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2009 Sierra Trek

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2009 Sierra Trek

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon May 09, 2011 12:43 am

As some of you know back in 2009 I did my first long Sierra hike and it was the first time I did the John Muir Trail. I never wrote a trail report for that hike but probably a year after completing the hike I began writing a long detailed trail report which I never intended for anyone to ever read. It was a journal story and as a result has more personal elements then I would naturally write into a public trail report. But off and on I would work on it for probably over a year until just recently I completed it and I decided it's interesting enough that some of you Sierra hiking lovers might enjoy. I decided to leave it unchanged for the purity of thought.

My 2009 journey through the range of light. 39 days:

My journey began with the realization that what you never thought possible actually is. That I could actually blow off the whole world and take to the mountains for as long as I wanted providing my resources hold out. And so began the planning process to hike the famed John Muir Trail. Day and night I dreamt of the long journey through the beautiful Sierra traveling through almost entirely unvisited lands for me. Then began the adding process. What first began as idle jokes of traversing the High Sierra Trail and then doing the JMT became planned reality. Then came additions and changes one after another. First replanning the High Sierra Trail route to a new route I had not done, then came the peak bagging fever! "well this 14er is right along the way i'll bag that also!" One by one the mountains accumulated into my plans. Alta, Muir, Whitney, Tyndall, Williamson, Split, Sill, Polemonium, Ritter, Banner, Lyell, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Eagle, El Capitan, Red, Isberg. The last being on major loops around Yosemite I had planned spanning 16 days. All the pieces moved into place with massive logistical planning until all that remained was financing and this unfortunately when the deadline came fell short. Due to prolonged wasteful spending on my part I was unable to afford to pay what bills I had to while gone, buy food and retain sufficient trail funds. This caused me to drop the entire Yosemite loops I had planned and stick with the end being Yosemite Valley and concluding the JMT. As the day for departure neared the reality over whelmed and excited me. My final plan amounted to 41 days including all mountains along the way. The notion that I would be living out in the wild for over a month was hard to grasp. The longest I had been on the trail had been 8 days. Now 41!? YES!!!

Chris which in the beginning had planned to do the entire hike with me had dropped out completely and I only need one word to describe why, "apathy". David on the other hand would have loved to do the whole hike yet could not manage so financially but still looking for a week long summer hike and long wanting to visit some of my first week locations began the hike with me with the intent to go home when we reach Whitney Portal.

[Time to go] Saturday June 27th

The trip began with Chris driving us to Sequoia National Park providing we pay for all his expenses of course. The first day was a bit up in the air on what to do exactly so I had planned the best idea would be to get our permit and hike in a mile or two to help with the burden of climbing to the summit of Alta Peak with 8 days worth of supplies, 8 miles and a 4000 foot slog away.

We arrive at Lodgepole at about 3:45 only to find that the station for issuing permits has closed at 3:30 and although the ranger was still there he would not issue us a permit so we are left with our first dilemma of the trip, what to do now? Where can we camp? Lodgepole is full! and Chris refuses to stay the night to assist us with transportation in the morning. So we are left with the reality that we must now hike to Lodgepole from our camp when it's open, get a permit, then get transportation or worse hike to the trail head adding more miles to an already grueling day ahead. Morale instantly dropped for my first day of my Sierra adventure!

Driving up the road a bit we pull into a small picnic area and decide to do some most likely illegal dispersal camping about 80 yards into the woods. this put us within easy walking distance of Lodgepole providing junk food to eat for dinner which always helps morale. Unloading the car I ask Chris where David's bear barrel is and he says he didn't bring it! "[flash back] "we are loading the car to leave and as I grab other items Chris begins messing with my spare Bear Vault barrel so I tell him that we will need it and to load it up" well apparently he was in his own world and payed no attention to what I had said to him so David now has no barrel for his trip.

Day one of setting up camp was very irritating. I set up my RainbowTarptent like I always do but for some reason I could not get the pole into the ring of the tent. I flailed and cursed and even pulled the whole tent up trying to put it in until by every muster of my strength I was successful, why this occurred I cannot say. My only logical theory is that the pole slightly came apart between sections causing the pole length to be too great. This theory despite my efforts has never been proven.

Day 2


Morning, and officially the begin of this journey. I awake early to eat, pack and prepare to be at the permit station at opening to get the most time out of this great task ahead of us. David on the other hand being his typical self slept longer and showed no signs of urgency what so ever. Seemingly oblivious to what we face before us. Of this I said nothing. Despite most circumstances I allow others to dictate the road before me such as these times. I may be irked but I always allow the scene to play out as if I was an observer conducting research on the results of others actions...

Despite the delay I believe we reached the permit station about 30 minutes after they opened. We had picked up along the way that the shuttles do not run until 10am so we were out of luck in that area for trail head access. After a lengthy permit process the ranger informs us the fastest route to the trail head is along a trail out of Lodgepole so we head out. I was not encouraged about these added miles as I have explained but Alta awaits and summit we must! Fool hardy? Yes? It's worse then you think! Our plan was not just to summit Alta today but we are meant to summit then drop down to Moose Lake! A simple task when your intel consists of satellite photos and poorly interpreted topographical data.

About a mile into this route we come across a mother bear digging in a log for grub. Her two cubs join her and they walk the trail with us for awhile which what at first was excitement quickly became more irritating. A mother and cubs is not exactly something you want to walk hastily upon and with their casual stroll along the trail our progress slowed to a near halt. "HEY MA'AM!! YES YOU WITH THE BABIES!!! SOME OF US HAVE A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB!!! CAN YOU LIKE YOU KNOW!!!! VAMOOOSE!!!"

In what was probably less then two miles we reach the road. We had actually taken the wrong path so we had to walk along the road the rest of the way to the trail head. We take a break at it's start. I gaze at the mileage sign and I could not help but be over whelmed by emotion of what lay before me. After all it's not every day that you stand on the eve of one of the greatest journeys of your life. It is by natures very own will that I shall exit this path a different person than when I began. For no one can over come the power of the Range of Light. Full of love, beauty and danger it is but as John Muir said it lays far above the haunts of the devil. I only fear that upon my return to the realm of darkness I shall have evolved far beyond compatible tolerances for coexistence. It will destroy me. For like the great glaciers that shaped the mountains in times past the mountains shape our hearts with equal power. It matters not - for destiny awaits, and I shall take the first step...

The long slog up Alta was mostly uneventful with limited views and few worth while notations. The highlight was the abundance of wild flowers along the way but what would have normally been a pleasant walk through the forest was a long and painful climb up 4000 feet with nearly 50 pounds of pack weight. As we neared the top with perhaps 150 feet to go I was hardly putting one step in front of the other with only a couple hours left in the day so I suggest to David we camp at this location. After some scouting we manage to find an acceptable location with just enough water trickling off snow fields to replenish our supplies. Despite being no where near a major water source and just out of the tree line the winged demons assaulted us in great numbers. Food, alpine glow, good sleep.

Day 3

After the morning routine we set out for the summit which couldn't have been more then 20 minutes. Unfortunately the summit offered 3 negative elements. First at this early time of the day the view is not ideal. Not to say it wasn't very enjoyable but the best way to put it is the view was not worth taking pictures of. The second and more trivial is even on the summit of this mountain the winged demons assaulted us harshly. Final and most relevant was the fact that Moose Lake was no where in sight. Although I knew the direction of the lake I had expected to actually be able to see it. Instead blocking it's view was a steep looking ridgeline outlining a bowl. It was clear that it was going to take the whole day to just reach Moose Lake. We began down the Eastern ridge which quickly turned into a very irksome boulder slog. I particularly had troubles as my bear barrel was mounted on the bottom of my pack extremely limiting my ability to maneuver down large rocks. David's attitude became grim very quickly, constantly making remarks of being lost or it taking us another day to reach Moose Lake. My morale on the other hand was only dampened by the constant attack by winged demons. The heavy saturation from lingering and melting snow fall made no location uninhabited by unwanted pests. I suppose I should note I chose to not wear any bug repellent at all on this entire trip to prevent damage to my newly bought and very costly synthetic fabrics so perhaps I should not complain as much as I will through out this story about these demons but I must, for I feel they are the destroyers of Eden. My protection includes a head net and I would wear my rain shell to prevent them biting through my clothes. So resuming this tale we navigate our way toward a steep talus and consider the route options. The route North in the bowl was a steady climb and appeared to come to steeper cliff sides. The route south would have us drop down in altitude to navigate around class 3 talus. Due to the nature of the terrain and the uncertainty of what the Northern route held we head South and begin down. Reaching a creek in the center of this area we take lunch. I admit my morale was not high. David's morale was so tainted it was not helping mine and I felt myself drained. Taking out my lunch I quickly learned the folly of my dinning ways. My primary lunch items which consisted of four large rye bread crackers and a cheddar cheese spread the only other item for lunch was a Snickers bar each day but this being only day 3 and I could not eat half of one cracker! The rye bread was dreadful stuff and no cheese could mask it's horrible taste so I sent it to the ocean and we moved on. We began to climb a slope in a North Eastern direction without much difficulty as it began to rain fairly heavily. David in his poor mood could not manage to put on his poncho properly and had no patience to bother trying, It was a pathetic spectacle to see him with a rain bag hanging half off his body providing no real cover what so ever but proceed we did until we reach the summit of this area which I thought would bring us upon Moose Lake yet before us was a larger bowl leading steeply into a canyon with Moose Lake no where in sight. This of course lead David to rant and rave with further diminished morale. We break and I study the topo which confirms that Moose Lake is just over the next ridge and that it shouldn't be very difficult to travel yet David couldn't be convinced of anything so we proceed through some nice gardens and arrive at Moose Lake without any further significant difficulties. The rain had long dissipated to nothing more then casual sprinkling off and on and we found a small yet great camp site. Moose Lake itself is an amazingly desolate place yet your kept constant company by Marmots and Pika. The remaining snow had formed rings around the lake making shore access impossible in many locations. Time to relax and sleep.

