Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 3: Bye, Bye Fam Bam

Friday, August 10, 2012

Little Yosemite Valley Campground (mile 11.3) to Upper Cathedral Lake (mile 24.5).

Today's miles: 13.2
Trip miles: 24.5

At 8:10am, I said goodbye to my cousin and mom. Their destination was Yosemite Valley, where their first backpacking trip would come to an end.

I'm very proud of both of them and happy they had a great time.

As for me, my solo 14 day trek on the John Muir Trail is finally here, but it doesn't feel any different than any other hike I've done. Apparently the grandeur of my hike hasn't hit me yet.

Early in the morning, and prior to the junction with the Half Dome Trail, I met Richie and Abbie from Truckee, California, who are also headed to Mt. Whitney. They plan to finish around the same time as me so I'm sure we'll be seeing each other often.

After a few miles of forested trail and steep switchbacks, I was rewarded with beautiful views of Yosemite and the High Sierras.

If I didn't mention it before, very low snowfall this past winter has made for much drier conditions than normal.

Some waterfalls in Yosemite Valley - Yosemite Falls for example - are completely dry; and many creeks and streams that would otherwise be my water sources are also dry - case in point is Sunrise Creek - pictured below.

Dry Sunrise Creek

Before Sunrise Camp, I met a family of three (father, mother & daughter) also hiking to Mount Whitney, but attempting to do it in 19 days. Don't think I'll see them much after today.

meadow north of Sunrise High Sierra Camp
Rugged wilderness east of the meadow
Not too long after, I met Mark - a solo hiker from Colorado who is also out hiking the John Muir Trail and has a similar finish goal as me. He was resting in the shade when I walked by. He was running very low on water, feeling dehydrated and suffering from altitude sickness.

Find it strange that someone residing in Colorado would be experiencing altitude sickness at 9000 ft? So did I. After inquiring, I found out Mark had only recently moved to Colorado.

Although I only had 3/4 of a liter of water left (and had to make it last for ~4 miles in very hot and dry weather), I offered him some. He graciously refused and caught up with me an hour down the trail as I was taking photos.

trailside lounge

Long Meadow and Cathedral Peak
At 3:20 pm we arrived at my destination for the day - Upper Cat. Lake.

After soaking in the beauty of the lake, Mark and I quickly filled our bottles with cold, tasty water. Glad we did so because just as we finished, a man rode his pack horses into the lake for a drink of water, and three of the horses urinated into the pristine lake. NOT COOL!!

There has to be an alternative method the pack horse crew can and should utilize. Sure it might take more work to get the water to the horses instead of getting the horses to the water, if we're sharing the wilderness, we should be considerate towards one another as well. Ok, rant over.

Upper Cathedral Lake is beautiful! Beautiful but windy. I looked for a site sheltered from the wind and hope I have found one, although the wind has died down in the last half hour.

Before dinner, I took a dip in the lake. The water was actually quite warm, and despite the wind, I was not cold at all. Today dip was the 3rd in a row. I can get used to this!

I hastily dried myself off due to the wind and ate dinner while my undies dried. Did I forget to mention that my dip subbed for laundry?

Richie and Abbie, and the family of three are all camped near the lake, but I've chosen to camp east of the trail, well away from the lake.

I'm camped all by myself tonight, a first for me, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Gonna go watch the sunset and then its off to bed.

I'm not at all tired but excited for tonight because it seems like the temperature might be cold enough tonight for me to finally test my down socks :)

“The sun shines not on us but in us.” ~John Muir

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Little Yosemite Valley Campground (mile 4.3) to Half Dome to Little Yosemite Valley Campground (mile 11.3).

Today's miles: 7
Trip miles: 11.3

What a day. After a rotten night of constant tossing and turning, I welcomed daybreak and was once again up at 6 am.

We hit the trail at 7:30 am, eager to hike the 3.5 miles and 2700 ft up to Half Dome.

We saw yet another deer, this time a mere 5 feet off the trail. I find it amazing how comfortable deer are around people in Yosemite.

Throughout the hike, the views of Half Dome constantly shift and change, providing stunning views of this beautiful piece of granite.

At 10:30 am, we arrived at sub dome after many switchbacks made of rocky, uneven steps.

My cousin, who is afraid of heights, made a beeline for the cables, leaving in such a hurry, he forgot to take water with him. I think he would have psyched himself out had he waited til after our snack break.

