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Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
JMT: 14 days and 13 nights in nature. on 09/08/2011 18:47:02 MDT Print View

This was a trip report I wrote for myself and am now deciding to share. I did the John Muir Trail start to finish at the end of July and through the middle of August. What's written here was written from memory alone. I realize it's pretty long as far as these things go but as I said I wrote it for me, not you. If you're more interested in gear I've included a review of that after the bulk, as well as some summary thoughts. I tried to be as honest as possible.

John Muir Trail - July 31rst through August 12th - Michael Levine

"You were sick, but now you're well, and there's work to do", Kurt Vonnegut

Day -1: Trip Prequil

My trip lined up with “early out Friday” summer schedule at work. At 1p.m. I left work and rushed home. I got back in time to take down my freshly seam sealed Mountain Laurel Designs E-vent mitts, fill up some bags of water for the ride back in two weeks, and headed off. The lady and I had a good road trip up north with a good talk about “things”. I think the both of us were a bit on edge with things knowing I’d be gone. We drove up to Whitney Portal and I’ll be honest here, it looked like Mordor. It’s HUGE when viewed from anywhere, but especially so from the car ride up. We drove through a thunderstorm and saw the lightning around the mountain. I was intimidated. We got into the parking lot and it was raining pretty hard. I saw a bit of moving water and tried to drive through it, getting my car stuck in the process. Gas... nope. Reverse... nope. Sigh... dang. The lady tried to help me out by steering while I pushed to no avail. A group of two women and two men tried to help getting their shoes soaked in the process, but it didn’t help. I had another guy and myself try while pushing down and we finally got it to budge. Ominous beginnings? Yup. After that whole ordeal I found I forgot to bring my cell phone charger so I removed the battery from my phone and left it in my car. We carpooled up to Yosemite valley together and it hit me that just about every mile we were driving was one I’d be walking. Every ridge we were passing I had to climb and move over, or at least the equivalent of. It’s a daunting thought when you drive for four and a half hours. We finally arrived and after some parking confusion. We finally set up and slept after some permit office location confusion, setting up our tent on the blacktop.

Day 0: Sleeping at a permit office, Mist Trail, and the backpackers camp.

We woke up at about 6:30 when three hikers came by to wait for permits. We woke up awkwardly put our gear away and got ready. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. At around 8:30 they opened up for same day permits. They told me that it was my lucky day because there was one JMT permit left over! I got excited for a few moments, then declined it because I wanted to hang out and hike with the girlfriend. Taking it would mean me having two nights before I could get my food in Tuolumne which meant doing in two days what I had loftily planned to do in one. Talking with other hikers indicated A) There are a lot of mosquitoes at sunrise camp (pre-Tuolumne), B) Getting to Tuolumne in a day is “impossible” according to a “Negative Nancy” hiker C) I am sure to get blisters and lose twenty pounds according to that same hiker. At 11am they finally let people get “next day” permits. I got mine. We then went and did the mist trail which was steep but beautiful. My girlfriend has a fear of heights but kept at it and we loved the trail, doing the JMT route down to avoid the heights and the crowd. We came back and hung out at the backpackers camp before turning in. I did at some point fully believe I lost my headlamp, frantically searching for it but not finding it which was very disheartening. I figured I’d buy one when I got to Tuolumne.

Day 1: Backpacker’s Camp to 4 miles out from Tuolumne. 24.8 miles.

I got hiking at about 7:30 a.m. with a sad goodbye to the girlfriend and a hope filled start. It was very hard to leave her car knowing I wouldn’t get to even shoot her a text for two weeks. I sat and waited for her to drive out of sight. I got going and hiked up the initial high elevation gain switchbacks which are very mundane compared to the mist trail, and with lots of horse poo. It was comforting to be on trail I’d come down the day before. I wasn’t used to my trekking poles and had some bewilderment as to why I had straps on them still. I was a bit frustrated at not having cut them off pre-trip so I chopped them off using the rocks around me... after a few tries. It felt good when contemplating so many things to find myself a manageable problem to solve. Nevada Falls was a beautiful sight with its thick clear water running off of the edge. I didn’t hang out too long. The scale of the trip and the huge day I had planned was weighing on me. The trail proceeded onto the trees and dirt after getting to the top of the waterfall. A thunderstorm boomed like the wrath of god and eventually became so close as to convince me to lay down my trekking poles. I waited a while to put on my poncho tarp mentally citing that the light rain is possibly transitory and that the cooling effect felt good. I’m unsure if my poncho did a bad job of protecting me... or more likely if I waited too long to put it on; either way I felt very damp. The storm eventually passed and I continued on into the open spaces by sunrise camp. The trail was mostly muddy and waterlogged. I passed a few people with bug headnets and talked with them about the situation. They assured to my dismay that indeed “it’s that bad”. I continued on figuring I would lather myself in bug repellent drops and put on my headnet when I stopped for the day. Every time I stopped for 20 seconds I got bitten badly. I begrudgingly put it on. I proceeded past sunrise camp and the meadows there in part because I was fueled by proving Negative Nancy wrong about my abilities, and partly to avoid the bugs. I was bushed. I kept going despite wanting to stop for several more miles encouraged by hearing that Tuolumne wasn’t too far. I noticed myself becoming low energy. I was hungry, I was kicking rocks, I was walking slowly. At around 6:30 I stopped very punch drunk. I went to go to the bathroom and was swarmed by mosquitoes in places I hadn’t expected to be swarmed which was upsetting. The dropper bottle I brought for DEET did not seem as effective as a spray bottle and I regretted that nugget of ultralight wisdom. Following proper practice I cooked away from my sleep spot. I went to the bathroom away from my sleep spot. I put all of the things that are supposed to be in a bear can into it (anything with a smell) and put it the recommended distance from my camp spot. I found that Hawk Vittles are frigging delicious. The story I heard is that they’re made from a chef who decided to get into pre-pack backpacker food, which made sense here. I took out all my sleep equipment and found my headlamp! I was excited to see my vital and missing equipment. I set up my bivy and didn’t set up my tarp because I wasn’t expecting rain. I staked out the trekking pole to keep it from falling on me in the middle of the night which made me feel clever. The problem I ran into was that I kept waking up because my Peak Elite AC sleeping pad had deflated. I’d roll over to a cold frosty side of the bivy above nude ground to reinflate the punksleeping pad then roll back onto it, just to wake up a few hours later to repeat.

Day 2: Shy of Tuolumne to just shy of Donahue pass. 14.5 miles. (39.3 total)

I woke up cold and soaking wet. I didn’t have my bivy mesh up high enough to stop my breath from soaking the inside and without the tarp outside condensation soaked everything else. I slid my hand over the inside of the bivy and found it cold and miserably wet. It turned out that my choice of forested miscellaneous side of the road sleep spot wasn’t ideal. I also woke up on my deflated OR Peak Elite AC sleeping pad which didn’t help my mood too much. I woke up to a deflated pad which must have sprung a leak. I spent 30 minutes in the morning searching out my lost hat but couldn’t find it. I wandered around until I found where I did my tri-fecta of poo/cook/sleep. I hiked into Tuolumne a bit grumpy from the lack of sleep, cold, soaking, and mileage just to find the visitor center closed! I started to walk to something that looked like trail across the meadow and over a river. I didn’t think it made sense with my topo map so I went back and took a shuttle to the store/post office. I went and bought the last bottle of high concentration DEET and relished in spraying myself until my lips tingled. I took out my credit card to find that the info strip had come half off. This is likely due to my wallet mashing up all the cards I feed it, but it hadn’t happened to THIS card when I put it in my pack and trusted my safety net to it. When buying the DEET my half broken credit card shattered in their sliding credit card machine which I figured it would. I was a bit bummed but I figured someone could probably use the numbers and type it in manually. The general store had only indistinguishable blue foam sleeping pads and normal hats so I inquired about the sports shop down the road and was told they have better stuff. I went over to the gas station/sports shop. There was a sign on the door that said cash only, but it was next to a credit card acceptance sign so I hoped they’d cancel out. I found a regular length ridgerest, sad for being 6’3”, and another Sunrunner hat. I was pretty stoked to be able to find some non generic stuff that better fit my needs. I went to pay and was informed that their phone lines were down and so they were only accepting cash. I had $40 and $60 worth of gear in hand. I sat down and thought for 15 minutes until I reasoned I could buy the mat then buy “el-cheapo” hat at the main store with my smashed card because they’d just let me buy the DEET and they were partly responsible for smashing my card. When I went to coil my Ridgerest and put it in my pack lo and behold I found my hat! I told myself I’d really have to delay saying something is lost until I’d done a thorough search the next time this happened. Excited I made my way to the post office to pick up my food package. They didn’t open until 9:20 instead of their purported 9:00. When they did open “the computer needs to be rebooted”. I sat down on the bench and scrawled a quick letter to my girlfriend. I had figured I could send my broken sleeping pad to her with a note rather than find a postcard and deal with the extra expense. I felt like I was forgetting a lot I wanted to say to her. A fellow JMT hiker inquired about my pack being a ULA which it isn’t and we chatted for a bit about the trail and our trips. A lot of ultralight packs use the Dyneema material and have big mesh pockets so they tend to look alike. The kind hearted beautiful person that he is, he said he had too much bacon and gave me a slice. It was white lie propelled microwave bacon heaven. I really wished I had enough money to go next door and buy a hot breakfast. The post office eventually opened for me to ship my pad back (I could have fixed it, but after having the same issue with my last pad {yes, likely a problem with myself and camp selection} I didn’t want to deal with it) and I barely had enough cash for a small flat rate envelope. I took the shuttle back to the visitors center as to do “THE actual J.M.T” and found out that the trail I questioned and declined was indeed the right one. I ran across a little family of three deer, pristine blue-green streams, and wide open meadow. It was very beautiful. After getting past that section I hit an awkward bit of road and had a bit of an issue finding trail. I helped a kid who didn’t understand the bear-ibiner protected trash bins and got a word of karma from an old man who witnessed. There’s something about those moments when people take the time to tell you that you did a nice thing that always stick with me. There was a time in college where I was cutting my hair into a trash bag in the dorm bathroom and a janitor literally stopped me and said “you are a good man” for being aware of him having to clean up if I didn’t with the most sincere look and no whif of joking that has stayed with me and this reminded me of that. I kept walking for a good while through all the meadow and eventually settled on stopping short of Donahue pass in order to avoid doing my first pass while tired. I set up my tarp in my low to the ground fashion, then thought that I didn’t need to do that and tried to A-frame it, which is much harder. I listened to some music and made some food. I had a woman come over and comment on my poncho tarp and ask me about base weight. That was fun. We had a chat about gear which oddly made me feel at home (thanks backpackinglight.com forum). No one seemed to be crossing the small stream that cut the campground from the approach, but I went over and had a peak and reasoned I couldn’t both cross it and keep my feet dry. I slept on a purposeful camp site and was very thankful for it.

