meandering stream through pine forests and meadows. I watched a buck grazing in a nearby meadow. The morning smelled so fresh and I felt like I could hike all day. I kept wondering where the crowds were. I was expecting Crabtree Meadow, where I am camped, to be jammed with people. Two miles in and I still had the trail to myself. As I gradually climbed, the trees became fewer giving way to shrubs and bare rock.

I found myself in an open valley and the trail continued to climb. \240So far, so good. \240Still no one to be seen. \240I was almost at Guitar Lake and from what I’ve read this place is typically overrun with people. \240Folks make camp there and then only have a 10 mile round trip to the summit compared with 15 from Crabtree. \240I climbed up another shelf of rock and got my first glimpse of Guitar Lake. \240It was smoothe as glass in the morning light. \240

(Guitar Lake)

Where IS everyone? \240I’m not complaining but it is rather odd. \240It was only around 8:30 and already the clouds were building. \240I climbed on. \240I filled up on water at what I thought to be the last available spot before the real climb started. \240All too soon I was well on my way climbing higher and higher, switchbacking across the mountain. \240

(The view a little way up the mountain)

The trail was about 2 feet wide and dropped right off into a steep granite boulder slope. \240Once I got above 12,000 feet, my heart told me to slow down. \240I stopped and refueled and then the altitude no longer felt like an issue. \240I could climb at a steady pace. \240I had rules for myself...DON’T look at the GPS, DON’T look down, and DON’T look up. \240Just watch the trail immediately in front. \240I kept telling myself that this was just like Switchbacks back in Maui, but 3 times as long...and at a higher altitude. \240Every so often I stopped to look at the amazing view.


It was too dizzying to look at the view for long. \240As long as I watched the trail I was okay. \240At one point the narrow trail dropped off to my right tumbling thousands of feet below.

I felt like I was cruising pretty well though I had no idea what altitude I was at. \240A watched GPS makes miles more painful. I didn’t want to know how much farther I had to go. I knew it was a long way and that it would be hard. If I looked up to see how far away the summit was, I’d probably despair and get cranky. Plug on. I was still very much alone. Where IS everyone?? The clouds were thickening, but it looked like they were being sheared off in the direction of the summit. The only vegetation I saw were these beautiful purple wildflowers.

On I hiked. \240Up, up, up. \240One, two, three, four, I can hike a little more. \240Easy does it. \240Breathe. \240You’ve got this. \240Finally at the trail junction with Whitney Portal all of the people seemed to crawl out of the rocks. \240All of a sudden every few minutes people were descending by the dozens. \240The trail became more precarious and rockier. \240

I hiked across a granite boulder scree slope. I took it slow. That was soon over and the trail was easy walking again. I could tell I was near 14,000 feet. I had to slow down considerably. Baby steps. Before I knew it I could see the hut and new I’d made it to the top!!

(View at the top)

(The start of the JTM!!)

(Top of Mt Whitney and southern terminus of the JMT)

I ate my lunch at the summit and took some pictures. \240There were lots of other people there, but I was the only one alone. \240Most of these people weren’t JMTers, \240They were day hikers and they paid me no attention. \240I was getting cold so I began the 7 mile descent. \240The clouds had caused a chill in the air and I put on my jacket. \240The descent went fairly quickly, but I was getting nervous. \240Thunder was echoing off of the granite cliffs. \240Lightening struck on the cliff across the valley. \240It was cold. \240Where is the sun?? Everyday these storms build and by noon it is questionable to cross the high passes. Early evening comes and they all disappear giving way to beautiful evenings. \240For now though, I was vulnerable clinging to the trail on an extremely steep slope with nowhere to shelter. \240At least there were others on the trail too at this point.

(Nearby storm clouds)

I wasn’t comfortable in amongst all of these rocks. \240I wanted my river valley, meadows and trees! \240Get me off of this thing! \240I could see Guitar Lake far below. \240An hour later and it seemed no closer. \240Down, down I went. \240It was unrelenting. \240I kept at it, and FINALLY I reached Guitar Lake. \240The switchbacks were over and the Sky didn’t look so ominous anymore. \240

(Guitar Lake)

There were a lot of people camped at the lake when I hiked by. \240I still had a fair amount of descending. \240The first trees began to appear. \240Ahhh. Home. \240Don’t get me wrong. \240The rocks of Mt Whitney are stunning. \240Granite cliff and spires tower to the sky. \240Some of the rock beds are vertical and others have been so twisted up you can’t tell which direction is up for them. \240On closer inspection I saw huge textbook examples of zoned crystals and slicken slides, evidence of a tumultuous past. \240Still, the openness gave me the willes. \240Staying at Crabtree was a good choice for me instead of Guitar Lake. \240

(Almost back to Crabtree)

Once I got back in the trees I slowed to a stroll and truly enjoyed the walk back to camp.

When I got back to camp I still had a lot to do. Bathing, laundry, dinner, planning for tomorrow, and of course, journaling. Tomorrow should be easy. Only 8.5 miles and no mountains. No mountains means I don’t have to worry about thunderstorms and I can sleep in!

Another fitful night’s sleep. You’d think that hiking 2 days in a row covering 16 miles the one day, immediately followed by a 15 mile round trip trek up 14,500 foot Mt Whitney that I’d be exhausted. Nope. I was cold most of the night. I sleep very cold and even though I have a very warm bag. I still couldn’t feel warm and comfortable. All I wanted was my women’s Thermorest Neoair sleep pad. At the last moment before I left I decided to take my son’s pad. It it the REI Flash and I found it more comfortable than mine and they weigh nearly the same. Mine must have Mylar inside because it makes SO much noise. All you hear all night with that is crinkle crinkle! Well dumb decision. My heavy woman hips and bum just graze the ground with his pad, making the cold ground just sit right there on my core. My pad is WARM!!!! I miss it. I am also pretty desperate for hand cream. My fingers are cracked and bleeding. My hands are so dried out they look like leather. Another thing I wish I had is a snot rag! I keep having to use my precious toilet paper or my body wipes. Anyway, I finally rolled out of my tent at 8 and had a leisurely breakfast by the steam. It is warm and sunny and I am about to start my trek to Tyndall Creek.

This is supposed to be an easy day today. Well, for the first 3 miles it was up and down over dry sparsely treed, boulder strewn knolls. I thought I’d be strolling along a river and meadow all day. I thought it would be flat. Then I realized, there IS no flat in the JMT! \240I would have realized what was in store for me today if I had actually looked at the map. \240

(Hiking toward Kern Valley)

My legs and knees wanted to rest today. \240I took it at a snail’s pace and out came the trekking poles. \240The JMT is much more heavily traveled than the Cottonwood Lakes area. \240People pass me about every 5 minutes. \240Most are headed south and finishing their experience tomorrow at Whitney. \240There are also a handful of northerners like myself. \240So far folks say hello but no one has really stopped to chat much except for someone asking how far it was to Guitar Lake. \240I’m certainly not the only solo hiker, but most are traveling in groups of two or three. \240I hiked in and was greeted to a stunning view across a valley.

(It’s Eye-Candyland, without the molasses swamp and gumdrop forest)

I make a descent down switchback to reach the Kern River. \240I set up my chair and sat down to eat my lunch of hummus and crackers. The hummus was delicious, but I wanted FAT! \240Yesterday after Mt Whitney I couldn’t wait to rummage to the bottom of my bear can and get a vanilla almond butter packet. \240To my dismay, I found none. \240I failed to pack them! \240I don’t have nearly enough snacks packed for myself, but at least I brought a small container of Nutella. \240

(Granite sand trail toward Kern River)

(Beautiful Foxtail Pine bark)

(Descending to Kern River)

After my leisurely lunch, I packed up and hit the trail. I wore my camp shoes through the icy steam to get to the trail on the other side. \240Man that felt good on tired feet!! I still had about 4.5 miles to go. The afternoon was much like the morning; up and down over knolls and ridges and descents into meadow or stream valleys. I climbed on top of one ridge and was given this fantastic view.

At one point I was hiking across a plateau with meadows. \240I wasn’t feeling very well. \240My back was aching and everything just felt inflamed. \240I stopped to take some Ibuprofin, stretch, and eat a fruit bar. \240How was I going to get over Forester Pass tomorrow? \240The snack helped and I felt much better and actually had a bit of energy for the first time today. \240

(Plateau with meadow on the way toward Bighorn)

I hiked on and came to Bighorn Plateau. \240It reminded me a lot of Scotland. \240There was this huge open space; rugged, stark, and beautiful. \240

(Bighorn Plateau)

(Bighorn Plateau)

(Bighorn Plateau)

Just ofif the trail I was greeted by a Hoary Marmot. \240Cute and tame little guy. \240

(Hoary Marmot)

I reached the end of the plateau and began the descent into Tyndall Creek.

(Descent to Tyndall Creek)

I arrived at the trail junction with the JMT and the trail to the ranger station. \240Welcome to Bear Country!

I took the first spot I saw tucked in the trees with a little path down to the river. \240There was another tent a ways away so I didn’t feel completely alone. \240I met a man and his son fishing in the river. \240They are doing a portion of the JMT. \240Very friendly folk. \240I did my evening chores and began to plan for tomorrow. \240I’ve got 5 miles before I even reach the pass. \240Forester Pass is a monster at 13,153 feet and about a 3000 foot ascent. \240I seriously hope my body miraculously recovers tonight and I somehow have a ton of energy. \240I thought today was going to be easy. \240Instead, it has Ben my hardest day yet because I’ve had no recovery time and I’m not yet used to hiking everyday. \240Since the clouds start gathering by noon, I’ve got to be on the trail by 6:30 or 7:00. \240At least I am learning how to prepare things the night before so that I can pack up more quickly. \240Nighttime routine includes: Bathe, wash clothes, make and eat dinner, brush teeth, dig the cat hole, filter and fill the water bottles, take down the camp chair, set out clothes for the next day, set the breakfast meal at the top of the bear can, chwck backpack and remove any smellables, place bear can at least 100 feet from tent, check the following day’s route, text loved ones on the inReach Mini, do a journal entry, read, and finally bed. \240Goodnight!

I got up at 5:30 this morning and started preparations for the day. \240It was a chilly morning and I dressed in my sleeping bag and donned my jacket. \240With all the prep I did the night before, I actually had camp packed up in a half hour. \240I took a somewhat leisurely breakfast, did some stretches and started on the trail.

(I want a hot shower!)

The trail right from my camp began the gradual ascent toward Forester Pass. \240I had 5 miles until the pass would begin, \240

(Forester Pass in the distance)

(Me hiking)

It was a beautiful morning and the hike took me over barren, rocky terrain with the occasional trickling stream. \240

(The hike toward Forester Pass)

I felt really pretty good. I wanted to cover the 5 miles long before any potential storms, so doing 2 mile per hour speed at a minimum should be good. \240

(On approach to the pass)

The trail was uphill the entire way, but it wasn’t too taxing. \240The closer I got to Forester Pass, the more nervous I became. \240How is anyone supposed to get across this thing? \240It just looks like vertical cliffs! \240


I knew that people hiked this every single day. \240It was also a stock route so the trail had to be maintained right? \240I too a deep breath and started climbing. \240So far so good. \240I had to take it slow, but I felt okay. \240The trail was about 2 feet wide and very well constructed and maintained. \240However, just at the edge of the trail one could easily fall a thousand feet vertically to their death. \240I hiked carefully and didn’t worry. \240I decided to give myself some company in the climb by listening to The Last Airbender soundtrack by one of my favorite movie composers, James Newton Howard. \240I got halfway up the pass, stopped to see the view and started crying. \240The sweeping music and the majestic view just really got to me. \240I wasn’t crying because I was exhausted, lonely, or wanted to go home. \240I was crying partly due to happiness. \240I planned this entire journey on my own and I was actually here making it happen! \240I summited Mt Whitney and now I was conquering Forester. \240I was also crying because of all of the changes that Ive been through in the past several months. \240I cried like a baby for 5 minutes, wiped my face and carried on. \240Up the cliff I went, and I even looked down a few times.

(Stock going up the pass)

(On the trail to the summit)

Just a little bit more and I had reached to top! \240The climb really wasn’t very long as most of the elevation gain was done gradually over the first 5 miles of the hike. \240The view was amazing and then I was starting the descent. \240My camp tonight is at just under 10,000 feet so that means descending all day from here on out. \240

(“I did it T-shirts when you get to the top folks.”). Um no. \240None of that!

On my descent I could see a shimmering lake far below me. \240I decided to stop there for lunch. \240It was chilly, so no swimming for me, but I think I did catch a glimpse of the elusive Pika. \240At least I think that’s what it was. \240No tail and fuzzy. \240

(Gorgeous descent!)

(My lunch spot at no name lake)

After lunch I descended through the rocky landscape and came to an open valley. Now here is where I started really slowing down. The rocks were just so much fun to look at. It’s been 20 years since I’ve studied Geology and sadly I just don’t remember enough to try to tell what was going on there. I saw what looked like sodium-rich granite with beautiful, pink potassium feldspar zones crystals. Yippie! Rocks! I felt sad that I could remember all those classes, so I just enjoyed looking at them.

I met three southbound hikers who were debating about crossing Forester. They still probably had a couple of hours just to get near the pass and grey clouds were gathering. \240I was glad I did an early start. \240Personally I think Forester Pass is much harder coming up from the south. \240At least this mountain pass was easier for a northbound! I hiked on, still descending.

(Descending toward a stream valley)

I could see the trees in valley in the distance ahead. \240That must be Bubbs Creek and Vidette Meadow where I plan to camp tonight. \240

(On way to Bubbs Creek)

I finally reached the trees and began walking through green glades. \240The wildflowers here must have been exquisite earlier in the season. \240Bubbs Creek was a beautiful rushing river tumbling over rocks and putting on quite a display of waterfalls. \240

(Bubbs Creek)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy it very long. It had been grey and cloudy, but since I was back in the trees, I didn’t worry about the weather too much. \240Suddenly I heard a burst of thunder and within 3 minutes I was soaked through. \240My raincoat helped, but leaked around the wrists and waist. I managed to barely get my pack cover on. \240It started hailing pea-size. \240I was worried the hail might get larger. \240There was no place to take shelter, so I lay I pack down and did my best to curl up in a ball with my head under a tiny overhang in the granite. \240Didn’t work. \240I was soaked and cold. \240I stayed there like that for several minutes until it looked like the hail had stopped. \240The rain still fell and the thunder cracked above, but I decided to hike on. \240I hiked for about another mile and then found a campsite along Bubbs Creek in East Vidette Meadow. \240This was where I planned to end my day anyway, and I was eager to get my tent set up and put on some dry clothes. My sleeping bag was damp near the collar but otherwise made it through. I made myself a hot drink, sat by the river and wrapped my sleeping bag around my legs. \240

(And it’s raining...)

(My dinner spot near my camp)

(My dinner spot near my camp)

Tomorrow I hike to Kearsarge Lake or possibly farther. \240Please let the sun come out! \240I’m about ready to go to bed and I’m STILL cold. \240

I woke up at 7 after a pretty restful night. \240The sleeping seems to be getting easier although it still takes a long time to drop off to sleep. \240Today is the day I begin hiking out toward my first resupply. \240I plan on camping at Kearsarge Lakes and then the following morning I have to be at Inio Valley Campground by 12:30 for my ride into town. \240My wet clothes and backpack from yesterday’s storm we mostly dry. \240My trail shoes were still wet, but they will dry quickly. \240That’s the beauty of wearing trail running shoes instead of boots! \240My camp was in a valley with steep cliffs on either side. \240It would be a while before sunlight would grace my camp. \240I was chilly, but could tell it was going to be a lovely morning. \240I ate breakfast, had my coffee and began to pack up. \240My favorite part of everyday has been when I first start my day on the trail. \240It’s sunny and warm and the air smells so fresh and new. \240I started out on the trail with Bubbs Creek rushing to the left. \240It soon fell away from me as the trail meandered through the pines.

(On the trail in East Vidette)

All to soon the trail began climbing. There was an older couple that I met who were also headed to Mt Williamson Motel in Independence for resupply. They were also headed to Kearsarge Lakes for the night. I kept climbing until I reached the JMT/Kearsarge trail junction. I sat down to take a rest and two men offered me dried pineapple, dried breadfruit, M&Ms, and a Luna bar. “Really??? Oh WOW!”, I exclaimed with my eyes bug as saucers. \240 I was so excited! I ran out of candy days a go and had no trail snacks left at all. I practically ate all of the M&Ms in one gulp. The men were finishing their hike today so gave me some snacks. It really helped. Afterward, I decided to stay on the JMT for another quarter of a mile or so and then turn around and go back to the JMT/Kearsarge junction. I did this because when I return from my resupply I would have missed that little section of the JMTwith the route I chose to come back. Can’t have that! It was a steep climb, but then plateaued into a dry, sandy, pine treed area. It reminded me more of New Mexico than the Sierras.

(View on the climb out of the Vidette/Bubbs Creek valley)

(On the JMT near my turn around area. I’ll pick up JMT here after hiking back from resupply)

After I turned around and hiked back to the trail junction, it was time to hike toward Kearsarge. \240The trail was relatively level through the Bullfrog Lake area. \240

(Bullfrog Lake. \240No camping allowed)

The trail was now climbing through a dry, rocky hillside. \240I should have filled up by bottles at a stream near Bullfrog Lake because I was almost out of water and the stream beds up here were dry. \240The sun was beating down and I was starting to feel cranky. \240I was hot, thirsty, and my hip was hurting. \240Where was the trail to Kearsarge Lake? \240Sigh...I’m thirsty. \240On I climbed and soon enough, I found the trail to Kearsarge Lakes. \240When I got there I filtered some water and sat on a rock by the lake to eat lunch. \240The clouds were gathering and I was trying to make a decision to go over Kearsarge Pass and press on, or stay here. \240It was still early in the day and it would put me closer to Onion Valley so I wouldn’t have to feel rushed tomorrow. \240The couple that I met earlier showed up and suggested I hike to Matlock Lake which is after the pass. \240I decided to go for it. An ominous grey cloud was perched near the pass, but not in the direction of the actual summit. \240Hmmm. \240Risky business. \240I decided to do it. \240The top of the pass did not look too far away and it looked like a pretty short climb. \240

(Kearsarge Lakes)

(Kearsarge Lakes)

I started the climb out of Kearsarge Lakes and it began to sprinkle. I didn’t hear any thunder, but I was getting nervous. I must have been tired from all the climbing this morning, because I felt totally gassed. I was frustrated. I was only halfway up and the rain picked up and I heard thunder. I was tired and didn’t want to climb anymore. At one point I wanted to throw my hiking poles down the mountain. Folks in their descent could tell I was less than happy. I think I was angry more out of fear of the weather rather than actual exhaustion, but I can’t deny I was tired. I finally made it to the top, took a quick picture and began the long descent.

(View of Kearsarge going up the pass)

(Top of Kearsarge Pass)

Down, down, down it went. \240I could see a treed valley far in the distance. \240I guess that’s where the lake are in this area. \240My moral had improved on the descent, but after a few miles in continual descending, my hips needed a break. \240I ate the Luna bar that was given to me and I stretched out my hips. \240Back to it. \240I was surprised that this trail was as peopled as the JMT. \240Makes sense though, as this is a popular exit off the JMT to get a resupply. \240I passed a couple of lakes but never saw a sign for Matlock Lake. \240I kept on and then came to Gilbert Lake. \240I kept going, but the trail was about to take a nosedive toward Onion Valley. \240More descending. \240I was hearing thunder above and it had started to rain again. \240I decided to make Gilbert Lake my home for the night. \240It took a while to find my spot, but I settled on an area close to a creek that drains into the lake. \240I bathed, and made my dinner which consisted of southwest corn beef wraps. It is freeze-dried beef, corn, bell pepper, tomatoe, cheese powder, spices, bacon bits, ranch dressing, and salsa. \240I put the mixture into a tortilla and it was the most delicious meal I’ve had out here thus far. \240Too bad it made a mess and I had to be meticulous about cleaning up. \240Bear beware. \240

Tomorrow I get to call home, clean out my foul \240garbage, and get a hot shower! \240My bear can is disgusting. \240Moisture has formed all inside from the leftover liquids in the ziplock bags from old meals. \240It smells like barf. I forgot my locsak trash \240bag so that’s the consequence. \240 I also can’t wait to get some hand cream and buy a bandana to use as a snot rag. \240My nose is always running and I’ve nothing to wipe it on! \240Here’s to civilization tomorrow and I can finally post a week’s worth of journal entries. \240

I woke up at 6:30 this morning with the sun on my face shining over Gilbert Lake. \240Yay! \240Warm sunshine first thing in the morning. \240I still have only been able to take a short dip in one lake so far. \240Usually by the time I reach my home for the night it is cloudy and too cold to swim. \240Maybe on one of my rest days. \240I went across the stream to fetch my bear can. \240Nothing was disturbed except a mouse decided to use my cup as a toilet. \240I scrubbed it with hand sanitizer. \240Better that than a bear snuggling around! \240Most of the wildlife I’ve seen have been oddly very tame. \240This makes me wonder if my little incident at 2:30 in the morning with the yellow eyes was really only deer. \240The deer are so used to humans that we don’t phase them. \240They know we don’t hunt them here. \240I couldn’t actually see any physical form of those animals the other night to even guess what it was. \240Seemed like hunters though. \240

I’m having a leisurely breakfast in the sunshine before packing up. \240I’m guessing I have about 3-4 miles of descending before reaching Onion Valley. \240I think the ascent from 9000 feet at Onion Valley back up Kearsarge Pass is going to be brutal. \2405 miles of climbing. Not today!