Day 4

During the night I notice clouds forming in the sky. This is always a clear indication of rain in the Sierra and is often a sign to expect very harsh weather in general but fortunately this was not the case this time. The morning began with light sprinkles but nothing to worry about yet I put on my rain pants in case it would be a problem later. Leaving Moose Lake was all a guessing game. I knew the general direction to travel yet I had no idea what the best route would be to take across the Tablelands and although they appear very flat on the topo they are anything but. One ridge at a time we navigated but I found my morale not all so high. I was being attacked quite ferociously by winged demons and although I had my full body shell on I didn't use my head net. Instead I put my hood on but the beasts dive into your face quite efficiently. Also I felt tired and drained. The sort of state of mind where you aren't happy with anything you do at the moment yet I pushed on. I am a man that is used to pain and I endure quite well. I do not give up easy and it is of zero ego that I keep pushing. As we moved along and planned the route as we went David once again was in his "we are lost, this is going to take days, we are screwed" sort of attitude. And yet again no words of logic could help so I did not try. I usually am not one to attempt to set right any wrongs in the operations of an individual regardless of how certain I am of the correct position. It just takes too much energy but I digress. The Tablelands themselves were in an early season mess. Constant snow fields, lots of tarns, bogs and bugs. It offered little in the way of raw aesthetic beauty but never mistake my apparent grim opinion on something for general conclusion. I find beauty in all nature and I could still live my life on these lands. We generally passed 3 or 4 ridges before we approached the edge of the Tablelands showing a large canyon before us. This at first I had mistaken for Deadman Canyon but quickly found my bearings and set our next route. I had knew before getting here we would have a narrow area to head for looking for the route into Deadman Canyon. To the North you had this unnamed canyon and to the South you have the bowl containing Big Bird Lake. Our goal was in between into a small basin with a couple unnamed lakes. My energy reaching this location hit bottom most likely due to lack of sufficient calories. Finally reaching our goal we take lunch and start down. And let me say this decent was no fun at all. It was a large section of head wall that consisted largely of solid granite slabs that demanded allot of friction climbing. Where you did not have this you had snow fields and running water every where making it even more dangerous. Bit by bit we descend and make some very difficult and dangerous maneuvers. At one point I slipped on a snow field and slid down a bit into the dirt. Upon reaching the bottom one had to admire the scale of the face we had just descended. Unfortunately we were greeted at the bottom by mass swarms of winged demons! The head net went on and we moved out along this very beautiful lonely basin . Our goal was the outlet that would lead us down into Deadman Canyon and as I round a bunch of trees just about to begin the decent I walk straight through what must have been a cloud of 200 winged demons! MY GOD I thought! I was covered! But I found myself quickly distracted by the amazing beauty which was Deadman Canyon! It was the most grand sight yet on the trip and morale was returning at the thought of getting back onto the proper path. This decent though was horrible. It went from boulder climbing to granite slab friction to fighting through thick bush and down steep slopes avoiding flooded forest floors. Never for a moment was it easy and most of the time it was steep enough to keep your toes smashed to the front of your shoe in a manor that you worry about blisters. Both David and I were suffering and to make it worse as we moved through the forest we seemed to be picking up more and more winged demons! I often had to stop and gasp at the shear number of them! I had never seen anything like it in the Sierra! I would swat my gloved hand to kill 20 at a time! After the long slog we finally pick up the trail again and begin North to Ranger Meadow and oh my what a meadow! Covered in Shooting Star! The whole view around me was nothing short of Eden. Perhaps that's why I was under assault by demons! Moving down the trail our goal in planning had been Roaring River. It was clear we were not going to make it so as we passed a massive water slide cascade we find a spot just large enough to make camp. As I set up my tent David laughed at me because my entire body was covered in mosquitoes. I wish I had got a picture thinking back. After a bit of a wash and some laundry there was little time to eat before we went to bed. The sun had long been setting on us. So far we were steady behind schedule and every day had been a brutal journey!

Day 5

Continuing down Deadman Canyon was a perfect bit of tranquility as the trail was a garden populated by half a dozen different species of wild flower amongst the grass. I found myself in a trance as a moved through such a paradise but it could not last as we hit our first creek we must ford. I quickly found it is a good idea to leave your gloves on as you cross for if you don't your hands will pay the price from the demons and it is no fun as you hold your shoes and trekking poles while you attempt to balance on rocks and against the roaring stream. Suiting back up on the other side I find one of my gaiters is missing. I could have sworn I stuck it in my shoe with the other but it was gone. If I had left it on the other side damned if I was going back for it so that was the end of my gaiter protection for this trip. The rest of the trail to Roaring River was a fairly standard trek through the woods. David had wanted to find the Deadmans grave and detoured on a trail to try and find it but it was little more then an access trail for the Ranger huts needs. We did not see a soul at the Ranger Station and we moved across the bridge to take lunch on the other side. At this point I had given up eating any rye bread at all. I resorted to just eating the cheese packets and my snickers bar. Not the worst mix, YET!. Continuing along now moving up Cloud Canyon I was feeling very drained and even strained to keep up with David as my rain shell was too hot and making me sweat very badly and was taking so much out of me to keep it on so I remove it and continue along. Like going to Roaring River this section of this canyon was a basic slog through the forest although it had many flooded sections of trail that were irksome to navigate. We made it perhaps 5 miles up the canyon when we came to a nice camping area and decided to just call it an early day and camp out which officially removed the possibility of layover at Junction Meadow. I set up camp and went for a dip in the creek which was horribly cold. Much too cold to enjoy in any fashion beyond the cleansing effects. I built a fire and did laundry while David prepared to do some fishing. He of course was instantly successful as it was all too easy to catch them. I tried to do some fishing but could not enjoy myself as I was under heavy assault. A bit later we both took a bath in the creek which was a miserable experience. After my first dip earlier I could not bring myself to get all the way in once again. Eventually the night fell and we went to sleep but this night was quite uncomfortable for me as I had a grass bump under my tent from poor placement.

Day 6


My alarm chimes and I cannot get myself up so I linger in bed while David shows no signs of getting up either. Eventually I muster the strength and eat my cereal in bed. "This cereal isn't all that appealing" I thought to myself. The morning was a slow mover. David lingered about and had done little while I was mostly packed. The day was our latest yet as we started at 10am. Moving along the trail was a swamp that often needed us to leave the trail and tromp through the bushes to find a way around but it was not long before we came upon a patch of forest and a small meadow that was completely covered in shooting star! Never have I seen so many! A true gem of the forest which picked up my morale as we moved on. Reaching Big Wet Meadow gave us our grand highlight that is Cloud Canyon. The impressive open expanse of a meadow with the Whaleback being the most dominant element of the back drop. Shooting Star littered the area making for an all around serene place to be. I had heard horror stories about the winged demons that protect this location and that they took no prisoners. Although assault us they did their attacks seemed pathetic to the warriors of Deadman Canyon. Moving along and passing Big Wet Meadow we move back into the forest and are forced to ford another creek as we began our climb up to Cloby Lake. This section didn't offer much for views until your near a basin before Colby. From here you get a nice view back down on Wet Meadow but you quickly round the bend and enter this unnamed canyon. We came upon another stream you must ford and we took lunch and enjoyed a high alpine view in all it's glory. I of course only had my nasty bread crackers to eat which I once again sent to the ocean. David began the ford first and he was only a few feet into the creek when his sleeping bag suddenly slipped off his pack and fell into the water. I quickly extended my trekking pole out to try and stop it from going down stream while I shouted wildly for David to get it as the weight of the water pressing on the bag began to be too much for my fully extended arm, luckily he was able to recover it before I lost control of it because only 20 feet down stream the creek took to a violent down hill cascade that would have claimed his bag for good. After making the ford we keep climbing once again and come upon yet another ford. By this time David gave up on taking his shoes off after about 5 different fords for the day so he bails off into the water shoes and all. This area was a magnificent display of cascades. About 4 of them dove down into the creek below surrounded by a beautiful garden. The sort of place a person could live their whole life and it would not be wasted. After all the beauty the trail took to switch backing once again which was to our dismay that the lake was so much higher then we had thought but up, up, up we go until Colby Lake finally shows it's beautiful face. We pick a camp sight that although used was clearly illegal due to it being about 15 feet from water. It was a more fair illegal spot though being solid granite and at least 5 feet above the lake. David prepared his pole and did some fishing which was just too easy in this lake. I fished for awhile myself and finally we ate our catch and relaxed until the night fell.