Day 3: Before Donahue to Garnett Lake. 11.2 (50.5 total)

I started the morning at about 7a.m. . I crossed over the steam and went up the switchbacks. The trail was again water logged. I got up and over a section before coming to what I assumed was Donahue pass. I found it strange that a lot more people weren’t going up the pass when I was. I saw a father and son a while off who had camped closer to the pass and it seemed as if they were just leaving their previous camp so I waited to verify with them which was the right way. They didn’t make much movement in the ten minutes I was there so I decided I had enough information and my lack of certainty was probably just jitters. I looked at my topo map and chose to go up (the wrong slope..). I zigged right when I should have zagged left. I proceeded to go up an icy slope. It was terrifying. I kicked 5 times per step and exhausted myself and often felt unstable. I kept feeling vindicated when I thought I saw footprints, or when I found a cairn, and kept urging myself onwards. I thought to myself “if this is a small non-scary pass, can I even do the rest of this trail”? I went over another slope that was not as steep as the first but was again icy. I walked across and along a stream with snow enveloping it, constantly looking around and feeling like I was in the wrong spot. I had no luck finding trail. I eventually heard a whistle; Someone was in trouble. I yelled that I could hear a whistle but could not identify who it came from. A woman then yelled and I saw her in the distance. She asked me to wait for her and I agreed. She stumbled a bit coming down, and yelled that she was going to stop to filter water. I assumed she was a lost day hiker at first, as stopping for water while asking someone to wait seemed oddly inconsiderate to me. In retrospect it made perfect sense and seemed just part of my getting out of my workday impatience and self absorbtion. She finally got to me and explained that she had been up the same pass since the day before. She told me her name was Ellen. I took Ellen to be in her early 60’s but I have no idea. She was solo. Ellen had been up and over the ridges in the area and slept by the snow. She had eaten snow due to lack of running water, and didn’t have much food left. She had a spot and informed me if she hadn’t found me she would have pulled the pin very soon. I told her I had enough food for her to eat and we snacked during the remainder of the day. I misunderstood when she said she was going south and instead took it to mean south to north, indicating I was going the right way and that we were crossing paths. Under that bad assumption and because the way I came was so treacherous we continued on flat ground opposing what I had come up. I eventually realized my mistake but went the same way regardless to avoid the ice and because the direction I wound up going was roughly the correct one. We saw a rocky patch we could use to get down to lower elevation and what looked like greenery and flowing water. Ellen was keen to use the snow to get down. I was insistent upon using the rocks to get down after my episode with ice and I think she joined me for the company despite her hesitance. I was happy to see Ellen and hike with her. She has a very interesting story including long distance biking in her youth, sport dietitian work, a horror story of her own on my favorite mountain (San Jacinto), and was just plain fun to have around. As we worked our way down she heard voices of distant hikers and I eventually saw people and then a trail. She has bad eyes and I have bad ears. We were happy under our assumption that we had gone over the wrong pass but wound up at the right place. We got down and found out that we were at the true base of Donahue pass, which I’d been at that morning and her the previous night. A bit of futility fueled sadness set in. I joked that we had to laugh at the situation, and she tried to agree. We did Donahue pass together always keeping the trail and people in sight. She urged me to continue I assume because she felt bad for slowing me down (she is actually a fast hiker) but I refused and pushed that decision of when to leave her off. I wanted to see her come down the pass safely and it was nice to have her to talk to. We stopped and snacked and I pushed off some Pringles and jerky. She offered to swap food but I felt too bad taking her food when she was worried about having enough though it was gracious of her to offer. We marched on together. She said she had planned to stop at Garnet lake, but was now going to stop at Thousand Island Lake before hitting Island pass (much lower than Donahue). We hit a trailhead and found the lake was after Island pass and I figured out that I wanted to hit Garnet. Ellen informed me she was bushed, but felt safe now and was planning on taking a long break and camping nearby. I took my leave of her but forgot to give her the extra food I had before offered. That fact hit me an hour later and was very sad. I found a group who had set up a base camp at Thousand Island Lake where Ellen decided to sleep and I asked them to PLEASE find her and offer her some food and the woman I talked with agreed to do so. I passed by a man hiking quickly with two backpacks and asked him about it. He said that his friend was altitude sick so I gave him some of my Diamox for her, but told him that the only real answer was to descend until it passed and make sure she was hydrated. Island pass was uneventful with just minor snow. I found 90’s rap and recent hip hop on my iPod which did a lot for my motivation! Songs primarily concerned with “making it” including references to empty bottles of no-doze and “hustle” are way motivational. I got to Garnett pretty tired after a frustratingly short/long day. I also ran into the group whose pack he was lugging around and informed the girl that medicine awaited her arrival. I finally got to Garnet and found it littered with camp sites, hooray for another night of avoided condensation! After setting up camp I met a guy whose name I can’t remember who recognized me from backpackinglight and my gear list. What a small world! We talked about what decision he had made, including a tent! The luxury! The lack of bug bites! We didn’t talk for long and I went to sleep, or rather I woke up every two hours or so, a pattern that would continue throughout the rest of my trip.

Day 4: Garnett Lake to Deer Creek. 20.4 miles. (70.9 total)

This day was filled with meadows and lakes and then hot dry dirt. It felt uneventful given my previous days. I passed Devil’s Postpile but after inquiring to the worth of the monument from fellow hikers felt it wasn’t worth the small diversion. I do regret that but not much. This was especially true at the time given my previous night’s poor mileage and worries about timing. When I got up near Red’s Meadow I hit a path of burned trees, horses, and general exposure. You’re walking through a dry section wishing there was water, going uphill in the heat, and a group of 6-8 horses blows past you kicking up dust. I wasn’t thrilled with the environment but there is something oddly beautiful about burnt trees. I love that they are just so drastic looking, it’s sort of a blink of history reminding you that nature isn’t always lush and green and static. I took a wrong turn about a mile from Red’s Resort going too far south but did not know it. I began wondering if I was on the wrong path due to high volumes of dayhikers coming from a parking lot. I asked one if I was in the right spot. He assured me I was. I hit a large map posted for dayhikers and saw that I was on the wrong path which was frustrating. The sign at least did point me to the clear right path. I climbed up some steep dirt trail to come to a sign that didn’t include the JMT at all, a rarity on the trail. I spent about an hour frustrated and hot asking people for advice who despite having maps and clear advice were each mistaken about where they were and where I should go. I hiked, defeated, down to the sign once more and found I should head towards Red’s resort. I spotted a ranger whose advice was to go towards the waterfall trailhead because he knows that’s where it connects. I asked him about my plan and he said he wasn’t sure, but it could work out. I decided I’d regained my directional confidence and went my way, and found the trail! It turns out I could have gotten food and a shower at Red’s but I both didn’t know this and didn’t feel like wasting more sunlight. Upon later realized just how restorative each of these things can be, I would take a mulligan and stop. Instead I pushed on in the exposure and horse dust up the hill that followed. Time was spent zooming by as I tried to make up mileage with my head down. I eventually hit deer creek at the exact moment I felt tired enough to stop. It had been buggy until then and I heard reports of the same in the opposing direction. I decided to make camp where I was and ran across a scout and his troop leader. I went across the creek to avoid some boy scouts and made camp. At this point I stopped caring about leaving soap and Chapstick in my pack, though made sure to put all food in the bear can. I reasoned that since for me making dinner was boiled water in a bag, I didn’t need to eat away from my campsite. Hawk’s Vittles (the food I chose for dinner) made dinners a lot more pleasant. I also beefed them up calorically with a lot of Parmesan cheese. I followed this up with a candy bar. Mosquitos were killers in the area.

Day 5: Deer Creek to Silver Pass Creek 19.5 miles. (90.4 total)

I passed a few people in the morning including a girl who after seeing me bound over a rocky stream crossing commented that she wished she was my height. After a while she caught up to me, a rare occurrence this trip, while I was hiking or filtering water. She’s a runner who planned to do the JMT in 15 days but now plans to do it in 13. I saw that as pretty inspiring, someone who could go that fast sure but more that she was beating her own expectations. Could I do that too? I saw some wedding bling emanating from her ring finger and felt immediately comfortable with our asexual interaction. I ask her if she wants to hike for a bit partly because I want to get going and partly because she sounds interesting. We hike together at a quick clip with her leading. I figured I’d let her go ahead so she wouldn’t have to deal with my fast pace, instead it turned out to be good because she set a pace I could try to keep up with. There wasn’t a whole lot of stopping. We talked about a lot of things, our trips, the reasons for them, things we do at home. She’s an avid reader obsessed with adventure narratives. She knows a lot of the trails and peaks in the area because her and her husband camp here a lot. It was very fun to have someone interesting to talk to. We stopped at a lake for lunch (stopping, what’s that?) and put our food together in what I can only describe as buffet heaven. There were flax seed crackers, dehydrated fruits, coconut bars, beef jerky, and hummus! We took a 1.5 hour break, which was even long for Rebecca. When we were done we did silver pass together which was a piece of cake. I didn’t notice the scenery as much due to the fun chatter. We eventually made our way down to a sleeping spot by a stream about 7:30, a bit late for me. We shared a campsite because it was the only flat one which was fun in a silly sleepover sorta way. We talked about the plans for the next day, and maps ‘n such. Rebecca had brought the pillow I was looking for before I left, a Flexair dual chamber that they no longer seem to sell (or rather I can’t seem to find in stock anyways). They are these little junky blow up pillows made out of thin plastic covered with a barely there cloth. The whole thing seems flimsy and cheap, which means light, which means perfect. I had been using the single chamber which was very uncomfortable. Rebecca happened to pack a second one as a spare and made a gift to me of her spare! I was very thankful, and sleeping on it was very comfortable. She laughs because I kept asking her trail questions, I laugh because her bedtime reading was calculating mileage and elevation change.