(Gilbert Lake)

More descending. \240There were quite a few people on the trail coming up so I had to step off of the trail every few minutes to let them pass. \240I certainly didn’t mind. I wasn’t in a rush and I’m hoping tomorrow when sun slogging back up toward Kearsarge Pass that they will do the same for me. \240Someone pulled aside on the trail up Mt Whitney when I was ascending and told me hikers going up have the right of way. \240Not everyone seems to realize that, but that’s okay. \240

(Leaving Gilbert Lake)

(Descent toward Onion Valley)

(Onion Valley in the distance and the road to Independence, CA)

I got within a mile of Onion Valley and realized I had cell service! I called James back at home to catch up on what had transpired over the past week. It’s been challenging for everyone there. They were still living in a hotel, James was adjusting to a new job, Liam adjusting to a new school and new Scout troop, and my in-laws were carting Liam back and forth to school and doing whatever they could do to help with things in my absence. Instead of feeling happy to talk to James, I felt a wave of angst and sadness that I couldn’t quite explain. We ended our talk so that I could get out of the burning sun and down to Onion Valley. I realized the sadness I felt was a combination of guilt and loneliness. Here I was in this amazing journey and James was hard at work trying to deal with the threads of an oversees move and new job. I felt an incredible amount of selfishness. I called him back once I had my camp chair set up near a stream, had cooled down and was chowing down on lunch. He told me, “Well you’ve just got to let those feelings go,”. It helped, but the feeling still lingered. How cool would it be to be like other families I camped across who were hiking together? How great it must be to share these experiences with loved ones. No, I was very much alone. As I watched gobs of non-backpacking families setting up their luxurious camps, looking clean and refreshed, I sat in my camp chair in my smelly shirt and cracked and bleeding thumbs and looked up at the gorgeous view in front of me. I waded in the steam and splashed the cold water on my dirty face. I thought of all the amazing things I got to see because I chose to venture into the wilderness on my own. I felt proud to have made it this far.

(My lunch spot at Onion Valley)

I noticed a small cluster of people sitting down near the bathrooms. They all had packs as large as my own. Are they JMTers like me, waiting for their shuttle into town? Meeting new people has always been difficult for me, but I shrugged on my pack and walked over. Striking up a conversation was easy with these folks. Everyone talks about their trek, where they are from and where they are going. As it turns out, the one couple that are hiking southbound live on Maui near Twin Falls! Crazy small world. There were two women hiking southbound and one Aussie hiking solo northbound like me. She was going to zero at the motel tomorrow so I’d be a day ahead. We all talked about our treks, relishing in the air conditioned van on the way to town. Once we had arrived it was time to check in at the office. The owner’s name is Strider. Well, that’s her trail name. Her birth name is Cris. She bought this little place named Mt Williamson Motel located in No-Where-Ville Independence, CA and created a base camp and refuge for weary, trail-trodden backpackers. When I checked in, she shook my hand and welcomed me warmly. She gave me the key to my room, told me my resupply bucket was there waiting for me and recommended I put on a loaner T-shirt and skirt so that she could wash my stinky clothes. To top that off, she opened a beer for me right away. As soon as I had changed and brought my dirty clothes to the office, she gave me a gift. All women of the JMT get a special necklace made of a leather cord, silver beads, and a Swarovski crystal pendant. She said that she had to be the one to put it on as a symbol of protection. “Do you know where my trail name comes from?” I shook my head no. She’s tall and blonde so I was assuming it is because of her enviable long legs and hiking speed. While that may be true, she said it is a character from Lord of the Rings, none other than Aragorn. Well DUH!!! It’s only my favorite movie trilogy and book set. She makes the necklaces as a representation of the Evenstar and a form of protection. \240 I plan on wearing it for the remainder of my hike.

(Mt Williamson Motel)

(My home for this evening)

I went back to my cabin to begin opening up my resupply bucket. I hand washed my beanie and gaiters and emptied my garbage. The bear can got a thorough washing and then it was time to load it up with fresh meals. This is my longest stretch between resupplies which means 9 days of food and my heaviest pack to bear bright and early tomorrow to lug over 2 mountain passes. My bear canister was so full I had to step on it to get it to clamp shut. Just then there was a knock on my door. My laundry was done! I packed the rest of my things and then went to the office to rummage through the hiker buckets. Hand cream!!! Boy do I need that! Now for a snot rag...none to be found. I took my clothes off and looked at myself in the mirror. I hadn’t seen myself in a week but I swore that my face just looked a tad drawn and my hips, ever so slightly slimmer. I took a luxuriously long hot shower. My hair had not been touched in a week. Every day it’s shoved under a hat for hiking, and a beanie at camp. It looked like an adolescent greasy mess. Hair came out in clumps as I bathed, evidence of neglect.

I couldn’t believe the time. Five-thirty already? Where had the time gone? Dealing with the resupply, repacking, and catching up with loved ones back home took hours. I was famished and looking for a good meal. I ventured out into the oppressive early evening heat. There didn’t seem to be much to this town at all and only one direction looked promising to buy a bandana and find food. The one gas station I went to reminded me of Hasagawa’s store on Maui. It had a little bit of everything from fishing tackle to baby bonnets. The only bandanna option for me was a white one with black skulls and hearts on it. Having made my purchase I crossed the street hoping for a delicious meal at the French Cafe nearby. Closed. Okay...let’s try the grocery store next to the restaurant. Closed. Here it was six o’clock on a Friday and the town seemed deserted. Am I really going to have to bust into my freeze-dried food? I decided to go back to the gas station because there was a sign offering pizza and sandwiches. The back of the store had 2 dirty tables and stained, broken ceiling tiles. The lights were off back there. The clerk offered to heat up a frozen pizza for me, so I ordered 2 personal-sized pizzas. I sat and ate and noticed some of my fellow hikers had trickled into the store searching for dinner. I gave them my second pizza and we jawed for a while about the Independence-midnight that seems to occur at 6 and no place to eat dinner. Some of the other hikers had gathered outside of the cafe hoping it would open. I decided to return to my cabin to prepare for the morning. Not too long after there was a knock on my door and Juli (hiker) offered me a fresh orange and invited me out to the picnic table to enjoy salad with everyone else. The cucumber was amazing and so was the orange. We chatted animately about bad backpacking meals, how to avoid thunderstorms, and scary trekking experiences. The two female partners got stuck in a hail storm and marble-size hail ripped a hole in their tent! Lots of fun laughing and talking and it felt great to be part of a group all sharing and pursuing the same goal. I enjoyed the comraderie but must now prepare to be on my own again. I went back to my cabin and anxiously paced the floor thinking about tomorrow. There was another knock at my door. Juli had given me her bandana, so now I had 2! Which one should I keep? My pack felt so heavy. There is a spring scale for pack weighing but I don’t want to use it. What good would that do me? I’ve got to carry it regardless. My next resupply is Muir Trail Ranch, nine days from now. Heavy pack, big mountain passes ahead, a nervous Amy.

(The gang of JMTers. Left to right: Natasha, Jackie, Richie, Juli, Cara)

(Post-shower me wearing the Evenstar necklace. Man I look like a dweeb in selfies)

My alarm went off at 5:30 this morning. \240Guess it was time to start gathering my things and enjoy one last shower before breakfast. \240When all of my gear was completely packed I decided to go to the spring scale that was hanging in a tree outside of the dining area. \240 The hook was pretty far off the ground and at first I couldn’t even lift my pack high enough to hang it. \240I put it back in the ground and took a deep breath. \240I managed to hoist the pack up and hang it on the weigh hook. \24037 pounds. \240Ugh. That is the heaviest my pack will be for this entire trek and I have 2 mountain passes to get over today. \240Breakfast was held out on a picnic table with the gang I met from yesterday. \240We wolfed down buttery eggs, bacon, coffee, and English muffins with homemade preserves. \240Fantastic meal!

(Fellow JMT hikers)

We boarded the van and headed back out to Onion Valley. I was worried about Kearsarge Pass, but I got my rhythm early and just plugged away at it. I decided to stop at Flower Lake for a cool off. It was a bit too murky for a swim, but the cold water on my feet, face, and arms was delightful. Afterward, I hit the switchbacks again and before I knew it, I was at the top. I was cruising! The climb went pretty quickly for me.

(Climbing out of Onion Valley)

(Ascending Kearsarge Pass)

(Me at the top of the pass)

I was only up there for a few minute when along came Cara and Juli. Wow they were fast. They arrived at Onion Valley at least a half hour after I did. I hiked with them on the descent, but in a short while we went our separate ways. I was aiming to take the high trail above Bullfrog Lake back to the JMT and go north and they were finishing their JMT experience by going south. The trail hugged a cliff a few hundred feet above Bullfrog Lake. It was hot and dry, but I finally found a small stream to fill up a bottle.

(Bullfrog Lake)

I hadn’t realized I’d be hiking in the desert, but that’s what it felt like. \240The sun was relentless and I was beginning to feel my energy wane. \240I stopped for lunch, but it didn’t really seem to help.

(Heading back to the JMT from Kearsarge area)

There was no water up there and I only filled my one 700ml bottle thinking I’d come to a stream soon. On I hiked and finally met back up with the JMT where I left it yesterday. The next part of the hike was going to be Glen Pass. My pace got slower and slower. I was long out of water and the climb had already begun leading me into a rocky country that was hot and barren. I was so tired I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Seems Kearsarge Pass took a lot more out of me than I thought. \240I hiked that at nearly 2 miles per hour and right now I was barely making 1. Judging by my map (and from several hikers), I knew that there were a couple of very shallow snow melt pools where I could get water before the pass. I trudged along and came to the first one. It was about a foot deep and warm like bath water. I waded around in it for a while and filtered my water. I accidentally dropped my clean water bottle in the pool. I tried to rinse it out as best as I could with filtered water. I hope I don’t get sick because the pool wasn’t the cleanest and there was a dead mouse right near where I was doing my filtering.

(Approaching Glen Pass)

(Small leftover snow melt pool where I filled up water)

After getting water, I tried to begin the 2-mile climb up Glen Pass. I was exhausted but didn’t want to camp here in this barren rocky place. I wanted to get to Rae Lakes tonight and then have a zero day there tomorrow to rest and enjoy. I hiked a little above the pools and could see grey clouds hovering in the direction of the pass. So now here I am sitting in my camp chair waiting for these possible storm clouds to dissipate so I can get this accursed climb over. I waited about an hour and I’ve heard no thunder and it doesn’t appear to be too threatening now, so I think I’ll pack it up and go. The climb itself wasn’t too bad, but for the fact that I was dead tired. Every 3 feet or so there was another 12-inch granite step to climb up. Again I thought about how much I’ve grown to depend on these trekking poles. I’d never get by out here without them. I was sweating and could smell the rank odor from my armpits. It was making me slightly nauseous. How is that even possible? I just showered this morning and the shirt was washed just yesterday! \240That’s the problem with synthetics. \240They dry quick, but hold in the stench. I had to stop and rest frequently. I had to come up with a strategy to get over this thing. Foot, pole, foot, pole, rest. Sigh. I decided to just count my steps. I’d walk 100 steps and then take a 30 second break to drink water and then repeat. It worked and the top came sooner than I had anticipated. I was eager for the descent.

(Ascending Glen Pass)

(Razor rock, Glen Pass)

(View from Glen Pass)

When I got to the top and looked over the edge in the direction I was headed, my heart fell into my shoes. It seemed to me the descent was 10 times worse than the ascent. The entire trail was nothing but a jumble of steep switch-backs over rocky, fist to head-size ankle twisters. I am an extremely slow descender at the best of times and I climb better than descend. This was going to take me hours. Why was this place called Glen Pass anyway? How about Rock Mountain, Mountain of Insanity, or Stairway to Hell? Glen Pass just sounds so lovely and green and this was anything but. I was exhausted but had no choice to descend. I could see Rae Lakes, paradise, far below in the distance. This was going to be a long, slow descent.

(Rae Lake in the far middle right)

I began to slowly pick my way down. Get me off this thing!!!! I’m sooo tired! All I wanted to do was set up camp at Rae Lakes and go for a swim. I didn’t stop and I didn’t eat. My left hip was starting to tell me it had had enough. I continued to descend, ignoring the pain.

(Glen Pass descent)

(Looking back at Glen Pass)

On I went, wishing I could pick up the pace, but knowing if I did, I’d fall. My feet didn’t want to work anymore and I was depending heavily on my poles for stability. I finally began to reach the tree line and heard the trickling sound of heaven; a stream with beautiful trees and small meadows. It looked like Lothlorien to me and I nearly cried at the sight of it. I turned around to face Glen Pass and stuck my tongue out at it. \240I hiked through the real Glen and realized that although Rae Lakes was closer, I STILL had an enormous descent. It probably really wasn’t that much, but when you are thoroughly spent, in pain, and your stomach is growling it seemed like a lot to me. More granite boulder steps. More descending, but I could finally see Rae Lakes and I wasn’t that far!

(Rae Lakes)

Wait a minute...looks like I’m still several hundred feet above the darned water. The trail kept going and I felt near collapse. I HAD to eat. Who knows how long it would be before I could make dinner? I wolfed down a cliff bar like a starving lunatic. It began to take affect. My heart was telling me it too had had enough. Any little incline in the trail or physical effort and it would perform palpitations. I hoped that it was just an electrolyte imbalance causing that. I couldn’t walk more than a couple slow steps at a time. I was a miserable soul. Where are the darned campsites???? I finally reached the lake water and continued to follow the trail through the Lake District. Two young female hikers whom I had passed on the climb long ago had actually caught up to me. They too were tired and looking for a camp. At Rae Lakes you really had to hunt for a flat spot. Most places seemed to be taken and the only flat spots were located high on a knoll away from the water. I followed what looked like a side trail and it lead me to someone’s camp. “Is there anywhere to camp around here beside where you are?”, I asked in desperation. I must have sounded frustrated because his reply to me was “Do you just not like this type of environment?” I told him I’d be happy with any flat spot at all and that I was spent. He immediately warmed up and actually walked me to a flat spot that he found earlier. It was only a few meters up the knoll, but I could not keep up. He slowed for me and showed me the spot. I thanked him and immediately ditched my pack. The site was okay. It was open and rocky. With the pack off I decided to hunt around for something with a tree or two. Within a few moments I found my site, a beautiful spot with a large tree and a flat pine needled spot for my tent. I’m pretty picky when it comes to campsites. They have to speak to me and feel right. This did, so I set up my tent and fetched water. It was a bit of a walk to the lake to get a refill, but I had to get water in order to make dinner. The sun had already long set by the time I boiled water for my Mountain House brand lasagna. Oh Man that’s good! It was supposed to be my dinner for the third night of this stretch but it was the entire bag of lasagna, 2 servings worth, and I ate the entire thing. Since my bear can was too full getting this bulky meal out of there was another plus. I also enjoyed a much needed hot electrolyte drink. With a warm, full belly, I double checked my pack for any smellables and secured my bear can for the night. I crawled into my sleeping bag glad to finally lay down. Even if a bear came and stared me in the face, I was too tired to care. Thank GOD for my zero day tomorrow!!!

(Rae Lakes)

Ahhh! Sleeping in! No packing up the tent! Lounging around! Maybe even a swim!! My first zero day. I was glad I went through all of that pain yesterday to get here and be able to have a real rest day, my first since August 10. Although I felt mostly recovered from my two mountain passes yesterday, I knew my 45 year old body needed the break from nine straight days of climbing up and down mountains. I woke sometime after 7, my body telling me it needed a bathroom. The sun was already shining brightly on the striped, rocky mountains to the west above one of the lakes. I fetched water and then plopped down in my chair for a cup of coffee. I watched the sun slip above the mountains to the east and within minutes my light down jacket was like a heater with the sun beating down on it. Ahh. Hot coffee, warm sunshine. beautiful scenery, and a comfortable chair. Today was all about taking care of myself.

(Relishing in Rest Day!)

I spent the first couple of hours sitting in my chair, eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and catching up on yesterday’s journal entry. \240I was too far gone last night to finish it and opted for sleep instead. \240Afterward, it was time to fetch water and head for the “beach”! \240

(Walking the trail to find a good spot to swim)

I put on yesterday’s shorts and T-shirt, carried my camp chair, a bottle of water, and my towel and found a spot to put up my chair right near the water’s edge. I went into the lake and dove under. The water felt fridged but refreshing. I couldn’t stay in for more than a few minutes, but that was all I needed to feel refreshed.

(My swim spot)

(Wet and refreshed!)

I felt as though I had the whole lake to myself. Many of last night’s campers had already packed up and moved on and today’s batch had not yet arrived. I sat by the lake’s edge for an hour reading and enjoying the warm sun. Fish swam lazily in the clear depths popping up every so often for a nibble on the surface. After a while I had completely dried off and was concerned about getting a sun burn. I walked back to camp. It’s surprising how clear the water is and the tan of the sand changed to the turquoise of the water which reminded me of the ocean on the coast of Maui.

I dropped my things off at camp and decided to do some exploring. I walked the trail but didn’t go very far. I certainly didn’t want to exert myself on a rest day. I walked around one of the lakes to admire the scenery. By the time I reached the trail that was close to my campsite I decided it was time for lunch. People were already trickling in off the trail looking for a camping place. After lunch I decided to head back to the lake for an afternoon dip.

(My swim place)

As I sat to dry off, 3 ladies had gone in to swim and were now lying on a rock without clothes on. The afternoon clouds were starting to cluster. It felt blazing hot when the sun was out but as soon as the sun was hidden, it felt down right chilly. I started to feel cold so I went back to camp to put warmer clothes on. I spent another couple of hours just sitting and reading. By 5 I was getting hungry and started the chores to prepare for tomorrow. I made dinner, fetched water, and studied the map of tomorrow’s route. Just then someone came walking into my camp. By now I was used to it and I pretty much knew what they wanted. Where do you camp around here??? I’m camped close to the trail and one of the first tents that you see while making the endless walk around the lakes tired after a long day of trekking. I’ve had about 5 people ask me where the campsites are and which lake this is. I know the feeling. I felt like a ranger for Rae Lakes! Those were my only conversations with people all day. Sitting around all day long was necessary, but after a while the loneliness really sets in. I decided to do an evening walk toward the real ranger cabin. The waning sun was still warm on my back as I sat high on a rock overlooking middle Rae Lake.

(Early evening at Rae Lakes)

I started back to camp just before the sun disappeared behind the mountain. \240I’m ready to pack up tomorrow and get back on the trail. \240I need a goal and something to do. \240The rest day was completely necessary, but I’m mentally ready to go. \240Physically? \240That remains to be seen and felt. \240

I woke up a few times last night to the waving motion of a headlamp beam and footsteps. It made me nervous but it was just late arrival hikers looking for a place to camp. Sorry guys, this ranger is sleeping. Don’t bother me.

My alarm went off at 6 and since there was no one around to bring me hot coffee I did what any normal coffee deprived person would have done. Turned off the alarm, rolled over and went back to sleep. I forced myself up at 7 and dressed for the day inside of my sleeping bag. Once I made that coveted hot coffee I began the routine of the morning. I remembered that Natasha, the other female northbounder, was due to leave her zero day at the motel today. I texted her to wish her luck and warned her to be careful on that awful descent down Glen.

By 8:30 I was on the trail. This morning’s portion of the hike was a valley hike with a gradual descent. It was another warm, sunny morning and the sun cast shimmers on the lake water as I hiked along.

The footing on the trail was very gentle for the most part and the grade was as gentle as the JMT ever gets. I passed through more lakes. Meadows and crystal clear streams.

