On to the John Muir Trail

When I arrived back home after leaving the Long Trail, there was less than three weeks until I needed to be on the road to the John Muir Trail. I had a permit to hike the JMT beginning on September 11, but it was from Tuolumne Meadows. This starting point was about 23 trail miles from the actual start of the JMT at Happy Isles. Missing the first 10% of the trail wasn’t going to cut it as a thru-hike so I headed out a couple days early so I’d be able to cover all the mileage.

Preparations were a little hurried, but for the most part, complete. My equipment was together and the one resupply package had been sent by UPS. The logistics of getting back to the start from the end of the trail at Mount Whitney remained a bit iffy though. There are two different bus services that can be used in conjunction for the return, but as I was going very late in the season, they would not be convenient. One system was only running during the week. The other system only ran on weekends after Labor Day. Depending upon my finish day, there could be a long layover.

My pack, which I had lightened up while on the Long Trail, was going to be heavy again. A heavier sleeping bag, gloves, hat and a down vest added to the weight. I also needed to carry a bear resistant canister for the food. Even though I sprang for the expensive one, it still added a couple pounds to the pack. Carrying four days of food and two liters of water, I was going to put 34 pounds on my back. I didn’t want to know what the pack would weigh when I left my resupply point with eight days’ worth of food. 

Between the need to rush, the permit hassles, ongoing fires near the trail, the heavy pack, the three day drive and paying $4 for California gas, I wondered if the trip was going to be worth the trouble. That changed as soon as I turned onto Tioga Road, toward the east entrance of Yosemite National Park. The mountains and views were simply stunning. The giant slabs of rock are incredible and despite the drought, beautiful lakes and streams abound. There were some wildfires in the area, but the air quality was holding up. 

View from Tioga Road
View from Tioga Road

Yosemite Valley was still pretty crowded despite it being after Labor Day. There were thousands of people near parking lots taking photos. I was struck by how many of the photo were not of the mountains, but of themselves with the grand cliffs serving as little more than a new background for the collection of selfies. I just don’t understand it. I doubt that the people I know would be enthralled by seeing countless shots of me blocking beautiful scenery. I see myself in the mirror at least twice w day when I brush my teeth. That’s typically enough for me. Perhaps the long drive just had me grumpy. I know I was looking forward to getting into the mountains. 

On the drive in I checked in at the Wilderness Permit Office. I mentioned that I planned to day hike from Tuolumne Meadows to the start of the trail in Yosemite Valley. In talking about available daylight, the Ranger suggested starting at Cathedral Lakes Trailhead so I’d only need to cover 21 miles or so. I could pick up the two miles from there to my permitted start later. 

Tent Cabins
Tent Cabins

My accommodations were a tent “cabin” in Curry Village within Yosemite Valley. For $59, the cabin was complete with a queen bed, towels, a light and a bear resistant food box out front. All in all, pretty comfortable and the views of the surrounding peaks were amazing. Posted warnings about the Plague were a bit disconcerting, but I never saw any mice. There were a couple restaurants and a convenience store within walking distance. It looked like I was set.

One of several views from Curry Village
One of several views from Curry Village. No clouds, but some smoke.