Day 6: Silver Pass Creek to Sallie Keyes. 19.2 miles (109.6 total)

We woke up and had the walk up to bear ridge and it’s wonderfully joyous switchbacks. We tackled them early and they fought back. Rebecca is a speed demon which does transfer over to long uphills. We passed by a lot of people going up as we went Rebecca’s marathon pace. I had been under the false impression that I was in moderately good shape until we went so fast up those steep switchbacks that my right lung started aching. The conversation quickly shifted to silence on my part as the huffing and puffing started. Rebecca however was in good spirits and talking while walking up without too much effort. She’d tell me later that she was breathing a bit harder... hah. I switched on the headphones and that the lack of talking expectation helped me breathe a bit easier. She mercifully stopped to chat to someone for a few minutes near the ⅓ mark. I was really wondering whether going up these switchbacks at this pace was something I could do or not. I had to ask her to stop for a fiver at around the ⅔ mark. We passed a lot of people. We finally reached the top and boy did it feel good to nail that. I said we’d have to high five once we started descending, but when exactly that point came was a bit debatable. We stopped and I got to do laundry! Oh how great it felt to launder my shirts, shorts, socks, oh it was heaven! We met Michael, an intensely nice and kind retired police sergeant. He’s a fit looking, very tall, very friendly man. This is Michael’s seventh year in a row doing the JMT. He hung out and chatted with us for an hour or so before taking off, humbly joking he knew we’d pass him soon enough. We eventually passed through where Michael decided to camp and he had been waiting by the trail and asking about us. He just wanted to say goodbye and see us off which was very nice of him. He declined my offer of beef jerky in favor of not taking my food and his preference for turkey jerky. Rebecca and I continued on and did Seldon pass. To be honest the trail details are a bit fuzzy for me because Rebecca was in the lead and I didn’t have to pay as much attention to my surroundings. It might also be the distraction from keeping up conversation. We eventually got to Sally Keyes and decided to camp. There were two campsites close to each other, but I really wanted to be next to the fire pit. Rebecca seemed like she wanted to be at the same site, so I asked if we could split it and she agreed. Rebecca had mentioned previously that making her own fire had been on her trip to-do list. Her husband has taken that role in their backcountry adventures and she wanted to prove herself in a way. I told her I thought this should be her night. I offered no help so as to let her feel pride and ownership of the fire. She got it started very quickly making use of pine cones and rejecting my offer of lighter fluid (aka denatured alcohol). Hell I was proud of her. Her decision to go for it made me get the bug to pitch my poncho tarp in a new way: a high A-frame with lots of room. I also dug out a hole in the ground to put my butt in for sleep, a tip I found in Mike Clelland’s book. I had been talking about taking a zero day at Muir Trail Ranch in order to let my legs rest a bit. Rebecca said it had been fun hiking with me but that this was a solo trip for her and she wanted to keep to the spirit of that and split when we got there. To be honest I was a little offended by that. It’s silly, she was not offensive or abrasive. I think I just felt somewhat rejected which I can admit was silly and insecure of me and I’m only mentioning this detail for the sake of honesty. In truth I had considered mentioning I’d like to split ways due to her pacing and my lack of attention to the trail, which made my hurt extra ridiculous and unfounded. I noticed that night that my trail runners each had big gaping holes in the front-sides. I attribute this to the fact that on La Sportiva Wildcats the rubber does not extend to the front of your smaller toes, a feature present on most outdoor shoes. At this point the mesh was the only thing torn and at that about an inch. I resolved to fix it the next day at the ranch.

Day 7: Sally Keyes to Evolution Lake. 19.6 miles (129.2 total)

We woke up and got packed. I apologized for my loud and constant shifting but it turns out Rececca sleeps like a rock. I was happy that my tarp situation had worked out. It was a bit of a pain to get into, but it was so nice being able to sit up in the morning! My dug out bottom compartment worked fairly well, but I realized I’d cleared out so much dirt from the area that the ground was rather hard. We got going to MTR and I was still debating a zero. I was thinking that either I could take a zero to recover, or it might be more beneficial to take two half days. Muir Trail Ranch isn’t cheap to sleep at, coming in at around $140/night for a tent cabin, or $155 for a log cabin (including food). I thought it might be worth it if it was a standard “no not disturb” compatible hotel with solitude and a bath tub (I didn’t hear the cabin part). We got there and it was instantly apparent that my unreasonable expectations of hotel normalcy was unwarranted. I did not feel like paying around $150 for what they could offer me, which from the front I guessed was more like a wood cabin type situation. No T.V., no big bath tub, no superbly huge bed, no thanks. We hurried into the supply bucket area. I got mine and immediately felt it wasn’t as full as I had packed it. I assumed for some reason that the contents could have compressed while shipping which makes some sense, but to about half their size which doesn’t make sense. I copied Rebecca’s strategy of laying out my daily meals and quickly realized I was missing: 4 dinners, 5 breakfasts, hydropel, sunscreen, headlamp batteries, beef jerky and other snacks, and my maps (well Rebecca noticed that)! I flashed back to repacking the bucket so I could close it and remembered that it had WAY more stuff when I packed it. I panicked for a minute. I brought this to the attention of the older woman in charge of the resupply bucket operation. She assured me this never happens to them. I told her I’m not blaming anyone because I can’t see a reason she’d want my stuff (after all hikers dump food and resupply items off in the buckets all the time). I said I’d try to make due with their hiker buckets, she assured me she’d help. The hiker buckets had a lot of home packed food, and poorly packaged items (plastic tub o’ nutella for instance). I had my blinders on at this point and ignored anything and everything going on around me, intently focused on fixing this issue. The older lady brought me a bucket that was donated a while back. It contained backpackers pantry food which I repackaged, Pepsi max which Rebecca was excited for and we split, and a spam single I was stoked for. Out of hiker bins I found a couple bars, sunscreen, and oatmeal. Rebecca actually figured out my maps had been lost and bless her heart she had a second set of maps on her for the second leg which she gave me! She was very sweet actually staying far after she had her stuff taken care of in order to try to be moral support for me. I eventually told her to get going because I know she had a big day ahead and I could sort it out from here. Her staying as long as she did was one of the nicest touches of humanity I had on the trail. I could tell that she felt bad for leaving. A fellow hiker was going to leave a container of Nutella in the bin and offered it to me. I jumped on it eventually and repackaged the whole delicious mess. I also found a package of whole wheat tortilla’s in the hiker bin which was exciting! I hadn’t had bread in a week. If I had longer to debate everything I would have eaten a lot while I was at MTR but I was too focused on filling my bear can with food. I mis-packed too many dinners and not enough snacks. The woman in charge assured me they’d take care of me with what I couldn’t find, and I said I could find everything except bodyglide (actually I wanted hydropel but I figured they may actually have bodyglide) and she told me they had it and to talk to her before she went into the store to get it. I expected that this meant it would be free, especially considering I wasn’t yelling and I only asked for one replacement item I couldn’t get out of hiker bins. I told her I’d go grab it and went into the store to find they only had some roll-on item that purported to serve the same purpose but was not what I wanted. I also found that they’d only charge me “half price” which was $7! I paid it to receive a runny oily old package of something I didn’t want and would never use on my trip. I feel that if I had been more mad and made more of a fuss I could have gotten it for free, but that’s what I get for trying to be reasonable. I also purchased 15 minutes of Internet for $10 to use with their very old laptop (6-8 years old, my professional estimate). The younger gal worked with me to enter my broken credit card by number and was very nice about everything. It would have been nice in a customer service sense to let me use the laptop for free for the 15 minutes since it doesn’t cost them anything more to allow me to use it (I get that they pay for Internet and power), but that wasn’t offered. I used my 15 minutes of Internet to mostly write to my girlfriend. I tried to stay upbeat despite feeling a bit worn out by the bucket situation. I hear I didn’t do a great job. I got pretty emotional writing to her despite having written to her occasionally in journal format before. It’s strange knowing she’d read what I wrote at a time where she’s worried about me and I haven’t spoken to her nightly and regularly for a week. It turns out she was checking Yosemite weather forecasts like a fiend for the week prior to this. After my email she figured I was doing alright, and that mixed with not knowing the name of where I was got her to let go of compulsive weather checking. I also emailed my brother briefly to let him know I was okay. I got my pack and walked out of the store. It took me a while to walk away from MTR. I knew walking away meant leaving the hiker buckets and available resources. I proceeded up the climb back to the trail for a while alone. The trail signs stopped saying “JMT” which got me a bit concerned. I stopping to both try to repair my shoes and to wait for someone to verify course with. I found a semi shaded log for the purpose. I took out my repair kit. I had a bit of dental floss and a thick needle which I was glad to have thought to bring. I managed to sew the undamaged mesh to the base of my shoe for the most part, but ran out eventually and so did a ¾ repair job. The process was slow and I had to use a rock to puncture the shoe rubber. I ran across an older guy who told me I was for sure on the right path. I got going again and went up the Piute pass area while frequently checking with other hikers that I was going the right way, suddenly route finding felt daunting again and I retroactively appreciated Rebecca taking that role. I found an odd log on a fence I had to move to keep on the trail, which made me debate if I was on the trail or not. I stopped for a few moments looking back and saw a hiker do the same. He was wearing a green shirt and I thought it might be Michael. It was him which was nice and we chatted for a bit. Eventually we hit some switchbacks and we parted ways. It was a emotionally charged day and I was thankful for the trail. I was trying to make up for lost time and get to Evolution Creek but only made it to Evolution Lake. I was dog tired by the time I got in and got flustered looking for a campsite as all of them seemed taken. I asked up to a middle aged man to inquire about availability and he said there was an open site, afterwards saying it was rocky. I had enough of walking so I opted to take it. It turned out to be my favorite site of the trail, a sandy inlet in a rock walled wind protected fortress. I plopped down and indulged in some restorative Nutella/tortilla goodness. The sun was going dazzled me with it’s color shifts going from white to orange to red and pink with all the colors reflected through the lake upon the snowy peak. It was gorgeous. I ate and felt much better about the trail, my supplies, my pains, my life, and everything.