(Arrowhead Lake)

(Beautiful meadow near Dollar Lake)

It was lovely to hike through the meadows with wildflowers still in bloom. I was enjoying the hike this morning, at least as much as I could. \240I could tell that my body still wasn’t recovered from Kearsarge and Glen Passes. \240My legs felt heavy and my left hip was already starting to ache. \240

(Looking back toward the Rae Lake area in the distance)

(Dollar lake)

I stopped by a stream to have a snack and fill up my water bottles. I got going again and that hip of mine was truly hurting. I couldn’t wait to get to the Castle Domes camp area where I planned to lunch, soak my feet and take some Ibuprofin. The trail kept descending. I knew I was getting into the lower elevations. I saw aspen, stunted and small, and other types of pine began to appear. The lower I went, the grass was thick with fern, and now there were aspen, white pine, sage, juniper, and Jeffrey pine. Oh I loved it down here! I reached Castle Domes and dropped the pack to stretch my bum hip. The cold water on my feet was rejuvenating. Kind of wish II could just camp right here, but I need to camp much closer than this to Pinchot Pass. The elevation here was only 8500 feet, the lowest I had been to in 10 days. I put up my chair and wished I could have a hamburger, hotdog, chips and a beer. Sigh. I had to settle for a tortilla, BBQ sauce, bacon bits, and fried onions. Sound good? It’s okay, but after a while all food in the bear can held in ziplocks starts to get rubbery and not as flavorful. I took a look at the map. I was headed to Twin Lakes for the night. It was only 4.5 miles from here. But it was also over 10000 feet. I’d have about 2000 feet of climbing this afternoon and I’m pretty sure it all starts as soon as I cross the river.

(Suspension bridge across the river at Castle Domes)

Sure enough, the climb began. \240For a few miles I felt pretty good. \240The climbing was a welcome change from descending...for a while. \240

(The view while climbing toward Pinchot Pass)

(Beautiful giant pine cone from a Jeffrey pine tree)

I started feeling tired again and the Ibuprofin didn’t help my hip that much. I still had a couple of miles to get to the Twin Lakes area. I was already thinking about making camp. The river below me to the right tumbled across smoothe, bare rock. It looked like a natural water slide, but I didn’t try it.

My pace was getting slower and slower. It was hard to keep stepping up onto those high granite blocks and the climb seemed to last forever. I finally sat down to eat a protein bar and try to stretch my hip. It helped some for the final mile. Soon I could see the smaller of the two twin lakes, but I wasn’t sure how to get down to it or where to camp. Two men said that they had tried to find a camp spot farther along the trail but that there was only a small trickle of a stream. I continued on the trail to see what I could find. I knew where the larger twin lake was, so I left the trail and headed over to it. I found one potential camp spot but climbing down to get water would have been a pain, so I turned around and went back to the trail.

(Twin Lakes)

Not long after joining the trail again, I saw a nice camp spot right next to a trickling stream and a bluff. The view was beautiful. I decided to make that home. Not long after I set up, another solo female took the spot just down the trail from me. We chatted a little bit about how difficult Glen Pass was. I ate my dinner, did my evening chores and bedded down for the night. Tomorrow is Pinchot Pass. Hopefully it won’t be too difficult as most of the altitude was already gained today. Only 2000 feet to go to the top!

(Sunset at my camp)

This is to be my twelfth day on the trail. The honeymoon phase is over and I’m now into a routine, dealing with fatigue and body pain. The scenery is gorgeous but one does get desensitized to it all living out here on a daily basis. I am dealing with loneliness and exhaustion by living one day at a time and really focusing on the positive things that I look forward to each day. I’ll get the bad out of the way first. The worst things about camping in the wild? Being cold, crouching over a cat hole only to find that your body won’t give you the relief it needs, split and bleeding fingers, hip pain, exhaustion when you still have a 2000 foot climb, frustration with trying to find a camp after a long, hard day, body oder, putting on a cold bra first thing in the morning, urine spray on your feet and legs (women only), and countless other little things. That is just all part of the experience folks. The good? I’m living out in some of the most beautiful scenery our country has to offer, I’m DOING this! What do I look forward to everyday? The morning sun on my face as when it finally pops up above the mountainside, a hot cup of coffee, turning on my inReach every morning to collect yesterday’s messages from loved ones at home, hiking through trees and streams, cooling my hands and face in an ice-cold stream when I’m sweating, food, and climbing into my sleeping bag in the evenings. The nights have gotten much easier. I sleep better and I’m more comfortable. I guess the body adjusts after a few days. I’ve got Pinchot Pass but I’m not really in any rush to get out there. Judging by the looks of the clouds this morning there isn’t any sign of cumulus clouds at all. Just like yesterday, the clouds are a combination of lenticular and stratus, so getting over the pass should be fine. I should get a move on soon though.

(The view from my camp site)

This morning’s portion was really nice. The trail lead me on a gentle grade heading toward Pinchot Pass. The landscape was rocky, but also held green meadows with small pools and meandering streams. The surrounding mountains had red rocks and I felt I was looking at a cross between Haleakala on Maui and the Isle of Skye on Scotland. I thought it was beautiful and felt very comfortable in my surroundings. I knew there was no threat of thunderstorms and the morning had just a hint of autumn. Perfect for hiking. \240My inReach Mini was going off like wildfire with texts from James. \240I’d check after the pass.

(Hiking to Pinchot Pass)

As I climbed higher, I never felt nervous or exposed like I had on some of the other passes. I didn’t feel like I might fall over the edge if I weren’t careful. I reached the top and felt that Pinchot was my favorite pass yet. I have learned to strategize better for the mountain passes. Camp just a few miles from the summit. The following morning hike over the pass and endure a long descent. Sooner or later the climb for the next pass will begin. Climb until you are either wiped out, or have roughly only 2000 feet to get to the summit of the next pass. If I camped at Castle Domes like I was sorely tempted, Pinchot would have been a 4000 foot ascent and I’d probably have been miserable. Having reached the top of the pass, I met Jen up there, the girl who camped near me last night. There was also an Australian family, mom, dad, and 2 fourteen year old boys. Summit party! They were so easy to talk to. The parents were joking that their boys eat so much! It took me 30 seconds to tell them about my own thirteen year old son and that I guessed an empty refrigerator is what I have to look forward to very soon! I even asked the boys if they had girlfriends. One of them just had his heart broken. I guess my son isn’t too far off from that either. They gave me a snack of some Thai vegan jerky. It was weird, but I ate it.

(View from Pinchot Pass)

(View from Pinchot Pass)

Soon we all went our separate ways. I descended to Marjorie lake and felt I should take a break and check my messages from James. James was trying to inform me that his dad had landed in the hospital with blood clots in both legs and an irregular heartbeat. \240My in-laws have been staying in Albuquerque to help us get settled after this big oversees move and to help shuttle Liam to school in my absence. Before I left, my father-in-law when to the doctor with terrible pain in his knees. The doctor thought it was gout. At the moment that I read James’ texts I didn’t know what to do. Here I was sitting next to this azure lake on a sunny morning and I felt a million miles from anywhere. If someone had offered to teleport me home that instant I would have done it. I sat on a rock and cried. I felt so helpless and so guilty for being out here and not home with my family. I immediately thought about how I would get home. I could back-track to Onion Valley and hitch a ride somewhere, or some people find a way to get to Bishop after Mather Pass. Another option would be Reds Meadow or Vermillion Valley. All of these options are days away. James insisted I continue with my trek. I didn’t feel very happy as I ate my crappy lunch of crackers and dried apples. I would have had hard cheese and sausage, but they smelled a tad funky so I put them in my garbage bag. A few moments later a delightful couple came to the lake for a break. They were out backpacking and were in their 70s!! I told them that I hoped that I would be able to do that too when I turn 70. Feeling a bit better, I started out again.

(My lunch spot today)

The trail continued to deacend, but the footing wasn’t too terrible. \240After a while I was back in the trees hiking through a stream crossing. \240This must have been the bottom because the descent had begun. \240Now to try to get to within a few miles of Mather Pass. \240That would put me in Upper Basin for the night. \240I had originally planned on staying at Bench Lake, but that was over 7 miles from the summit and I wanted to be closer. \240I climbed out of the valley and entered a more barren, rocky landscape. \240

(Hiking toward Mather Pass)

Occasionally the trail would lead through a lovely meadow and stream before ascending back into the rocks.

(Hiking toward Mather Pass)

I was starting to get tired. I didn’t eat much today and I was really beginning to feel it. I had entered the Upper Basin area and was ready to find a camp spot for the night. Nothing out there but rugged rolling rock lands. A ranger was sitting just off of the trail and told me there were lots of them about 0.1 miles ahead. On I hiked, but all I could find was one spot about 10 feet off of the trail. I kept looking and found nothing, so I kept ascending on the trail. A half hour later I still came up with nothing. I got so frustrated I threw my trekking poles to the ground. I was hungry and tired. That lasted about 2 minutes. Afterward, I put on my “big girl” pants and hiked on. I met a southbound hiker who said she couldn’t find anything either. Her spot ended up being a bare sandy patch high on a knoll and totally exposed. I decided to turn around and go back toward the trees. A little more looking and pop! I found my home. It is just a short walk to the stream and has a nice white bark pine tree. I set up my camp and was happy that I still had at least an hour of warm sun. I bathed and gave myself a “spa” treatment. That consisted of rubbing lotion on my feet and legs. I felt refreshed and actually felt clean even though only 1/3 of me was washed and the rest was anything but. As soon as the sun dipped behind the mountain I knew that was my cue to climb into my tent. Goodnight!

(View from my camp)

(View from my camp)

I slept in until 7:30 just as the sun was coming out over the mountain to warm me up. I don’t think I have a big day today. Mather Pass is 2 miles up the trail and I’m scheduled to stay at Palisade Lakes tonight and it’s only 5 miles from here. I am thinking of staying at Deer Meadow instead. I seem to gravitate more toward trees, rivers and meadows. I’ll see how I feel. Right now though, it’s a slow start with a headache. I’m hoping the coffee will help. The gregarious Clark’s Nutcrackers clustered in the tree above my tent aren’t helping things. Man they are noisy...SQUAK!!!!

I can see today’s hike is going to be hot, rocky, and barren. Let me guess...a 2000 foot climb, rocky descent until I finally reach the trees. The descent is called the “Golden Staircase” although I don’t know why. \240Should be good if I can get rid of this headache and get myself off of this chair.

(My backyard)

By 9:30 I was finally on the trail. It was an ascent into a highland of granite boulders and scraggly trees. Mather Pass was inching closer. It looked like an imposing wall of rock. Mather was to be my 8th mountain pass. I don’t want to say they are getting easier, because that wouldn’t be entirely true. By now though I no longer feared them. I no longer felt a sickening switch in my stomach wondering how in the world I’d get over this or that pass and how on earth can a trail get me safely over the top. I simply just knew with confidence that I could do it. I also don’t have thunderstorms to dodge this week either and boy does that help! Mather Pass was a jumble of rock with a trail wedged in between.

(Approaching Mather Pass)

When I got to the top, there was a summit party. No balloons, pizza, and soda, but a group of people who reach the summit at nearly the same time and everyone talks about their trek experience, where they’re from and where they’re going. It’s quite delightful after being alone all of the time. One boy up there was backpacking with his dad and he was 13. I’ll have to rub that in Liam’s face! I’ve seen a lot of teen boys out here. Most have been vacationing with parents and others are with a scout troop. I have yet to see any young girls out here. There are plenty of twenty-something girls, but no teens.

(Going up Mather)

(Me at the Mather Pass summit)

The two guys that I’ve been playing hiking leap frog with over last couple of days also made it to the top soon after I did. \240They are also headed north, but exit at Bishop Pass. \240Soon the long descent began. \240I mentally prepared for descending for the rest of the day. \240I could see Palisade Lake in the distance but I had my heart set on trees and a stream, so I planned on landing at Deer Meadow instead. \240The problem with that? \240A 3500 foot descent that’s what. \240

(Palisade Lakes way over there)

So far my hip was holding up in the Mather descent. I was looking forward to lunch near one of the Palisade Lakes. Camping spots near the lakes were few and far between. Most were way up above the water on a bare spot in the rocks. \240I hoped I was making the right decision to keep going. I came to a stream crossing and decided to have my lunch there.

(Overlooking Palisade Lake at lunch)

The stop gave me a chance to filter water and dig out another snack from my bear can. \240Every afternoon my energy wanes and I get cranky because I don’t eat enough. \240Truth is, I don’t like to stop and rest and I don’t have enough snacks to get me through until resupply. \240Once I moved on from there the trail descended to the lower Palisade Lake. \240It was beautiful and this part of the trail felt like a beach walk. \240

(Lovely Palisade Lakes)

(Tropical-like water of the lake)

Now I was really starting to second guess my decision to move ahead. In another quarter of a mile I’d begin what was known as “The Golden Staircase”. The Golden Staircase is a crazy section of the JMT. It is a 3 mile long descent (or climb) cutting down a steep, rocky granite canyon eventually ending (or beginning) in a beautiful valley at 8500 feet. The trail is a labyrinth of steep twisted switchbacks with 10,000 granite block steps to climb over. \240The 10,000 steps could be an exaturation. I’ve read that it is harder to hike the JMT from south to north which is my direction. So far I’m not really sure that is the case. Sure, you’ve got to start out at 10,000 feet and you’ve got to summit Mt Whitney right at the beginning and you are smacked with ascents over 12,000 feet your first week, but all that aside, I’m just not sure. The Golden Staircase is a nightmare climb for southbounders. Many of the endless descents I’ve endured are just an uphill battle for southbounders. Maybe I just don’t mind climbs as much as I do descents. Maybe I haven’t notice the northbound climbs as much when I’m on them. \240 I don’t know, but I think today I was glad to be descending The Golden Staircase and not climbing it. Stairway to Heaven or Stairway to Hell. It’s all in the eye of the beholder and what state your body is in at any given moment. I will say this though. I have seen some of the most beautiful scenery today through Palisade Lakes and picking my way down the Staircase of Doom. I loved the fact that for me, it ended in a wooded, meadowed valley. My favorite! I even landed myself a nice home by the brook surrounded by lodgepole pines. My camp site is actually a large group site with at least 10 tenting areas and a large fire bowl. \240I think it’s primarily used as a stock camp judging by all of the manour everywhere. I do feel a bit guilty snagging it, but I got here first and I don’t mind if someone else wants to share.

(Descending Golden Staircase)

(The view looking up the mountain from Golden Staircase)

(Heading for the distant valley below)

(The trail of the Golden Staircase)

(There, my camp will be in the green somewhere up ahead)

As I sat facing the stream and eating my dinner, I heard this snuffling sound. My head whipped around only to find a poor doe sneezing her head off and trying in vain to use her hoof to wipe her nose. I see I’m not alone. I’ll probably hear a lot of strange noises tonight. This is after all, Deer Meadow and they are all over the place. \240Just like chickens on Maui. \240May the deer rule.

(Home sweet home)


I woke up to a chilly morning and didn’t want to get out of bed until the sun reached where I could sit in it and warm up. I opted to stay in my sleeping bag and read until the warm light of the sun was available. I packed up fairly quickly this morning and was looking forward to sitting by the stream and eating my brown sugar quinoa. I boiled my water and let the quinoa soak. It didn’t help. This was my worst meal yet and last night’s pasta primavera came out like a flavorless soup. My breakfast tasted bitter because the quinoa didn’t cook just sitting in boiled water. I wish I had just good old fashioned granola. I don’t like it all the time at home because it’s very sweet and more like a dessert but out here I want sugar and don’t have nearly enough to make me satisfied. It’s strange that certain things you think would be tasty out in the wild just turn on you and you don’t want to eat them. I worked hard at trying to prepare homemade freeze-dried meals, but I just can’t seem to beat good old Mountain House meals and when it’s time to have one from my bear can I get pretty excited because I know it will be good. The other thing is, I didn’t pack enough coffee creamer. Now that’s a real shame, but it would be worse if I didn’t have enough coffee. I am finding that in the evenings I like to make myself a hot drink with an electrolyte tablet or powder. One of them tastes like mashmellow Easter peeps! Ugh. Back to forcing this awful quinoa down. I’m cringing every time I take a bite. I’m not sure I can finish it and that means I’ll have to put it in with my garbage in the bear can. Oh well.

Today’s hike should be really nice. It looks like I’ll be hiking through the trees along a river until I reach Le Conte Canyon. I am scheduled to stay there, but I’d rather do part of the climb for the next mountain pass today so that tomorrow doesn’t feel so difficult. The next one is Muir Pass and I’ve heard for northbounders it’s a tough one. It’s nearly 4000 feet of elevation gain so I will try to camp near 10,000 feet tonight to get some of the climb done. It can’t be worse than Glen Pass right? Glen Pass...my nemesis, the mountain that almost broke me, made me want to quit, but also made me feel like if I can do 2 mountain passes in one day, I can get through any one pass in a day that the JMT will throw at me. My climbing today will start in the afternoon. That is my most difficult time to hike because by then my hip hurts and I haven’t eaten enough. I’ll need to dig into the bear can to make sure I eat. I’m still sitting in the warm sunshine listening to the juncos flit through the trees. I guess it’s time to go. My nose is really running this morning and the bandana that Juli gave me needs to be washed in the stream as it’s covered in bogies. Yuck. Another yuck is that all of my gear smells like horse maneur.

(Breakfast with Lodgepoles).

(Beautiful Deer Meadow camp site)

The first few miles of the hike were an easy stroll through the forest in a flat to gently descending sandy trail. The hike was very enjoyable. The trail took me through some fire ravaged sections. The fire must have come through a few years ago because other than the dead sticks of lodgepole pines, there were a lot of aspen and pine saplings that appeared to be flourishing.

(Leaving Deer Meadow)

The trail was lined with young aspen and in about a month or so it probably looks like a river of gold when the leaves change. \240

(Lovely morning on the easiest stretch of the JMT)

Occasionally the trail lead me into a thicker forest with Jeffrey pine woods, lodgepole pines and aspen. The aspen were large and beautiful and it was so nice to see that none of them had names carved into the bark, unlike all of the aspen that line the trail at Sandia Crest. Why people feel the need to do that is beyond me. My bad breakfast had sat in my stomach like a stone for most of the morning. It was about 11:30 and I decided to take a lunch break near Middle Fork river. I was feeling a bit slow and tired today and was hoping some food would perk me up. Lunch was great...peanut butter, jelly and crackers. The only thing though is that I didn’t pack 2 packets of jelly. It wasn’t really enough.

(Lunch along Middle Fork River)

After lunch I put on the pack and started hiking again. I just couldn’t get my rhythm today. I felt tired and my hip was aggravating me. I was also having trouble with my pack. It just wasn’t fitting right and I felt a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I’m guessing my hip belt is now slightly too large. I hiked on anyway. I soon came to Grouse Meadow, a stunningly beautiful spot.

(Grouse Meadow)

(Grouse Meadow)

The trail through here was easy, flat and shaded. \240Such an easy day. \240I had only come maybe 5 miles, but it felt like a lot more. \240By the time I reached Le Conte Canyon I needed a break and an attitude adjustment. \240The scenery I got to hike through today was so beautiful. \240Towering cliffs, roaring waterfalls, meadows, gorgeous trees, and lovely vistas. \240Instead of excitement, I just wanted a nap. \240I found a camp spot, shed the pack and put on my water shoes. \240It was refreshing to put my feet in the river and splash cold water on my hot, sweaty face. I stayed there a while to wash my hands and try to tape up my cracked, bleeding fingers. \240Between my fingers and my hip, I felt out of sorts. \240Shame that body pain can ruin such amazing scenery. I ate part of a Cliff bar as those always seem to give me an energy boost. \240With that I put on the pack and was off. \240The pack felt even more uncomfortable. \240When I put my things back inside at Le Conte Canyon, I must have put some of my stuff in odd places. \240Off the pack came again to reshuffle my goods. \240That ended up feeling a bit better. \240I have noticed that my hip belt is now cinched on the tightest setting. \240The only other option is to remove the belt and adjust the Velcro to a smaller setting. \240I’m not sure if that will help, but it’s something I may need to do. \240

(Heading toward Little Pete Meadow)

My usual strategy of hiking part of a mountain pass one day and finishing it up the following morning is not going to work for me this time. I decided to stop at Big Pete Meadow to camp for the night. \240

(Looking back toward Deer Meadow)

(My door step for the night)

It was only just after 3 when I got my camp set up. It seemed strange to make camp this early. I took advantage of the warm afternoon to try to take a bath and wash my hair. The hairwashing was hardly worth it, but I guess it got some grime out. It feels like straw!

Tomorrow I have Muir Pass. Folks heading south say it is a hard one for northbounders. From where I made camp I have a 6 mile, 3000 foot climb. It’s long, rocky, and steep. Please let me have energy tomorrow! Today was so easy and I had none. I’m going to try for an early start tomorrow in the hopes of avoiding the heat. No more taking 3 hours in the morning to break camp and go. It’s going to be a 5:30 wake up and on the trail before 7. I need to go through my food and see what snacks I have left, if any.

