Week 18: “Just a string. ANY string.” (JMT Part 1)

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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And we also saw gigantic tree poop.

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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.

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It’s pretty sweet at the top though.

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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.

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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…

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…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!”)…

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…and everything around us was so ugly.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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