It’s like Throwback Thursday, sort of.
One week from today I’ll be back there again, starting a new AT adventure.
You can tell something is happening, judging from how much of a hot mess our house is.
Hey creepers. Long time no talk. How’s it hanging?
In anticipation of doing this for six months while on the AT, I’m writing this post from my phone. For one, definitely expect shorter posts, I don’t want to get carpal tunnel or anything. Also, if it’s too challenging to do otherwise, all the photos might go at the beginning or end of posts.
I’m currently back in Utah, “enjoying” my last couple of months here. I had been in Tennessee since December though. I went on a couple of hikes there, which would have been way more if I had brought proper cold weather clothes, but whatevs. So that’s what we’re talking about today.
The first was on MLK day (whoah long ass time ago). I went with a couple of furry friends, and their non-furry owners, to House Mountain. This is probably the most decent hike that’s close to Knoxville. There are only a few miles of trail total, but they’re somewhat steep and have good views of the surrounding countryside. It was also a goooooorgeous day.
Then in early February, we had a ladies-only hiking experience at Frozen Head State Park. This park is also really close to Knoxville, but has a lot of trails, some of which are rather extreme. There’s a badass ultramarathon called Barkley hosted here every year that only a handful of people have ever even finished.
Because we’re way too chill for that shit, we just did a few miles on Panther Branch and Emory Gap trails to the falls. We ate a lot of baguette and I managed to not hurt myself using a stick as a baseball bat.
There was so much water! Luv it. Something Utah lacks and I always miss.
Besides that, I’ve done no outdoors things of note. And I effectively stopped working out and started couch potato training. It was awesome but now I’m going to get my ass in gear to prep for the AT. Training for the AT is mostly pointless, because within the first three weeks you get trained, but I kind of want some baseline fitness. I’m going to swim and stationary bike, and hike up Logan Canyon as often as possible.
BTW, using my phone for posting is kinda fucking annoying. And my phone is only able to upload about five photos before it times out. Useless.
Expect both a general gear list post and an AT-specific post in the near future. I’m out. Have a good week, so as many beers as that entails.
Zion! Everyone keeps asking me about it, so here is the whole shebang.
This past weekend was fall break at USU, which meant a three-day weekend. Wooooo!
My friend Erica and I decided to utilize this time properly by heading to southern Utah for some exploration. Because we’re both leaving Utah next year (she’s in the same lab), the pressure is on to take advantage of the incredible, and incredibly close, natural beauty of this state.
By some miracle, we hauled our sleep-deprived and hungover selves out of bed Friday morning to hit the road. Zion is about 6 hours away from Logan.
It was so completely uneventful that I don’t remember anything about the drive. We rolled up to Springdale, UT, the main town just south of the park, and parked the car at Majestic Lodge. To prevent having an outrageous number of cars on the roads in the area, they’ve implemented a great shuttle system; one part is a shuttle that runs continuously through Springdale to the visitor center, and a second that goes up into Zion Canyon from the visitor center.
We took the shuttle from Majestic Lodge to the visitor center, where a park ranger kindly informed us that our plans were fucked because all of the backcountry campsites on the West Rim trail were booked for the weekend. After probing the rangers for some info and chatting amongst ourselves, we came up with an alternative. These new plans may have been somewhat hastily conceived because it was already 5 pm, but we threw caution to the wind like proper dirtbag hippies.
After paying for the backcountry permit, we turned right around and hopped on the shuttle we just got off to head back to the car. This backtracking continued to the southwestern corner of Zion, and the Coalpits Wash trailhead. This area seems somewhat neglected by tourists, though you’ll see this is not warranted.
You can see a beautiful representation of our weekend jaunt through this area below. Notice the lines. Different colors correspond to different days.
And we were off!
We hiked about four miles up to backcountry site #5 that first evening (see blue line). The first half of this was a hard-packed sandy trail in an open desert landscape.
Once we actually entered Coalpits Wash, there was no trail to speak of. Though you’d have to be a dumbass to get lost. There was really nowhere else to go but along the wash. This was quite a bit more strenuous, with plenty of loose beach sand (though no beach in sight) and large boulders to scramble over.
And scramble we did, as it was getting dark. But we managed to find our campsite, set up camp, eat dinner, and pass the fuck out at an unreasonably early hour.
You should be familiar by now with my penchant for not waking up early while backpacking. I rolled out of my sleeping bag at the ass crack of 9 am, and that only because it was getting mighty toasty in my tent. It’s pretty awesome get up and see an awesome landscape that had been cloaked in darkness the night before.