My alarm went off at 5:30. My tongue was pasted to the roof of my mouth. I’d been breathing through my mouth because my nose had the usual morning stuffies. I rolled over and thought about waiting to get up until 6. It was so warm in my bag and I didn’t want to get out in the cold, grey dawn. I thought about the 6 miles it would take me to get to the summit of Muir Pass and I didn’t want to hike that in the heat of day. I dressed in my sleeping bag and made the preparations to pack up. Bye bye warm bed. I made a breakfast of coffee and cheese, bacon grits. Finally a good tasting breakfast. I was on the trail by 7:00 and ready to face the day.

Muir Pass...the Pass named after the man himself. I find it rather curious that the 14,500 foot Mt Whitney was not named after John Muir. \240This is a lesser Pass only topping out at just under 12,000 feet. \240Maybe the hike today will answer that for me. \240I did not have time to read up on my JMT history before leaving, so I’ll have to do that when I get home.

The trail lead through the meadow and forest and gradually began climbing with the tumbling Middle Fork river to my left. So far I felt really good. Miracle Meloxicam to the rescue. That’s my prescription anti-inflammatory for my back and hip. It’s amazing how differently one can view the world when not bombarded with pain. I don’t like taking it, but it was necessary today.

(On the long ascent to Muir Pass)

Within an hour or so I reached a beautiful lake. I stoped for some pictures and a snack. This must be Helen Lake. That means I’m almost to the summit! This felt so easy. I decided to take out my map....right. This wasn’t Helen Lake at all. Helen Lake was still a good mile and a half up the trail. That’s okay, I can do this.

(No name lake that everyone thinks is Helen Lake)

The trail was really quite a pleasure to hike. It wasn’t just non-stop switchbacks across a mountainside. It climbed some, then flattened out, and even descended for a bit. The trail lead up a canyon and the river was always close to the trail so I had no shortage of water. The scenery was exquisite. It seemed that around every turn there was something else to look at. I was never really sure where the summit was. That was part of a fun little mystery.

(Ascending Muir Pass)

The rocks were interesting to look at too. They were a dense, dark grey and streaked with epidote (pistachio green mineral). \240These ancient rocks were formed when the Sierras were part of a volcanic chain. \240Later on granitic plutons causing heat and deformation cooked and pressed the ancient volcanic rocks metamorphosing them into the metavolcanics we see today. \240It was great to see these metavolcanics sandwiches up against the lighter colored granite.

(Ascending Muir Pass)

When I reached the real Helen Lake, I stopped to enjoy the view and there was a couple standing there also. They invited me to have a beer and a taco at the Muir hut when I reached the summit! I seriously thought they were joking, but it was true. They are part of a volunteer organization called “Senior Muir’s Taco Hut”. Once I took my pictures of the lake, I began to climb again. I still wasn’t sure it I really believed them about the tacos.

(Me climbing Muir Pass)

(Me standing near Helen Lake)

The trail climbed away from the river and into the bare rock. \240Can’t be too far now. \240I still felt pretty good but was beginning to slow down. \240I STILL wasn’t sure where the trail was taking me and where the pass actually was. \240I didn’t want to look at my map. \240That would ruin the fun. \240All of the sudden on the horizon not far above me was the Muir stone hut! \240

(Muir stone hut)

I had reached the top! This was by far the most enjoyable mountain pass that I have done. I felt it was more picturesque than Whitney and much more of an enjoyable ascent. If I were John Muir I think I’d have liked this pass to be named for me too.

When I got to the hut people were swarming in and out with beer and a taco in hand. So it was true! I went inside and was greeted with a cold beer, a tortilla, chicken, cooked veggies, cheese, and hot sauce. There was a group of volunteers that were in the hut using backpack stoves to cook the meat and veggies. I was so happy that I nearly cried. These volunteers began doing this for hikers in 2014. They only do it 1 to 2 times per year and they choose different areas of the JMT to set it up. They never advertise when they are going to do it because they want it to be a surprise. \240How special it was to get to be a part of this and at Muir Hut no less!!! Oh MAN ! \240I wolfed down the taco and sipped the beer. I would have loved 5 more tacos, but that wouldn’t be fair. It took the volunteers 2 days to hike in the grub.

(Enjoying a beer and taco at the hut)

(Magic really does exist and there is such a thing as heaven on earth)

There was a cluster of people at the summit and I met Stephanie and Bob, a retired couple from Mammoth who were also heading north. I started the descent into the barren moonscape below. I felt like I was floating. I was grinning all the way down to Wanda Lake. Yeah, that’s what happens when you have a beer at 12,000 feet at 11:00 in the morning. I figured I should filter and drink water. Who should pass me when I was taking a break? Stephanie and Bob. I was scheduled to camp at Wanda Lake, but it was too early in the day and it felt like the surface of the moon with a cobalt blue lake. I kept hiking, still elated from that beer and taco. The grub at the summit sustained me for quite a while, but by the time I reached Sapphire Lake I needed to delve into my own lunch. It was a tortilla, banana, chocolate chips, and peanut butter. Man that tasted good. I was nearly all set to pack up when along came Stephanie and Bob. We sat and chatted for a while. They are scheduled to stay at Muir Trail Ranch tomorrow. My visit to Muir Trail Ranch will actually overlap theirs by a day. They are also headed to Yosemite and slated to exit 1 day before me.

(Wanda Lake)

(View from Muir Pass)

(Sapphire Lake)

I continued on the trail. Where should I camp tonight? It was going to be either Wanda Lake or Sapphire Lake and I had passed them both. If I hiked all the way to McClure Meadow, I would be a day ahead and have covered 17 miles today. I was still feeling really good except for the pain in my hip beginning to set in. I hiked on and descended enough so that the white bark pines began to appear. They usually appear at about 10,000 feet. I came upon Evolution lake and thought it looked promising for camp. I took off my pack and walked all over looking for something that told me “home”. It just didn’t feel right, so I hiked on. Evolution Lake is quite long. I soon found myself at the northern tip and found a home right near the lake with a pine tree for shade. No need to hoof it all of the way to McClure Meadow today.

(Evolution Lake)

I set up my camp, rinsed my clothes in the lake and washed my face, arms, nether regions, and legs. All of a sudden Stephanie and Bob passed through. \240We are all hoping to meet up for dinner at Muir Trail Ranch on Sunday. \240It was a bit windy so I pretended it was Christmas, and hung “ornaments” AKA clothes on the pine bows. A poor hummingbird thought my bright pink bra was a flower. Poor thing couldn’t figure out why there was no nectar and certainly didn’t smell like a rose.

(My front door to Evolution Lake)

I’m trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. I either arrive at Muir Trail Ranch a day early, or I have a short hike to McClure Meadow. Either way, I’ll be in no rush to pack up in the morning. I can relax and take my time. Today has been my best day thus far on the trail! Loved Muir Pass. Loved Muir Taco Hut!

(Lying in my tent watching the glow)

Got a late start to the morning. I didn’t crawl out of my cave until 8:30. In a way I wish I had gotten up much earlier. Maybe I wouldn’t be feeling so groggy. I tried to get up and do the usual packing but it seems my head got left behind in my sleeping bag. So tired today. I am hoping after some oatmeal and coffee I’ll be ready to face the day. McClure Meadow is only 3-5 miles from here, so I can always just stop there which was my original goal for the night anyway. We shall see how I feel. I could try to make it all the way to Muir Trail Ranch, but I doubt I’ll do that. As of right now though, I’m just sitting in my camp chair sipping coffee and feeling the heat on my back. It’s going to be hot in the sun. I’m only a few feet from the trail. A dad and his two young boys passed along. The boys looked maybe 7. Amazing! They started at Reds Meadow and will finish at Whitney. Australian maybe? There are people out here from all walks of life. I’ve met someone covering nearly 20 miles a day finishing the Sierra section of the PCT that he couldn’t finish earlier due to snow. I’ve seen many solo 65-ish women, I’ve seen groups of retired women, solo 20-something’s, families, and even a couple in their 70’s. The JMT is for anyone who wants to be a part of it. I feel so safe out here. I feel a lot safer out here than I do on any given day driving around Albuquerque or walking around in that city. The only serial killers out here are the ones pounding oatmeal.

(My camp at Evolution Lake)

I finally left around 11. \240After leaving Evolution Lake, I was treated to a vista of the valley where I would be going this morning. \240The clarity of visibility was incredible today. \240The sky was a clear cerulean blue and I felt as though I could see every nook and cranny of the mountains in the distance. \240The trail began a steep, twisting descent through a dry pine forest. \240I could hear the river rushing somewhere far below. \240

(Descending from Evolution Lake)

Once I reached the basin, beautiful meadows began to appear along the river. \240

(Near Colby Meadow)

I had only come a couple of miles and I was already hungry and my hip needed a break. I found a fantastic spot right along the Evolution Creek. As I ate my lunch I kept wondering...to swim or not to swim. There was a waterfall with a lovely eddy right next to it. I could see several fish hanging out in the clear depths. It would be a good time to get my hair wet as it would have plenty of time to dry before sundown. I think I’ll go for it.

(Lunch and a dip)

After letting the sun dry me enough to put back on my filthy shoes, I hit the trail again. \240All afternoon the trail lead through more forests and meadows. \240It was a wonderful hike. \240The majority of the hike was a gradual descent. \240

(McClure Meadow)

Soon I came to a sign suggesting an alternate route if Evolution Creek is too dangerously high to cross. \240The alternate route was blocked off, giving the indication that the steam crossing was safe. \240I hiked on and came to the place where I had to cross. \240So far this was the only stream crossing where I actually had to take off my trail shoes and put my water shoes on. \240The crossing was easy and only about a foot and a half deep at the most. \240When I got to the other side I took a break, had a snack and was beginning to wonder where I’d camp. \240I knew I wasn’t planning on going to Muir Trail Ranch and get there a day early. \240I’d rather arrive sometime tomorrow in the early afternoon with the hopes that I’ll find a camp spot at Blaney Hot Springs. \240Maybe a lot of people will have already left their sites and it would still be too early in the day for most hikers to have reached the campground to set up. \240It’s a strategy anyway. \240As for tonight, I’d just keep hiking and find a place around 5 o’clock or so. \240

(Crossing Evolution Creek)

Very soon after the creek crossing a vista opened up and I could see the trail beginning to drop off into steep, descending switchbacks. \240This was Goddard Canyon.

(Top of Goddard Canyon)

I wasn’t expecting this nasty little descent, but I enjoyed hiking through ancient metavolcanics, and hiking next to giant western juniper trees.

(Descending Goddard Canyon)

When I finally reached the bottom I decided to check my map. If I hiked another few miles I could try to camp in a place called Aspen Meadow. After I crossed a foot bridge, I happened upon a wonderful campsite. I sat and thought about making that home, but in the end I decided to keep hiking. About a mile later I found a cluster of campsites, but most appeared to be taken. I crossed a second tressle bridge in the hopes of reaching Aspen Meadow. It looked like the landscape was becoming more barren and rocky, so I decided to turn around and chose a camp site near the tressle bridge. It’s a nice spot, but not very private as I’m close to the trail. I was all set to do my laundry and then bathe when a man asked if he and his hiking partner (wife or girlfriend) could put up their tent right next to mine. I was a bit taken aback and pointed them 200 feet down the trail to the other cluster of sites. He wanted to at least have a look at my site to see if he could put his tent here too. Of course he said he didn’t want to impose. Umm, okay sure you can see about putting your tent here. What could I say? I didn’t want to be rude but unfortunately I may have come across that way. The man looked at my site and said something to his partner and then they left. I felt guilty about not being overly enthusiastic about sharing my camp site. I hope they found something suitable because I know what it’s like to be tired and the last thing you want to do is spend extra miles looking for camp. Guilt bothered me the rest of the evening for not being more helpful. What is wrong with me? I’m a recluse that’s what. I need to be better about going out of my way to help others.

(Descending Goddard Canyon)

I settled back in my hermit cave alone and ate my dinner of delicious chili. \240Good recipe that one! \240Tomorrow I’ll try to get out by 8. \240I only have about 6.5 miles to get to Muir Trail Ranch. \240I wonder if the campground will be tent city. \240The following night I get to have a luxurious tent cabin which means a hot shower, private hot spring use, and hot meals!! \240I hope my resupply bucket actually made it. \240

It’s Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) resupply day!!! That’s great because I have a whopping total of 2 Slim Jims and one serving of oatmeal left after today’s breakfast and lunch. While packing up this morning I decided to clean up any trash I could find at the campsite. \240Why not? \240All I have is one bear can full of garbage and it would be a good idea to make the camp pristine. \240No matter where humans have been you can bet you’ll always find trash. \240I found a rock with toilet paper attached to it which I chose not to clean up. \240Really??? Someone did their business 5 feet from the river and didn’t even pack out their toilet paper? \240Sigh. I packed up my camp in the chilly morning and was on the trail by 9.

(Walking over the tressle bridge leaving camp)

For the most part the trail followed the Piute River through a Canyon. It was another clear, warm sunny day

(Hiking along the Piute River Canyon)

I hiked on and soon the trail veered away from the river and entered the dry, sandy scrub lands. I felt like I was hiking forever without any way of filling up my water bottles if I needed to. I passed a trail junction pointing toward Florence Lake. I guess that is the southern cutoff for MTR? Curious that there was no indication pointing toward MTR. My plan was to take the northern cutoff so that when I head north from MTR I don’t miss any of the JMT. The trail had quite a few people on it. Some, like me, were headed to MTR for resupply, others had already gotten a fresh supply of food, and others were on day hikes from MTR. Around 11, I was starting to feel cranky. I’d come about 5.5 miles and just like clockwork, my hip was telling me I needed a break.

(Hiking toward MTR)

I stopped to eat my lunch and along came some day hikers. \240They gave me some fresh carrots, cherries, and dried pear. \240Oh boy!! That was a lot better than my cracker crumbs that tasted like moldy cheese. \240I think I only have 2 more miles to go until I reach MTR. \240

(Dry forest on the way to MTR)

I must admit that I was a bit nervous and I couldn’t quite place my finger on why. Maybe I was worried my bucket hadn’t got there in time, or that I’d have to camp with a bunch of rowdy party folk, or perhaps it was just a tad of anxiety over being with lots of people after 2 weeks of being pretty much alone. I was also feeling a bit out of sorts because I had not seen anywhere to get water in 5 miles. Calm down. You’re only a mile away and things will be how they will be. I finally reached the northern cutoff leading to MTR. Oh wow this little trail was steep! I’d have to climb this thing early Tuesday morning. I could see an aluminum roof not far away. I was nearly there.

(Beautiful aspen near the northern cutoff to MTR)

I entered a gate and could see a small shed piled high on the inside with buckets. A young man approached me and gave me the low-down. All garbage could be disposed of but had to be properly recycled, there was fresh spring water to drink and an entire line of hiker rummage buckets. The young man found my bucket in a matter of minutes. I guzzled a bunch of cold water and then found an empty picnic table in the shade where I set to work. \240I went through all of my meals, toiletries, and packed the fresh supplies in my bear can. \240Next I began working on my trash. \240Just then Stephanie greeted me. \240She and Bob wanted to meet for dinner at 6:30, but we both knew I probably wouldn’t be able to. \240Muir Trail Ranch is literally out in the middle of nowhere. \240In order to supply their restaurant they have to get the food here by stock train and ferry across a lake. \240That being the case, only people who have a reservation for lodging can eat. \240I don’t have a reservation until tomorrow so I won’t be able to meet them for dinner.

I found a nice camp spot up on a hill from the river and tucked in the trees. There are numerous campsites here so likely by tonight it will fill up. \240I did the usual laundry which consists of trying to wash out trail dirt and grime in the river. After that, it was off to the hot springs. \240I guess there are three hot pools. \240I walked by one that was small but inviting. \240The next one looked like a mud pool with a couple of naked people lounging nearby. I decided to go back to the first one. \240The temperature was quite warm and it took a while to get used to before I sat down in it. \240Ahh. It felt so good to soak my feet!

I was alone for a while but then along came a man. We chatted for a bit about backpacking and travel. He told me about a trek in Iceland and it sounded like a great family trek to me. I figure my next trek will need to be a lot shorter, so a 10 day trek on Iceland might be good for me and the family! \240He eventually left and then two women showed up. Rosie (sixtyish) and Bree (24). Bree is a college grad who will soon be joining the workforce in the biology field. She has been interning under Rosie doing watershed management. Rosie is a conservation biologist. \240What a dream job! \240I stayed and chatted with them for over an hour. Rosie wants to stay at MTR tomorrow night so I offered her a place in my tent cabin. So far as I know. The tent cabins are large and sleep several people. No reason to have it all by myself. After soaking my feet for what seemed like an eternity, all three of us got up to head back to camp. My skin looks like lizard skin. I can’t wait to find some lotion at the hiker buckets tomorrow. When I got back to camp, something looked odd. My bandana that Juli gave me for my nose was covered in dirt. The top of my JetBoil was also covered in dirt. I took a look at my bag and noticed several chewed holes in the lid. It looked like a rat had a field day chewing through the lid of my pack to get to a brand new loksac bag. The gnaw marks looked to large to be from a rat. \240I think it was a squirrel. \240That bag never even had food in it! Bummer. My pack is thrashed with dirt and wear, but now it’s got chew holes in it too. At least it’s still structurally sound. I may have to tape up the holes so things don’t fall out! Another thing I noticed upon returning to camp was that indeed the camp spots have filled up. That’s what earplugs are for if I need to put them in.

(Small hot pool at Blaney Hot springs)

I made myself a Mountain House meal of sweet and sour pork to go with my small plastic bottle of wine I sent myself in my resupply barrel. Bree found me and she had her meal that she got from the MTR hiker barrel. We talked for a while and I gave her my other small wine bottle. Turns out the squirrel got to her stuff too and chewed a hole through her tent to get to bandaids. It was nice to have someone to share dinner time with. Soon after the sun went down it was time to retreat to my tent. A day well spent, and tomorrow is a zero day! I am looking forward to a shower, laundry, hot meals, and soaks in the hot springs.

Zero day at MTR! I woke up around 8:30 to find that everyone had cleared out but me. I enjoyed a restful morning just sitting in my camp chair drinking coffee and reading. Afterward I packed up my camp. It was too early to check in at MTR to get my tent cabin, so I decided to carry my pack with everything in it over to the hot springs. I crossed the Joaquin River and the water was so cold my feet felt like ice. I put my pack down next to the small spring that I used last night. \240There was already someone in it, so I just soaked my feet. \240It felt extremely hot because of the chill of the river. \240I relaxed there and soon I had the whole place to myself. \240

(The meadow at Blaney Hot Springs)

(My own personal bath)

In no time two sixty-something men showed up and I ended up talking with them for quite a while. Curt and Bob are also headed northbound but will arrive in Yosemite a few days before me. After soaking our feet in the hot pool, we went back to their camp so that we could exchange inReach information. They offered to let me use them for emergency contact and I was very appreciative. When I left their camp it was nearly noon so I hiked back over to MTR to eat my lunch and raid the hiker barrels for snacks. I scored 3 large snickers bars, 3 honey stinger waffle cookies, and some peanut butter cookies. I wolfed down my lunch, ate an entire snickers bar, a small bag of Cadbury Easter egg chocolates, and a honey stinger cookie. Tasted so good! MTR has the best hiker buckets going. \240Hundreds of dollars worth of food and what doesn’t get taken goes to a homeless shelter. I got checked in and was shown to my tarp tent that I was to share with Rosie, the women I met last night. I unpacked my bag and decided to start in on my laundry so that it would have time to dry before sunset.

(Good old fashioned way to do laundry)

I couldn’t believe how filthy the water was in the wash bin! I’ve been squeezing my clothes every night in the rivers and lakes and they were still filthy. After putting the clothes through the ringer, I hung them up to dry.

(My cabin for the night)

(MTR’s main office and general store)

After laundry, I grabbed my towel and headed off to the onsen (Japanese style hot spring for bathing). \240I was finally able to shampoo and condition my hair! \240Oh the luxury. \240What a beautiful and relaxing time.

(One of the onsen at MTR).

(Recreation cabin)

(Inside the recreation cabin)

(The other onsen)

I went into the recreation cabin and worked a puzzle for a little while with someone else who was in there. I was getting concerned that none of my clothes would be dry by bedtime so I grabbed my pjs and put them on a bench in the hot sun. I can smell dinner cooking and it smells amazing. I’m hungry as usual.

