Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hiking the John Muir Trail - A Glimpse of the Range of Light

One year ago...
While on a short backpacking trip with a group of friends my friend Johnny mentioned that he was hoping to do more hiking trips and perhaps someday hike the John Muir Trail (JMT). I've never been a believer in "someday." I'm a believer in yesterday, today and tomorrow. So I said that if we could obtain a backpacking permit, I would accompany him to hike the JMT. 
The John Muir Trail is a long-distance trail passing through wilderness areas in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. It is sometimes referred to as the Range of Light. From the northern terminus at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley and the southern terminus located on the summit of Mount Whitney, the Trail's official length is 210.4 miles (338.6 km), with an elevation gain of approximately 47,000 feet (14,000 m). The trail passes through some of the most picturesque areas of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. The trail was named in honor of John Muir.
John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, author and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt accompanied Muir on a visit to Yosemite. Even before they entered the park, Muir was able to convince Roosevelt that the best way to protect the valley was through federal control and management. Muir and Roosevelt set off largely by themselves and camped in the back country. It is said that this trip encouraged and inspired Roosevelt to double the number of national parks and set aside 148,000,000 acres of forest reserves.

Obtaining a backpacking permit to hike the JMT is no easy matter. Applicants often refer to obtaining a permit as "winning the golden ticket." There are thousands of people that apply for permits and 70% get declined. To obtain a permit one must apply exactly six months ahead of one's planned start day. In our situation, we were hoping to start hiking in mid to late August, so we started applying for a permit on February 28th. We believed that our chances of obtaining a permit would be increased if each of us independently submitted applications. For over two weeks we each faxed in an application. For over two weeks we each received daily rejection letters. I had just about given up hope.

I posted on my Facebook, "I thought the mountains were calling, but maybe it was just the wind."

Two days after my post, Johnny sent me an email, "Got it!"

The adventure began... six months later.
During the summer, I was road tripping around the northwest part of the United States. Johnny caught a flight into Reno, Nevada. I drove to Reno, picked him up at the airport, and then we traveled towards the mountains.

In the small town of Lone Pine, we parked my car for safe keeping in the parking lot of the Chamber of Commerce. We made a sign with one word... YOSEMITE!
Teaching Johnny some bad habits... hitchhiking. Our plan was to hitchhike from Lone Pine to the town of Lee Vining, then catch a ride into Yosemite.
We caught a ride from Lone Pine to Lee Vining with a Navy Pilot named Ben. He dropped us off just before Lee Vining at the intersection of Hwy 395 and Route 120.
Route 120 is a road that leads into Yosemite. At the beginning of Route 120 there was a little convenience store. We took a short break at the store,  then walked back out to the road. We crossed the road and held up our sign. The first car that passed by stopped. We caught a ride into Yosemite with two free spirits who had just spent two weeks at Burning Man named Sam and Cambell. Sam said that she was trying to practice radical generosity, so they offered us a ride. Into Yosemite!
The adventure begins... the mountains are calling.
Looking beyond.
Carrying my home on my back.
The dawn of a new day.
Straight ahead.
A meadow painted red by the color of the flora.
A coyote sitting in a meadow.
Old trees hold memories.
Pit master
Catching rainbow trout like they were fish in a barrel.
When the moonlight is so bright you cannot sleep.
Awakened by the breeze and the morning sun bouncing off the side of the mountains.
Cathedral Lake under Cathedral Rock
Fall colors beckon, but may the summer never end.
A fallen giant lifting heavy stones by it's roots.
Mapping out our route moment by moment.
The light flows from above and shimmers down the river.
Caught in a hail storm, but still having fun.
Our destination for the day.
Footprints left behind. Friend or Foe?
People you meet along the way - Zoe a solo hiker that traveled half way around the world to hike the JMT. Dreams do come true.
Hikers you meet along the way - Alex a friend hiking with a friend, just because that's what friends do.
People you meet along the way. Janet and Tony, a couple that get up early every day, walk side by side and demonstrate how a little persistence pays off.
People you meet along the way. Paul and Scott, a son paying back his father for a lifetime of guidance. Scott was guiding Paul up Mount Whitney as part of his father's last mountaineering experience. Scott carried his backpack, his father's backpack and water up Mount Whitney. His father walked up on his own two feet. Determination.
Crossing Donohue Pass.
Too beautiful to keep, this little guy got released back into the water.
Basalt + fire + ice = The Devil's Postpile National Monument.
Looks like a hammock camp, feels a little like heaven at the end of a long day.
Living out of a backpack sometimes means eating out of a bag.
When a bug flies into your soup, just leave it in there, that's added protein you might need.
First fish caught on a fly. Now you're hooked. Congratulations Johnny!
When you play with fire, sometimes you get burned. My favorite adventure pants will be turned into my favorite adventure shorts. Or I'll think of this burned hole as a little souvenir from the JMT.
Conifer cones as big as my face.
Even a weed holds beauty.
Twisted wood
The colors of autumn come together.
Resupplying with food was a little like performing magic. Fitting the contents of the orange bucket into the blue bucket (Bear Canister) required some slight of hand.
Topo Athletic trail runners, Sole insoles, Darn Tough socks and some dirty, swollen, crusty, abused feet.
Put some tape on that blister and keep walking.
Lips and nose chapped by the sun, wind and cold.
Laundry day. And my laundry typically consisted of only four items to wash - a shirt, some underwear, a pair of socks and my bandana.
The natural environment for an Osprey
Cooking trout in aluminum foil over a wood stove
Light shouldering the mountain tops.
Alpenglow on the mountain.
Rae Lakes
Grass reaching up to the light.
First fish caught on a fly. She did it with the rod in one hand and a snack bar in the other. Congratulations Zoe!
We knew that it would be a cold day when we saw ice forming on the surface of the lake.
Bundled up
The early bird gets the worm or in this case warm oatmeal for breakfast.
Red is the meadow
The meadow reaching to the water.
When a trail passes through a meadow, along a river, into a forrest, pass a valley and over a mountain, I will follow it.
Nature has a texture that can only be felt by reaching out and touching it.
A schism as old as the ages
The walk down from Forrester Pass.
A solitary moment to contemplate one's place in the world
Stepping into Autumn.
The path ahead is no greater than the path behind.
Chilling near Rae Lakes
Chilling in my Chacos near Rae Lakes. Trying to decide which lake has more fish to be caught.
Guitar Lake signaled the beginning of the end... sounded good to me.
Sunset at the Whitney Portal Junction high camp at 13,500 feet.
A sign of the time. 1.9 miles up, 1.9 miles down and 8.7 miles out
Casting shade on Mount Whitney.
Walk on through to the other side.
On top of it all.
A quiet moment between two men.
For a brief moment we stood higher than the other 318 million people in the contiguous United States.
Celebrating a summit with a Pop Tart.
Leaving the trail before old man winter arrives.
Thanks John Muir, you established a path for others to follow.
The forrest holds secrets known only to these old trees.
Finished the John Muir Trail. Climbed to the highest point in the contiguous United States. Time for some rest and relaxation.
Double cheeseburger, fries and a Coke to celebrate the end of a great little adventure.
Me... after a visit to the John Muir Trail Salon and Spa.
Exfoliation by the dirt
Wash and Rinse by Charlotte Lake
Color by the Sun
Style by the Wind
Have you climbed a mountain today? Or two or three or four mountains.
First time I've ever looked at the health app on my mobile and the number of steps I've walked. I think these numbers might be a little skewed.