We grabbed some water from the tiny spring near the campsite, the last water source of the trip, and stepped onto Chinle trail. We spent the rest of the day traversing this trail, all the way to its end and then back to backcountry site #1 (green line). One might say we were ambling; we had no particular place to be and were resigned to spend some time backtracking Chinle instead of setting up camp woefully early.
It was a beautiful blur of colors and textures. My mind was blown over and over again. I’m gonna let a bunch of pictures do the talking, because my words aren’t so good.
There were so many washes, from tiny to massive. The force of floods that had ripped through recently was apparent and frightening.
We also noticed some peculiar rocks early on that day. Erica insisted from the get-go that it was petrified wood while I was the asshole skeptic hesitating to agree. The rocks did look alarmingly like wood and they were everywhere. Turns out we were in a PETRIFIED FOREST. I didn’t even know such things existed.
LOOK AT IT. Ugh.
The campsite that night was the best. It was out on a sort of peninsula of land, so we were pretty much surrounded by canyons and washes.
Unfortunately, we had to wake up horridly early the next morning. It was still cold.
And then all that was left was “just” the hike out (see purple line, yo). Haha, just. It was still miraculously beautiful, and our first cloudless blue skies of the trip.
We backtracked on the Chinle trail again, though just a baby bit, to the Scoggins trail. This led straight down to the bottom of the deep Scoggins wash. We had very brief moments of real sun while hiking down to the wash.
The trail met up with the aforehiked Coalpits Wash trail.
Then, BAM we were back at the car. The southwestern part of Zion is great, very desolate and glorious. There aren’t a lot of trail miles, but it was just enough to explore basically the entire area in a weekend. And if you want isolation, this is your place. We saw four people the entire time and they were all day hikers.
And that was that.
Hell no! Do you think I would leave Zion without doing Angel’s Landing? We drove back to the Majestic, took two shuttles, and paid $24 to get to the Grotto trailhead, cause we ain’t playin.
The hike up to the top of Angel’s Landing is pretty steep. And the last half mile is basically a rock scramble that isn’t highly recommended for those who get queasy being in high places (sorry Erica). So so so worth it though. Even with a shit ton of tourists milling about.
Guys, I think I like the desert. Who am I?!
Okay, I have two announcements to make. And then a third one, because two just wasn’t enough.
These are BIG and IMPORTANT announcements, so pay some motherfuckin’ attention please.
The first is that I will be moving to Florida next year. Yes, I might die of heat stroke or white trash or alligators. But all jokes aside, I’m actually very excited. I think it will be better in every way than Logan besides the mountains, though the mountains are substantially significant. My advisors got a very good offer from the University of Florida, so we’re officially starting there fall of 2015. And I guess I’ll be living in Gainesville.
Ooh, and there are beaches! (Sort of close.)
Second thing is that I’m going to have a second attempt at a thruhike of the Appalachian Trail next year. All the stars have aligned in the most beautiful, unbelievable way. This is happening for real and I cannot fucking wait.
I’ve mentioned my first AT attempt on the blog a couple of times, and most people who would be reading this know about it already. I started at Springer Mountain in Georgia in March 2013 with the intention of hiking over 2,000 miles to Maine. I didn’t finish because I had to start school in August and also my best friend from high school was getting married, so I got off in New York about four months after I started. It was still an incredibly life-changing experience.
That really deserves a post of it’s own, but don’t hold your breath. I’m a lazy bastard. You’ll at least get a few photos.
I’m getting excitement goosebumps just looking at those.
After I got off, I thought that would be that. But no. That unfulfilled goal of a successful thruhike has burned hard in the back of my mind ever since and I’ve realized that I won’t be happy (or at least content) until I achieve that goal. And because of a series of fortunate events, some due to my initiative and some not, I will have the opportunity at an attempt.
And while these sorts of events are an attempt because there are so many uncontrollable factors, I know I’m going to make it. I was mentally and physically in a great place when I got off trail last year and I’m quite confident in my ability to have a successful thruhike. And an amazingly fun one. I’ll be starting in April, most likely near the end of the month, next year at Springer.
And then there’s the news that’s not so good, and actually pertinent to this blog’s original purpose. (There’s a little foreshadowing for you.) I went on an easy 3 mile run around my neighborhood a month ago after getting back from a wedding in Tennessee. Apparently I’m no longer allowed to run on roads at all anymore, because it tweaked my knee. While the knee is slowly but surely getting better, there’s been no reason to give y’all any updates since then because pretty much all I’ve been doing is swimming.