I went back to the tent cabin and spent at least an hour chatting with Rosie. She is an amazing woman with an incredible conservation biology career. She told me stories of her adventures in Antarctica and the Galapagos. I wish I had a career like that but it seems for me I just sort of do whatever for work.

The dinner bell rang at 6:30 and everyone formed a line inside the small dining hall. WOW!!! Ribeye steak grilled to perfection, sautéed potatoes and veggies, two different salads, and buttered bread!!! It was delicious and I inhaled everything on my plate. It felt great to not have to eat out of a bag. After dinner they brought out strawberry shortcake. I ate that too.

(Yum yum time!)

After dinner I rolled myself back to the tent cabin. My distended belly was overly full and happy. I decided to put on my shorts, grab my towel and go have a soak in the onsen. It was a really nice way to end the evening. After warming up, I headed off to bed. Tomorrow is a long, hard pass and I’m starting to feel nervous about being on my own again.

I didn’t really sleep all that well last night even though I had a bed and was quite comfortable. I had a little anxiety over leaving this safe haven and heading back out into the wilderness alone. Breakfast was amazing and I loaded up my plate with fresh fruit, eggs, pastry, and hot coffee. My eyes were bigger than my stomach, but I ate nearly all of it. Soon after, Rosie and I said our goodbyes. She was headed south and she too was nervous. \240I got my locsak out of my bear can and made myself a nice sandwich, grabbed some chips, a granola bar, and some snickers. Nice spread for lunch too! Everyone I had met was already headed back out to their own adventures. I decided to take a short soak in the onsen before departing.

When I finally slung on my pack to leave it was 9:00. Not too bad, considering I thought the earliest I’d leave would be 10. All in all, I give MTR a big double thumbs up!

It’s Selden Pass day. \240The trail immediately began to climb. I had about a mile to climb through a very steep, rocky trail to climb out of the valley and up to the JMT junction. The trail mostly climbed through dry forest. After that it carried me up a mountainside on long, switchbacks. The grade was steady for a while and then seemed to level out. Was this the top?

(Climbing up and away from MTR)

(Is this the top? NO!)

I guess that wasn’t the top because it started climbing again. \240On and on this went through several climbing sessions, meadows and forests with short plateaus and then I would have to climb again. \240

(This must be the top. NO!)

I came to a beautiful little meadow and was relieved to see the trail begin to descend. Was that the top? NO! I climbed on...and on.

(Yay, the top! \240NO!)

(The top of Selden Pass. \240NOPE!)

I looked at my GPS and I had already hiked 6 miles. \240Where was the top of this thing?? \240I was grumpy and wanted my sandwich and my chocolate. \240I looked at my map and saw that I was very close to Sallie Keyes Lakes. \240As soon as I found a nice spot, I put up my chair, ate my lunch and then got caught up on my journal from yesterday. \240I’d been talking to so many people at MTR that I never finished yesterday’s entry. \240Just before leaving to hike on, I happened to look at the map. \240Selden Pass summit is still 2 miles away. \240Most of the climbing is over, but I still have 600 feet to go. \240

(Sallie Keyes Lakes)

I was feeling a bit stiff from sitting for an hour, so I started the afternoon hike slowly. The hike next to Sallie Keyes was mostly flat, but then the climbing started again. I hiked past a string of lake and was still wondering where the top of this thing was. The scenery though was beautiful. I climbed a bit higher and entered this gorgeous little canyon with a meadow and a stream running through it. Suddenly I stopped caring about where the summit was. The rocks here were exquisite! Beautiful chevron folded gneiss. Some of the rocks had quarts veins going through them that looked like squiggles of toothpaste. Major deformation in this area folks! I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

(Is that the top up there?)

(Ooooh rocks!)

(Ahhh rocks!)

(Beautiful small canyon with amazing geological deformation features)

Okay, cool rocks now behind me, where the heck is the top of this thing? \240The climbing continued and was quite rocky and steep. \240Finally I reached what was obviously the TOP!!!

(The top of Selden Pass. It really IS the top!)

According to my GPS it was an 8.5 mile hike to the top from MTR. \240About 90% of the hike was climbing. \240Selden Pass was a tough one for me because of the length. \240It wasn’t all steep and had many “false flats” and “false summits”. \240This was definitely one of the longest climbs for a northbounder. \240I made it! \240Without grumbling too much.

(The REAL top of Selden Pass)

The descent down to Marie Lake was pretty easy footing. I hiked past Marie Lake thinking I only had a short distance to go until Rosemarie Meadow. The trail lead through a picturesque but very dry section. When I got to Rosemarie Meadow there was a small meandering stream but I didn’t see any place to camp, so I kept hiking. Soon after the Meadow I reached a small creek crossing, but again I found no where to camp. Sigh. Guess I’ll have to go another mile to Upper Bear Creek Meadow. I stopped at one point because my bladder was about to explode. I stepped off the trail and found a nice pine tree to squat near. It was just my luck that a couple of hikers were coming toward me and so I had to scoot beneath the tree to stay hidden. In the process I peed all over my shoe and got pine needles inside my pants. Ugh. I might try one of those she-wee funnels the next time I do a trek. \240I was out of water and very ready to land for the night. The trail was a rocky descent but I finally reached the stream. I found a place to camp just off of the Seven Gables Lakes Trail. I had easy access to water and it was obviously used as a campsite before so that’s what I called home. I was too tired to bathe with soap so I did my best to rinse the trail dirt off in the creek. The sun was already tucked behind the trees and I was getting cold. I made a hasty dinner of chicken and rice. I’m not sure where I’ll camp tomorrow. I may just try to get to the northern tip of Lake Thomas Edison. I’ll see how I feel. My GPS said I did 13 miles today. I’m guessing that’s about right.

(Hiking next to Marie Lake)

(Dry part of the trail descending toward the Rosemarie Meadow area)

(Descending toward Rosemarie Meadow)

Time to snuggle down in my fart sack:)

It was a noisy night last night. I kept hearing thumps and bumps in the distance that had nothing to do with river rocks being flushed around by the motion of the water in the stream nearby. At one point I even thought I heard something guttural near the cliff in the distance. Aliens? Doubt it. At about 1:30 in the morning I heard steady heavy footfalls over the rocks nearby. Clip clop clop, thump, munch. The only reason I wasn’t terrified was because I heard the gentle sound of bells. A stock brigade passing through at this hour? I unzipped my tent and saw about 20 horses all loose and grazing about 50 feet to the right of my tent. There was no one around. No one driving them. They wouldn’t leave either. Now they were grazing all around my tent, some only 10 feet away. I wasn’t afraid of them specifically, but I was concerned about getting accidentally trampled. What should I do? Should I pack up and leave? How well do horses see in the dark anyway? Just my luck to be camped in the middle of a horse pasture! At least 4 more hours until daylight. This is going to be a long, cold night. Munch, munch, clop, clop. It’s pretty close to a full moon, so maybe they can see enough to avoid my tent? One was so close I could almost reach out and touch it. It took a bite of a tuft of grass just 5 feet from my tent. I unzipped my door and poked my head out giving it the stink-eye. It looked at me, continued chewing and turned and walked away. They took no heed of me and my tent whatsoever. Oh how I wish they’d just move on. Occasionally they would argue amongst themselves and I heard short bursts of running. I hope they don’t do that near me. A few times I settled back down to sleep only to find them back again. Finally at around 4 in the morning, the merry band of hourses moved on to greener pastures. Worst campsite so far, but I’ll take horses over bear and mountain lion any day.

I woke up at 8:45. Crap. Another late start and hot day. I packed up as quickly as I could so that only my coffee remained to be made. I was trying to boil water and thinking about those horses. I accidentally turned off my stove before the water was even hot. My coffee ended up being a lumpy mess of partially homogenized powdered coffee and lumpy cream. I sieved it through my teeth and boiled more water as a warm up. That helped somewhat. I was too lazy to make breakfast so I munched on a Cliff Bar. I’ve got to get more of those Pro Bars. They make Cliff taste like cardboard. Seriously, why bother with oatmeal? I’m starving an hour later.

(My breakfast spot, among a hundred hoof prints and horse poop)

I started on the trail around 10:00. \240For the first three miles the trail was an easy walk along the Bear Creek through sand and glacial scoured smooth granite. \240I could pretty much cruise along at 3 miles per hour. \240When I came to the JMT/Bear Creek Trail junction I stopped to eat my lunch. \240It looked like I was about to start a climb and I wanted to keep my energy up. \240Sure enough the trail began climbing. \240I paused for a moment. \240Hey! \240Those people up ahead looked familiar. \240Of course! \240It was Stephanie and Bob. \240I hiked with them for a short time but they went on ahead while I filtered water. \240I was totally out and they said they’d wait for me at the top of the climb.

(Climbing the ridge near Volcanic Knob)

(Climbing the ridge near Volcanic Knob)

It was a wicked little climb, but after a mile or so it was done. \240Stephanie and Bob decided to take lunch at the top, but I had already eaten and was ready to keep going. \240We said our goodbyes and planned to try to meet up at \240Reds Meadow on September 3. \240

The trail followed the top of the ridge and was an easy mile walk along a plateau. \240Then the trail started a long descent. \240In no time I was hiking along an extremely steep mountainside. \240The inclination angle must have been about 60%. \240It made me a little nervous, but the switchbacks were long, gentle and had really good footing. \240I must have descended for at least a mile and I couldn’t even see the bottom. \240Down, down, down it went and I still couldn’t see the bottom. \240According to my map it looked like a good 2000 foot descent. \240Oh joy! \240I just finished climbing 1000 feet. \240What goes up must come down. \240I kept descending along that scary hillside. \240

(Descending toward Quail Meadows)

(Descending toward Quail Meadows)

Finally I reached a sort of plateau. Ferns were growing and the vegetation was quite lush. The landscape flattened out considerably though I was still descending. I reached the Mono Creek trail junction and took that headed toward Lake Thomas Edison. Now it was time to figure out where to camp. It looked like there would be places to camp near the northern tip of the lake. I figured if the spots were all full I’d have to backtrack and find something else. Vermilion Valley Resort lies just at the western edge of the lake, just 6 miles away. I wasn’t sure how popular the area would be for camping there. I found the campsite at the northern tip of the lake and was relieved that there was a spot. Ummm there was a lot of spots. No one showed up to camp here at all, even though the site appeared to be heavily used. Looks like I’m alone tonight. At least horses won’t come ploughing through this site, but I always worry a bit about bears when I camp in a place frequently used by a lot of people. This isn’t considered wilderness anymore either as there are actually roads near the VVR area. Tomorrow I get to take my time, hike along the lake and then get checked in for a tent cabin for 2 nights! All of this luxury is making me soft. I don’t want to be dirty anymore!

(My campsite near the northern tip of Lake Thomas Edison)

No one else showed up to camp in the group site last night, so I was alone. \240I slept fairly soundly and woke up around 8 to watery sunshine. \240Cloudy or smoke haze? \240As I slowly began waking up, the first thing I did was sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. \240It felt good to not have to pack everything up before that morning reward. \240The sun climbed a bit higher and burned off the morning haze and gave way to yet another beautiful blue day. \240

(Looking up through Jeffrey and Lodgepole pines during breakfast)

I’d have two days at Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) and then I’d take the ferry back to the northern tip of the lake and get back on the trail. VVR! That means luxury living at its finest! Hot showers! Beer and hamburgers! A tent cabin! Maybe even cell phone service! This was to be my last overnight reservation so after my stay it was back to tenting it and leaving brown packages buried in the woods.

It was well after 9 and I was still sitting around enjoying a second cup of coffee. I could hear the stream rushing toward Lake Edison and I could see people standing on the rocks in the distance waiting for the morning ferry. The chickadees, juncos, and nuthatches were twittering through the trees. I could hear the trumpet-like nasal “yank, yank, yank” of the red-breasted nuthatches. \240After being away from birding for over a decade I was looking forward to getting back into it in New Mexico. \240I have forgotten the identification of so many feathered friends.

Well, it was time to start packing up and head for the “city”.

I left at 10:30 to hike the Mono Creek Trail to VVR. The hike wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. The lake water looked like it was down about 20 feet, an indication of a low snow year last winter. The trail was quiet, eearily quiet as it lead me well above the water through rocky, dry cedar trees. I don’t know what I was expecting. Boats on the water? People partying? Instead all I could hear was the occasional jet plane overhead, insects, and once in a while some birds. Ugh this trail. I was not expecting a day full of climbing over rocks in the hot sun. I really didn’t want that type of hike today and part of me just wished I’d taken the ferry. I heard the thrum of the boat and watched the ferry stream effortlessly through the center of the lake. Sigh.

(Tiny ferry could have been my ride)

I hiked on and soon the trail stopped ascending, leveled off and then began descending through the trees.

(Lake Edison)

(Lake Edison)

Oak trees! I haven’t seen these on the trail yet. Oh that ferry. Taking people to real food like hamburgers. I really didn’t want my lunch of tortilla, hummus, and rubbery dried apples. Guaranteed I wouldn’t be feeling this way if I were back in the wilderness and had no prospects for savory real food. Mind over matter. When you know something is going to be hard, and that you are going to have only what you carried on your back, you simply accept it and are happy to have what you brought. By noon I quit thinking about the hamburger and ate the lunch that I brought. It helped me feel refreshed and gave me some much needed energy. I am about half finished with the hike today and have seen no one. I guess most people take the ferry and don’t hike this. The hike turned into a sand slog through the dry forest and quite far from the lake. I just wanted to be done. I guess I just really didn’t feel like hiking today. I had myself thinking it would be an easy 7 miler along the lake. Well, not that it was really difficult, but the 7 miles felt like 14. I finally reached the parking lot for the Mono Creek trailhead. I never saw a sign telling which way to go to actually get to the main part of VVR. I walked down the dirt road for a while and realized I wasn’t headed toward the lake. Maybe that road would have gotten me there in the end, but I opted to turn around. I found a small, non-descript trail that looked like it was leading in the right direction, so I followed it. It brought me to the hikers’ campground and then the VVR restaurant and office. Yay! Get this pack off me! I checked in and was told I still had fifteen minutes to order lunch. You guessed it folks. A beer and a bacon, double-decker cheeseburger. Oh man! I sat and started chatting with two women from Victoria Island BC who were southbound on the JMT. I stuffed my face and had to leave about a 1.5 inch diameter of my burger. I just couldn’t eat anymore. I got to chatting with one of the workers because he saw my Granite Gear pack and said that’s what he uses too. I told him about the battle wounds in the lid from the squirrel incident. “Well, do you have a trail name yet?”, he asked me. “No? Maybe that could be your trail name!” Hmm what do I do with that? So is that my trail name or do I ignore it? I didn’t know folks got trail names on the JMT.

(I’ve arrived at VVR)

(My lunch!)

Now that my belly was fat and full, I checked in for my lodging. I had forgotten that I reserved myself an RV trailer for 2 nights, and not a tent cabin. The trailer is called the “Rambler” and it is from 1978 with all of the wonderful 1970’s interior flare. It has dark brown linoleum, ugly 1970’s cabinets and an amazing 1970’s vintage kitchenette. it had a wonderful urine smell and it looked like the cleaning staff neglected to throw out the trash containing sanitary napkins. Yeah...The real amazing thing was that I didn’t have to pay $7 to do laundry or $7 for a shower.

(“The Rambler RV home for 2 nights at VVR)

I unpacked my backpack and my resupply bucket. \240I included a small pouch of liquid Tide laundry detergent. I got to work hand washing all of my clothes in the bathroom sink. About an hour later everything except a dirty pair of shorts and a smelly T-shirt (which I had to wear) were hanging all over the Rambler. Next was a hot shower with very little water pressure. No matter, it was a shower! I had forgotten to include a small sampling of shampoo and conditioner in my resupply so I just used the Soft Soap hand soap provided in the RV. I felt so much better. First impressions of VVR? I wouldn’t say it’s anything incredible. Maybe if the lake level was higher, I’d have a different impression. The small general store does have a wide variety of camping and fishing supplies and they even have T-shirts for sale. Some of the toiletry items just look like they were once hotel samples now on sale for 3 bucks a pop. I’m guessing they just rummage through the hiker box, grab things that are in halfway decent shape and then sell them in the store. \240That’s probably why the hiker barrels didn’t hold much promise. I hate to say it, but VVR gives me a bit of a trashy feel. It’s a strange combination of thru-hikers and RVers who drove here. Most of the thru-hikers are clustered in the tent city sitting around drinking beer. It makes me glad that I have my own space. I’ve seen much nicer scenery in the JMT wilderness. That being said though, it’s still nice to get a real cooked meal, have a shower, be able to wash my clothes, and not have to put up a tent for a couple of days. I’d say the worst part of being in the wilderness for days is how filthy everything gets. The JMT is dusty. Even though I try to squeeze out my clothes in the lakes and streams it surprises me just how dirty everything really gets. Even my pjs that I only wear for sleeping produced brown laundry water. I miss MTR. That place was expensive to stay, but it included 3 fantastic meals, private hot springs, and truly embarrassing hordes of food and supplies in the hiker barrels. If you wanted to, you could sit outside in the shade and gorge yourself with all kinds of snacks.

(Part of Lake Edison at VVR.)

(Boat rentals at VVR)

With the chores done, I just sat around and read. I was really feeling a bit bummed because I thought I had read that there was cell phone coverage here and I was eager to talk to loved ones at home. \240Not knowing what else to do I went through what was left in my bear can and decided what I wanted to keep and what I would donate to the hiker barrels. I thought about going to the restaurant for dinner, but I was still full from lunch. I sat at the kitchen table and looked over what my day would be like when I leave here and go back to the JMT. It looks like it will be a long, hard day of climbing Silver Pass with over 3000 feet to ascend. Although I am no longer going over the higher elevation passes, the ones around here are longer climbs to get to the summit. Well, that really just depends upon where you start and end your day. For Silver Pass, I’m starting from VVR so it will be a long climb, very similar to Selden Pass, and possibly a 15 mile day. That means I should rest tomorrow. I’m not sure what I’m going to do here tomorrow other than eat and sit around. I had thought about doing a day hike, but that just defeats the whole purpose of a rest day now doesn’t it?

As pathetic as it is, it’s 7:00 and I’m already laying in bed for the night. Even though I have lodging, guess I still feel the need to bed down when the sun goes down. \240

The “Rambler” kept me up most of the night hosting a rodent party. I figured that this would be the case, so I made sure to lock away all of my food in the bear can just like usual. I wanted to put my earplugs in, but what if they start running across the bed? I hoped they weren’t getting into my gear that I had spread out in the kitchen. Eeew. Part of me doesn’t really want to stay another night. I sort of miss my tent!

At 3 am I finally put earplugs in and got in my sleeping bag. It’s not that the bed or minimal blankets were uncomfortable, but it was cold! I fell asleep leaving the mice to their own devices.

The Rambler was freezing this morning and it seemed warmer outside. I sat outside sipping my coffee. A few backpackers walked by my camp headed to catch the ferry for another big day of hiking. One was headed to Silver Pass and the other to Selden Pass. I felt so thankful that I could take the ferry and knock 6 miles off my trek tomorrow. I don’t have to repeat that dry, sandy hike. Even so, it could be a 15 mile day depending on where I decide to camp. What to do today? Part of me really wanted to hike to the Devils Bathtub into the Ansel Adams Wilderness. I doubt I will. I’m too worried about tomorrow, so I’ll probably just sit, read my book and maybe just do a short walk around here.

(The kitchen in the Rambler)

I ate some Mountain House biscuits and gravy and had a second cup of coffee. After breakfast some of my clothes were dry so I got dressed for the day. I decided to go for a walk and check this place out. I took the trail to the Devil’s Bathtub junction and walked it for a short time. It felt good to be carrying only my phone and a map. I turned around before too long. Why hike and slog through the sand on my day off? Next I decided to walk around the campground. This was for car camping. The sites cost $27 per night. Wow. Is that how much camping costs in the mainland now? Granted, there were toilets to take care of, dumpsters to maintain and campsites to keep clean. The campsites were mostly unoccupied but there were a few taken up with giant SUVs and condo-sized tents. The walk didn’t really loosen up my back and I still had some intestinal cramps probably from last night’s grease fest. I went back to the Rambler to sit outside and read until lunchtime.

(VVR campground. )

(View of Lake Edison from the campground)

Ah lunchtime. I wandered over to the cafe to see what was on the menu for lunch. The general store and the kitchen were shrouded in darkness. They said they were having issues with the generator. No electricity, no hot food. I probably would have been better off just camping for free somewhere back in the woods. I’m having to use my jetboil and eat freeze-dried food anyway and if I want to shower it will probably be cold. I settled for lunch out of my bear can. It was actually quite delicious and my dried apples and my crackers were still crisp. \240

(Food from a bag!)