Day 8: Evolution Lake to past Leconte Ranger Station. 17.6 (146.8 miles)

I slept well. I slept so well in fact that I didn’t get going until 9:30. The I slept in on purpose for the first time. The sun hit my eyes late because the rocks protected me pretty well from the morning sun. My body let me rest because well, it needed to. I spent some morning time in my bivy and quilt. I listened to my audiobook. I checked out my maps for the day. I wrote in my journal and spent some time just laying there with my head on a pillow. I got up eventually and chatted with the father and son who helped me find the site. They were section hikers doing the JMT in spurts. The father said something to the affect of “get a load of this, he’s doing the entire JMT in fourteen days!” which honestly filled me with pride at what I was working on. The audio lecture I was listening to was talking about happiness and worth. It talked about the low hanging fruit (food and drink for example) vs. the lofty goals that aren’t necessarily going to happen (climbing Everest, graduating college, completing an ultra-marathon). We parted ways and then eventually found each other later in the day at the top of Muir Pass. Muir pass was snow for miles. It was a gradual pass, just coated in snow. It was easy to navigate and mushy enough to provide good traction. It felt much higher than previous passes and was by about 1,000 feet. A lot of people had warned me that Muir was the hardest pass of the JMT. It was a piece of cake compared to the icy non-Donahue pass mentioned on day three. I think a lot of people’s worry came from a few weeks back when it probably was scarier. I will say this though, it was very long. Coming down from it I had the luxury of following a few people for navigation sakes. I went by a group of three with two guys and a girl, the girl was freaked out. The whole group was wearing Microspikes and going down slowly. The girl was intently focused with a very unhappy face, crawling along in pace. I slid by them sliding down using my feet for skis for a few yards at a time. It’s surprisingly fun and easy, but a bit hard on your legs. I didn’t understand quite why they decided to put on the spikes for mushy snow with a gradual slope, but none of them looked to be enjoying themselves. When I got to the bottom there was a guy standing who asked if accidents counted as glissading. I told him I hoped so because I wanted credit. I passed along the beautiful frosty Helen lake and down into Big Pete Meadow. The trail got sort of sticky wet and humid through the coming miles. I ran across two rangers, one man in his early 40s and a girl in her 30s. They seemed super happy and relaxed and asked if it’d trouble me much to let them sign my permit. I complied and asked about the weather and the trail coming up. The ranger said it was clear skies and that there were some challenging passes ahead. I told him I kept hearing Muir and Mather were what everyone seemed to stress about. I inquired as to a campsite and he said there were some at the junction 3.4 miles up. I asked about any further on and he nodded at my plan to get some of the uphill out of the way and said there were some 15-20 miles past that. I hiked on passing campsite after campsite. I eventually found a really cool site next to the trail but also next to a stream which I reckoned had enough wind to keep some of the mosquitoes off. I kept going in hopes of saving time the following day, but only found open meadow and decided to backtrack. I had a German man pick his pack up from near my site and take a rest. It turns out he’s a backpackinglight fanatic and has carbon fiber trekking poles he let me hold and play with. He was there with his two girls and his wife. He said they had put in some 15 mile days, wow! I offered him nutella and a tortilla but he declined citing misgivings about sugar. He took leave of me in tade for mosquitoes, yet another night of moving my bug headnet with each dinner bite.

Day 9: Past Leconte Ranger to along Kings River 14.9 (161.7 miles)

This day was filled with a lot of uphill culminating in the other “scary” pass, which is Mather Pass. Mather pass was easy to find until you get up pretty high in which case it turns into a bit of a snow covered mess. I saw what I thought was the general arc of the trail and when studying the topo map I felt re-assured. Route finding turned into boulder hopping and eventually all out backcountry travel. You always “think” you see the trail, or “know” about where it’s going to be. It took about two hours but I eventually made my way to a good vantage point and found out that I had indeed gone up the wrong ridge. I felt exhausted. I felt stupid for getting SO off trail. I blew my whistle in hopes of finding people on the right path, but no one answered. I came down trying for the way came up which was hard to figure. I stopped often for thinking breaks to try to figure out just what I did wrong. Eventually and begrudgingly I decided to backtrack, re-fuel, re-hydrate, and get some rest for the next day instead of keep being frustrated and alone. I ran into a man who was going Mather despite it being rather late in the day, around 4p.m. . He seemed to me to be very punch drunk as he was moving very slowly and accidentally kicking things. He told me he has just had lunch with about six other people and they were all coming over the pass, so I figured it a safe bet to go with him. It turns out he felt he was dehydrated, which is weird after just coming from lunch. He had also done this pass twice before, and so I figured he’d know where he was headed. We went slowly up to the point where I lost the trail, and he pointed out footprints going to a very steep pass. I had seen them before, but I had assumed they were from someone who had gone the wrong way coming back down to sanity. He was indeed correct and the steep prints were as well. I wasn’t very comfortable taking those prints but decided I would be if I kicked steps, which I did. We got to the top and my companion felt much better. He said he had been dehydrated today and that the water he had at lunch just kicked in (personally I think it was taking a break). The view from the top was beautiful! The land is pretty barren for a while which means you can see the trail and where it goes for miles. It’s just this little brown path winding through streams, rocks, grass, along streams, and eventually up Pinchot Pass. It was too late in the day to reach Lake Marjorie but I stopped at one of the approach lakes satisfied at a recovered push forward after having given up on forward progress for the day.

Day 10: Along Kings River to Arrowhead Lake 20.2 (181.9 total)

In the morning I got moving early and startled a pack of three deer. They scampered off at a quick pace and were maybe 30 feet away at most. They are such beautiful and elegant looking creatures. They just seem healthy out there among the green and blue. The trail climbed up along Palisade Lakes and over some switchbacks. This day involves the pass no one cares to mention, Pinchot. Pinchot pass was a bit taller than Muir but involves almost no snow, just a lot of rock. It is followed by a long descent and then the uphill towards the lakes. I didn’t get to Rae Lakes like I had intended by the time the sun was going down. It was crowded and the man I asked if there were any campsites near told me frustratedly and simply that there were some at Rae Lakes... I myself eventually found a spot by the lake which was pretty covered in mosquitoes. I was at this point soaked in DEET and used to the mosquitoes which made the situation bearable. There wasn’t much privacy at this campsite but I started to care less. I did see a guy with a big shaped cuben fiber tarp that was pretty neat looking in its weird see-through’ness. I washed some which felt amazing including my head which I neglected to remember with the previous wash. I am shocked at how nasty hats can become. I looked to find my car key was no longer attached to my hoop stay (what adds rigidity to my pack)! I fumbled around to find it had migrated into my sleeping pad pocket and it is what had likely caused so much rubbing that I got a scab on my tailbone! Jerk! I spent like three days with this thing rubbing and being painful thinking it was my pack rubbing and not even doing a thorough take apart and check. Why oh why did the pain of that make me not just open my pack and search out the problem? Very uncharacteristic of me to ignore something that might be fixable. This day was uneventful and it’s not that hiking became boring or uninteresting, it’s just that I felt content with noticing little things and walking in the sunshine. I felt very calm and in the spirit of having gotten away from 9-5 life.