It’s caused me to ponder my fitness choices a lot lately, though. I even wrote a 1,500 word diatribe about my knee and the emotions it evokes that I intended to post here, but it got much too dark and intense and I was worried someone would try to get me committed. Maybe I’ll throw it up someday. Let’s just say, I get very stressed out and depressed when my knee flares up, but I constantly deal with the fear of a flare-up even when it’s fine. And it worries me that it seems to be chronic, but I don’t have the means to get it looked at.
So I’m making the executive decision (I am, after all, the executive of my own life) to take an extended break from running. Ever since I became a runner in 2008, I’ve never intentionally stopped running for any length of time. I’ve stopped due to injuries and for the couple mandatory weeks after track season. I’ve never even thought seriously about stopping because it’s such an important part of my life. I need workouts to stay mentally balanced and running has always been my absolute favorite.
But I need to think long-term here; I would rather take months off now and be able to run for years. I would also really appreciate a break from the emotional trauma of dealing with this injury. I’m going to take off about a year from running. That’s the six months until I start the AT, and then the six months I’ll be on it (I wouldn’t be running then anyways). Some of the motivation for that timeline is to ensure my knee is fully healed and ready to go when I start hiking.
I’m definitely going to remain active. I plan to completely replace running with all of the other activities I love. There will be plenty of boring-to-write-about cross training (stationary biking and swimming mostly), lots of hiking which will transition to snowshoeing/cross-country skiing in the winter, and hashing, obvs. And possibly picking up yoga again in the spring.
At this point though, there’s no way that I could reasonably finish the 1000 Mile Challenge. Without any miles from running, and from this past month off, it would be difficult to maintain the required mileage and probably put me in a bad physical spot for the AT. No more weekly updates then. But I’ll be posting sporadically, probably mostly backpacking trip recaps and maybe some of the more ridiculous hashes. And hopefully I’ll keep this blog rolling while I’m on the AT.
Is that enough words for you?
Because I want to end this on a positive note, here are some pictures from THE FIRST HASH I’ve done in FIVE MONTHS. I had to do quite the supercharged down down for backsliding.
I’ve missed my Salt Lake hashers so much and it’s great to be back.
And more pictures, this time from a 4 mile Card Canyon evening hike.
Hopefully I’ll be back next week with some cool shit from my first trip to Zion. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy getting fat from being lazy, and you are very welcome to join me.
I just had THE BEST WEEKEND EVER.
But that’s not what this blog is all about, so you’ll just have to suffer from not knowing why.
Wednesday: 4 mile trail run
Thursday: 2 mile walk
Friday: 2 mile walk
Saturday: 9 mile hike
Monday: 3.5 mile run
Tuesday: 3 mile hike
Saturday: 2 mile walk
Sunday: 3 mile hash
TOTAL total: 464.7 miles
I’ve finally busted out a couple of hikes in the Logan area since I’ve been back.
The first was Logan Peak Trail a couple weekends back. Damn, that seems like it was a longass time ago.
Anyways, I’ve been meaning to attempt Logan Peak for quite a while, mostly because the trailhead shares the same parking lot in Dry Canyon as the south section of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. I only saw maybe a half dozen people while I hiking, which surprised me, but it’s probs underutilized because it’s not in Logan Canyon.
The deal with this peak is that it’s one of the taller ones in the range to the east of the town of Logan, topping out at over 9,700 feet. There’s a really nice, pretty well maintained trail that starts at the bottom of Dry Canyon and goes steadily and gradually up the canyon for 3.5 miles or so. It’s forested for most of the way, but opens up higher to some dec views of the canyon and Logan.
And then there’s this.
The trail forks, with Syncline going south over into Providence Canyon and the left fork going up and over into Logan Canyon. That the left fork is labelled Dry Canyon confused the shit out of me and I stood there staring at the sign for a while.
From what I had been able to deduce from the internet, I needed to take the left fork for a little bit, then magically know where to turn right off that trail and head up to the top of a ridge. I bushwhacked for a while in the wrong place before realizing that I had turned too early, but I did somehow actually magically find that turnoff!
I knew from there on out there wasn’t a real trail, but I had expected it to be a little more obvious than it was. I mean, srsly?
I spent a while slowly making my way up the ridge, grumbling and stomping through the bushes. I would think to myself, oh, this is fun, sort of maybe, uhh nope nopenopenope, stupid, this is so dumb, fuck no. I went through this process a handful of times before I gave up and sat down on the ground in the bushes to eat lunch and listen to some cows mooing in a semi-distressed fashion.
It’s no big thang for people from out west to just bushwhack straight up to mountain tops with no trail required. I’m definitely not down with that (yet). My sense of direction is pretty shit, and I’m so used to dense woods that you will absolutely get lost in if you leave the trail, that doing that sort of thing is not my idea of a good time.