Day 7

Waking early it was cold, very cold, but I took to this opportunity to eat and get packed up before the winged demons began their assault so as a result we made the trail by a reasonable hour. As has been typical it was not long before a roaring creek was flooding our trail making for a very tricky crossing but we managed to stay dry. It did not take very long before we were at the base of Colby Pass and we had lost the trail. We began our slow and tricky ascent to the area we figured was the pass. The snow was hard packed and icy and as David followed me up I often heard whimpers of fear coming from him at our precarious ascent. Further and on steeper slopes it became clear we were not on the right track and that if we were even going to take the proper way we would have to go way back down and start up once again but our dangerous situation had already broken David's morale and he had already shifted into anger mode shouting loud rants of "F**K!" "I DON"T WANT TO DO THIS!" "I DON"T WANT TO DO F**KING MOUNTAIN CLIMBING!" This of course only served to annoy me more than anything. Our situation was bad I knew. I was standing on wet muddy scree at probably 50 degrees and was sliding down. I was one wrong move away from death yet this meant little to me other then annoyed at the possible choices that lay ahead. In the end I tell David we could do an escape route over Avalanche Pass and it would probably be a 3 day hike. He agrees to this idea and we begin our descent. By this time the snow was soft enough that I was falling in knee deep. Moving back down to Colby Lake we pass a lone hiker and inform him of our failure on the pass and he is disheartened to learn his own plans may be affected as he had some sort of 4th of July plans. Moving back down was of course a repeat of all that had happened before except that I began getting really irritated that David kept loosing the trail over and over again. I counted him doing it 10 times in one day and he did it on switch backs that made us often climb back up looking for the trail. I was irked for sure but I did not think it would be a good idea for me to take the lead as I always walked faster then David and splitting up could be a bad idea if something went wrong for him. For this day we went back down to the same camp site we had stayed in at the end of day 5.

Day 8

This day was fairly uneventful, branching off at Roaring River we began our climb up Avalanche Pass which was a very long very hot and very dry trail. I was hurting allot the whole day and just kept a tune in my head as the monotonous climb took it's toll on me. Nearing Avalanche Pass I was getting pissed off. You would reach a clear crest to go over and down yet the trail would turn and keep climbing for no good reason. My morale hit I think an all time low for this whole trip. I began questioning the only other option I saw in my life other then death. Perhaps it's not worth it I thought to myself. perhaps death is the best choice after all. We reached Sphinx Creek after a good 14 or so miles on the trail and called it a night.

Day 9

As I slipped on my shoe for the morning I thought it felt tight and thought my heel was swollen. This lowered my morale first thing in the morning because I thought damn! What if this sort of thing gets worse and I am off the trail already when I am only 9 days into a planned 41 day trip! This was only a thought though as I never had anymore to consider from that heel. If it had been swollen it went down and never came back. The day was straight forward, less then 10 miles to hike all down hill to Roads End. This area gave me a chance to really see Kings Canyon in it's glory. I had gone to the South Fork Canyon a couple months earlier for the first time and was unimpressed with what I saw but the views you get from this section of the trail changed all that. It was a grand view to compare with the Yosemite Valley. Reaching the final major push of switch backs David had taken to such a major down hill speed that I decided I had to slow down. This sort of stomping down hill is what can cause stress related injuries and maybe he was reaching the end of his journey but mine had along ways to go! When we finally reached Roads End it was to our dismay that there was no shuttle system and it was 6 more miles to Cedar Grove but two ladies took pity on us enough to give us a ride and we checked into the Sentinal Campground. Time for burgers and soda! Being there so early gave me a chance to rest up as I enjoyed the great food and got a shower. I called my grandmother and aunt to come get us. I suggest we take the road through Yosemite and around to Whitney and they agree to meet us in the morning.

Day 10

After an absolutely awesome breakfast at the diner our ride arrives around 10:30am and off we go. Not before David got us a warning from a Ranger for leaving all kinds of food items on the table as we went and ate! Passing through Yosemite we decide to make a stop by Glacier Point but what looked like a controlled burn gone wrong had the whole valley smoked out and ruined the view. It was probably already 5PM leaving Crane Flat when my grandmother asks how much further it was going to be? "oh maybe 5 hours" "5 HOURS!?" We did a bit of a detour to Lee Vining for dinner and we start South down 395. By this point my aunt which had done all the driving was quite irked and I can't blame her after all the hours already spent on the road. She was driving at times 100 miles an hour which got us to LonePine fairly fast. Finally at 11:30PM after they had been on the road since 8AM we arrive at Whitney Portal. They decide to get a motel room but I knew that was going to be impossible. Lonepine is not a place to ever attempt to just show up and get a room and it turns out they had to drive back to Bishop to get a room. As for David and I my original plan was to stay in the packers camp at Whitney Portal but since it was so late I did not want to tramp around camp sites trying to find a place to stay so we both go down to a campground out of Lonepine we had stayed at many times.

Day 11

A big day! It was time for me to go off solo and begin the big haul up Whitney with a full pack! Something I had not been looking forward to. After some quick fast food breakfast David drops me off at Whitney Portal at about 7:30am. Now I had made a few changes to my plan. First from how grueling the trip had been so far I decided that climbing Williamson and Tyndall was just going to be too much so I decide to drop one day of food and keep one extra for my other change in plans. I was supposed to summit Muir and Whitney on our way down but since that was not possible I decided instead of going up and to Guitar Lake which was what I had planned I would hike up to Trail Camp and spend the night then summit both and stay at Guitar Lake. Beginning the trail I had tons of energy and was making great progress. Only one person with a day pack on passed me up. My morale was high the whole day and one man commented that I was climbing up like a billy goat! I reached Trail Camp in 4 and a half hours and was left to just relax for the rest of the day. That layover in Kings Canyon was just what I needed. All those steak dinners gave me all the energy I needed for this climb!

Day 12


After a windy and cold night at Trail Camp I hit the trail although I could not say very early which would be a theme for the remainder of the trip. I always had a hard time getting up in the morning. Moving up the 99 switch backs was going very well and I was catching up with a hiker on his way up and had a conversation with him. He made a comment on how well I was doing considering I had a full pack on and he did not. I bumped into him another time or two on breaks and gave him encouragement on making it to the peak as he was having his doubts. I left the trail for the Muir summit at the end of the switch backs beyond the junction but this turned out to be a mistake. I had to do some sketchy down climbing to get onto the proper path. Reaching the last bit of Muir I find it's class 4 . I left my trekking poles at the bottom and found a route up. I had some trouble at first as I needed to get closer to the rock then my camera pack would allow so I had to sling it over my shoulder onto my back. It did not take long to make the summit. I enjoyed the view and moved on. In not all that long I was on the summit of Whitney with almost no one on top. I was happy to have met the hiker I talked to on the 99 switch backs on his way down from the summit. He thanked me for the encouragement and proceeded down. The view was wonderful as always but I did not linger for along time. The day was pressing on and I wanted to get to Guitar Lake. Reaching the Junction I talked to a girl doing the PCT. She started down for Guitar Lake just before I did but she blew me away with her speed. I had already been told that Guitar Lake was packed and that camping above it would be better and I found a nice place with few people and ended the day once again. I was now officially on the JMT!

Day 13

After enjoying the morning with a Marmot friend I set out down the trail and saw just how many people were at Guitar Lake. Every space available to place a tent had one! I was on familiar trail once again but once I had reached Wallace Creek I took my first step onto trail which I had never traveled. Not one location between this spot and Reds Meadow had I ever stepped foot on! oh what glory lies in the great unknown! Climbing up onto the Big Horn Plateau was an interesting start. Like entering into a desert that even had an oasis! Among all the lifelessness lay a large pond of water completely surrounded by green grass and wild flowers! And the Marmots were steady at play in their own little Eden! From here you drop steady down to Tyndall Creek. A crossing I had read can be quite dangerous in early season. This how ever I can not imagine to ever be true. I did ford the creek even though I felt I could find a place to cross. I did not mind because this was my destination for the day and I was happy to be here. Upon finding a nice camp and getting set up I took to the creek for some bathing. The water was pure like most Sierra creeks but this one left me feeling unusually clean. More so then I ever feel at home!