Day 11: Arrowhead Lake Lake to Post Forrester Pass. 16.8 miles (198.7 total)

I began the day early enough and got onto the trail approaching Glen Pass. No one had mentioned Glen except to say “a little snow”. There were a few early morning hikers around my age, and one younger kid who was going very fast who asked for extra food. I told him I did not carry anything spare. There were a few paths up the snow but I decided to take the longer traverse for the sake of safety. There were a few 30 foot stretches of snow, some a bit icy (as I said I went pretty early). I passed, and then was passed by, a man who made me notice him. He was in his 40s, had a silver beard, and an intense tan. He was wearing Golite stuff with a wide open shirt. I can’t explain in, I want to use grizzly as a description but he was rather clean shaved. I suppose I’d say he looked a bit like a brick. There’s nothing shiny in a brick, it’s not attention grabbing, but you realize it’s capable when properly motivated to do some damage. I realized it is not many miles from Glenn to Forrester. I had heard many people (including negative nancy outside of the permit office) tell me that a pass a day was all that was possible after a certain point. It was early and as I said it’s not too far. I got up some gusto and figured I’d get as far as I could get. I passed several people and inquired about where they were headed, “are you doing Forrester today?” was often responded to with “oh no, we were, but we’re not as close as we hoped to be. I eventually passed the gentleman I referred to earlier and it became clear we were keeping the same quick pace. He told me that a few minutes back a bear was playing with the bear boxes in the campsite, but sadly I didn’t see them. His name is Brian, and “Of course I’m doing Forrester” was his response. Brian and I met up before the pass and hiked it together and chatted. He is a guide for trips like Kilimanjaro and does fitness assessments for things like Everest. He’s doing parts of the Pacific Crest Trail and in his words he “doesn’t want to share this experience by guiding someone else”. It was fun! The pass was a bit longer and pretty steep and full of slushy snow. Brian takes breaks that last 20 seconds at most and times his ascents. We got to the top and shared a snack and a break. I had a nagging pain on my left pinky toe, and upon further inspection it turned out to be a blister. I put some moleskin on it. Brian made reference to the fact that I could go on ahead and he was going to try calling someone (essentially saying “hey I’d like my privacy for this call, go ahead and descend”). I went down. I had heard Forrester has a steep descent with some snow and that wound up being true. I didn’t feel comfortable with the snow part of the steep descent so I instead opted to scree slide (something I’ve done a few times) down the sandy small pebble switchbacks that would have involved snow if I’d done them traditionally. I suppose on a sustainability sort of level that probably wasn’t me being good to the trail but I thought it wise to be true to my safety first. You then sort of work your way around the bowl and down. I met Aaron, a guy of about 30 who was there solo with a tent set up at the base of Forrester who was just about to head North. I told him I was very sad to be close to the end and very jealous of the amount of trip he had left. He told me he was thankful to hear it after hearing some stories of how bad it was this year. I told him it was overblown and that he’d have a great time. I slept at the foot of Forrester by one of the lakes with snow around it. It was cold when I stopped which I attributed to the high altitude, snow, and the fact that I had a big day. It got VERY cold when the sun came off of the ground, and even colder once darkness fell. I nestled into my bivy with all of my clothes on, long johns, windpants, shirt buttoned up, jacket, and wind shirt. I fell asleep after a bit. I would wake up that night every hour or so freezing cold. I remembered that a trick some people recommend for generating enough heat to fall asleep to was to do crunches. My regiment became wake up unhappy and cold, do 50 crunches, fall asleep, wake up an hour later, repeat.

Day 12: Post Forrester Pass to Guitar Lake. 14.5 (213.2 total).

I got going pretty early and began hiking in all my sleep gear. My fingers hurt from the cold and tingled painfully when I touched them next to my chest; a bag sign. I hiked fast to warm up and went straight for the warm sun. After about a half hour or forty five minutes I got to it and quickly needed to get out of my warm clothes. Aaron ran into me while I stopped to change clothes. I didn’t recognize him at first and asked if he’d just done Forrester, confused because that would be too early in the morning to safely navigate it. He informed me that we had talked the day before and I apologized and blamed it on sleep deprivation and not expecting him to be going my way which was true. It turns out he’s turning around because his new pack was rubbing him wrong. I can sympathize with the problem, but I can’t understand the decision. I offered to cut my z-rest and fashion it to the back of his pack to avoid the rubbing issue but Aaron declined. I noticed and commented on his having my favorite pair of shorts, Arc’Teryx Ramparts. We hiked a bit and crossed paths a few times. I suggested he get a new pack and even offered to let him borrow mine to no avail. He was set on leaving. Really the overwhelming thoughts for the day were filled with Whitney, my lady, or Chinese food buffet. I grabbed one of the required poo bags at Crabtree and debated finding lunch with Aaron but I think either he was ashamed to leave or thought I was weird but he didn't really invite me so i left it alone. I was hoping to get to Guitar and eat, but had to stop early due to being pretty low energy and settled for devouring the Big Sur Bar I’d hoped to save for going up Whitney. I arrived at Guitar Lake very early, about 3 p.m. and decided I wasn’t up to going to the top of Whitney and out the portal that night and that I wanted to hydrate and eat. I also eventually decided to do some laundry including the hat I missed washing the first time around. I borrowed some seam sealer and finished the patch job on my shoes with some tent repair fabric. I ate two dinners which wound up being too much food so I dumped the extra into the lake rather than hiking the water weight up the mountain. I’m not sure that was very eco-friendly leave no trace... but it’s what I decided on. My choice of staying at Guitar Lake was very much based on the fact that I was freezing cold the night before and didn’t want to sleep at high altitude. Going to the bathroom in such and open and crowded spot with any privacy proved impossible as noted by the "I want to camp out of the way" onlookers who I believe caught a glance then understandably decided they didn’t really feel like watching. I went to sleep while there was still an hour of light left in all my clothing again. With my iPod in the boyscouts didn’t keep me awake. They did stare for a while, probably because they thought it was weird I was sleeping in the daylight. I slept but did wake up hot and repeatedly took layers of clothing off. It turns out Guitar Lake isn’t the same temperature as just past Forrester. I woke up every so often (my normal closed cell foam night) and would see headlamps approaching Whitney, doing switchbacks, at the peak, coming down, and then walking through the camp. That headlamp activity was one of the coolest moments of the trip and I was excited every time I woke up to check on their progress. It got me STOKED for the top, the peak, and the end of the saga.

Day 13: Guitar Lake to Home Sweet Home. 5.5 + 10.4 unofficial miles (218.7 official, 229.1 total)

I woke up very eager to get going at about 6:30 and hopped out of my bivy. I quickly scarfed down my oatmeal and packed up my gear, made even faster by seeing other people already on the trail. I went up the water logged approach trail passing by the lake Rebecca said she’d camp at and the flat ground Aaron was planning on camping at. I eventually hit the switchbacks which weren’t as bad as people had said. I was told they were these sort of endless high steps, but the steps were smaller than I was led to believe and more infrequent. I now think they were referring to the way down to the portal. You can see the scale of Mt. Whitney during the approach and it’s obvious that this is going to be more of a one shot elevation gain than any of the other passes. There’s a weird mix of emotions about being done, the joy of accomplishment and the sadness at the end of the journey. I took frequent breaks to slow my rate of ascent as to not get acute mountain sickness, which I’ve had before. It had been a fear of mine throughout the trip in spite of acclimatizing and rationality. Eventually you hit the trail junction which is crowded with backpacks left while hikers go to the top unencumbered. There were about twenty when I got there. I don’t have many pockets and wanted to take at least my jacket, windshirt, windpants, snacks, journal, pen, and first aid kit so I took the meat out of my pack. The “meat” included my bear can, food, ridgerest, quilt, sleep kit, etc. stuffed in a trash compactor bag. I then proceeded up the 1.9 miles trail to the summit. There is a dramatic drop on the side of the trail which makes you more aware of your foot placements and balance. Mt. Whitney has a few jagged peaks (which are not considered different peaks) on it’s face. While passing these immediately before or after you sometimes walk six foot wide trail with large scale drops possible on both sides. This definitely gets your heart rate up and makes you pay attention. I passed a man in his forties who was laying on a sleeping mat, in a sleeping bag, in a very weird space too late in the day to make sense. I asked if he was alright. “No, I’m not, I broke my ankle.” I asked if he wanted the Alleve I had on me and he declined. I asked him if he wanted my jacket and he said he was warm and comfortable enough. He told me that just a mile from the top he slipped on a rock due to an ice coated boot and broke his ankle. He seemed peaceful enough and without pain, just bitter about the accident. He asked if I had a S.P.O.T. because his wife was having trouble using her cell phone at the peak, which I didn’t. He said he had people working on that and getting him water. I didn’t have more than a drop which may or may not have been filled with the particulate stuff from an unused wag bag that flew all over the place earlier in the day, so I didn’t offer him my water trickle and took my leave of him. I thought about the case of me having a S.P.O.T. and putting my girlfriend and brother through the idea of thinking I had been seriously injured and was in need of emergency search and rescue. I didn’t like that thought and was glad I didn’t have to decide between scaring the bejesus out of my loved ones and not helping someone with an ankle problem. I made my way to the final switchbacks with a troop of boyscouts in tow. The youngest scout couldn’t have been more than 11 which was cool. He was obviously the slower of the troop but I was impressed that he was so high up. They called out and the line of them allowed me to pass. I eventually made my way to a snowy section near the top. There was only one well worn snow path across which surprised me. I guess I had assumed there would be more due to the high Mt. Whitney traffic. I trudged into the well worn snow groove which was brown with dirt. When paths are like that you tend to shuffle quickly in them because your feet don’t have to compact anything. There’s then a rocky break from the snow, then one more snow patch. You get across that and things start rounding out. You move your way through rocks as you near the peak and it is an emotional experience. My heart raced, I got that light on my toes feeling of excitement, and I made my way. Upon reaching the summit you realize a) it’s a shared experience, b) the other side you get to gaze out on is kind of brown with round mountains, and c) you’ve just gone 211+ miles and you’d like nothing more than to turn around and do it over again. I set my stuff down and just gazed in astonishment. Honestly the reflection I did at the actual summit before moving on had little to do with me. I gazed out. I moved around to get the different views. I tried to decipher where I had come from, which gave me a great sense of scale for the journey I had just undergone. Eventually I had my way to the summit hut and trail register. I left these words (a quote from Kilgore Trout, a character in a Kurt Vonnegut book), “you were sick, but now you’re well, and there’s work to do”. These are the words of the only person in the Vonnegut universe who suspects he’s a character in a work of fiction. Time flashed back to the past and made us repeat our every action for ten years straight no matter how terrible or great it was, unable to change and fully aware. When the ten years is up people are so used to autopilot that they don’t act and so cars being driven crash, people don’t get up in the morning, etc. until Trout thinks of it. He needs to get the human race moving again so he tells them that they were sick, that they’re now well, and that there’s work to do. For me it’s exactly what people need to hear at those times in life where they are capable of epiphany and change. Sometimes people need to believe that something has moved the impediment out of their way and that they’re now on new ground, able to overcome old obstacles. Standing on the summit I thought about that, and I thought about me, and I thought about the trail, and I thought about my life, and I thought about my father’s passing, and I wept. It was some much needed relief after having to be the strong one during my father’s passing for the whole crazy family through funerals and coroners and drug addict relatives and financial questions left behind and worrying about my brother having a place to live, which is not to mention the trials and tribulations of the trail itself. I felt a bit better after having let my emotions come to the surface for a few minutes, took one last look around the trail, and starting my descent. After seeing the man get hurt I took my time and played it safe. It’s hiker courtesy to allow ascenders have the right of way which made this section extra slow. I got down to my pack innards and reorganized. Lifting that pack onto my back felt just about the heaviest of the trip (MTR day not withstanding). I wanted to rush home to my girlfriend. I wanted to shower. I wanted a chinese food buffet. Most of all I wanted off of the dang mountain. It wasn’t frustration but rather impatience that compelled me to hurry. I passed everyone coming down on the switchbacks. I asked a few people coming up if they were coming from the portal and I got consensus that I was going the right way. The post trail crest trail is supposed to be 8.5 miles, but honestly it felt like the longest day of my trip. I could not, despite my every effort, get time to speed up. I got to the post switchback section and started the longer more gradual descent. I passed a ton of people (comparative ton) who were sort of camped out with plans to push to the summit tomorrow. I saw old t-shirts, broken trekking poles, broken beer bottles, food wrappers, discarded human waste bags, and a whole host of other disrespectful things discarded as if they were “everyone else’s problem”. This further fueled my want to be out. I asked a few people how far back the portal was with mixed results. Some of the people were very impatient and snapped at me for asking, something I hadn’t experienced in 13 days on the trail. I had a few people ask me where the trail was and upon providing an answer I got loathful looks mixed with “so you mean this camp site is ON the ACTUAL trail?” which further fueled my annoyance. I stopped at a crossing to set up my iPod and was swiftly passed by another nimble JMT hiker. He was similarly on a mission to get the heck out of there. We leapfrogged for a while and it turned into a race of sorts which I think helped both of us hurry. I had in my mind a lot of nagging worries. Would my car start? How was I going to pay for gas with a shattered credit card and no gas? How was I going to pay for a shower or food? Would my cell phone turn on? Would I have to stop to buy water but have no change for it? Seeing as how I night parked, would I have to spend an hour searching for my car? I stood aside to let a group pass and then decided to cut a switchback that had big rocks and no vegetation. Through my iPod I heard an older man say “son you better not let a ranger see you do that!”. Really? I’m carrying my own bio-waste and every time I dropped even a bit of a wrapper I’d trudge back to pick it up. I don’t think the leave no trace fairies are going to dock me for cutting in line without disrupting anything. Finally I saw a parking lot! I ran down (seriously) and the first car I saw, the literal first car in eyesight when coming off the trail, was mine! I was so excited I laughed loudly and said “that’s awesome!” which left a group of three sitting at the trailhead with no concept of what I’d just done bewildered. My car opened! I found I had left myself water bottles! I found I had left myself my other credit card! I turned on my phone, it worked! I called my girlfriend.........who didn’t pick up, but then she called me back! I was anxious to see if my car worked so I turned it on, and it complied! I was SO HAPPY. It was so very good to hear my lady’s voice. I then started driving while on the phone, a big mistake. Everything around me seemed to be moving so fast! I felt out of control and unable to multitask a phone conversation and driving so I told my girlfriend I’d have to call her back. Driving felt foreign and weird but I made it to the Lone Pine Hostel and paid for my $5 shower. I was giddy when I got into the shower. I gave my brother a text message to let him know I was safe. I got into the shower and must have wiped myself down about four separate times, and eventually just stood still under the hot water. It was ecstasy! I finished up, put on my “trunk clothes” (a spare set I always keep there), and headed over to the local market. I bought an avocado and !!! four croissants for $3 total. I debated a beer but none sounded particularly apt so I took my spoils to the car. The avocado was delicious! The croissants were bland and firm. Upon further inspection they didn’t even contain butter! What a travesty! I headed off home when the urge for Chinese buffet came flashing back. I plotted a course for 15-20 miles off course and charged! I got a beer and loaded up on oil soaked food, gorging on two plates. I expected to eat more, but I wound up stuffed. I blame the lack of quantity on the crap-ssants. The beer was superb and I got it because it’s a place in China my girlfriend had visited and she refers to it as sort of like the Duff town from The Simpsons. I went to Walmart and bought energy drinks and a gas station and went off. I got home eventually, unpacked some things, had a good conversation with my roommate, used her foot bath gizmo, had another conversation with my lady, and eventually passed out in my comfortable bed for the first sound night of sleep I’d had in 13 nights.