So I said fuck it and turned around. I cruised down to my car and that was that.
I did have a spark of inspiration for a excellent new project for this challenge while hiking down. It’s going to be EXCITING and PARTICIPATORY. I’ll probably talk about it soon, so keep an eye out for that.
While my bf was visiting last week, I dragged him out to Wind Caves trail, which I did the very first week of the challenge, to make him suffer from the altitude and heights.
I’m not actually taller than him, I was standing on a rock.
I think he had a good time. With that juniper.
This is definitely what I’ll miss about Utah.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this past weekend was THE BEST WEEKEND EVER. I went to Denver to hang out with my hiking partner from the AT. He was visiting Colorado, so I decided to visit him.
Luckily, the stars aligned and there just happened to be a hash in Denver while I was there. It was the annual high altitude hash, so the trail went up to and around St. Mary’s glacier. Super cool! I went with my hiking partner’s friend, who’s also a hasher.
For some reason, Spam is an integral part of the high altitude hash. One of the hares walked around feeding people Spam with a plastic fork. Cause why the fuck not.
The Denver H3 crew was awesome and we had a fabulous time. Hashing is a global organization and most bigger cities have a kennel, so whenever I travel I always try to visit other kennels. Every kennel runs their trails and circles slightly differently, but hashing draws in a particular type of person so I always feel comfortable and have fun with hashers no matter where I am.
Also, hashing on a glacier. Duh.
Okay, so if you’ve been paying any attention, we obviously kept going and made it to Whitney.
Joan is a fucking hardcore badass (obviously, she hiked 9 miles with food poisoning) and was fine the next day. Don’t we all wish we could recover like that?
We hiked with William down to the Bishop Pass junction, where he was meeting his dad, and then continued onwards. Don’t stop can’t stop.
Monday (Day #15)
15.9 miles – Deer Meadow -> Lake Marjorie
Tuesday (Day #16)
16.2 miles – Lake Marjorie -> Sixty Lake Jct
Wednesday (Day #17)
19.0 miles – Sixty Lake Jct -> Shepherd Pass Jct
Thursday (Day #18)
11.4 miles – Shepherd Pass Jct -> Guitar Lake
Friday (Day #18)
15.0 miles – Guitar Lake -> Whitney Portal
Weekly total: 77.5 miles
TOTAL total: 436.2 miles
Things were a little different during this last section. We really needed to push out some bigger miles to make it to Whitney in time, because we had to be back in Utah for the start of the semester on Monday, so we couldn’t be as chill about hiking during the day.
This last section of trail is also higher in elevation than what we’d already done, so the landscape changed. It became more barren and open than before. As someone who is used to the dense forests of the southeast and upper midwest, being so exposed is kind of scary. As a westerner, Joan understandably laughed at me every time I said I was uncomfortable.
We also had to go over four of the five big passes (Mather, Pinchot, Glen, and Forester, having already gone over Muir), which meant a lot more elevation change each day. Honestly, I thought all of the passes were harder than getting up to Whitney. Which seems crazy, but realtalk.
Mather Pass felt the most difficult to me. It was just relentless uphill that went on forever.
Pinchot also felt pretty hard, but I think it was just because it was so early in the morning. It was a short two mile climb for us from a campsite at Lake Marjorie, where we had hung out and shot the shit with three Texans.
At the bottom of the valley between Pinchot Pass and Glen Pass, there’s a bridge that’s apparently referred to as the “Golden Gate of the Sierras”, which is dumb. We met an engineer who called it the “Tacoma Narrows” instead.
We hung out with the engineer’s hiking partner Cindy at the bridge. She had thruhiked the AT a few years and her trail name was Centipede. They had been camped near us the night that Joan had food poisoning, and she had helped us find a campsite and gave us some good advice because she was also a nurse. Fuckin lucky.
We hiked through the area leading up to Rae Lakes that night. Joan said it was the most beautiful part of the trail, but she might have only been saying that to make my grumpy ass feel better. It was gorgeous, though. I also seem to have given up on taking pictures at this point, but she got some great ones of Fin Dome and the lakes.
At our campsite near Sixty Lake junction that night, the poo nightmare started. Every single rock had the feces of other people underneath. We were afraid to touch anything out of the fear of touching something undesirable. We couldn’t figure out why it was so bad in this particular area. It seemed like it was high-use for weekend warriors, and the ground was kind of rocky and tough to dig holes in, but seriously. That is fucking disgusting. Please please please, always dig proper catholes and pack out your TP.