My mom on the other hand, opted not to make the final ascent up the cables as it would have put too much pressure on her broken wrist.

Though it was a tough choice, it was the correct one as the climb would have put too much pressure on her right hand, wrist, and forearm.

After I video taped my cousin's mad dash to the top, I put on my gloves, secured my water to my belt and went up the cables.

Though I had summited Half Dome once before, I was just as nervous. Glad there was good conversation to be had enroute to the summit with the two French men from Oregon in front of and behind me.

The views from the top of Half Dome are stunning! It is truly a one-of-a-kind hike with grand rewards.

My cousin Armen (right) and me

panorama with diving board just left of center
I don't have an issue with heights, but the view from "diving board" makes me cringe. I decided to overcome my fears and go there, having skipped out on this adventure my first time there. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I even posed there!

Appreciating the incredible view
No trees on Half Dome? There is one now

Before descending the cables and leaving The Dome after an hour or so, my cousin and I wanted to write a message to my mom and let her know that she was there with us.

After that, I had to get upside down before heading down!

We descended the cables, took a few group photos at sub dome, and had a chance encounter with a gnome with broken legs.

Left to right - my cousin Armen, my mom & me
The trail back to Little Yosemite Valley Campground was hot and dry, but beautiful nonetheless.

I saw a lizard eat an ant, and this amazing splot rock with a tree growing in the void.

Truly awesome.

Once back at camp, it was time to wash away the miles with a dip in the Merced River again. So refreshing!

Now it's time for dinner, followed by another night of stargazing.

Oh, I almost forgot. I have to thank my cousin Armen for sacrificing his safety and dry, clean clothes to save my water bottle cap. He fell into the river and got soaked after a bad toss by me.

Mind you, this was at 7:30 pm. Luckily, one of the two community fires at camp were ablaze, so he was able to somewhat dry his clothes.

Glad we can laugh about it as he only suffered a scraped knee, but it definitely could have been worse.
“One day's exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.” ~John Muir

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 1: Up, Up, Up

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Isles (mile 0) to Little Yosemite Valley Campground (mile 4.3).

Today's miles: 4.3 miles

We (my cousin, mom and me) pulled ourselves out of the comfort of our beds at 6 am and were on the trail at 8:45 am. Much to my surprise, there weren't that many people on the trail.

It was a beautiful morning as we made our 4.3 mile, ~2000 foot ascent to camp.

We took many, many breaks, the first one at the footbridge overlooking Vernal Fall.

We also saw a baby bobcat there. It was beautiful!

We reached the top of Vernal Fall in two hours, took a break, posed for tons of photos and continued to Nevada Fall. The views of the falls are truly stunning as the trail switchbacks the north side of the falls, up what seemed like a thousand rocky, uneven steps.

A mile later, we made our way to Little Yosemite Valley Campground. So peaceful, so wonderful. And, much to my surprise, not that many people here.

It was a very hot day today, in the mid 90s, so we took a dip in the Merced River to cool off before dinner.

The water was cold but very refreshing. Truth be told, it wasn't as cold as I thought it would be.

I'm very proud of my cousin and my mom for making it this far. This is their first trip into the backcountry and they are doing great. But more importantly, they are having a great time.

Loving this moment, but also very excited for tomorrow!
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” ~John Muir
posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thru-Hiker Lingo

Before I publish any journal entries, I thought I'd create this short write up explaining some of the lingo you may come across as you read my journal. Here goes:

  • Thru-hiker/Thru-er: someone who is hiking the entire length of a long distance trail 
  • SoBo: Southbound thru-hiker
  • NoBo: Northbound thru-hiker
  • Hiker-midnight: 9:00 P.M. - the time most hikers hit the sack
  • Cairn: A man made pile of rocks identifying a trail
  • Cowboy camping: Sleeping under the stars (no tent)
  • Blaze: Trail navigation marker carved (as is the case on the JMT) on trees
  • Ultralight: Referring to the pack weight of a hiker; someone who uses the lightest weight equipment
  • Trail legs: Most thru-ers get in hiking shape as they walk and build their endurance in the process
  • Vitamin I: Ibuprofen 
  • Dry Camp: A waterless camping spot 
  • HYOH: Hike your own hike 
  • A Zero: A day off from the trail.
  • A Nero: A Near Zero - a shortened hiking day in which a hiker covers significantly less miles than usual. 
  • JMT: John Muir Trail
  • PCT: Pacific Crest Trail
  • AT: Appalachian Trail