I really didn’t know what to do with myself after lunch so I took a walk up the road, then came back and read some more. I took a shower and then dropped off my comb and body lotion in the hiker bin. The lotion was scented and was practically useless out in the wilderness anyway, so I got rid of it. It looked like the lights were on in the store and it appeared that workers were making dinner preparations. Oh good! I can hopefully get a good meal. I went through my bear can again. How did I wind up with so much food for only two days until my next resupply? If I can get dinner tonight, I’ll need to ditch some of that extra food. Who wants extra weight for Silver Pass? It was 4:30 and I was hungry for dinner. Guess I’ll go see about food around 5:30. I went for another walk to kill some time before dinner. \2405:30 came and I headed to the cafe to see what was on the menu. \240Ohh spaghetti! \240I haven’t had that in weeks. \240It came out with the two sides for the evening which were diced roasted potatoes and cut cucumber, bell pepper and red onion in a balsamic dressing. \240It was probably one of the largest piles of spaghetti I’ve ever put away and I walked out of there looking about 5 months pregnant and feeling 20 pounds heavier. \240How am I going to get over that pass tomorrow feeling like this? The food at the cafe was certainly above average. \240I liked what I had. \240 I’ve got to admit people...I’ve been pretty darned bored today and I’m eager to get on that ferry tomorrow morning and get back out there. \240I’m not sure I like rest days all that much. I don’t like being idle and sitting around all day.

To sleep with earplugs or not...that is the question. I don’t want to be kept awake all night by the Rambler Rodents, but I don’t want to miss my alarm in the morning either. I’m feeling the nervous edge of eminent departure. \240 All in all, I give VVR a quarter of a thumbs up. Okay, maybe almost a half thumbs up because the food is decent. Sorry VVR. I guess this wasn’t my type of gig.

My alarm went off at 7 this morning. I got up in the cold RV, put the space heater on and made myself a cup of coffee. I had thought about going to the restaurant for breakfast but I figured that I’d only overeat and have an uncomfortable morning. I made myself some oatmeal and sorely wished that I hadn’t given one of my Cliff Bars to the hiker box yesterday. Now if I wanted it back I’d probably find it in the store with a price tag on it. I packed up my gear but couldn’t find my lip balm. Oh man. I really need that. I just put a brand new one from my resupply bucket in the hiker box yesterday and I wasn’t about to buy it from them after they found it and put it up for purchase. I looked around the RV and found it in the corner of the kitchen with gnaw marks on the lid. I’ve had more rodent issues in this RV than most places I’ve camped. (with the exception of that squirrel chewing through my pack at Blaney Hotsprings!). I left the RV and walked over to the store to check out and purchase my ferry ticket. I got myself a cup of coffee and ate my Cliff Bar that I was saving for the trail. Just as I thought. My Cliff Bar that I left in the hiker box was no longer there. \240A guy was going through the hiker bins basically pitching nearly everything and saving the good stuff for the store. The ferry departed at 9 and I noticed that some people had to pay and others didn’t. It seemed that those who neglected to buy a ticket were allowed on anyway. Ugh. \240Do you know what I could have done with that extra $13? Had me some bacon and eggsies that’s what. \240 Goodbye VVR. I can’t say I’m sorry to leave. (except for the food!)

(Ferrying to the north tip of Edison Lake)

(Morning view over Lake Edison)

After disembarking the ferry, I had about a mile and a half hike to get back to the JMT. When I reached the trail junction I felt a bit of discomfort in my hip. No no no no! Not today. I even took medicine for it last night. I stretched a little bit and then kept going. The trail ascended a little but not really enough to even notice. For the first few miles I had a good groove going and felt fine.

(Back on the JMT hiking toward Silver Pass)

I told myself that I would take a break at mile 5. At about 5 miles in, I took off the pack, tried to stretch my hips and ate my lunch next to a nice creek. It was a good decision to eat because immediately after crossing the creek, the tough switchbacks began. I had to get the old diesel moving again. It always takes me a quarter of a mile or so before I can begin to pick up the pace again. The trail was steep and rocky, but the view was wonderful.

(Hiking toward Silver Pass. 3 miles until the summit)

After about a mile or so the trail leveled out a bit. I hiked through a beautiful, lush forest skirting the edge of a meadow. It was a nice little break from the climb.

(On the edge of a meadow approaching Silver Pass)

The trail started climbing again and opened up to a vast, rocky valley surrounded by pale granite cliffs. \240

(Just a couple more miles)

I looked at the map yesterday so I knew that from the ferry dispatch it would be about 8 miles to get to the top of the pass. Knowing that, I didn’t whine about the miles leading up to the mountain, I just accepted it as fact. That worked throughout most of the climb. When I got to within a mile from the summit my hip was really not cooperating. I saw that what looked like the top was not far away and according to my Guthook mapping app, I was really close. I hiked on and got to the spot where Guthook said the top of the pass was. No. It was off by at least a quarter of a mile. Not that big of a deal but when you expect the top to be at a certain place and your hip feels like it’s being snapped with a rubber band inside, you start grumbling. I trudged up the last little bit, took off the pack and rewarded myself with a good stretch and some snacks. \240My GPS said I’ve gone 8.8 miles.

(About a half mile from the summit)

(The view from the top of Silver Pass)

I was feeling better and started the descent. I could see several lakes down below and one of them, Squaw Lake, was to be my destination for the night. By the time I reached Squaw Lake I didn’t really feel like stopping yet. I continued to descend into a treed valley with a creek. My favorite! I found a beautiful spot near the creek and decided to call that home. I could have done about 4-5 more miles and gotten to Lake Virginia but I’d already covered 13 miles today and didn’t feel like pushing it. Maybe I would have my lunch there tomorrow. I set up my camp, bathed and then made myself chili mac and a tortilla for dinner. It was only half of the Mountain House pouch and I was still hungry so I downed a large Snickers Bar. I’ve got company tonight at this camp spot. I still have my own space and it does make me feel at ease to know other people are nearby. Guess I ate too fast because now I have cramps in my belly. Yuck. Please no diahrea tonight. \240No emergency cat hole digging in the middle of the night!

(Descending Silver Pass)

(One of the lakes I hiked past during the descent)

(Very close to my camp for the night)

I got up at 7 and did the usual packing up the camp. I had the entire thing done in a half hour, but my backpack wasn’t packed. I can’t do that until I don’t need my bear can anymore, and of course I needed my coffee. I sat for a bit sipping my coffee and eating buttery grits with craisins. The group of three that had shared the campsite last night were just about to leave. I watched as the one women hoisted her pack onto her back. The thing was so large that it seemed to curve above her head by about two feet. I started hiking at 8:30. I felt cold this morning as I descended through a stream valley in the shade of trees and shrubs. Dappled sunlight began to shine through the trees and I paused a few times to feel the warmth on my face.

(The trail this morning)

(Tully Hole area)

The gentle trail was over and the climbing had begun. \240Up and up the trail went over steep, rocky switchbacks across the cliff side. \240The view of the valley below was breathtaking. \240Up and up I went. \240It isn’t the JMT folks unless you are climbing at least 2000 cumulative feet per day. \240This little no-name ascent was tough. \240

(The view from no-name climb. I’ll call it Da Buggah)

(Looking down on the switchbacks of Da Buggah)

When I had nearly reached the top I noticed another hiker staring at a tree. He had me look at it too. The tree appeared to have a crack running vertically through the center of the trunk as if the Jolly Green Giant took an X-acto knife and slit it down the center. “Any guesses what caused that?” The man asked me. I was about to say lightening but I saw no singe marks. The man thought it was lightening and we were both glad we weren’t standing near that tree when it happened! I moved on and the trail lead through a dry, dusty plateau before descending to Lake Virginia. I had an extra hot meal in my bear can, so I decided to set up my chair and enjoy sweet and sour pork and a Snickers bar for dessert. I still have a long way to go today. The lunch will probably slow me down.

It was time to try to get this vintage 1973 Mathis Cruiser started again. The engine didn’t want to turn over. My cruiser didn’t want to cruise. The trail began to climb out of the Lake Virginia bowl. The climb wasn’t very long and soon I was descending on the edge of a magnificent canyon. To the left of me towered pale granite cliffs. To the right of me the rocks looked like metavolcanics.

(Lake Virginia)

As I sat and ate lunch it was fun to watch some red-headed loons (I think) diving after fish. They are the first waterfowl I’ve seen out here.

At the contact zone was a dry creek bed. I was either hiking along a huge fault or this was just simply the consequence of a massive folding event causing the rocks to be vertical and erosion to take place at the contact area. If both of those guesses are wrong, it could just be a contact zone between pluton and fried volcanics.

(Beginning descent through a canyon toward Purple Lake)

I descended away from the rocks and back into the trees. \240The trees gave way to Purple Lake. \240I stopped there for a quick break. \240I’d only hiked 6 miles today. \240My legs felt like lead and I doubted I’d make it all the way to Deer Creek tonight. \240After Purple Lake the climbing began again. \240I had a couple of miles to go until the Duck Pass junction. \240At that point I’d have a decision to make. \240It looked like the last place to get water for about 6 miles and I could either camp there or go all the way to Deer Creek. \240I wasn’t sure what to do. \240Camping at the Duck Pass junction meant a long day to reach Reds Meadow tomorrow. \240

(Lake Virginia)

(Purple Lake)

The trail leveled out and followed the contour of the ridge. I could see the view in the distance. There was a large canyon valley surrounded by treed and rocky cliffs. I also saw something that caught my breath...I saw smoke plumes billowing up in the distance. It was a small forest fire and it looked like it was roughly in the direction I’d eventually be headed. Tomorrow I’d have to ask some questions when I got to Reds Meadow. So far southbound hikers tell me the trail is clear and accessible all the way to Yosemite. I hope so.

I reached the Duck Pass junction and refilled my water bottles. It was decision time. If I try to get to Deer Creek I can expect 5.5 more miles and I’ve already done 8 today. I chowed down on a Cliff Bar and a Honey Stinger cookie. Guess I’ve made the decision to move on.

(Duck Pass junction)

More and more climbing. \240It wasn’t too long though and the trail leveled out and contoured the mountainside just like before. \240There was no water here. \240The intermittent streams were totally dry. \240There was no place to camp either because the ridge was too steep. \240I was committed to get to Deer Creek.

(Four miles to go until Deer Creek)

I set the legs in cruise control and moved on. The trail was mostly easy walking after the climb. \240Even so, by mile 12 I was ready to be done. \240The trail had been descending for a while and instead of a dry forest the pine needle ground had begun to fill in with grass. \240Must be getting close!

(One more mile until Deer Creek)

I kept going, my mind totally focused on my chicken, corn, bacon, ranch tacos that I was planning for dinner. One of my very favorite meals out here! That’s all I was thinking of when a guy asked me if I wanted a free shuttle ticket to Mammoth Lakes. Huh? My response? “I’m sorry but I don’t even know what that is.” He looked at me like I had bats coming out of my ears. “You know the shuttle from Reds Meadow?” What a dope. I should have told him I’d be at Reds tomorrow but instead the chicken tacos were fogging my brain. I could hear the creek! This must be it. I found a small campsite right next to the creek. I shouldn’t be this close to the water, but the larger group sites had a lot of people and at least this site looked impacted already. I did the evening chores. I had to walk a ways to bathe so that I wasn’t close to the creek and so no one could see me. Finally fresh (well sort of) I delved into those tacos! They were just as delicious as ever and I only spilled 2 drops this time. For dessert I had several spoonfuls of Nutella. Belly full and fat, I cleaned up and crawled into my tent. One thing is for sure, today was a tough day. \240It was just as hard as any mountain pass day even though technically there wasn’t any passes to go over. \240Tomorrow I get my next resupply at Reds Meadow. Will they be open for lunch?

I had a bit of trouble sleeping through the night. I kept having racing thoughts of trying to settle in to a new life in Albuquerque, getting a job, feelings of guilt for pushing this move on my husband, credit card bills, and numberous other annoying tidbits of reality I would soon face. The thoughts flashed by like fast-forwarding through a movie. I was cold too. I tried to let the sound of the creek carry away these stresses. I guess it must have worked because the next thing I knew my alarm was beeping at 7. I rolled over and turned it off. I fell back to sleep and woke up at 8:15. It was a later start than I wanted, but the sun was already warming my tent. This meant not freezing first thing in the morning! I packed up the camp and was on the trail by 9:30. Depending on how difficult the 6.5 miles would be to get to Reds Meadow I guessed that I’d still make it there in time for lunch.

Is there pumice among us? Why yes there is. This morning’s hike was an easy cruise on a gentle descent through sandy pumice deposits. The pumice must have been left behind by an enormous ancient volcanic eruption. \240The trail gently lead me through the dry lodge pole pine forest but skirted a meadow or two. It was so sandy that I’m guessing lodgepole was the only tree species to tolerate the dryness.

(The view leaving Deer Creek area)

A couple of miles into the hike I stopped for a few minutes to chat with a young man who was southbound. He said his trail name was Bullfrog. I didn’t think I had one so I gave him my real name. Do I have a trail name? Is it supposed to be Squirrel? I wasn’t sure. I kept going through the dusty sand. The hikers coming the other way had a tough go of hiking uphill through sand, just like Sliding Sands Trail on Haleakala. I switched my phone off of airplane mode and found I had cell reception. Yippy! I phoned home and it was great to talk to James, Liam, and my mother-in-law. After a half hour or so I had to get moving again.

(Edge of a meadow on the way to Reds Meadow)

(Pumice joy)

I kept descending as the miles ticked by. \240Just as my hip was starting to hurt a southbound hiker told me “You are almost there. \240Warm breakfast and a milkshake!” \240Oh boy!!! I was like a horse heading back to the barn. I kicked it into a higher gear and practically started jogging. \240

(Red Cone cinder cone)

As I got a bit closer to Reds Meadow, I hiked through an area of many downed trees preferentially aligned. They lay like giant match sticks. This must have been the result of that terrible wind storm that occurred in 2011 that I read about. It was a harsh reminder of how viscous the weather really can be here. I felt lucky to be experiencing the gentle Sierra. I looked up skyward and realized for the first time that there must be some moisture in the atmosphere. It looked like there could be thunderstorms this afternoon. If this was to continue I had better plan appropriately for the next mountain passes. The trail finished the descent and brought me through a hilly meadow. All of the large trees were dead from fire and wind. They stood tall, but most were singed black or snapped off halfway. This was the remains of the Rainbow Fire from 1996. Most of the trees still hadn’t come back.

(About a mile from Reds Meadow)

The shrubs and wildflowers had come back from the burn and tiny tree saplings were starting to take off. It was a hot hike through that stretch. Soon I reached the end of the fire zone and reached the junction for Reds. Yay! I hiked to the cafe, dumped my pack and washed my hands and arms with warm water in the restroom. FOOD! I took a seat at the bar table and ordered up a Pepsi, cheeseburger, diced fruit, and chips. It was delicious!!! I ate everything on my plate. I wasn’t done yet though. Next I ordered apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I ate that too! It was an embarrassing amount of food and anyone watching me probably either thought I was starving or just another JMT hiker. I paid the bill. It was a whopping $40. Ouch. I thoroughly enjoyed it though. I went into the store to inquire about my resupply bucket. They brought it right out. I took a picnic table in front of the store and began dealing with my trash and bear can. Several people stopped by to talk about the JMT and hiking Mt Whitney. The one guy told me he heard someone died up there not too long ago either due to altitude-related illness or heart issues. Yikes. I remember how scared I was hiking that but mostly because of the thunderstorms. A few minutes later Bob came out of the cafe. He said Stephanie was walking their dog. Gosh I didn’t even see them in the cafe! Bob proceeded to tell me that he and Stephanie talked it over and think my trail name should be “Speedy Little Pony”. Whaaa? He explained that I’m a fast hiker and they got a kick out of the story I told them about the night I camped in the meadow and had 20 hungry horses munching next to my tent. Okay. I’m now Speedy Little Pony, but you can call me SLP for short.


The sky looked like it was threatening rain so I hiked to the campground and found a nice site right next to a stream. Once I got set up, I gathered my things to hike back over to the general store to see about getting a hot shower. The woman at the cash register told me the shower was $5 for 5 minutes and a dollar for any added minutes. I think she said it was more money for a towel. I declined. I just spent nearly $40 on lunch and $23 for a campsite. I walked out of the store saying “Wow that’s one expensive shower” under my breath. A trail dusty couple sitting at the picnic table said “Oh but it will be worth it.” I responded with “I don’t think so”. They chided me a bit saying things like, “What, she’s not gonna shower? Huh?” I hiked back to my campsite. I would do exactly what I have done every night since starting this thing. Use creek water, soap up all the stinky areas and bathe far enough away from the water to not pollute. \240Sure it’s not a hot shower, but it works and now I still have money left over for whatever else I may need it for.

I was still a little full from lunch, so I sat by my private creek for a while until making my freeze-dried meal of beef/rice casserole. I’m a little nervous camping here. I don’t worry much about bear in the wilderness, but here in an official campground loaded with people and their garbage makes me worry a bit. I’ll take the same careful precautions as I’ve done for the past 3 weeks and hopefully they’ll stay away tonight.

It was a bit of an uncomfortable night. \240I woke up sweating and had to change my shirt. \240I kept hearing noises outside of my tent but when I worked up the courage to unzip the tent and shine my headlamp around I saw nothing. \240Because I was camped in the grass right next to the creek, condensation built up inside my tent. \240By morning my tent was wet and so was my sleeping bag. \240Drip, drip, drip all night long thanks to the dew that hung like a wet blanket all around me. I got up at 7 and began to pack everything up. \240Wet or no, I wasn’t going to hang around all morning waiting for my gear to dry out. \240Things weren’t soaked, but damp enough to be annoying. \240During my packing I noticed that I didn’t seem to be getting into my bear can to root around for breakfast. \240Nope, I guess subconsciously I had already decided to go to the cafe for breakfast. \240Real hot coffee, hot eggs, bacon and French Toast! \240The cost was even more than the typical \240Maui price but I enjoyed every bite.

(Good morning Reds Meadow)

While eating I found out that the fire I had seen a couple of days ago is called the Lions fire and it was almost out. People said doing the JMT right now was a window of great opportunity. A lot of hikers bailed on the trek due to smoke haze so the trail isn’t as crowded and all of the smoke haze is blown out. Great for me, but if I left just a couple weeks earlier I would have had to cancel too. I feel bad for those whose trek did not work out as they planned.

(Mileage signs at Reds Meadow)

I stopped to check out this neat little sign at the entrance to Reds Meadow. Only 57 more miles to Happy Isles Yosemite? How did that even happen? I’ve covered 200 miles already? The JMT is 211 miles long but because I started a few days before Mt Whitney and hiked out and back to Onion Valley I think my entire trek is close to 260.

I headed out to get back on the JMT. \240The plan was to take the southern Devils Postpile junction and make the detour to go see Devils Postpile. \240The trail meandered through the pumice sand, in the hot sun, and uphill. \240Well I’d rather have sand than ankle-twisting rocks. \240My feet constantly kicked up clouds of dust as I hiked. \240

(Reds Meadow cafe. Home of delicious food)

When I reached the Devils Postpile junction I decided to ditch the pack near a tree and only carry water, my inReach, phone and a map. The hike was only 2 miles at the most. I had to go and see this thing. You don’t major in geology and pass up this chance to one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt. This was a spectacular showing of basalt that cooled extremely slowly and exhibits nature’s finest energy saving feature which is hexagonal, 120 degree angles. It would be an abomination and very embarrassing to miss seeing this site. The top part of the loop lead to the top of the columnar basalt column. Other than the land feature being on a hill you’d swear you were walking on someone’s hexagonal flagstone patio.

(Nature’s patio)

(Top of Devils Postpile)

I hiked the remainder of the loop which brought me to the bottom of the columns. \240Amazing!

(Devils Postpile)

I didn’t linger too long as the sun was in a difficult position for photos and I was worried about my gear. I hiked back to the junction and was relieved to see my pack and poles just where I had left them. I slung on the pack and started slogging uphill through the pumice sand. I was feeling hot and thirsty. One mile to go to get to the Minaret stream crossing. I stopped there for lunch and dangled my feet in the water. I splashed the cold water on my face. Ahh.

The weather is threatening thunderstorms. I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. Even though I only have 6 days left on the JMT, I’m not out of the woods yet. I don’t get a free ride or easy pass just because I’m getting close to the home stretch. The thunder makes me nervous and all I’ve been doing all day is climbing higher and higher. What if lightening hits a tree nearby and causes a fire? I love the cool gray afternoon, but I’m just a bit apprehensive. This is just like week one. I’d better drag out the pack cover so my stuff doesn’t get soaked should it start to pour.