Because of campsite locations and mileage requirements, the next day was our biggest day. Nineteen miles over both Glen and Forester passes. My guidebook said Glen was narrow, which I didn’t understand accurately until I was on top of it.
We started leapfrogging with a thruhiker named Crosby after Glen Pass. He was doing really high miles, like 25 a day, and was set to finish in 12 days! He said it was because he was solo hiking, so he didn’t have anything else to do but hike all day, and I totally believe him. Being in camp is kind of boring when backpacking alone. I met him several times throughout the day, but somehow Joan didn’t meet him until the top of Forester Pass.
Doing Forester felt really good. We’d been hearing that it was a tough pass, and it’s the highest on the JMT, so I was mentally ready for it. I just busted up that shit without stopping. It was getting cold that late in the day, so I had to keep hiking to stay warm, and some clouds were rolling in and I was worried there would be some weather, which also helped.
We made it and then hiked down to treeline and camped with Crosby. Long but good day.
Our last night on trail we camped at Guitar Lake, like most people do. This was poo nightmare redux. The deal is that between Crabtree, right before Guitar Lake, and Whitney Portal, all hikers are supposed to pack out their shit in what are referred to as wag bags. This is due to the high volume of people in the area; if everyone pooped everywhere, it would be absolutely nasty.
Well, the moment we got to Guitar Lake, Joan saw this couple both squatting down behind some rocks. They then stood up and walked away, EMPTY HANDED. No wag bags. This very reasonably sent Joan into a rage, and she angrily vented about the orange-shorted asshole for the next two days. We also had the same problem with turning over poo rocks at our camp that night. Ugh.
There were also way too many people around Guitar Lake.
One reason Joan and I were compatible hiking parters is because we both had no desire to wake up early. I will never understand people who are on VACATION waking up at 5am while it’s still cold and their tent is covered in condensation. We made it our goal to roll out of camp around 10am, and this happened pretty much every day.
A lot of people like to be on Whitney’s summit for sunrise. It’s supposed to be amazing or something. Most hikers we talked to at Guitar Lake were therefore planning on waking up at around 2am to hike up to the summit. So we said fuck no to that idea, and instead got out of camp around 8:30am. A little earlier than usual, and it sucked because it was still cold and my tent was covered in condensation.
The hike up to the Whitney trail junction was totally cool, but it would have been scary to do in the dark. Like everyone else, we stashed a bunch of our stuff at the junction and headed up to Whitney.
And then we made it!
The hike down to Whitney Portal was actually way steep and took far longer than we expected. We got a hitch into Lone Pine from a couple of older ladies, who told us that the area around Lone Pine was where tons of old westerns has been filmed.
We stayed in a hostel in town that night, and we ended up sharing the room with a couple of Germans who were on vacation. They came back right after we’d stuffed our faces with Mexican and ice cream and bacon, and Joan was completely passed out on her bed.
The next day we began the loooooooong journey back to my car at Glacier Point. It took 5 hitches (pharmacist-turned-trucker, Burning Man group 1, awkwardly naive Chinese couple, Burning Man group 2, and photographer Gabriel), a mile-long walk through a tunnel, and 11 hours, but we made it and my car was still present and functioning. Then we drove through the night back to Utah, during which I got extremely strung out and sick of gas station food. And that was that.
We ended the trip like we started, hanging out in the Glacier Point parking lot.
Basically, the JMT is the shit. If you’re thinking about hiking the JMT, and you should be, you should be interested in things like meadows, laughing at your own bad jokes, laughing at other peoples’ bad jokes, little dudes, being hangry, loud explosion sounds, surprising amounts of water, walking, being quiet (sometimes), wildflowers, coldness, walking, incorrect signage, tall ass trees, being dirty, being smelly, not showering for more than a week, jumping in cold lakes, meeting people who are slower than you, not meeting people who are faster than you, watching the original television (i.e., fire), walking, complaining, shit under every rock, too much beautiful, being offered whiskey, chippies, happiness, some real blue sky, clouds that don’t do anything, meeting the best randos, carrying bear cans (over two pounds yo), finding out that your hiking partner is carrying two lighters, down-valley up-valley pass repeat, stream crossings with wobbly rocks, stream crossings with huge bridges, dead pictures, poop waves, being higher than anyone else in the lower 48, crying at least once, bigger miles, blisters, thinking you’re not going to make it, fatty marmots, lakes, occasional freakouts, docile deer, and walking. You can also contact me with more specific questions, though I’m by no means an expert or anything.
And I’ll wrap this all up by leaving you with the funniest picture of them all.