Day 14

I awoke to be bothered heavily by the attacking demons. Some near by hikers as they passed laughed when I did not notice them and I cursed the beasts! For the first time on this trip I took out a Cito Max packet and added it to my water. A boost that would help the rest of this day. Less than an hour out I began feeling the sharp pain in my upper back and as I recall this moment I do not believe I have mentioned this problem yet in this story. Hiking the year before I had this problem where I would get sharp pain in the middle of my back just below where my neck meets. What caused it I did not know but on this trip it had been bothering me off and on up to this point and my camera pack on my chest has straps that cross over and apply pressure right where the source of pain is so when it showed up this early in the day I declared I will fix this problem because the pain is too bad to endure. It's like having a knife poking into your back so my solution was to route my straps over my pack on onto the back. Problem solved and no more pain for the rest of the trip! Moving through the plateau above Tyndall creek opened a vast area before me. A piece of beauty that stopped me dead in my tracks. When I would begin again I would not make it 10 feet before I had to stop and take in more of this view. For some reason the winged demons where not here. No disturbances of Eden. For some reason standing there a vision of a mountain community entered my mind. Visions of high buildings offering birds eye views of the area. This of course I would never want to see but it came to me anyway. A vision of the future perhaps... Moving on my morale was so good I felt sorry that I would not be climbing Mt Williamson today like I had planned. It's peak showed itself from out behind Tyndall and it was calling to me. Looking back I think I should have answered the call but resume I did and up I went. The snow started to show itself but was never more than a few scampers across short fields. Up I go and was greeted near the top of Forester by a thriving population of Sky Pilots. More in fact than I have ever seen together. A magnificent sight indeed! As I approached the top I noticed a number of hikers on the peek of all ages and as I reached the summit I declared victory! I sat and enjoyed lunch with the hikers and we all had a nice chat. While eating one of them asked if I had plenty of food and although the food I was eating for lunch was barely edible the truth was that I did and even though I told him he began giving me more and more food. Salami, cheese, tortillas and more. It was a wonderful treat after such a miserable lunch each day so far! One of the other men gave me some crisp green beans which got a few poor comments from the others. One man declared "wha? you gave those to him!? you wont even give them to your friend and you give them to him!" Apparently those green beans where a great desire and source of bickering among them. The whole matter amused me greatly. After more than an hour they departed leaving me with a whole pack of tortillas a block of cheddar cheese and a block of Parmesan cheese and a pack of teriyaki tuna! I gave them what ever I could before we parted ways but their kindness would keep me enjoying my lunch for at least two more days. Moving down Forester was a bit irksome as the snow was soft and at times I fell in thigh deep but I only had about 600 feet of snow to cross. From here it was a fairly basic down hill trek. Closing on the canyon below I pass a trail crew that had been working the area and even though I was making a good pace down the hill this group passed me up like I was moving slow. Once I had dropped down into the trees the winged demons assault me with much fury and I had to quickly get out my shell and head net in order to save my skin from the onslaught. As I passed the sign that said no fires beyond this point I saw a nice camp site and decided to set up camp and light my first solo fire out on the trail on this trip. The winged demons continued their assault on me as I went about my business. While gathering water at the creek I saw some light green growth that I thought might be wild onion. Despite all my searching on this trip I had yet to find any. I dug to retrieve the bulb of the plant but failed. I was however able to get enough worth eating. My oh my what a great taste that was after two weeks on the trail! After a nice dinner boosted with my find the day came to a close and a nice day it
was.

Day 15

Before beginning the trail the demons assaulted requiring me to suit up in my defensive gear. As I began the climb to Onion Valley the heat from this armor was taking it's toll on me. I was sweating heavy and my pace was slowing. The winged demons were faltering in number so I took the opportunity to take off my armor and continue. As I neared the top of this climb an amazing vista opened before me and the valley which Bubbs Creek flowed through showed itself in all it's glory. As I entered into Onion Valley endless beauty showed itself. First breath taking tarns surrounded by shooting star then glorious sights such as Bullfrog Lake. It's no wonder this lake was once heavily camped. My pace was more than poor as I had to constantly stop to marvel at all that was around. As I began the climb to Kearsarge Pass the Kearsarge Lakes showed themselves proving once again of the extreme beauty that this Valley offers. Easily one of the most beautiful I have been to. Reaching the pass there was at least 10 people on top and I enjoyed lunch, the views, good company from fellow hikers and chipmonks. I began down and ran into the girl I had seen 4 days ago on the Whitney Crest. She had been hiking the PCT and I was surprised she was not long ahead of me but after talking with her for some time she convinced me that a layover day in Independance is a good idea so I planned to go for it. When I reached the trail head I was happy to find my resupply box where I had left it. I decided to leave two days of food behind in the box since I would not be climbing Mt. Sill but I still had 10 days worth of food which was a major burden and I was loaded to capacity! Hitch hiking is not something I had ever done and I didn't know how to go about it so I decided to just walk down the road a bit and put up a thumb. While I did this I couldn't help but feel stupid and uneasy and as some time passed I began thinking about what I would do if I did not get a ride and the thought of me having limited money anyway lingered on my mind. After only about 30 minutes of thumbing it I decided to hell with it and just began back up the trail. The first lake did not offer any camping so I kept on up the trail to the second and found a nice area to set up. While I was doing so I heard strange noises that sounded like it was coming from the bushes. Like something was moving heavily through the rocks but then I looked up and saw tons of dust and rocks falling off a near by cliff. What an awesome sight it was to see such a collapse close up!
Last edited by RoguePhotonic on Mon May 09, 2011 12:01 pm, edited 8 times in total.



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RoguePhotonic
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon May 09, 2011 12:44 am

Day 16

Although starting out was endless switch backs to the top of Kearsarge Pass I did really well. After all these days on the trail I was in good shape despite the horrible food I had been eating. 1500 calories a day offers little energy but on I went back up to the beautiful views of Onion Valley. Taking the high trail back to the JMT I had thought this would be a viewless slog perhaps completely within the trees yet it was anything but! The trail offered amazing high views of the entire Onion Valley area. Meeting up with the JMT I took lunch and finished off the rest of my tortillas and cheese given to me by the nice hikers on Forester Pass. Back to cheese packs and Snickers bars for lunch "gag!" As I neared Glen Pass I was really starting to slow down. It takes allot of energy to cross two passes in a day but finally I reached the top and enjoyed a break alone this time as I gazed out at the beautiful sights that await below. Moving down Glen Pass had some snow to navigate but nothing too much to worry about. Getting down the Rae Lakes were living up to the hype of their beauty. Unfortunately the winged demons began their assault on me as if I had damaged their home land by my mere presence and well I suppose I was. As I moved along I scanned for a place to set up camp and found a nice location with a one person spot next to a tree. After setting up I did a bit of scouting and was not surprised to find a sign indicating the location of bear boxes about a 100 yards ahead which led down to a massive camping area. I was not surprised because this has happened many times before that I would set up camp and find something better just up the trail although in this case my camp sight was very nice and I had no complaints. I however was surprised that there was no one at all camping any where I could see. Besides the occasional hiker passing through I had the lakes to myself and this fact would remain through the next day.

Day 17

This was my first official layover day on the trail so I did not get out of my tent until about 10am and I went for a hike around the lakes to explore and take pictures. I visited the Ranger Station to find it was a crappy little cabin with a note on the door that no one was home and if you need a ranger you can find one on the other side of Glen Pass so if someone needs emergency help your screwed! After just relaxing more I mustered the courage to go for a swim which wasn't more than fighting my way into the water and I just stayed in up to my neck for a bit. The water was too cold to enjoy really so I got out and took a nap on a rock in the sun to dry out while the winged demons attacked me in a futile manor due to my armor. The demons were probably the worst here since leaving Deadman Canyon. At one point I smacked my hand and killed about 18 of them at once. The rest was an uneventful day that was mostly boring but offered endless beauty.

Day 18

Moving out of the Rae Lakes area offered beautiful sights such as Arrowhead Lake and the classic shots taken near the outlets with Fin Dome. Moving on was an uneventful hike though very pleasant. As I got closer to Woods Creek I saw sights I had not encountered before such as mature blooming Wild Onion and Tiger Lilly which were both a beautiful sight as I moved through wonderful gardens. As I reached Woods Creek I was really in need of a break and I enjoyed this interesting bridge. Leaving here I knew it was going to be all up hill. Although the area was filled with beautiful cascades and gardens the heat and up hill battle really began taking it's toll on me. I also reached an old sheep gate which had two wires going across it which you were forced to climb through. Well doing so with a large pack on your back is not so easy and I became stuck in it and pissed off I was bouncing the wire up and down over my head in an attempt to get free and I could only imagine what other hikers would have thought had they come upon me in this aggravating situation. Further up the trail I began to grind to a halt. I was just so drained with the lack of proper food energy and the heat beating down on me but on I pushed. Nearing the Woods Lake junction trail I saw a single place to set up a tent and decided to take this opportunity while I had a nice flowing creek near by thus ending a very hard day.