Up and up. Oh gee it looks like a typical 2000 foot climb. Have you done your daily 2000 foot climb today? Why yes I have.

“Hey it’s Speedy Little Pony!” “Hey it’s Stephanie and Bob!”, I replied. There they were taking a break on the climb. Their son Josiah was hiking with them. I joined them for the last couple of miles. They were going to hike to Rosalie Lake. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to camp there or at Gladys Lake, a smaller lake about a half mile before Rosalie.

(Me, Bob, and Josiah)

It wasn’t long before we reached Gladys Lake. I found a nice site tucked next to lodgepole pine just a ways up from the lake. I liked it, and so decided to stay. I got my camp set up and it started to sprinkle. It could be a wet night. I kind of doubt it, but just in case, I removed my pack liner (trash compactor bag) and shoved my pack and everything else inside of it. I hope I sleep warmer and dryer tonight. Tomorrow I’m supposed to stop at Thousand Island Lakes and actually have a rest day there. We shall see. I’ll probably camp there tomorrow, but doubt I’ll take the rest day. The rain stopped (already??) so I was able to sit in my camp chair and enjoy my Mountain House Lasagna. Double portion baby and yes I’ll eat the whole thing and then delve into the Nutella jar.

(Gladys Lake)

Day 27. \240Is it really? How did that happen?

I woke up around 7:30 and began the daily ritual of packing up. I had been hungry all night so that gnawing stomach kept me awake at different times during the night. It took me four tries this morning to get a cat hole dug and none of them ended up deep enough. My hands were sore from trying to jam my thin shovel in the packed ground. I was frustrated, but what can you do? When you gotta go you gotta go. You don’t want to go to go and find you’ve already gone. (Huh?) This is one of the annoyances that I will be happy to give up and go back to a modern toilet. I fetched water from the lake and made myself a cup of coffee to go with my freeze dried bananas and Cliff Bar. Oh man, my coffee tasted like soap this morning. Last night I had a heck of a time trying to get hardened cheese from the lasagna off my spoon. I ended up using soap and sand to clean it because I was too lazy to boil water for it. Yuck. The day looks clear for now, but thunderstorms are likely for the afternoon. I don’t have too far to go today and no mountain passes. As I know by now, the “no mountain pass” thing means nothing. I’ve got at least a 2000 foot climb to get to Thousand Islands Lakes. Yesterday Bob asked me if I felt the trail was getting easier. Heck no. The footing is easier due to the sand, but that’s about it. I’m in better shape and can handle the altitude just fine, but the trail is still a Buggah.

(Gladys Lake)

I started the trail and so far it was a gentle descent through Hemlock and Lodgepole pines to reach Rosalie Lake. \240It was a lovely spot and part of me wished that I camped there last night near my trail friends.

(Rosalie Lake)

The trail followed around part of the lake perimeter and then began a massive descent through the forest down an extremely steep mountainside. I could barely see Shadow Lake way down below. The trail crisscrossed along the steep slope and finally bottomed out at Shadow Lake. Even though it was still before 11, I sat and ate my lunch. I knew that I’d have a pretty steep climb from here and I was already hungry as usual. After lunch the trail gradually began to climb especially after crossing the Shadow Creek footbridge.

(Climbing above Shadow Creek)

(Climbing above Shadow Creek)

The trail meandered through rocky terrain with the tumbling river below. So far not too bad although I think today my trail name should be “Plodding Little Pony” instead of “Speedy Little Pony”. My legs didn’t want to get the job done today. My pack felt heavy as if someone came and put rocks in it overnight. I kept stopping every 5 to 10 minutes for one reason or another.

(The view climbing toward Garnet Lake)

The climb really wasn’t too bad because it wasn’t just straight switchbacks. I stopped to eat a Cliff Bar, miraculously hoping it would give me a boost. It helped only slightly. I just went slow and took my time. Since this climb has no name I think I’ll call it Da Boogah.

(Approaching the top of Da Boogah)

When I got close to the top a couple stopped to ask about my solar panel. My Suntactics 5s is quite the conversation piece. The couple wanted to know where I started from and how many days I’ve been on the trail. When I told them they congratulated me on being close to the finish line. They said I looked clean, happy and healthy. It really gave me the boost I needed to finish the climb. Maybe today I just needed some encouragement.

(Top of Da Boogah)

I sat at the top for a few minutes but the grey sky looked threatening above so I quickly began the descent to Garnet Lake. \240The lake was breathtaking with Banner Peak and Ritter Peak as the backdrop.

(Descending toward Garnet Lake)

(Garnet Lake)

I had thought about going for a swim but the wind picked up making me chilly. A man that I stopped to chat with told me that Thousand Island Lake can be pretty crowded and there have been quite a few bear incidents there. Not long after that, someone else told me the same thing. I decided to try to camp at Ruby Lake instead hoping to avoid tons of people and bear. Now that I’m just a few days outside of Yosemite, the trail seems to be more densely populated. People are starting to ask me about my solar panel just like the beginning near Horseshoe Meadows. At the Garnet Lake footbridge I ran into guess who? Stephanie, Bob, and Josiah! I relaxed with them for a bit and hiked with them until Ruby Lake. The rain was threatening, but of course since I put on my rain coat the sun came out instead. I chose a nice, quiet campsite above the lake. It was cloudy and cool but I still got all of the evening chores done. At 6:30 I was already in my pjs and in my sleeping bag. How pathetic is that? I’m cold what can I say? Tomorrow I’m not really sure what the plan will be. I’m supposed to zero at Thousand Island Lake but I don’t think I will. I will probably go there, set up my chair and enjoy it for a while though. I’m thinking of doing Island Pass and maybe camping somewhere before Donahue Pass. From the looks of the map Island Pass is barely a pass at all. It’s only a 500 foot ascent from here. Even Donahue Pass is less than a 2000 foot climb from where I’ll be. I guess that’s why I planned to do them on the same day. The issue is the unpredictable weather and I don’t want to be going over Donahue with grey clouds and thunder. We shall see what tomorrow shall bring. Maybe I should take things even slower.

The sun woke me up this morning beating down on my tent. Might as well get up. I packed up everything but the tent and then made myself a cup of coffee. It still tasted like soap! I guess the soap may have been stored near my coffee creamer held in a ziplock bag in my bear can. I’m feeling fine this morning but maybe a little honesty is warranted today. I’ve got 5 days until I reach the ”city” of Yosemite. I am starting to see a lot of southbounders just starting on their trek. I am finding that I don’t envy them. I am glad I only have 5 days left. It’s not the hiking or carrying a pack that get to me. It’s the smelly clothes, the thin coating of dirt all over everything, squatting over a hole in the ground to go to the bathroom, being cold, and most of all...I miss my family. All other camping annoyances are trivial compared to missing my family. I felt it yesterday when I ran into Stephanie, Bob, and Josiah. A family enjoying the Sierras together. I envied them. I hiked my last mile and a half with them but I’m not sure they really wanted me hanging around. That’s the trouble with me. I never really know if people really want me around or not. I missed the social skills part when God was giving that sort of thing out. Must have been hanging out with the trees. What must it be like to be able to do this entire hike with the same person or people? I don’t think I could do it. I can be really funl-loving, and appear to be extroverted but after a short time of that I just want my own space. It’s not that I don’t like people, because I realize I need them in my life for many reasons. I often worry that I don’t do enough for friends and that I’m too much of a taker. I just feel most comfortable by myself. Being out here solo hasn’t been emotionally as difficult as I thought it would be, but James and Liam know me inside and out. They seem to put up with my weird introverted ways and let me live with them anyway. I miss them dearly. I used to think I could be happy with a good book and a forest, but that’s not entirely true. Even I’m not an island. People lift me up. It’s unfortunate that I can’t seem to handle most of them in large doses. The people in my life that have befriended me are truly special. I mean real true friends. I miss my Maui friends terribly, but I look forward to spending time with old friends in New Mexico. Then there is my friend Cheryl who I met in high school so long ago and for some reason she still wants to chat and visit when we can. There are wonderful people in this world. Too bad I seem to be afraid of most of them, and the others? \240Well...humans are humans.

(My ugly mug, morning of day 28)

I took my time packing up the remainder of my gear. It is after all a rest day. Within a mile I was already at Thousand Island Lake. I was glad I didn’t camp there last night as I may have had a tough time finding a spot. It was a beautiful site though. Banner Peak is the focal point behind the lake. The water shimmered silver and small islands poked out of the sapphire lake.

(Thousand Island Lake)

Although the scenery was incredible, I didn’t want to set up my chair here and sit. \240I decided to just take my time enjoying the views and when I felt ready I would go over Island Pass. \240This is the Ansel Adams Wilderness. \240That one-of-a-kind black and white photographer. \240Most of us try to reproduce those photos. \240Here is my rendition taken on the crappy phone camera.

(Thousand Island Lake)

(Thousand Island Lake)

I was already at 9800 feet so Island Pass at 10,225 would be trivial. I climbed the scant few switchbacks and then the trail plateaued for a while. This is definitely the easiest mountain pass of the JMT. \240During the climb I noticed that I had entered back into granite plutons. I must have been at the edge of one because the granite was dark and dominated by horneblende and biotite. These minerals crystallize first indicating a pluton margin. I hiked even slower just so that I could look at the rocks. Why not? It’s an easy day.

(View of Thousand Island Lake climbing up Island Pass)

I wasn’t really ever sure where the Pass summit actually was, but eventually I began to descend through slabs of light colored granite and a sandy forest. \240I was beginning to feel woozy due to lack of food. I’d only had a few crackers and coffee for breakfast. \240I reached Davis Creek and found a great spot to put up my chair and relax for a few hours. \240I just really gravitate to flowing water. \240I love the sound and there is usually tree cover and grass. \240Perfect for sitting, reading, and trying to plan where to go next. \240

(Davis Creek)

After packing up and getting back on the trail I think I might have made it about 1/4 of a mile and then chose a camp spot right after the Rush Creek junction. I hiked a total of 5 miles today. Two half days and no rest day. I set up my camp in a nice spot nestled in the lodgepole pines and it was a short walk to the creek. I got in the water and used my bandana as a wash cloth. I scrubbed without soap and used sand to try to get rid of the armpit stink. I decided not to dive under because I don’t like having a wet head if Im not sure it will completely dry. Bathing done and now to set up the chair in the sun and get some reading done. It was another beautiful evening. I spent some time looking over my maps. Looks like I’ll have at least a 10 mile day tomorrow. Good. I’ve been taking it slow and easy these past few days and I’m ready to cruise!

I actually slept pretty well last night. I even had dreams about getting invited to the Olympics for gymnastic. Not to compete, but just to go. It’s a better dream than others I’ve had out here. The closer I get to the Yosemite wilderness the more nervous I feel. Why? I get a bit apprehensive when camping alone in places that are easily accessible by car for non-backpackers. I also know that Yosemite University graduates the most prolific student body of bears with PhDs.

I feel like I‘m ready for a long day. Donahue Pass shouldn’t be too bad, but every time I think something will be easy it’s NOT. I can’t believe today is officially my last large mountain stage. Having a mountain pass to do has been exciting. You get up and anticipate the climb and the effort it will take. I typically have had my fastest and best days on mountain pass days (except for Glen Pass that descent still makes me shudder).

It took a while to get my JetBoil lit this morning. It usually does when the canister is cold. The gas canister wasn’t putting out any gas even though it felt like the can was still 1/4 full. Thank goodness I spent a pretty penny at Reds Meadow and bought an extra. I’m enjoying peppery, buttery grits with craisins and a double shot of Starbucks Via coffee. I’ve been going through my bear can and it doesn’t appear that I have much for breakfast and lunch until I get to Tuolumne tomorrow for my final resupply. Reduculous to pick up a resupply for only a few days, but that’s how you travel light. I have an extra hot dinner and some Cliff Bars so that will have to do until tomorrow.

(My camp at Rush Creek)

I got on the trail by 9 and it immediately began climbing out of the Rush Creek area. I had 4 miles to reach the summit of the pass. So far I felt like I was flying. The creek tumbled along the trail for a while and then I climbed into the dry lodgepole pine forest up above the valley. I knew that I had reached near 10,000 feet when I started seeing white bark pine.

(The view on the way to Donahue Pass)

As I ascended higher soon even the stunted white bark pine disappeared and the surrounding landscape was bare granite with a few tufts of grass and hearty wildflowers. \240

(Approaching Donahue Pass)

I climbed on still feeling great. \240The green valley below dropped away and I was soon surrounded by an austere landscape of bare, weathered granite. \240This pass reminded me of some of the other passes in the southern portion of the trail. \240I saw a sign up ahead and realized I had reached the summit. \240I had also reached the Yosemite National Park wilderness boundary. \240Already?

(Summit of Donahue Pass)

I began the descent and was treated to an amazing view of Lyell Canyon in the distance. That’s where I’d be heading. \240

(Starting the descent toward Lyell Canyon)

I reached the headwaters and the view was breathtaking. I could see Mt Maclure and Mt Lyell giving a stunning backdrop to water below. The former Lyell glacier shone in the sunlight. \240The glacier was downgraded to a permanent snowfield several years ago and no longer has glacial characteristics.

(Descending toward Lyell Canyon)

(Descending toward Lyell Canyon)

(Headwaters of Lyell Canyon)

I descended into the Upper reaches of the canyon and decided to take a lunch break. I had a tortilla and some nacho cheese which I was pretty sick of at this point. It made a mess and spilled all over my fingers and got on my shirt. I had to try to wash the cheese residue off of my hands and then get to my trash in my bear can to dispose of the leftovers. Sigh. I hope I don’t smell like cheese. Well, I know I smell like bad cheese, but that’s not the kind that attracts bear.

I got back on the trail and all too soon I began a steep, rocky descent that seemed to go on forever. The elevation plummeted. Much of the trail was made up of large granite blocks or granite cobble stone paving. It kind of reminded me of a smaller version of parts of the Nakasendo Highway in Japan between Magome and Tsumago.

(The cobble stone of the Lyell Canyon descent)

My hips and my knees were telling me this was a steep one. Anyone summitting Donahue Pass from Yosemite has a steep climb indeed. I could see the bottom of Lyell Canyon in the distance. There was a pale green and gold meadow and the creek wound around it like snake. So far yet to go.

(Looking toward the bottom of Lyell Canyon)

I kept going, having to stop periodically to try to alleviate the pain in my hips. I finally reached the bottom and the trail became a wonderfully flat, easy stroll along the creek and meadow. I looked up at the canyons walls of the gentle glacially-carved U-shaped Valley. The aspen were just barely starting to change their wardrobe and put on a skirt of dramatic gold. I LOVE fall!

(Ahh. The bottom of Lyell Canyon)

I hiked on. I’d covered 10 miles and my hips were on fire. I had no choice but to stop and stretch. So very frustrating. \240Hip pain aside, hiking along Lyell Canyon was a wonderful treat.

(Looking back toward Upper Lyell Canyon)

The short break and stretch helped. A mile later I reached the Vogelsang trail junction and found a campsite close to that. Looks like Tuolumne is about 5.5 miles from here. After picking up my final resupply I then have to hike up toward Cathedral Pass and hope I can find a campsite near Cathedral Lakes. It could be a 12-13 mile day. \240My hip will love it. \240

It was a long night last night. It seemed to take me a good 3 hours to fall asleep and I kept waking up. I was having trouble keeping warm. My nose was a bit stuffed up so I had to breathe through my mouth. The outside of my sleeping bag was damp and cold from the condensation. I thought I was high enough above the creek and meadow, but I guess not. Finally at 7 I decided to get up. I certainly wasn’t getting warmer in my sleeping bag. I dressed and began the preparations for the day. The sun had yet to peep over the eastern ridge and I was freezing. Last night there seemed to be at least 3 other campers in this area. All of them were gone when I crawled out of my tent. It always seems to be that way. How is that even possible? Do they leave at 5 in the morning? They are like the legendary version of Menehune or something. Magical beings that appear and disappear without a trace. I made myself a hot cup of coffee, surprised that my stove actually lit quite quickly. My Cliff Bar was a cold block of sawdust. I walked over to the creek to see the view. Mist rose from the water and a tiny silver layer of frost covered the plants immediately next to the stream. No wonder I’m cold. I could see sunlight on the western ridge, but nothing at my camp yet. I continued to pack and then, pop! Sunshine! Oh glorious warm sunshine. I’d been waiting for it for 12 long hours.

(Chilly morning at my camp)

I was on the trail by 8:30 hiking in my beanie, gloves, and light down jacket. Before long a group of runners passed me. Lyell Canyon is a great place to run. The scenery is beautiful, the trail mostly flat, and the footing easy. I wish I could be a runner, but I’ve always been extremely slow at it and it bothers my back and hips too much. Lyell Canyon was so peaceful. Chickadees, dark-eyed juncos, yellow-rumpled warblers, and Clark’s Nutcracker twittered through the trees. I was finally beginning to warm up so I doffed the coat and hat. Hiking along Lyell Canyon was an absolute pleasure. After days of climbing and descending it was great to be doing miles on the flat across this picturesque valley.

(Hiking through Lyell Canyon)

(Lyell Canyon)

The trail turned away from the meadow and entered a sandy lodgepole pine forest. \240

(Hiking toward Tuolumne Meadow)

An older gentleman stopped me and asked, “Thought you was goin’ the other way.” “You get hot in them leggins?” Umm. Time to pick up the pace and leave this guy in the dust. More than likely he was totally harmless and just trying to make conversation.

Soon I reached the confusing part of the JMT. I met up with a couple of men whom I had seen on the trail before and they wanted to go to Tuolumne Grill for lunch. We all found it a little confusing to stay on the JMT through this section and find the post office (for my resupply) and the grill. We passed dozens of tourists. They were dressed in fresh, bright clothes, and they smelled good. \240At its northern most point, the JMT actually becomes a dirt road leading to the outskirts of the campground. A few moments later we found the post and the grill. The postal clerk was super friendly and in no time at all he produced my bucket. I spread out all of my junk on a picnic table in the shade. I realize a resupply at Tuolumne was reduculous. I have only 2 days left and could have easily skipped this one. Nevertheless I cleaned out some supplies that I don’t need and filled the can with the new food items. I must confess I have a reduculous amount of food I’m carrying including 2 small plastic bottles of Merlot as a treat for the end. I had forgotten that I put a fresh pair of shorts and socks in the resupply. Now that I think of it, that wasn’t necessary at all and it’s just extra things I have to carry. Not only that but I’ve got to keep them in my bear can because they smell like food! Once my backpack was sorted I bought myself a cheeseburger and soda at the grill. My burger was loaded with an ooey gooey mix of mayo, mustard, and ketchup. I chatted for a while with a couple of people that are exiting Yosemite the same day as I am. The one young man got a kick out of the fact that I will purposely backtrack on the trek so as not to miss any section (even a small sliver) of the JMT. He said that he was doing the same. Trail nerds!!! I also got to talking with a young woman about to start her southbound solo trek tomorrow. She is nervous about camping alone. I did my best to reassure her but also told her that I still get nervous a little bit at night. My trail friends had already left and I still took my time munching away on a huge candy bar and then a trip to the bathroom. (No cat hole!!!!). When I finally did get on the trail again. I took my time reading all of the information placards. Tuolumne is such a lovely spot. People were fishing, kids waded in the water, and folks were just out with their families having a relaxing afternoon .

(Lembert Dome at Tuolumne)

(Crossing Tuolumne Meadows heading toward Cathedral Lakes)

(Tuolumne Meadow)

Having left Tuolumne behind, the trail headed west for a short spur before hooking south toward Cathedral Lakes and then eventually on to Happy Isles, the ending of the JMT for northbounders. \240I was having a hard time getting moving as my belly was stuffed. \240Day hikers keep asking about my solar panel and congratulate me on my near finish of the JMT. \240I began the climb toward Cathedral Lakes but had to step aside to let a stock train go through. The dust motes were intense. \240(Cough, gag!)

(Mule train)

The climb up toward Cathedral Lakes was a real rear-kicker. The trail was dusty and steep throughout most of it. When you start a climb with a full belly and you are already 10 miles into your day, a little 1000 foot climb can be a leg buster. I reached the junction for the 1/2 mile long spur trail to Lower Cathedral Lake. I’m assuming it’s the lower one because I had to descend to get there.