It’s a dangerous place.
Monday (Day #8)
11.9 miles – Fish Creek Trail -> Cascade Valley Trail
Tuesday (Day #9)
13.7 miles – Cascade Valley Trail -> Lake Edison Jct Bridge
Wednesday (Day #10)
15.3 miles – Lake Edison Jct Bridge -> Sallie Keyes Lakes
Thursday (Day #11)
8.1 miles – Sallie Keyes Lakes -> Piute Creek Jct
Friday (Day #12)
11.6 miles – Piute Creek Jct -> Evolution Lake
Saturday (Day #13)
9.2 miles – Evolution Lake -> below Muir Pass
Sunday (Day #14)
11.0 miles – Below Muir Pass -> Deer Meadow
Weekly total: 80.8 miles
TOTAL total: 358.7 miles
Okay, so where were we?
While we were hanging out at Red’s Meadow hiker trashin’ it up, we met a group of 3 thruhikers from Indiana. Andrew already knew them, and turns out we would have also known them the week before if we hadn’t been antisocial and camped on the wrong side of the Lyell Fork bridge. Pro tip: Don’t be scared off by naked ladies bathing in a river.
Around the same time, we also chatted with a half dozen guys who were northbound and doing a long section of the PCT. They started talking about some hot springs they had just come from, and insisted these were amazing hot springs with great views and only added on a few more miles than the equivalent JMT section.
Now, I’m not typically a last-minute plan changer. My type A personality won’t allow for it. But some sort of miracle occurred, probably something about being tipsy in the sun surrounded by other backpackers, and fucking thank goodness for that. We decided, along with the Indianans, to go for it.
We headed to the Rainbow Falls trailhead instead of back to the JMT, hiked a few miles, and camped next to a stream.
We made it to Iva Bell Hot Springs the next day. And holy fuck it was awesome. Highly recommend.
Unfortunately, because of our rather tight schedule, Joan and I had to part with the Indianans and keep moving that day. One of the shitty aspects of being on trail is meeting cool people and then parting with them prematurely. I will probably never have as many conversations about blowdowns ever again.
We started hitting some passes on this section, Silver and Selden. They must not have been that bad compared to the later ones because I barely remember them.
In between Silver and Selden, we camped at the Lake Edison junction, which is one of the turnoffs for VVR. We’d set up camp and then took our bear cans and stoves a little ways away to make dinner. We were just hanging out afterwards and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something in camp, looked over, and there was a fucking bear running through. We jumped up and went back to camp, and had an epic 30 second staredown with the bear.
Turns out the bear had grabbed my clothing stuff sack, ripped it up, and abandoned it.
We later found out our neighbors, Cass and Lauren, had had their water bottles and a trekking pole chewed up. Could have been worse. This bear apparently doesn’t know the difference between food and non-food, what a dumbass, but he regularly frequents that camping area because it’s pretty popular.
So that was our only bear encounter. I’ll take it.
Let’s talk resupplies for a hot second. Our first resupply was at Red’s Meadow, which has a little store with camping stuff. Joan actually barely had to get anything there because she’d packed way too much food before we started and, between the Red’s hiker box and Andrew’s donations, I ended up paying like $8 for food for that section. #winning
Our second resupply was at Muir Trail Ranch, which is about 100 miles into the JMT right after Selden Pass. Almost everyone resupplies at MTR because it’s the only easy place to do so in the second half of the trail. Which is shitty because it’s a super expensive resupply. You have to mail a bucket of food to the ranch, and they charge $65 per bucket.
This has to be done at least three weeks in advance because they boat the buckets across a lake and then carry them into the very remote MTR. We sent ours kind of late. Luckily both of our buckets were there though, phew.
Most people send themselves too much shit, so there are buckets full of free food, batteries, gear, etc., at MTR. Because we’d heard horror stories about people being super hungry on the JMT after MTR, we hung out for way too long eating food. And, this is important for later, we both ate food that had been repackaged by people. I don’t normally do that, but we were too tempted by bags of sketchy trail mix and an already-opened block of cheese.
Also, the hot springs at MTR are supa lame compared to Iva Bell.
We went through the Evolution Basin/Valley area, which is one of the most beautiful sections of the trail, and camped at Evolution Lake with a cool thruhiker from Santa Cruz.
Just to prove that we were still walking around with all our shit on our backs.
Shit kind of hit the fan the day after we camped at Evolution Lake.
About half an hour after we’d begun the six miles up to Muir Pass, Joan started feeling sick. Those six miles turned out to be the most slow, stressful, and scary of the trip. We were stopping every 10 or 15 minutes so that Joan could sit down and try not to throw up, and I was freaking out planning an exit strategy and hoping that Joan wasn’t going to die on the side of a mountain.