Day 19

This day started unusually hard. It was all up hill and it just seemed very hot and I was having a hard time but as the grade decreased and I began to take in the wonderful sights of this area I regained my pace. The mountains were all colored with red minerals giving a more unique look. I named a ridge "Chess Ridge" as it's rocky features looked like chess pieces. Moving for Pinchot Pass I was held up talking for awhile with a guy from Oregon but finally I moved on. As I neared the top of Pinchot Pass I thought the pass was much higher then it was so I gave in and took lunch which was the typical awful experience. When I resumed I was dismayed to find that the pass was just up the trail so I took another break with a group of people so I could enjoy the view. As I moved down the trail I ran into Peter and his kids which I had expected to see on this day. After enjoying their company for a bit I resumed down the trail and took in the amazing beauty of Lake Majorie but because I had spent so much time talking to people the day was quickly wearing on. I reached the South Fork of the Kings River and it looked like it would have to be forded but I saw some rocks that I thought I could make it across but to my great dismay I slipped off the rocks and both feet fell in. As I climbed out with cement blocks as shoes very annoyed at my blunder the winged demons took the opportunity to attack me like they were bees and I had smashed their hive which forced me to put on my top shell and head net and I started up hill out of there with my moral at zero. It was not long until the heat of wearing my coat was draining my energy so probably less than a mile beyond the creek I set up camp. It had been 6 days since I had a decent bath and I wanted to take advantage of the creek here but the winged demons patrolled the area too fiercely and I just couldn't bring myself to take on this burden. Baths in the high Sierra are more often than not an exercise in courage and endurance with the freezing cold water. The act is miserable. Only the result is desirable.

Day 20

Leaving my camp was a pleasant gentle up hill climb that had me in less than an hour outside the reaches of the winged demons. As I moved further into Upper Basin and could see Split Mountain looming on the range I felt exhilarated and energized. I felt that I could conquer that beast before me. Before leaving the trail I ran into a group of people and one woman almost couldn't believe I had been out here for 20 days. She commented how clean I was. Other than my heart and soul I didn't feel clean and indeed I was not but I guess my constant washing of clothes kept me looking that way. Leaving the trail I made my way to Lake 11,598 and ate lunch and while I was looking up trying to spot what sounded like a commercial aircraft an object of some kind darted over head faster than any object I had ever seen. It made no noise and was small, round and white. It remains a U.F.O for me but was an interesting site. As I began the climb up Split I was amazed to find among the rocks a massive field of Shooting Star. Not a sight I was expecting to see on such a barren slope but a treasure none the less. Continuing up the slope was a simple class 2 matter but was agony and I kept having to question what I had got myself into as my energy drained from my body with every step I took but fight on I did and rewarded I was with such an amazing mountain peak with it's all expansive views. My entry in the register was the only one for that day. It's an odd sort of special feeling knowing for that day in time you were the only one to conquer this mountain. But there was a problem and that was I expected to be back down off this mountain several hours before this time so that meant I was not going to make it to my destination for the day and being behind would take my layover day from me. I reached my pack and found a camp site just as the sun set so I decided to skip once again taking a bath. My tent zipper showed the first signs of breaking as one of the two zippers no longer worked, the idea of a complete failure was horrible to me because it would mean little defense again the winged demons.

Day 21

Leaving my camp it was a short distance before the switch backs of Mather Pass which offered little difficulty since it was early and I had plenty of energy. Reaching the top I was alone and enjoyed the beautiful views of the Palisades but as I moved on I followed a path in the snow which led me to an extremely precarious situation as the snow was hard packed and it was very steep which took me some time to safely navigate down to where I could find the trail. I had been warned of the dangerous nature of Mather Pass and the reports were accurate! Moving through this region was a tranquil experience as amazing beauty showed itself in every form. Gardens, cascades, high peaks, beautiful lakes, even as the clouds had covered and as I neared the Golden Staircase rain began to fall the beauty around me was over whelming! I floated down the switch backs like a giddy child with fits of rain and thunderous booms of thunder. As I floated along I kept hearing the sounds of Pika and to my joy found one happily munching away on the trail. I stopped and began to whistle a gentle tune which quickly caught the ears of this little ball of cuteness. It seemed to enjoy the moment as I did until I had to say goodbye and continue to the bottom. Just above Deer Meadow I found a nice camp site which had such powerful energy. All around me I could feel it but not explain what it was about this location that made me feel so good. After enjoying a nice fire and eating dinner I had to retire this day and look to tomorrow.

Day 22

I hit the trail late at about 9:30am and quickly came upon Deer Meadow which was different in the way that the meadow is located all in the forest offering a setting that you could walk right by and never know you passed the meadow. On the other hand along the trail was a brilliant garden display of numerous flowers which boasted a very tranquil setting. Moving a bit further on I noticed the canyon walls were covered in red wild flowers which is a very rare sight in my experience but as I moved on the majestic flow was hampered by some slight pain I was feeling in my foot as I walked and I entered a burn zone which had numerous down trees which required allot of climbing through bushes and awkward maneuvers. Passing down the canyon I heard a faint tune on the wind and I was curious for a moment what the hell it was but it quickly picked up as a man was sitting by the creek playing a flute. His tune was some sort of old folklore type melody that had me in a surreal sort of trance as I passed through the area with this tune playing. It made me really wish I knew how to play a flute! As I began up Leconte Canyon very dark clouds formed over head and thunder began over the Palisades to the point I was sure I was going to see heavy rain but not a drop fell. It was still very early in the day when I came upon Little Pete Meadow and my hurting foot had kept getting worse all day to the point I decided to call it quits for the day. This canyon was like the one of the night before. A strange energy was extremely powerful and despite any worries with my foot I was in the best of moods as I set camp in this wonderful location and set out to take a nice bath in the river. As I had began to bathe two does came quickly straight for me from down wind. I assumed they could smell me and thought I was a mate but as they got within about 20 feet of me they decided I was not their type and darted off in the other direction. The deer in this location were many and they were friendly as they grazed 15 feet away from me in my camp. After talking to the interesting ranger of this canyon and PCT thru hikers I had to call it a night an prepare to move on.

Day 23

As I left Leconte Canyon my foot had no pain at all and would not for the remainder of this trip which just shows you have to know when to quit. Moving up to Muir Pass was mostly a slow grind as I had 3000 feet to climb over about 6 miles. The whole way offered amazing views one after another. As I got closer to Muir Pass the water levels were extreme! Creeks were roaring and small lakes had completely over flowed their banks but the snow was not heavy enough to make for any difficult navigating. As I crossed a huge inlet to a small lake below Helen it began to rain and hail hard so I broke out my rain shell and then booms of thunder began to sound directly over head and I was out in the open above the tree line completely exposed so I thought "this is really bad" so I found a nice little nest between a couple large rocks that was comfy and dry to hide out in. Not long after I had been in here lightning struck very close by with deafening intensity! I sat and waiting for another 20 minutes but nothing threatening sounded and I could see a clearing in the clouds over Muir Pass so I decided to move on. Moving past Helen I had only to navigate easy mostly level snow fields and I neared the top of the pass. Reaching the top I find 3 other hikers in the hut planning to stay the night. The three were interesting to talk to and I hung out for nearly two hours and as the sun started to set they asked if I was really going to go down that day and convinced me to stay in the shelter which turned out to be a really fun experience. One man was from Oregon and had stories of travels around the world and the other two a father and his daughter were both successful thru hikers of the Appalachian Trail and were a couple goofy personalities. After an evening of jokes and fun it was time to close this day.

Day 24

I was slow to hit the trail as the father and daughter always started late also and we spent allot of time talking. It happened to be my birthday and they did a goofy birthday song which was more comical relief. But finally they got moving and it was time for me to do the same so I set out at about 10am. Moving down I couldn't help but feel a bit sad like I was leaving friends behind. It's interesting the quick bonds that can form on the trail when your all alone. It was not long though until I was walking along the shores of Wanda Lake which was a completely breath taking experience and the photos I took here remain some of my favorite from this trip. Moving quickly down the trail I began passing through the amazing Evolution Basin. One beautiful lake after another but other then to look and take pictures I did not stop. Not even for lunch as I just felt so good and the trail was all down hill 9.5 miles to my destination of the day. As I moved down the final switch backs in Evolution Valley rain began to fall steady but lightly and I came upon Colby Meadow thinking it was McClure Meadow so I set up camp and made a fire in the rain. The day was still young so I lounged around lazy and relaxed for the rest of the day putting an end to an easy and enjoyable day.

