For the last three summers we took every year two of our kids on the JMT – 2010 Philipp & Daniel, 2011 Cassandra & Hannah, 2012 Hannah & Natalie. This year we took Elisabeth (and her three sisters) for a two week vacation into the John Muir Wilderness. Elisabeth has dyspraxia and hiking/backpacking is way harder for her than for her siblings. Thus we planned to set up a basecamp after a short hike and then offer different activities including (multi) day hikes based on the interests of our four girls.
We selected Blaney Meadows as the area for our base camp. It had several strategic advantages:
1) Only 5 mile hike from the ferry landing at Florence Lake. This would be very doable for Elisabeth.
2) Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) is close by. JMT and PCT hikers can send food packages there for their re-supply. This would allow us to carry in only three days of food for the six of us in our bear canisters and then re-supply ourselves every three days through packages we sent to MTR.
3) Blaney Meadows has natural hot springs. My wife and the girls can easily spend a whole day in a hot tub
4) Blaney Meadows has a Warm Lake that is fed by Hot Springs. This would be perfect for extended swimming activities.
It was great to spend the time with the kids out there. Everyone got a lot out of the wilderness experience. Elisabeth swam the first time in her life across a lake. Natalie turned 10 during the vacation and loved baking mud pies in some of the hot springs. Hannah stretched her legs a little and did her first cross-country pass in the High Sierra. Cassandra went on two multi-day trips with me and did an increasing amount of cross-country route-finding. Michelle gladly volunteered to stay back in the hot tub with the kids who didn’t want to hike on a given day. I did some relaxed exploring of areas left and right of the JMT. There are so many beautiful things out there that we often hardly see when doing our daily mileage on a planned trek. Here are some photos that give a glimpse into this kind of family vacation in the Sierra.
Picture 1: Our four girls arrive at the ferry at Florence Lake. The adventure can begin
Picture 2: Our four girls crossing the first log bridge
Picture 3: One of the “hot tubs”
Picture 4: Hannah jumping with dad into Warm Lake
Picture 5: Michelle’s favorite “hot tub”
Picture 6: A visitor to the hot tub
Picture 7: The girls loved the hot “mud tub” and baked many mud pies
Picture 8: Our three youngest girls enjoyed a nap from time to time after playing in the hot tub. Their parents’ Lovebird quilt was a hot item for taking those naps.
Picture 9: Natalie turned 10 during our vacation
Picture 10: Natalie’s three sisters making fun of the birthday princess
Picture 11: Elisabeth swims across Warm Lake
Picture 12: Exploring the “Potholes” along the San Joaquin River
Picture 13: Cassie right before dropping from a pothole into the San Joaquin River
Picture 14: Goddard Canyon
Picture 15: Cassie and Hannah going down Hell-For-Sure Pass
Picture 16: Lower Indian Lake
Picture 17: Hannah and Cassie approaching Upper Indian Lake
Picture 18: Cassie and Hannah coming down Mosquito Pass
Picture 19: Hannah sliding down a water slide on blank granite
Picture 20: Cassie leading the way through deadfall to Thompson Pass
Picture 21: An early morning visitor to our camp at Thompson Lake
Picture 22: Up above 10,000 ft it got cold at night
Picture 23: How did the horse get into the tree?
This was a fun trip for our family. The total mileage during these 14 days was “only” 90 miles – and just for the kids who wanted to explore more and go on cross-country backpacking trips. Some kids did less than 20 miles during this trip. Offering this kind of flexibility for every child, to only do as much backpacking/hiking as they like, was key in making it fun for everyone. Going lightweight – everyone carried their own gear – played a great factor in making this summer vacation a success.