She somehow made it to the top of Muir Pass. Two extremely helpful day hikers carried Joan’s pack the last mile up to the top of the pass, which was basically a godsend. I don’t know if we would have made it otherwise.
We were sitting on top of Muir Pass, me feeling helpless and Joan curled up under her umbrella, when an angel walked up to us. His name was William, and he happened to be a nurse. He helped us figure out what she had, which was most likely food poisoning because diarrhea is usually the first symptom of Giardia and Crytosporidium, and gave her some antacids so she could eat and drink more. We think she got food poisoning from eating other peoples’ trail mix at MTR. I will never again touch food that is possibly feces-covered!
We then hashed out a plan to get off the pass. We hiked down the three miles to the first decently protected campsites, with William carrying some of Joan’s gear while I carried her pack. Even so, by the time we made it, it was getting dark and Joan looked like a zombie from eating nothing and drinking only half liter of water. She managed to keep down some food that evening, and got a good night of sleep.
I’m so so so glad that we ran into William on top of the pass. We’re so grateful for all his help and advice. I don’t what we would have done without him, and it could have been a total disaster otherwise. Thank you so much William! I hope the rest of your trip was successful.
The trail provides.
Did Joan survive? Were we able to continue on, or did we have to leave the JMT? You’ll have to read the next JMT post to find out!
This was the only picture I took on the Muir Pass day.
It’s of a patch of snow that could be seen from the top of Muir Pass. Why the fuck did I even take that picture?
Somehow, despite an almost empty gas tank, a black bear/stuff sack incident, a probable case of food poisoning, and various (expected) aches and pains, we made it to Mt. Whitney.
And because I’m obviously a big fucking nerd, here’s a figure of our daily mileage. It was made in Excel instead of R though, so not too nerdy. Ha!
Monday (Day #1)
6.7 miles – Glacier Point -> Little Yosemite Valley
Tuesday (Day #2)
9.9 miles – Little Yosemite Valley -> Sunrise Creek
Wednesday (Day #3)
12.4 miles – Sunrise Creek -> Tuolumne Meadows
Thursday (Day #4)
10.7 miles – Tuolumne Meadows -> Lyell Fork Bridge
Friday (Day #5)
12.6 miles – Lyell Fork Bridge -> Garnet Lake
Saturday (Day #6)
10.8 miles – Garnet Lake -> Minaret Creek
Sunday (Day #7)
6.3 miles – Minaret Creek -> Fish Creek Trail
Weekly total: 69.4 miles
TOTAL total: 277.9 miles
The trip got off to a great start. Only a few hours after leaving Logan and getting into Nevada, we almost ran out of gas.
I was driving 55 on the interstate and coasting downhill. Stupid NV. (I’m obviously not the stupid one here)
We did end up making it to Yosemite and then to the Glacier Point trailhead, where Joan’s first half-hearted attempt at breaking her bones occurred.
For those of you not in the know, the northern trailhead of the JMT is technically at Happy Isles in Yosemite. We’re too cool for that! We started at Glacier Point instead. This was great because we started at a higher elevation, there were less people, and the views of Half Dome were amazing.
This was not great for my purist inclinations. And the Glacier Point parking lot is an hour further into Yosemite than Happy Isles, which made getting to my car after we finished more difficult. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Like any other national park, Yosemite is packed with people, but these people are predominantly clustered around visitor centers, notable overlooks, and toilets. It took a one minute walk down the trail from the trailhead for almost all of these people to disappear. #magictricks
And we also saw gigantic tree poop.
On the second day we hiked Half Dome. It’s a JMT rite of passage, or something.
Don’t try this at home if you’re afraid of heights. It requires using cables to climb up a nearly vertical cliff face.
It’s pretty sweet at the top though.
We got lucky summiting on a weekday. I’ve seen pictures of the cables completely packed with people, and we heard a horror story of some guy having a heart attack while going up the cables and almost taking others with him while falling to his death. No big.
It was kinda busy when we were coming down and we had to wait for quite a while.
Ooh ooh! I also gave Joan her trail name while we were on Half Dome. She has been christened Bad Monkey due to an affinity for climbing up trees and not being able to get down. And also for eating crazy amounts of dried fruit and threatening to throw bags of shit at hikers breaking the rules.
It didn’t really feel like our JMT thruhike started for real until after Half Dome. But then we were off!