Day 25

The morning routine began like any other except as I lay in my tent eating a particularly horrible breakfast a man came walking up and I talked to him for a bit about various things before he eventually moved on and it was time for me to do the same. I took off down the trail thankfully not under assault by winged demons to the point of needing armor but the pesky bastards did what damage they could with such a small fighting force. As I came to McClure Meadow I decided to go out onto it and enjoy what views it had to offer. The morning wash out of the Eastern view made for poor viewing but it seemed very similar to Colby in every respect. Beginning to leave I engaged a few hikers in conversation and was approached by a stock train leader who needed up to date info on the snow conditions of Muir Pass. This infact was the first stock I had seen on the trail so far on this trip. Moving along I finally reached the crossing for Evolution Creek which I believe is the worst water crossing the JMT has to offer. The Rangers had posted signs about crossing 50 yards up stream where the water was not so deep but as I had got to the trail crossing a couple had just completed it and said it was not all so bad so I gave it a go and made it without much trouble. It was thigh deep and fairly swift moving but not really rocky like other creeks that add an extra challenge. From this point the trail became a long down hill slog offering many wonderful views of cascades and large canyons but when you hit bottom it remains a mostly level slog. The heat became a factor as it pounded me at this lower elevation of about 7500 feet. As I crossed the bridge officially leaving Kings Canyon National Park the heat was at it's peak but on I must push! This section of trail was irksome as some one thought it would be a good idea to pave the trail with broken up rocks so your slogging along having a hard time on this rocky trail as the landscape around you is a smooth dirt forest floor. At about 3:30PM I strolled into the Muir Trail Ranch and met the nice woman Pat that runs the operation and I eagerly resupply by dumping all the food I could replace into the hiker bins. All my lunches of cheese had to go! And go they did! I was able to switch out 3 out of 6 days of breakfast so I was doing ok. The only down side to all this was 3 young guys had got there just before me and had already cleaned the free bins out to an excessive extent. If it was good they took it! It didn't matter that they had way more food than they could possibly eat. After having long conversations with other elderly ladies that gave me interesting insight into the area I finally departed down to the hot springs to find camp but to my dismay among all the other hikers present there we also 25 native Americans there doing their traditional trips so the place was quite crowded. After asking around I talked to some guys and they let me set up in their camp. After 25 days on the trail I was eager to soak in the hot springs so off I went crossing the river and finding the springs. About 5 young Indian girls were in it as I arrived. The springs themselves were not much to look at, a pool of muddy water in the middle of a meadow but oh my! To feel that hot water was so incredibly relaxing I had to stay in the thing for about an hour. After awhile the girls had left and 4 young Indian boys came and got in and they told me about their traditions of coming to these locations and getting blessed. After a good soak the young boys and I wanted to check out the lake on the other side of the reeds that I had been told is a nice lake with mildly cold water more like a home swimming pool but as I walked to it that was probably no more than 100 feet I was having a hell of a time making it! Every bit of my energy was drained and as I stood on the shore I began getting so tired and dizzy I was almost ready to pass out. I fought the sensations the best I could and sat down with my eyes closed until I was able to get a hold of myself. After allot of thought I believe I was extremely dehydrated due to the really hot weather that day, not drinking nearly enough water and then soaking in a hot spring for an hour with no water at all! Thankfully I did not pass out as that would have been more embarrassing then anything else. Finally I returned to camp, had dinner and talked with the people I was sharing a camp with. This turned out really well for me since they were on their way out and had all kinds of goodies they wanted to empty from their packs including home made beef jerky that was so delicious!

Day 26

I got up a bit late most likely due to having company and I began making breakfast which required actual cooking today since I had taken a freeze dried egg meal from the Muir Trail Ranch but it turned out to be a powder to cook up. After some nice chatting with the others in camp they set off before me and I eventually hit the trail. Right away leaving the area the trail was very steep and my full pack load was a major burden but I was able to press on at a steady pace as my morale was still high from getting rid of most of my nasty food. As the trail climbed it was more and more of a horrible slog. The trail was exposed on endless switch backs. Hot, dry and the flies were absolutely horrible! After a nice chat with a young lady I manged to reach the top as thunder clouds started to boom a bit off in the distance and I reached Senger Creek and made the first lunch I had enjoyed in awhile despite the onslaught by flies and winged demons working together. I searched the area and attempted to find the tree an older woman at the Muir Trail Ranch had told me about. A tree with a 150 year old carving in it of a man wearing a top hat but I did not find it until I had resumed and crossed the creek. Hmm I thought. Not exactly the art work I had pictured but interesting anyway. As I climbed higher the cloud cover had compounded and now was complete and I felt my stomach cursing me for eating those nasty eggs this morning and it was not long before they had me taking a break just as it started to sprinkle. The rain never came down too hard but continued lightly as I reached the Sallie Keyes Lakes. Although I was sharing the lake with a number of other hikers I only saw them each once and the place maintained an unusual level of peace as the rain had stopped and the clouds had begun to break up. The lake itself was showing a beautiful reflection as it's waters were completely still. The Winged demons were not horrible but bothersome and they had me retire to my tent after finishing camp chores and I prepared myself for a nice dinner that I had gotten from the free buckets. At about 8PM I heard drops falling and was surprised to look out and see that the sky had completely clouded up again. As the sun set I was taken back! My god I thought! The entire sky was burning with a solid color of orange! One solid color! I wanted to get out of my tent and go to the end of the lake were I knew an award winning photo could be taken but the falling rain and winged demons on the side of my tent made me just stay and enjoy this majestic sight from the comfort of my bed.

Day 27

Packing up was a bit more wet then normal as the rain had continued until about 5am which is a rare event in these mountains. Resuming the trail I enjoyed the beautiful sets of lakes as I left Sallie Keyes and passed by Heart Lake which was a charming little lake that not only was a heart by shape but had a large rock peak over looking it that was also shaped like a heart. It was not long before I was conversing with more interesting hikers before reaching the summit of Seldon Pass which was a wonderful one offering a stunning view of Marie Lakes and I ate lunch on top with a few other hikers I chatted with. The hike down was pretty standard until I reached the bottom and took a break after fording a major creek. As I sat a girl came by and proceeded to fill her bear barrels with water. I asked her if she was washing in them which was an idea I had not thought of. It would save the weight of bringing a kitchen sink. I talked to her for awhile and she turned out to be a Student Conservation Association crew leader and we talked a bit about trail work which I had been wanting to do. Once back on the trail this section began through the trees and when it was time to stop I found a very nice camp site with a comfortable bench to sit on by the fire and closed out another day.

Day 28

Waking early I found that my super nice camp site was anything but! Looking by my head where my camera bag was sitting I found it completely covered in some kind of tiny orange larva like things! Ack!! I thought! What the ****!? Apparently they were small enough to climb through the netting on my tent and they were every where! Wile packing up I did my best to clean them all out and hit the trail which continued to be a viewless slog and when I began climbing up to Bear Ridge I ran into a guy that I talked to for about 30 minutes that told me many well, interesting stories... This day continued to be mostly a slog as I dropped off Bear Ridge and began up once again toward Silver Pass. I ran into a poor english speaking French man that told me he never has a camp fire because it's too dangerous which I disagree. continuing up the hill I felt like a machine and was blasting up it but this perhaps proved to be a mistake as when I reached the last trail junction up to the pass my shin was starting to hurt me allot and I had already learned not to push it any further so I decided to stop here which had a very nice camp site. After setting up I had a nice bath in the near by creek which was not nearly as cold as many of the other creeks, did laundry and then used a wet towel to clean out the rest of the little orange buggers in my tent. Ate a nice dinner by the fire and closed the day.

Day 29

Getting ready the pain in my leg was gone and I began the climb up Silver Pass. After enjoying many beautiful sights along the way and talking to more hikers I reached the top and wow! This time I was alone on top and this pass had to be one of the nicest the JMT offers! Ritter and Banner dominated the distant horizon and there was a certain romance associated with those mountains for some reason. Perhaps all the research I had done about them and also visiting the Reds Meadow area just a week before I left and seeing them then they were the only sight that I had seen before since I left Wallace Creek! Dropping down was a wonder with one beautiful lake after another and talking to more wonderful people along the way. Reaching the junction to Cascade Valley I took it by mistake since the sign was a bit odd and it said Purple Lake in that direction but I had not gone far before I realized my mistake. As I climbed toward Tully Hole my leg was starting to hurt again but I could not find a place to camp until I reached Tully Hole and it had a nice spot where I talked to a group of hikers for awhile. Just before setting up camp a very large group of young kids came by and it turned out they were from another state and were doing the JMT in 2 sections in 2 years. They looked for a place to camp and ended up going right out into the middle of the meadow which must have been hell as the winged demons were terrible here! I felt bad I had not offered them to stay in camp as it was quite large. As I sat by my fire and ate a couple flying ashes burned some good sized holes in my shirt.