Gear:
Backpack: SMD Swift with wingbelts and stay, 2 panel z-rest in holder. I had trouble with this pack to be honest. I had the clips holding the belt rub into both sides of me rubbing red puff marks at points. At some point I realized I could have the hipbelt reside closer to my hips and that helped alleviate the problem. The mesh in the big front pocket ripped in a spot or two though only through 1-2 junctions. I loved the water bottle pocket which was easily accessible. The roll top was a bit annoying in that it took a lot of rolls to snug it down. I loved the pockets, but the outside mesh and the inner blue misc. pocket. I found the pack to carry very well and things did not feel extra heavy at any point (though resupplies always feel rough). I found the big side mesh pocket wonderful for all sorts of insulation/rain stuff, and the big middle great for my poncho and snacks. The hipbelts were great for carrying my filtering drops, sunblock, lip balm, snacks, and my sunglasses.

Quilt: Katabatic Palisade: I had a lot of concerns about this as it was my first quilt and I’d heard temps could get down to the 20s. I loved this thing other than that using it the way I did (attached to my pad) required some daily setup (20 seconds too long at the end of a hard day). It was comfy and easy to escape from. The only night I had trouble was sleeping at the exposed base after Forrester Pass. I got so cold I had to do crunches in all my clothes. For the records that night I had converted to the warmer method of straps.

Bivy: Katabatic Pinon: I liked this but if I had to do it again I’d want a zipper. I hurt my knee and doing the bivy wiggle became obnoxious. The face mesh was hard to arrange comfortable and symmetrically in position to my body but that was more of a tarp problem combined with a newbie bivy user problem.

Tarp: GoLite Poncho/Tarp. This thing got a lot of attention from fellow ultralight nerds. It was decent as rain gear, not comfortable enough for a longer exposure (I only had maybe three hours of rain in 13 days). As a tarp it took more setup than cat cut or tarp tents, but I got into the groove of using it. I normally preferred to set it up with a trekking pole in a corner, and one in the middle of a long side, the rest stakes to the ground. I did an A frame for 2-3 nights but it was a pain to set up. Truth: I’m willing to bet this is more of a review of my lack of talent than it is tarp shortcoming. This was a new piece of kit for me.

Pot: BPL 550. This was perfect for what I needed, overkill most of the time as I didn’t fill it all the way up most of the time. I had worried it wouldn’t be enough even!

Filter: Aquamira. This stuff rocks! The premix bottle works well. I didn’t get sick, but that might just be a “The Seirra’s are pristine!” comment outside of a few horse trodden streams. It was nice not to have to stop, break out the ceramic filter, pump, put it away, etc..

Soap/Toothepaste: Dr. Bronners. I didn’t use soap much except for bathroom duty. It wasn’t great toothepaste (defined for me as a good clean feeling post-brush) but it got the job done (defined for me as taking away the gritty “I just ate candy” teeth feeling).

Repellent: dropper bottle with 30% DEET, then spray can with 98%. The dropped bottle with 30% was so bad that I got eaten alive. The 98% spray bottle is no fun in itself, but the lack of skeeters is.

Sunscreen: I brought maybe 2oz, then resupplied with 1.5oz. It was perfect with a long sleeve shirt.

Hydropel: It’s hard to say if this worked or not because I can’t re-do my trip without it so any comment I can have is bad science to that regard. I will say I expected blisters and didn’t get them. The only blister I saw was on my pinky toe after my shoe ripped so rocks poked my toe, it was wet all day, and I did a two pass day. Hydropel gave me some placebo goodness at worst.

Knife: Razor Blade. I used it a few times for cutting floss and it worked perfectly. I think people have the notion in their head that if it came down to it they’d fight a bear with their knife, bushcraft a shelter, and possibly flag down an aircraft using it as a mirror. I’m not one of these people, a razor blade is fine.

Headlamp: Petzyl e-lite+. I rarely used this and never night hiked. Mine got sand in it and became more work to operate. I don’t think I want to bring this next time.

Repair Kit/First Aid. Too many blister pads, too little seam sealer and floss.

Socks: Feetures Elite. I liked these a lot. They eventually developed a hole in half the material when I got a blister but I’m unsure if that caused or was caused by the blister. They also eventually developed a hole towards the front of my feet. I expected them to last longer, but this is my first thru-hike and I have no clue what the normal mile expectancy ought to be for socks.

Sleep Bottoms: REI brand light undies. I’ll bump to a warmer pair for in camp.

Jacket: Well Worn Montbell UL Thermawrap. This was good but I’ll bring a sleep top next time to bolster it. I would prefer having a hood to using a beanie/balaclava, but maybe not for the weight? I slept in this thing all the time and it was nice.

Shell Gloves: MLD Event. I tried these for warmth in the morning and they helped, just not enough. I realize these are “shell” gloves and aren’t insulation, I just wanted to try them as both. Even with socks on my hands I was cold in the frosty mornings.

Bread Bags. Thanks for the suggestion these were nice when my shoes were wet, I was in camp, and wanted to pee and keep my feet dry.

Windpants: Montbell Dynamo. These rocked at keeping mosquitoes off and providing some additional around camp warmth. I had to baby them when sitting and did so sometimes. They came out looking pretty good.

Windshirt: Patagonia Houdini. This was nice to hike in before I warmed up for the day, also bomber at keeping mosquitoes off. I appreciate the chest pocket.