The rest of the trip consisted of a bunch of walking, resulting in the frequent development of hamburger feet, and a bunch of looking at stuff, of which my piece of shit camera did a great job at making blurry.
We were clearly miserable…
…especially when some guys at Tuolumne Meadows gave us a bottle of wine that we took to Ranger Dave’s talk (“Don’t cuss it, cash it!”)…
…and everything around us was so ugly.
One of the major draws to long-distance backpacking is the community that inevitably forms on such trails. Something about engaging in a weird shared experience makes all hikers super friendly and chatty.
We met an older couple, Dave and Elaine, at our campsite the first night and we consistently leap frogged with them until they got off trail a week later. They were super sweet and had a lot of experience hiking in the area.
Also during the first week, we were crossing a stream when Joan fell in. I never fell in because she was the guinea pig finding all of the wobbly rocks, which is one of the unfortunate duties of the point person. That’s in exchange for getting all of the good views first! Anyways, right as this happened, we met Andrew from Chicago. He was one of the more ultralight hikers on trail, mostly because he’s a real adult with a real job. We sort of hiked with him for a hot second to Thousand Island Lake.
We didn’t see him again until the morning we were heading into Red’s Meadow. We detoured to Devil’s Postpile, which are those weird hexagon-shaped rock formations, and rolled into Red’s Meadow just in time to get breakfast at the cafe there. Overpriced yet delicious.
Red’s Meadow was great because there was a bunch of hiker trash just hanging out in the courtyard area between the store and cafe, sorting through resupplies and drinking beer and looking pseudohomeless. It felt just like the AT; my heart was singing with nostalgia.
While we were at Red’s Meadow, our plans changed for the awesome thanks to some fortuitous conversation. So awesome that it will have to wait until the next update. You’ll have to come back and fucking check it out!
Okay, this is gonna be quick and dirty.
Tuesday: 2 mile walk
Wednesday: 2 mile walk
Weekly total: 4 miles
TOTAL total: 208.5 miles
I basically took this week off. Before longer trips, I like to give my body time to heal with the expectation that I will then have less trouble with injury on those trips. I’ve also been busy dealing with logistics and some work stuff.
Oh, longer trip you say? On Monday, I’ll be starting a thruhike of the John Muir Trail with my friend Joan. The JMT is a 211 mile trail in California, which starts in Yosemite and ends at Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 (don’t say continental US because people will yell at you). This will be the epic finale to my summer.
This blog will be dead for the next 2-3 week, so you’ll have nothing to look forward to in your life. But don’t pull out the razors and nooses yet; you bet I’ll be back with a fantastic recap of the trip when I return to civilization. Have a great August.
Missed last week’s update because I was at an ecology conference in Maine. I was far too busy, stressed, and exhausted to be bothered, for serious. Also, nothing that exciting has happened since the King’s Peak trip.
Except for chicken parties.
And scientists playing cornhole.
And eating burritos at the airport.
Because I have to. If I ever don’t require a burrito during a trip, please take me to see a doctor.
Monday: 8.5 mile hike (King’s Peak)
Thursday: 3 mile trail run
Monday: 3 mile run
Wednesday: 3 mile run
Saturday: 4 mile trail run
TOTAL total: 204.5 miles
I totally meant to hike up Logan Canyon yesterday, but ended up floating the Oneida narrows with some people instead. Much better life choice.
I went on a couple of runs while at the conference, mostly because I needed to maintain my sanity just a little bit. We were at the University of New England in Biddeford, which is right on the ocean. Except you can’t see the ocean from campus because of a narrow band of trees between the two, which seemed like a stupid thing to me.
So I ran off campus. It was beautiful and not that hot there and at a reasonable altitude.
Those were some good times, yo.
Now let’s talk about some not so good times.
The other two runs I’ve done in the past couple of weeks were both in Logan, one on the north segment of the Bonneville Shoreline trail and one on the south.
These were awful. It’s just because I’m not acclimated to these elevations, so I have problems breathing and feel exhausted. I’ve never before wanted a run to end as badly as I have recently. I know there’s nothing I can do about this and it will get better with time, but it’s frustrating. I feel like I’m just being a lazy fuck making excuses for why I have to walk up every teeny tiny hill and stop all the time for no reason. That’s just my character; I blame myself for problems that are genuinely out of my control. It’s so motherfucking pointless.
The positive side to this is that it makes me realize how much easier running has become for me, now that I know what it’s like for every run to be a painful, godawful trudge. It’s not like that normally, and I’m going to try to more mindfully appreciate that running just isn’t that difficult for me anymore.
Which is a beautiful thing.
And so was this little guy just hanging out (right in my way) and this ambiguous sign.