(Cathedral Peak)

(Lower Cathedral Lake)

I reached the lake and it is a gorgeous spot. There are quite a few people camped here tonight. Most seem like weekend warriors instead of thru-hikers. It took me a while to find a camp spot because I was trying to avoid having to listen to pop music. Sorry folks, it’s just a wee little pet-peeve of mine. I like music just as much as the next gal, but I don’t want to have to listen to music when I’m out in the wilderness. I found one spot that was really lovely, but decided to go for one that seemed a tad more private and a bit farther from the lake. Maybe I’ll stay warmer tonight! I sat by the lake enjoying my fairly decent Penang Curry. I watched a naked guy take a dip in the lake. I guess he didn’t see me, but it doesn’t bother me either way. Good for him! I’m sitting here with a jacket on shivering! There are a group of guys across the lake that are pretty loud. It seems they might be either drunk or high. I can see them on the granite knob across the lake. \240Are they looking at me? My gosh they’re acting like idiots. Beevis and Butthead, \240Here’s hoping no one messes with me tonight. I get very nervous camping in places that are easily accessible for an overnight. Yosemite is a different animal than the rest of the JMT. I just busted into a new 7 oz jar of Nutella. You know, I really need to see a dentist after all this.

(Lower Cathedral Lake)

(Lower Cathedral Lake at my dinner spot)

My GPS said I hiked over 15 miles today. \240I don’t even feel it. \240So strange how some days just a handful of miles feels like a lot and on others I feel as though I could crank out 20 miles. \240Tomorrow I guess I’ll find somewhere to camp close to the end of the trail. \240I can’t believe tomorrow is my last full day on the JMT! \240

Another long, cold night. I am starting to count down the hours until I can finally have a real bed and a warm home again. I haven’t slept through the night in a month. I’m just not warm enough during the night to get comfortable. My sleeping bag goes down to 17F, but for me, I’m just slightly cold all night. It started just this past week. When I do fall asleep I wake up every time I shift positions and then can’t fall back to sleep right away. The camping has really gotten to me and if I felt this way a couple of weeks ago I doubt I would have made it this far. I woke up at 5 and tried to get more sleep, but all I did was shiver. I laid there for a while but by 6:30 I gave up and began to get dressed for the day. I was miserably cold. I went to fetch my clothes that I rinsed in the lake last night and my socks had a frost on them. This is by far the worst part of every day...the cold morning waiting for the sun. I sat in my chair with numb fingers and toes eating stale, bland oatmeal and drinking a hot cup of coffee. By 7:30 the sun finally rose above Cathedral Peak enough to grace my camp. I’m saved! Let the good times begin! I don’t know how I could ever camp in late fall, early spring or winter. I’m just cold, even when most people aren’t cold. It’s a shame because I’d like to be a four-season camper.

It’s another beautiful blue sky day in paradise people. Today is my last full day in the JMT. I will try to get as close to Happy Isles as possible while still feeling like I’m camping in the wilderness. After finishing the climb to Cathedral Pass I have a massive descent so I don’t know how long the hip will hold out. I’m looking forward to another great day of hiking!

(Morning at Lower Cathedral Lake)

Although the sun was thawing me, I was still cold when I began hiking. Frost covered the ground in places where shadows still held fast. The silver layer on the plants sparkled like tiny diamonds in the morning light. The meandering stream bed across the meadow near the lake was an empty trough lined with mud. \240The mud stood up in small pinnacles, partially frozen with last night’s Jack Frost encounter. So beautiful! Yet another indicator that nights and morning are just getting too dang cold for me.

(Morning frost)

About halfway up the spur trail leading back to the JMT I was treated to a wonderful view of a family of Blue Grouse. \240There was at least 4 of them eating seeds and berries along the trail.

(Blue Grouse)

After meeting back up with the JMT, the trail continued to climb through dry hemlock and lodgepole forest. I could see Upper Cathedral Lake a ways off of the trail. I was glad I chose the lower lake. It is the more picturesque of the two by far. \240Within a half hour of starting my day, I was already hungry and had to break into my snacks. Oatmeal is useless. \240That’s why hiker rummage barrels are always filled to the brim with it. \240I was starting to get warm so off came the beanie and long-sleeve shirt.

(Looking back at Cathedral Peak)

I never really was sure where the top of Cathedral Pass was. I thought it ended in a meadow because the trail had flattened out for a while, but then the climb continued until I was nearly at 9900 feet. The trail plateaued again through gravel sand in a sparsely treed area. The descent began thereafter and my hips were already beginning to protest. So it was going to be THAT kind of day? Time to stop, stretch, break out the Ibuprofen, and eat lunch. For a while the trail followed a dried up meadow and it was just a hot, dry sand slog. I was grumpy today and couldn’t get rid of the hip pain. I was noticing that when people would ask me if I was finishing up the JMT, I would respond without hesitation, “Yes, and I’m very ready to be done.” I just am. Is it okay to feel that way? I slogged on mile after mile. There was no place to refill water and I was hot, tired, and thirsty. I didn’t want to chat with anyone today, I just buried my head and pressed on. The trail began another ascent, but thankfully it wasn’t too long before it was over and the descending began. I descended for a while through dry, steep, rocky terrain. My mood was worsening by the minute. Where is the darned water??? I kept going. Finally I was enveloped in the cool surrounding forest and a tiny trickle of a stream existed between grass and rocks. Water! I had gone 9 miles of dry trail without anyplace convenient to fill up. My mood changed considerably. Randell and his friend Pete stopped by to get water also. They were having their own issues. Their satellite messages have not been going through to home and their wives had become extremely worried. Pete wanted to finish today, but Randell wasn’t sure they would. I took a lengthy break, splashed my face with water and felt markedly better.

(The dry, long meadow)

(The view from the top of the final climb on the JMT)

The trail leveled out again but soon the beautiful, lush forest gave way to dry, sand, with fewer trees. \240I stepped off of the trail for a spell and looked over the edge of the ridge at Yosemite Valley in the distance. \240

(Yosemite Valley beyond fire-devastated forest)

Oh man. I was about to descend into the land of burnt matchsticks that were once trees. Everywhere I looked there was devastation. Where was I to camp in this?

(Fire devastated area on the way to Yosemite Valley)

I saw a few campsite near the trickling stream, but they were so exposed. The dead trees made me uncomfortable and I didn’t want to camp there. Twelve miles in and I had to keep moving. It looked like there was tree life up ahead in the not to far distance. The burnt trees became a thing of the past and I entered a living forest. Oh the relief and comfort. I immediately felt a sense of relief and calmness. I’d find a place to camp here for sure. Before I knew it I found a lovely sight along trickling Sunrise Creek just before the Clouds Rest trail junction. I set up my camp, took off all of my clothes and splashed in the creek. I filled my 2-liter bottle and carried it up away from the creek to bathe. I felt much better. I think I got a little overheated on the hike today. I would say today’s stretch of the JMT was the least enjoyable for me. \240Not the hardest, just least enjoyable. \240Wonder of wonders, I have cell phone coverage here! I enjoyed a chat with James as I ate my Mountain House dinner of beef stroganoff. After that I began pounding the Nutella.

(This is what 31 days looks like on the trail when you are always hungry and eager to get home)

About 4 other campers showed up at the camp spot. I don’t mind. Perhaps I will have a little peace of mind with human voices around. It doesn’t feel as cold tonight either. Maybe the small, bit of celebratory wine I had is keeping the cold at bay?

According to my map I am about 7 miles away from the JMT terminus at Happy Isles! Oh my gosh. The trailhead is only 4000 feet? I have a whopper of over 3000 feet to descend. Next stop? The city of Yosemite.

What a great camping experience last night! I’m only camped at 7100 feet and I stayed warm and comfortable all night long. I can’t remember the last time I stayed warm all night. Two weeks? It’s amazing what a decent rest does for the spirit. I walked across the creek to find an appropriate place to go to the bathroom. Human waste and toilet paper everywhere. Pack out your trash people!!!

I was entertained this morning by two nutty squirrels chasing each other up and down the trees. They were going a mile a minute spiraling around and around the pine tree trunks. At one point they darted right at me and would have run over my foot had I not picked it up in time. You see why I wasn’t sure if I wanted “Squirrel” as my trail name? Nuts to that!

It’s exit day! I can’t believe it.

(Backpack stuffed and ready for the last day)

On my way out of camp I was treated to a wonderful overlook of Yosemite Valley. \240The domed granitic plutons looked like giant white pimples. \240Smoothed over by glaciers and then subject to exfoliation, they looked daunting for true mountain climbers. \240

(Half Dome in Yosemite)

The trail began a long, sandy descent. The trees were changing. I now noticed white pines and cedar. A small snake slithered across the trail in the warm morning sun. There was a steady stream of day hikers headed up to Half Dome. I felt an enormous sense of pride as I descended with my smelly body and dirty pack down the sandy highway headed toward the valley. The air had already begun to feel heavy and warm. I had descended to 6000 feet, the lowest elevation I’d been in since I left home. I saw several tissues right on the trail. Just as I bent over to pick them up, I noticed that one of them was a sanitary napkin. I had to just leave it be. Yuck. Humans and our garbage. The trail flattened out along a river and then actually ascended for a short segment before descending again. I could see oak trees coming in and Stellers Jays flitted through the lower branches. Just under 5 miles to go. I reached the small footbridge leading over the top of Nevada Fall. \240I took a moment of silence and offered a prayer at the police tape area where a teenage boy had lost his life just a few days ago while taking a selfie at the waterfall. \240

(Top of Nevada Fall)

(Top of Nevada Fall)

I crossed over the bridge and stuck to the trail. The domed, sandy granite rimmed the top and I didn’t want to go anywhere near that for fear of sliding off the edge. Three miles to go. I took the hike extremely slowly to savor my last few miles. \240The trail continued to descend over a partially paved section hugging a cliff. \240There was about a 2-foot high rock wall giving some comfort but in one portion the wall was disintegrating and there were signs warning people not to stand or sit next to the wall. \240

(Nevada Fall and granite domes of Mt Broderick)

I stopped for a lunch of crumbly crackers, freeze-dried cheese, and hummus. Just on time, my hip had begun to hurt at mile 5 so it was time for a break anyway. The descent kept going. Bigleaf maples were showing some fall color, but mostly there was a tad of yellow and most of the leaves seemed to just dry up and fall off. \240The partial pavement made for precarious footing. \240A thin layer of sand made it easy to loose traction. I had to catch myself several times with the poles to avoid slipping. The trail finally leveled out somewhat as I got close to the river. One mile to go! The trail was heavily populated with people from all over. I heard smatterings of several languages as I continued the hike.

(The endless descent to the valley)

I crossed over a footbridge and began the paved highway and final descent to the trail terminus. \240

(Crossing the footbridge over the river)

(The view on the final descent of the JMT)

There was a constant line of people all clean and smelling fresh. \240They huffed and puffed as they climbed. \240I don’t blames them. \240It WAS steep!

All of the sudden I saw a large wooden sign just ahead. \240Just like that, I had come to the end of my journey. \240I started it just the same as I began it...alone. \240There was no one there to congratulate me, put a flower lei around my neck, or give me a welcoming hug. \240Just like that I quietly finished the John Muir Trail. \240I began hiking on August 10 with only myself, my backpack, and a dream. \240The 211 mile long JMT was over for me. \240 My trek ended up more close to 260 because of my starting point and out of the way resupply, but no matter. \240 I had done it!

(Proud thru-hiker and finisher of the JMT)

When I passed the JMT terminus I wasn’t sure where to go. The first thing I wanted to do was to find the backpackers campground and get my camp set up. I could see on my map how to walk to it, but it was a mile and a half away. Maybe I could take the bus. I knew Yosemite had a shuttle bus that you could take all over the park, but didn’t know how much it cost or where to pick it up. I asked someone for help and they told me it was free and showed me where the bus stop was. I got in line to wait for the bus with about 30 other people. When the shuttle came I hunched my pack on and joined the throngs of humanity. It was standing room only. I did my best to keep my arms pinned to my sides so as not to offend anyone with my odor. I got off at the stop that looked closest to the North Pines Campground. The backpackers campground is located at the back. Anyone who uses it must have a valid trail permit which will allow you to stay one night upon starting or finishing your trek. It was a lot less crowded than the full North Pines Campground. I chose a site, but when I went to pay, I realized that I only had $5 cash and the cost of the site was $6. I tucked the 5 singles in the envelope and decided I’d have to figure out how to pay the remaining dollar later. The sun was beating down on me as I set up my tent. I felt as though I was drenched in sweat. That’s the other thing. A shower. How would I get one with no cash? Sigh. After setting up camp, I gathered my things and took the bus to the main visitor’s center. I was on the bus for a short while allowing me to look around. Yosemite was a National Park City. There were buildings and map kiosks tucked away under the trees. Information tents were set up close to every bus stop to help tourist figure out where to go and how to get there. There is a network of hiking trails and paved walking, cycling paths. I’d say 80% of visitors are foreigners come to see some of America’s best scenery. Standing room only again so I tried too keep my armpits to myself. I got off the bus at the visitor center and spoke with one of the park rangers at the information desk. “Ummm. How can I get money for a shower when I don’t have any cash?” “Oh did you just come off the JMT?”, he replied. He gave me a high-five and pointed me in the direction of the Yosemite Village which has a grill and an ATM. I walked along the paved pedestrian path and made my way to the grocery store. I found the ATM but the first time I tried it my card didn’t work. Sigh. The only other option was cash-back from the post office. I went and looked around at the T-shirts. There weren’t any JMT shirts, but I settled on a long-sleeve Yosemite shirt. Gotta have at least a fresh shirt to wear home! I bought that and then tried the ATM again. It worked and I got out $20. Next I washed my hands in the restroom with soap and hot water. Oh man, the rinse water was dark grey! Please let no one see that! I looked in the mirror and noticed my muscular, toned arms and legs. I wish I could keep this body, but John Muir’s fat camp consisted of hiking 10 miles a day at 10,000 feet for a month with a 30 pound pack and I knew I couldn’t keep that up once I got home. \240I made my way to the grill and ordered up a pulled pork sandwich, chips, a side salad and a beer. I probably just downed 2000 calories and afterward I was still hungry. I walked to the Ansel Adams gallery but that was mostly a gift shop with earthy pottery to buy and a few Ansel Adams prints. After that I stood in line to catch the bus to Half Dome Village where the public showers are. There were too many people to get on the bus when it came so I had to wait for the next one. A wanna-be hippy couple stood next to me in line. They were letting the world hear their music as they sang along, hung on each other and smoked whatever was in their vapor cigarettes. The girl even had dirty feet...well, so did I. I got off and made my way to the shower building. I paid my $5 and was handed a towel. The sign suggested everyone take no more than 5 minutes to bathe. I turned on the hot water and began to soap up. There was just no way I could obey the 5 minute rule today. I washed my hair and handfuls of loose hair came out. There was still dirt imbedded in my bleeding cracked fingers. That might be permanent! Now I was on the other side. I was now a clean tourist sporting a Yosemite shirt. I ate some ice cream and then discovered a pizza place. I’ve GOT to stop eating like this. I took the bus back to the campground. It had become tent city and I was glad I had earplugs. \240All I can smell is cigarette smoke next to my tent. \240Tomorrow is a long day of travel. The game show host in my head says in a sing-song deep voice, “Amy, you’ve just finished the JMT, what will you do next?” Hmm. Try to live in Albuquerque and figure out what to do about a job. For hiking? I’ve got Philmont next summer with Liam and I’m looking forward to seeing the aspen change in the Sandia. Another thru-hike? Someday I hope! The 300-mile Long Trail in Vermont keeps coming to mind, or something in New Zealand, Scotland, or Japan. For some reason, the Long Trail comes to mind first. I certainly can’t be like the long-legged wiry 20-something that I just met that’s doing the entire PCT in 3 months. To each their own. This was my trek and I did it!

It was a pretty rough night last night and that was my own doing. I had eaten so much that the food just sat in my stomach all night long, an acidic mess of a lump. I didn’t know whether to burp, fart, or vomit. I slept fitfully and was happy to get up at 6:30 to begin packing. This morning I would have to pack my bag differently to prepare it for being checked in on an airplane. I looked around the camp and it felt like most folks were heading out on their treks. The sadness began to hit me as I packed for home. I was done. A year of planning and anticipation was simply over. I wouldn’t be hiking today and I had to fight back burning tears as I finished final preparations. I walked to the bus stop and chatted with the girl I saw last night. She told me she typically does about 35 miles per day on the PCT. I felt envious. There is no way my hips could handle that kind of mileage. She was tall and had the frame of a long distance runner. She wore tiny spandex running shorts, her rear end showing nothing but lean muscle. Her legs were brown, muscled and filthy and looked like they hadn’t even been rinsed in a month, but her face and hair looked clean. I wouldn’t be able to stand having legs that dirty in my sleeping bag. She didn’t even smell and she looked half my age. Next to her, I felt like my trail name, “Speedy Little Pony” was a farce and I was glad I didn’t share it with her. The shuttle dropped me off at the visitor center and I got a cup of coffee and a yogurt parfait.

(Outside the visitor center at Yosemite)

I sat at the bus stop and waited to board the YARTS bus that would take me to the Fresno Airport. The ride began and highway 41 soon became a miserable ordeal. The road swayed and twisted through the California mountains like a poisonous snake. Right and left, right and left. Back and forth, back and forth. My morning coffee sloshed back and forth, venomous in my stomach. I felt the sickly sweat on my face. Thank God this bus has a small bathroom in the back. I buried myself in the small cubicle, the nasty blue sanitary liquid in the toilet sloshing all over the lid. I emptied my stomach and began to feel a bit better. I’m so prone to motion sickness. Three and a half more hours to go to get to the airport. My stomach calmed down and soon the road straightened at least a small amount. The large pine trees eventually disappeared, giving way to much smaller trees and shrubs of the lower and dryer mountains. The bus stopped in small, rural towns. The dry mountains turned into brown and golden hills and eventually pancake-flat dry grasslands dotted with hearty trees and the occasional palm tree. Vineyards and fruit farms made use of the dry climate and perpetual sunshine. It was a far cry from where I’d just been. The Mediterranean landscape looked hot and strange. We reached Fresno at 1:30. I’d spent 4 hours on this bus and my stomach still didn’t feel quite right. \240I got off the bus, grabbed my pack and went into the airport. \240Check-in went smoothly, but it felt weird to be parted from my backpack. \240I picked up a salad for lunch and waited for my flight. \240

(Oh look! Must be the real end of the trail)

My belly still just felt slightly off and I felt a bit dizzy as though I had major jet lag or lack of sleep. Truthfully I felt disoriented. I didn’t know what to eat anymore and I didn’t know what to do about my life. The JMT has preoccupied much of my thoughts for a full year. Now what? I’ve got fitness and a more muscular physique but I can’t keep it. I sat at the gate feeling bored and tired. I used my phone to look up the Long Trail in Vermont. It’s America’s oldest lengthy hiking trail running north/south at Vermont’s Canadian border and ending 270 miles later along the Massachusetts state line. The length is good and I fantasized about hiking through the beautiful deciduous forests in early fall. The Long Trail sounds by far more difficult than the JMT. Why? The mud and non-stop rain. I don’t know that I can handle that and having to camp in wooden leen-tos with total strangers as a solo hiker makes me uncomfortable. Why am I even looking into this the day after I finish the JMT? I think it’s because I’m anxious about adjusting to a new life in New Mexico. I’m glad I’m not flying back to Maui, but it just feels so strange. I keep thinking we’ll be hanging out with our Maui friends for dinner and enjoying a crazy cooking show on TV with them. No. we aren’t going back, at least not to live there. I still have yet to process this move. The house we are renting right now I just used as a base to organize my resupply food prior to leaving for the trek. Life has been a complete whirlwind for the past 6 months. Some people use a thru-hike to process their life and figure things out. Was I expecting that the JMT would miraculously change me and suddenly I’d figure out life’s direction and life’s answer for me? Didn’t happen. I didn’t really think about anything during the endless hours over Sierra mountain passes and down into the depths of the valleys. I just sort of cruised along and looked at stuff. I got through whatever ordeals the JMT threw at me and had a lot of luck along the way. I guess I had something to prove to myself. Strong is the new beautiful. I wanted my son and others to know that a middle-aged woman still has a life and strength beyond middle class routine. If you want something for yourself, find a way to make it happen. I thought through these things as we landed in Salt Lake City. \240The layover was short and then I was on a plane in route to Albuquerque. \240My dinner consisted of a Cliff Bar I just didn’t know what else to eat with my unsettled stomach. \240Guess what? \240It did the trick. \240The miracle Cliff Bar soothed my stomach and got me through the flight. \240I landed around 10 pm and lo and behold, I was able to pluck my backpack right off the luggage claim immediately. \240James, Liam and my in-laws walked toward me and we were reunited again. \240

(Me hugging my “baby” boy, Liam)

I was home. \240I did it with the full support of my family. \240I’m so thankful that I’ve had this amazing opportunity to be healthy enough and have had the resources enough to make this possible. \240I hope I’ve inspired some of you and I’m glad to have been able to honestly and openly share this experience with you. \240