Music/Audiobook: iPod nano. This was my savior some days and some nights. I wouldn’t even debate leaving it home again except for an experiment.

Bear Can: BV 500. It fit my food, it was heavy, and opening it was a bit of a pain especially on cold mornings (my fingers were gloves or too cold). I resorted to finding a stick to open this, which was never hard.

Buff. This turned into my wash cloth for which it worked well. I’ve used it before and liked it, but didn’t feel I needed it this trip.

Gaiter: Dirty Girl Gaiters. These gaiters rock but the glue on the shoe side of mine came up. I’m sure I didn’t clean the shoes before attaching which didn’t help. I’d bought a pair off the site that looked really neat but were boring when I got them. I asked her about the difference in the pattern and learned that the picture she took was from way far back, which makes sense. She now puts a ruler on the fabric which gives a sense of scale. She refunded my money, super cool. I took my old boring gaiters

Shorts: The North Face Voracious. The boxer brief was SUCH a nice change from the normal brief rubbage. I wish it had front pockets but other than that... these things are perfect, seriously.

Shirt: Railriders Adventure Top. This was great and I enjoyed the chest pocket for maps and iPod. The mesh of my neck-compass got snagged in it a lot. I figured ½ way through the trip I could undo the wrist cuffs to help vent. The shirt looks like a pajama top though. There were some sections I wished I could zip it down to vent.

Hat: OR Sunrunner: This has did a great job of keeping sun off, other than a small area on the back of my neck. I’m a tall guy so that’s probably some of it. I liked the conversion aspect of it. I didn’t like the noise it creates on my ears. I’d swap it for an outdoor adventure hate I think.

Trekking Poles: BD Ergo Cork. I liked these a lot. I chopped off the wrist straps on day 1 which helped, and used the snow baskets. I saw a lot of people not use the baskets. I also ran into a guy using the TiGoat poles which he had me hold, man were they light! I personally think of myself as a trekking clutz and didn’t want to run the risk of causing those to fail so I may stick with these. Perhaps I’d feel different if I owned a pair. If I did the PCT I think I’d give the carbon ones a go though.

Sun Gloves: Patagonia. I came home with a fingerless gloves tan. Eww. These got very dirty and became that way quickly. I liked that I didn’t get burned. I sometimes forgot to take them off when going to the bathroom which was interesting. I appreciated the warmth they gave on cold mornings but it wasn’t enough. I fully realize warmth isn’t their intended purpose.

Shoes: La Sportiva Wildcats. These were both amazing and awful. They quickly dried, they vented well, they supported enough, they didn’t contribute to blisters. They also fell apart. The mesh on the side toes aren’t front covered and as such they got shredded. Mesh rips just kept on worsening until I had to spend a half hour to an hour each day repairing them. They were too delicate for this trip by virtue of the lack of harder materials in front of the toes (or my clumsiness). I was scolded by an REI front desk employee for taking them on this trip because “they aren’t meant for that” despite walking trails instead of running them. I had a pack weight of at max 30lb (most often way less). I asked the employee if walking on shoes was harder on them than running on them.... he just repeated his statement. He said that trail runners aren’t meant for backpacking, wagged a verbal finger, and returned them anyways. Later that night I ran into my rock climbing buddy Brian who happens to be “the shoe guy” at REI, what luck! I told him my thoughts on it and asked whether or not trail runners could be reasonably used for ultralight backpacking and he agreed so long as I didn’t need the extra ankle support. He said he’d find the guy who gave me the finger wag and educate him. Vindication!

Sleeping pad v1: OR Peak Elite AC. Mine leaked on night one, traded it out on day 2.

Sleeping pad v2: Ridgerest. I traded to using this and it wasn’t comfortable. It kept me warm, didn’t keep me comfortable. I’m trading back to an inflatable with a super thin Gossamer Gear pad to beef it up and prevent punctures. Some people can use these without any loss of sleep. I’ve even posted on a forum about this. The responses vary from “I’m with you!” to sort of “man up and just keep at it, you’ll get used to it in like 3-4 nights”. My body disagrees with the latter.


Reflections:

Pace: At home I was training at sea level on relatively flat ground. I tried to fit in mountain hikes when possible (weekends) but through the death of my father and all that goes with being the family peace keeper/planner/executor I didn’t get much time away. During these easy hikes I could keep a pace of 3.5 miles an hour while snacking with a 20+ mile pack in tow. This was with concentrated effort. I by no means expected to be able to go this pace, but felt I could keep a 2.5mph pace easily enough. I was wrong. After some time it became doable. By the time I left I felt 20 mile days weren’t bad. The pace had to shift so much with uphills, and with downhills my knees and feet required I take them slow too. Ellen advised me to find my pace. Rebecca by comparison made me re-shift my pace thinking and speed up (with a nice lunch break). I think my own style is more towards Ellen’s. Brian the guide told me he thinks he has only one pace.

Emotion: There’s something about being out of normal life that really lets you feel things as they come. You’re not so caught up in things and as such you tune in a bit more. Do I feel stupid for being impatient? Yup. Do I feel ridiculous for feeling a bit ditched? Yup. Do I feel weird writing about letting my emotions go at the top of Whitney? A bit because this is public, but not in the act itself. I guess it’s just a bit weird to share something personal. Sort of like you’re in a normal public space to look down and find you’re in your underwear. This is true for everything mentioned in this paragraph, but for the sake of honesty I included it.

Company: I thought I’d want the solitude of being the only person out there. I was thankful for running into Ellen when I was off track, and the following hours spent chatting with her. I enjoyed getting to know Rebecca a lot, though I came to realize her pace was not something I was comfortable with. I enjoyed companionship when it came, was a little sad when it left, and happy for both the following solitude and new encounters. Rebecca was very fun to be around, but sometimes we should have just agreed to meet later at a certain point for lunch or to camp. I think we could have used less of each other, and less of matching paces, even though it was very fun to hike and camp together. It was weird seeing my responses and attitude towards people shift the longer I was out. I feel bad for my initial reaction to Ellen which was one of impatience. I get that my being lost and flustered contributed, but I think if I’d had the same situation later on I’d be a lot more patient. Towards the end I would look people in the eyes more, had more sincere conversations, offered people more sincere responses and hellos. This is a familiar trend in backcountry travel, but it reminds me that I very much WANT to include this into my daily life and keep it up.

Distraction: I wanted to know the names of the mountains, the streams, and the trees. I didn’t get enough work approved time for that trip. I settled for not getting lost. I started out with the want to make this a philosophy experiment and not bring music. When I was there I wanted music all the time. I thought I’d want audiobooks but mostly wanted either a) rap/hip-hop music (this isn’t my norm, FYI, but man is it upbeat and workoutable), or b) philosophy lectures. I’m weird and I can admit that. I realize now that I trend towards a crowded mind. Thought for a future trip: solo, no books, no music.

Food: I am intensely sold on bringing good food. Cost? Who cares. My treats are my treats. My dinners need to be edible. My desserts need to be something I want to eat. I have two new favorites for backpacking. 1) Hawk Vittles. This stuff was epic amounts of good. Full disclosure: I paid full price and have no relation to the dude who makes this, I just love it enough to rant. The first days I was literally wanting to vomit while force feeding myself because I had such a hard time eating. Hawk Vittles went down smooth and without any fight. His food looks tasty, especially when compared to Mountain House in a clear ziplock. My favorite was the Moroccan Stew. I will admit I was very angry when I only got a half bucket from Muir Trail Ranch, in large part because 3-4 of these meals were missing! 2) Nutella is epic backpacking goodness. Whole wheat tortillas are awesome too and very versatile. Combining the two for a dessert? Heaven. Overall I ate 4,000 calories a day’ish. 800 (oatmeal + nido powder) + 800 (trail mix) = 1600 kcal breakfast. This was needed to not be starving at 10a.m., I had about 1200 kcals in snacks. I then had 900cal dinners, with 250-500 kcal desserts. I also beefed up some of the dinners with Parmesan cheese, though next time I’d bring oil. I lost 7lb in 13 days which to me isn’t a good thing. I lost some forearm muscle I’ve been working hard to acquire rock climbing. 2-3 pounds lost would have been okay and I believe wouldn’t have ended in the same muscle loss. My body during 20 mile days needs 5,000 calories per day. This isn’t very convenient when it comes to bear cans. The extra food would have to fit in the snacking space because breakfast was a lot, and dinner felt like a lot. Stopping definitely helped in getting food down, so perhaps picking up Rebecca’s lunch schedule would be a good idea.

Fear Management: When I went up the wrong pass by Donahue and noticed conditions were icy and something wasn’t right, I was far enough up the pass to have good reason not to backtrack (I find down-climbing ice worse than going up). There were small moments of fear as I assessed my options and my run-out (fancy word for “if I fall and slide, what am I going to hit”). I didn’t have a fear of bears but a lot of people worry about that. I was a bit worried enough about my balance to occasionally say “oh crap I hope I don’t fall off this log”. I worried at a point that I wouldn’t make my schedule to get out. I worried when MTR lost half my bucket and I had to scavenge food. The thing that kept my mini-freak out moments from turning into fits of panic was that I tried to let go of what I couldn’t control, control what I could control, and calculate things in terms of reality rather than worry. I like to enumerate and quantify my fears because they rarely if ever match up to the emotional weight I give them in moments of worry. Yes, my shoes are ripped up on both sides. Yes, I can see my toes. Yes, I have dental floss, a needle, seam sealer, and tenacious tape. Despite this not being ideal, yes I can make this work and finish in spite of it. Yes I could probably rig something with extra cloth and my insoles and walk for a while need be. Yes I can beg another hiker my size to let me hike in their stream crossing shoes. Yes I can take the nearest exit and finish this next season need be. I’ll be okay essentially because the negatives are tempered by the possibilities of fixing them.