Day 30

As I began the climb out of Tully Hole I was glad that my leg was not giving me any trouble. I burned through the switch backs without a problem since it was so early and I was rested up. The views were spectacular as I moved along through beautiful sites once more. Lake Virginia showed itself to be one of the more beautiful lakes I had passed in awhile and I made ok time as I moved on and down to the beauty of Purple Lake chatting it up with lots of people along the way. As I left the shores of Purple Lake I was irked that the trail started to climb allot. Purple Lake was allot higher then where the trail was going but for seemingly no reason I just kept climbing and climbing and it began to take it's toll on me as I ran low on water. This section had been the longest stretch of the JMT with no water even though it was only 5.4 miles. Moving along one stock train after another began to pass me. A product of Reds Meadow I thought and slogged down to Duck Creek for a late lunch as it began to sprinkle a bit. As I slogged on I ran into and had a chat with a couple nice ladies for awhile about our hikes and the snow conditions ahead for them. When I ended up telling them my internet name so they could find my photos they knew who I was and although they did not say it they knew of a number of peoples dislike of me. The day began to wear thin as I trudged along and reaching Deer Creek I became really irked by the winged demons that assaulted me. They were not in large numbers but the freaks like to attack the face and drive you crazy! Slogging on the trail became a sand slog that was getting me more annoyed and more tired as I went. The trail was so dusty my shoes were white with fine dust. Reaching what I thought was Upper Crater Meadow which was my intended stop I did not see any decent place to camp so I pushed on further until I found a nice site by a creek. It had a fire pit but there was no good place to sit by it and beside me being tired the winged demons were in great number so I retreated to my tent early and cooked out my door as a hundred of them sat outside like vampires. Thoughts rang in my head "what if Chris is not there tomorrow?" "What if he is a no show?" I had arranged for Chris to come up to Reds Meadow to bring me a resupply but I found myself ahead of schedule so I had sent a message to him at the Muir Trail Ranch letting him know that he needed to come two days early but I had no way of knowing if he got my message or if he for some reason could not make it so it was all a guessing game.

Day 31

Getting up earlier then I had for weeks I decided to skip breakfast and just get down to the Rainbow Falls trail head where I had arranged to meet Chris. It was only about 4 miles to the bottom of the hill. As I approached the parking lot and slowly cars started coming into view I was scanning them as I got closer thinking nope that's not it, nope not that one, nope, nope, nope but as I walked out into it I saw his car and found him still asleep inside. Knock, knock... We went straight to the store and bought some soda and snacks. Mmmmm it has been so long! I had not had a store to buy anything from since day 10! We got a camp at Reds Meadow and went to the Cafe for a double cheese burger. Meanwhile we made some plans for what to do since it was so early and Chris suggested a day hike to Shadow Lake so we set out for it. Chris was horribly out of shape and had to sit down often on this easy hike. I did not know that the JMT actually passes along Shadow Lake on it's Western shore but I am glad we came here because our trail put us on the Eastern shore which was nicer with a view of Ritter & Banner. After relaxing by the lake with sprinkles of rain here and there we returned to camp and set out for Mammoth for some pizza and I decided to buy food because I couldn't handle anything in my resupply. Later that night I tried the hotspring showers but I found them to be way too hot to enjoy much. Better then ice cold water anyway.

Day 32

After a lazy morning Chris and I went and checked out the Devil's Post Pile and then went to see Rainbow Falls but Chris stayed in the car as he was too lazy to hike the 2 mile round trip trail. The day was pretty much uneventful until I came back from the showers to find two hikers in camp that Chris had invited to stay so I had a nice chat with them and they payed 10 dollars for the camp which helped with the 20 dollars a night to stay and I was so low on money I was going to need it! Chris needing to get home waited until 7PM to sneak out without paying and set off home.

Day 33

After another lazy morning I decide to take the shuttle up to the Devil's Post Pile trail head to cut 1.5 miles off of the days hike. Near Johnston Meadow I talked to a nice Ranger for awhile and continued the slog. This section of trail did not prove to be particularly interesting but the weather kept me guessing. Booms of thunder sounded near by and it began to rain fairly hard but not for very long at all. Reaching Rosalie Lake it began to sprinkle and I took shelter in my tent for awhile and cooked up a new type of food I had for this section and was not too thrilled with the results.

Day 34

Leaving Rosalie Lake the trail drops down to Shadow Lake where I watched two Bald Eagles fly about which were the first and as of 2011 the only ones I have seen in the Sierra. The rest of the day was an easy slog and as I reached Garnet Lake I was astounded by the incredible beauty of this lake! By far the best lake I had ever seen. As I arrived in the middle of it the rain was falling steady as I set up. Thankfully the winged demons were few and did not taint such beauty with their evil. I got up many times during the night attempting to do a proper star trail photo but I failed.

Day 35

I made a point to really sleep in this day as I was only going 2.5 miles to 1000 Island Lake. As I climbed up the switch backs the view over looking the lake was amazing yet I wanted more so I climbed out a bit to really get a view which was serene. Finally pulling myself away I move on and begin to drop down to 1000 Island Lake at about 12PM. I did not think the beauty of Garnet Lake could possibly be exceeded but it had been! The massive area that is 1000 Island Lake is Eden incarnated. The shores were lined with wild flowers and waves gently splashed on it's sandy beaches. I found a decent place to camp and went for a swim. The waters were warm and it was pure bliss to be in such a perfect place at this very moment in time. Even the winged demons were no where to be found. That night I tried once again to do star trails and failed.

Day 36

Making breakfast I had brought a can of corn beef hash so I was looking forward to a nice meal but I had not even finished emptying the can when a dog came over wanting in on the meal so I had to share. As I finalized the pack up I went down to the lake to top off my water and as I approached the shore I saw a young lady bathing in the lake. I had to stop as I was amazed at the composition that engulfed her. She was standing in perfectly glassy water and had the appearance of floating on the water. Combined with her good looks and the amazing scenery all about I couldn't help but think about what an amazing photo it would have made. All this of course was observed in around 3 seconds and I quickly took a path to the water far away from her so I would not disturb her. The day before as I swam I had done so without a shirt on which is something I never do and it had probably been over 10 years since I had. The cost was a sun burn over my body and bad on my shoulders which would be another pain the rest of the trip as my heavy pack rested on my shoulders. Leaving this lake was hard to do and the amazing view offered as you climb the trail away from it did not help. I was really glad I had decided to do the John Muir Trail from South to North since I had never seen these sights and they were making my last week amazing! The grind up Donohue was a typical one although I thought seeing Waugh Lake completely drained was an interesting sight. Heading down Donohue was a beautiful slog and I couldn't help looking up at Mt. Lyell and thinking I should be climbing it but down I go. I had cut Ritter, Banner and Lyell out of my hike because I decided I did not want to carry the extra weight of an ice axe and crampons. When I finally reached what I call Kuna Creek Meadow I found an ok camp site and set up. I tried making a fire but everything was really wet and I could not keep it going and I finally gave up on it annoyed that I had wasted so much time on it that I was not able to eat dinner before it had gotten dark. In general I was getting very bad energy from this area for some reason and it was not helped when as I lay in my tent I hear a very loud yet far off scream AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH then BAM! as a gunshot goes off and the voice is silenced. What the hell is going on in this canyon I thought?

Day 37

I got on the trail a bit earlier this morning because I was excited about getting down to Tuolumne Meadows for a burger. Lyell Canyon is probably the longest stretch of easy trail the JMT offers and I kept slogging along not taking any breaks other then to chat with a number of people as this canyon was heavily populated. Finally I exit the trail into a parking lot and find myself a bit confused. I look back and it says JMT yet I look forward and I see no indication of where the trail goes from here? Frustrated I just start walking down the road out of the parking lot and I see a trail following along side it so I decide to take that to get off the road. Finally I had had enough and needed to sit down for a few minutes as I had been hiking for hours with no break. As I hit highway 120 I had noticed that the trail I had taken was indeed the JMT. Going to the grill the place was packed and I got my food talking to a few people as I waited. I was lucky enough to be joined by an interesting fellow and had a nice chat with him for a long time until it was finally time to go. Walking down the road to the Cathedral Lakes trail head I cross by a trail with a sign saying Cathedral Lakes so I say screw it and take that and once again this turned out to officially be the JMT. Reaching Cathedral Lakes I set up a nice camp and took a bath in what was once again warm water then I sat down for a great dinner as I had bought a can of chili, a block of cheese and a bottle of soda from the Tuolumne Meadows store. Generally my morale was really high as it had been a great day and a great night free once again of winged demons. It had seemed they finally were gone for the season and sadly my trip was coming to an end. A very important note that I have forgotten along the way is that my foot was bothering me each day and this actually had been the worse so far. My attempts to rub it actually made it worse and I was becoming worried about it as my shoe had a break down of the rubber in some way that made it so it was like I had a rock in the center of the primary pad of my foot behind my toes. This was causing some swelling which would get worse throughout the day then be ok in the morning but today was the worst it had felt and I was near limping at this point. This fact did not serve to dampen my morale at all though.