Loneliness: I had a lot of people worry about this. I didn’t actually have any loneliness. I guess that’s probably a product of being so very active during the day and passing out at night. I wished I could have shared some moments with people. I wondered what some people were up to. I didn’t feel lonely though. I do a fair amount by myself though so maybe I’m just used to it. I’ve done road trips and overseas trips by myself and sometimes there I feel a bit odd going to say a fancy restaurant by myself, no such expectation clashes in the backcountry though, you do 99% of everything yourself that you’d do in pairs.

Safety: I felt unsafe a few times, mainly when I got a little off track. I didn’t worry about bears. I never thought I would have trouble getting help except for the Donahue/not-Donahue mistake, though I found someone so that was probably frequented just less so. The truth is there are very few ways to get hurt that incapacitate you to the point where you cannot blow a whistle, and the ways that do are often bad enough that other people might not help. We’re overly used to having people be all around us and having a 911 capable phone in our pockets. It hasn’t always been this way. People used to survive all the same. Be smart and minimize your risks. Don’t do a snowy pass before 9-10am if it’s going to be all ice. Don’t go up the wrong ridge and if you feel a bit off track stop and wait for someone else to walk by. Bring a whistle. Keep water on you as often as is reasonable. Bring a medical kit. Don’t wade above a waterfall. Don’t smother yourself in peanut butter before bed. Reasonable people making thought out decisions don’t die on popular trails except in cases so rare that dying from other perils (driving for example) is more likely. The truth is safety and knowledge come with practice, start with baby steps and read what you can. Get advice and tag along with experienced people. You’ll be fine.

Mosquitoes: These made my trip enjoyment go down roughly a notch. When you go to the bathroom for the first time in the woods and mosquitos swarm on your thighs and butt..... not happy. When you finally get to camp and set down your stuff and immediately find three feasting on one of your arms.... not happy. When you go to eat but the headnet you now have to wear because you don’t want to DEET your own face prevents you from taking multiple bites without pulling down then putting back up your headnet.... not happy. Mosquitoes are the devil and I’d sincerely consider bringing any mosquito repelling product like mosquito coils despite their weight.

PCT: Would I do the PCT? This was the question I set out to answer at the outset of the trip. My goal was to extrapolate 220 miles into 2663, roughly 12 times the length of what I did. At my 17 mile per day pace it would take 156 days, or roughly 5.5 months. At 20 miles per day it would take 133 days, or roughly 4.6 months. At 24 miles per day it would take 110 days, or roughly 3.9 months. At 28 miles a day it would take 95 days, or roughly 3.3 months. It sounds like the normal pace is about 150 days. I expect my pace to be quicker and more towards 20 m.p.d. and 133 days, but that may be unrealistic. Actually if I’m being honest I think I could hit the 24 m.p.d. mark on moving days with enough training and callous. These facts do not establish if I actually want to do it or not. To that end I’m unsure myself. I enjoyed my JMT experience thoroughly, and hiking became easier quicker as the days passed (despite my highest miles day being the first). My ankles and knee became a problem that I couldn’t see shouldering for 2600 miles, but I think they would be something that went away (as evident by two days at home). On the trail I was thinking a pretty stark “no”. I thought I was just sick of being dirty, but then I discovered some clever buff bath tricks and washing my clothes. I was thinking I was sick of being hurt, but then I healed. I was thinking I was sick of being hungry, but then I realized I just needed more food. I was sick of being eaten by mosquitoes but that passes into the season, and I got surprisingly used to them. There were a fair amount of bad things that became no big deal. These take away my hesitation because of hardship, but it still doesn’t imply a decision. The summary thought is that I don’t know. I like the idea of it still. I was just too happy to get home, sleep well, see my loved ones, eat enough calories, heal, and be bug free to wish I could stay on the trail. That’s not entirely fair either because I KNEW I was coming home and so got to anticipate that. Conclusion: I don’t know. I think I might. I know I don’t want to this coming April.

Edited by Trout on 09/13/2011 09:02:42 MDT.

David K
(aviddk) - F

Locale: SW Oregon
Well done! on 09/08/2011 23:03:47 MDT Print View

Michael,

Thanks for your trip report and especially your insights about, well... everything. It was especially fun since I followed Ellen's JMT trek with her SPOT. When I started reading you experience at Donahue I was thinking this was sounding like Ellen's situation, sure enough. I especially appreciated your detailed gear breakdown not something that everyone does and I think incredibly useful.

My wife and I hiked point to point for 13 miles on the PCT in SW Oregon yesterday and spoke with several solo through hikers. Near the end of our trip we came across a trail sign that showed 1779 miles to Mexico and 889 miles to the Canadian border. We realized the three through hikers had passed that sign in the hours before we saw them. It gave us a perspective we couldn't have found in any other way.

PCT trail sign

Best wishes for continued great adventures!

Edited by aviddk on 09/09/2011 22:18:48 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: JMT: 14 days and 13 nights in nature. on 09/08/2011 23:09:09 MDT Print View

"I ate two dinners which wound up being too much food so I dumped the extra into the lake rather than hiking the water weight up the mountain. I’m not sure that was very eco-friendly leave no trace... but it’s what I decided on."

Wow. That is quite a public admission. Very bad kharma.

--B.G.--

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: JMT: 14 days and 13 nights in nature. on 09/09/2011 07:12:12 MDT Print View

Wow! What an incredible insight into American hiking. Thank you.

"if you feel a bit off track stop and wait for someone else to walk by."

Classic.

Erik Dietz
(erikdtz) - M

Locale: Los Angeles
awesome! on 09/09/2011 11:12:03 MDT Print View

Hey Michael,

great trip report. I did something similar for my partial trip but I don't think I would "publish" it like you did. It looks like you really learned a lot. Hope to see you out there sometime.

Erik

Robert Perkins
(rp3957) - M

Locale: The Sierras
JMT: 14 days and 13 nights in nature." on 09/09/2011 20:30:23 MDT Print View

Michael, I enjoyed your trip report. I did the JMT this summer as well and really enjoyed myself. FWIW, TrailJournals is a good site for reading various trip reports and making your own journal.

One thing I find amazing, is I haven't looked at or posted on this site for some time due to getting out and hiking, and coaching soccer and life in general, and I see how the same old 'lurkers' can read a good trip report and still point out one negative thing as 'bad karma'. Maybe he should spend more time hiking and less time being a critic. Makes me wonder what I have missed while not checking in!

Edited by rp3957 on 09/11/2011 14:11:28 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: JMT: 14 days and 13 nights in nature." on 09/09/2011 20:56:03 MDT Print View

"I see how the same old 'lurkers' can read a good trip trip report and still point out one negative thing as 'bad karma'. Maybe he should spend more time hiking and less time being a critic. "

Yes, Robert. It was his admission of an awfully negative thing that was surprising.

Also, I've been out backpacking, so that explains why I'm not here more.

--B.G.--

Robert Perkins
(rp3957) - M

Locale: The Sierras
JMT: 14 days and 13 nights in nature on 09/09/2011 21:10:35 MDT Print View

Uh, ok. See new thread on your 5000th post, and counting.

Edited by rp3957 on 09/11/2011 09:59:18 MDT.

Robert Carver
(Rcarver) - MLife

Locale: Southeast TN
Re: JMT: 14 days and 13 nights in nature. on 09/10/2011 19:31:00 MDT Print View

Really enjoyed reading your trip report.

Joshua Billings
(Joshua) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz,Ca
loved it on 09/10/2011 21:18:16 MDT Print View

Man you are quite a writer. Robert, I was going to comment about- BG- but you beat me to it. Bob I think that he could have disposed of his food a little more LNTish but I wish you could learn some manners. Also you read this whole thing and that is all you could say? How about something positive also. You will catch more flies with sugar my friend. Just try not to hurt peoples feelings but still get your point across and people will want to listen to you instead of thinking that you are a dirt bag. Peace!

(You are not a dirt bag, I'm sure you have a lot of great qualities)

Jim Arzigian
(Renais) - M
Fantastic trip report on 09/10/2011 21:22:18 MDT Print View

Michael,
This was one of the best trip reports I've read in some time. Thank you for being so honest about the entire experience. I enjoyed your trip vicariously. I look forward to your reports on other trips you take. Your descriptions of the challenges and struggles was just what a college student colleague of mine will need. She is planning to do the JMT next summer, and wanted to know about what to watch out for, as well as what to watch. I've forwarded the link to her.
Jim

Dan M
(r4gl7q) - MLife

Locale: Arizona
Read the whole thing ... on 09/11/2011 08:32:09 MDT Print View

I didn't plan on reading the entire trip report. But it was so well written and interesting, I did.
Thanks for posting.

Leigh Baker
(leighb) - F

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
re: JMT on 09/11/2011 09:34:04 MDT Print View

Michael, thanks for sharing an honest,insightful,concise trip report.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Good Report on 09/11/2011 11:41:13 MDT Print View

Had to laugh at a couple of items:
1) I just completed the PCT and had a terrible experience with my POE Ether airmat. It leaked from day one and kept popping leaks at the baffle seams. I started to refer to it as my POS Ether Elite. I was stubborn though and blew it up 4 times a night for the entire 98 days of my trip.
2) I also used Wildcats and had the outside mesh blow out after about 200 miles on two different pairs, both 12.5. My 12's lasted the entire 550 miles to Mojave and another pair went from Mojave to Tahoe both without any issues.

Finally, I don't think you can draw any conculusions mileage wise from your trip as how it would relate to the PCT, they are so diferent. I hiked the JMT in 9.5 day three years ago but that was sooooo much harder than the mileage I did on the PCT which was over a 30mpd average on full hiking days. If you are still interested in hiking the PCT, especially if you want to fastpack it, check out my trail journal listed in my bio.

By the way, anyone telling you that Muir is the hardest pass on the JMT is smoking something. The only thing that makes it noteworthy is that usually has the longest snow section of any of the passes. Good report.