Day 38

As I started out I was worried that this morning my foot was feeling like it would by the end of the day but push on I did. As I took the junction to Clouds Rest I stopped and talked to a couple people camped here for over an hour and I was happy to see a bathroom I could use as I was a bit worried about my TP supplies anyway. Resuming the trail I encountered a group of 3 guys near the summit of Clouds Rest and they said they planned to stay the night up there. At first this disappointed me because I was hoping to have the summit to myself but they took up a spot out of sight and I only even saw them when I went over and talked for a bit. Clouds Rest itself proved to be the most beautiful summit I had ever climbed! In every direction is an amazing sight and to make it better a storm was moving in from the South which put on a unique sunset which was breath taking! I set up my bed right next to the cliff and enjoyed a wonderful night.

Day 39 Tuesday August 4th

I awoke on this final day of my journey. The thought that this night I would be sitting back at home was not real nor desired. All the sights I had seen, all the difficulties I had over come all led to this inevitable finish line and the declaration of victory. Or was it? The morning was a windy one from the still mounting storm to the South and as I ate breakfast my sleeping bag took off over the cliff but lucky for me it got caught and I was able to retrieve it. Working my way down the trail and closing in on the junction to Half Dome I passed up the sources of water thinking there would be another but I was mistaken. Of course as I began up the Junction to Half Dome it was a steady crowd of people going up. Since I had come this far I was passing up all the day hikers even as I wore my full gear. Making my way up I had spent a good deal of time chatting with a group of people and since all I had was about 1/4th of a liter of water a woman that had extra was nice enough to give me a bit more so I had a half liter. Not exactly the best thing when your fighting your way to a summit after a night of limited water as it was on Clouds Rest. Finally reaching the cables I decide to drop my pack and make for the summit. The going was slow as it was single file up the cables and it would stop constantly. A fact that I did not enjoy since it was steep enough that my shoes would slowly slide as I stood on the rock. A young girl behind me was crying with fear. I told her not to panic and tried to give her some encouraging words. Amazingly she made it all the way to the summit. On top I found it was just covered in people! The view was amazing but not as good as Clouds Rest. I spent a good amount of time sitting on the edge as others called me crazy. One of the guys I spent time talking to had brought a kite to fly on the summit which made for a different experience on an alpine peak. At 12:30 I decided I should head back down since I was on a schedule to meet my family at the bottom. I took to climbing outside the cables and running backwards repel style all the way down which freaked many people out as I went but was definitely the highlight of climbing Half Dome! Reaching the bottom in less then 10 minutes and retrieving my pack I laughed as I heard a guy telling another "some guy just ran down the cables! I didn't know you could do that!". As I made my way back down the trail I was hurting for water and even though I was hurting for a break also I kept going with nothing but water on my mind. Finally I crossed a tiny trickle in a mud puddle which was like finding gold. Slogging down the switch backs was taking it's toll as it was nearly 8000 foot of altitude loss for this day and as I reached the foot bridge below Vernal Falls I was startled at the fact that there was probably 100 people there. I had told my family to meet me at the large mileage sign at the start of the JMT which I figured was an easy marker for them but as I got there no one was there. I waited for a bit and chatted with a few tourists before I decided to go get on a shuttle and find a pay phone to try and call them but as I walked across the bridge to the shuttle I spotted them in an odd location searching for me. So my adventure this year came to an end and back home I went which was not a pleasant prospect considering at 11PM it was hotter then the hottest part of the day in the Sierra! It did not take long upon returning to confirm what I feared. That instead of rejuvenating me with new life to function every day it instead further diminished my compatibility with American society. The dominating question in the end was the same one I began with. What comes next?
Last edited by RoguePhotonic on Mon May 09, 2011 1:03 pm, edited 12 times in total.
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon May 09, 2011 11:07 am

Thanks for the trip report. I too expierienced the worst swarm of mosquitoes ever in Deadman Canyon. I wonder if the "dead man" was eaten alive by mosquitoes. The photos are beautiful. The last time I was at Colby Lake was in September years ago- there was lots of smoke from a nearby fire- nice to see your photos of how it looks without the smoke. Sounds like you learned a lot on your trip. I must say that I was glad to hear that a young fellow like you had an occasional ache and pain too! We old farts just toddle on with numerous aches and pains with barely a memory of times past when the old knees did not hurt. It was mighty nice of you to share your corned beef hash with that dog. Next trip, I hope you take more than 1,500 calories per day! I maybe missed it, but what was the date you started and finished?
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon May 09, 2011 12:00 pm

Glad you enjoyed it. Even after posting it the thing is so long I didn't expect anyone to actually read it.

I will add the dates to the report but I started on June 27th which was the day we drove to Lodgepole. My finish date was August 4th.

I did learn allot from that trip and changed my ways in 2010 and didn't have any problems with food.

I do get aches and pains on the trail but over all I did fairly well and even better in 2010.

I don't think I noted the reason I did so few miles in the last week was because I had called my family about getting picked up and they needed me to delay for one day so I broke it up.

As a note I am still making corrections on this thing. I noticed for a few images I placed it moved the whole word to a different part of the text such as when I mention the crossing of Evolution Creek. But I fixed it.
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby Cross Country » Mon May 09, 2011 9:57 pm

The first 9 days of your trip: I basically did what you did in reverse. Hiking over avalanche pass for me was a very pleasant experience. I x - countryed down from avalanche to the river missing RR ranger station. On another trip with 8yo Mike we hiked to the ranger station and on to stay at Big Bird. I'm sorry you missed it. Unlike you I really enjoyed West Fork Lake (on another trip). Mike and I really enjoyed the tablelands. We bypassed Moose seeing it from a short distance. We camped in the Tablelands and passed Pear Lake. This trip was ideal for an 8 year old. His attitude was great.

I loved all of you pics. It brought back so many memories. Thank you.
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon May 09, 2011 11:42 pm

Generally I did enjoy the Tablelands but the bugs were just so bad and my energy was drained. I am planning to cross them once again this year but i'm sure it will be almost completely a snow slog.

My report may seem more often than not more grim and not enjoyable but as we all know that aspect of story telling is much more interesting then "all is well".
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue May 10, 2011 12:11 am

As for more media on the report all the images can be found here:

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6

Then if you really wanted I have video trail reports I did but each day is a more simple version of what I put into text. I hate how I start almost every one of these with "Ok sooo". And general looking back at all these I have no idea why I even made them but they are on the net anyway.

David Day 1
Day 1
David Day 5
Day 13
Day 14
Day 15
Day 15P2
Day 16
Mosquito Comments
Day 17
Day 18
Nasty Lunch
Day 19
Top of Split Mountain Pt1
Top of Split Mountain Pt2
Day 20
U.F.O. Sighting Notes
Day 21
Day 22
Day 23
Day 24
Day 25
Day 26
Day 27
Day 28
Day 29
Day 30
Day 31 & 32
Day 33
Day 34
Day 35
Day 36
Day 37Pt1
Day 37Pt2
Day 38
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby oldranger » Tue May 10, 2011 9:19 am

Re: Deadman

There is a clearly marked "grave" a few yards off the trail (at least the last time I was there in the mid 90s) at the Grave Meadow. Rumor has it that this is not the true grave. The grave is supposedly that of a sheepherder who got sick. His boss went to the valley to get a doc and when they returned the sheepherder was dead. Also the ashes of a Roaring River Ranger from the late 60's through the mid 70s were spread near the lower end of Lower Ranger Meadow. Maybe the canyon should be renamed to Deadmen Canyon!

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue May 10, 2011 11:44 am

I don't know how we missed the grave in 2009 but I found it last year:

Image

It's in clear view of the trail.
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby oldranger » Tue May 10, 2011 1:33 pm

Rogue

I couldn't understand how you could have missed either. I thought it might have been taken down as the result of orders from a misguided bureaucrat.

Mike
Mike

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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby Cross Country » Tue May 10, 2011 6:51 pm

I've got a pic for a really cool yin & yang for this, a kid just starting (his BP life) at this memorial. It's Mike (of course)). Comments please. Hard cores have to appreciate this.
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Re: 2009 Sierra Trek

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue May 10, 2011 9:00 pm

Tough looking little kid! No shirt - bet you did this later in the season after mosquitoes were done with. Now I think a kid would think the "grave" a real cool thing.
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