Last week, I completed the last section of unfinished John Muir Trail. My friend Don and I started at Devils Postpile, and hiked south over Silver Pass, exiting at Edison Lake.
We both packed light packs. Don's was 17 lbs, mine just a little heavier, since I had the bear canister. We got quite a bit of attention over the packs, both from ZPacks.com
. My pack weighs 10 oz empty, and looks something like a plastic trash bag with straps.
And I couldn't believe the size of some of the packs some people were carrying. We met one older couple, and the gentleman was carrying what looked like a 70 lb pack! He was in great spirits, though. Wish I'd taken a picture.
As for the lost part... We actually got lost twice. The first evening, after a hectic trip across the Sierra to get to Lee Vining to get the permit before the offices closed, then hurrying to catch the Devils Postpile shuttle bus before dark, we enjoyed touring the postpile. Don's first time.
Then we started down the trail toward Rainbow Falls, fully aware that we need to go left (eastward) on the JMT at some point. Unfortunately, the place we were supposed to turn was a sign pointing to Reds Meadow. Another sign pointed north for the JMT in that direction, but did not specify which of the other two trails was the JMT south. The correct trail was the one going east toward Reds Meadow! But we continued south about 15 minutes before I got worried enough to check the map. We had to backtrack to get on the correct trail.
We continued on maybe an hour and a half before deciding to camp near a spring. We hiked through a burned out forest in this area, enjoying doing it at night, since much of it is dry and there is no shade. We had fun taking several time-exposure pictures, using a tiny clamp
(Pedco UltraPod) and our hiking poles as a tripod. Here's a picture. The brightness is from the moon about to rise.
I thought the spring would be an excellent source of pure drinking water (we did not take water purification equipment) but discovered the water had a salty taste, with some soda and carbonation. I got water from another stream that was fine.
The second day, we hiked south to Crater Meadow, where we made a wrong turn. Being close to Reds Meadow, there are lots of trails in the area, and at this point, riders had made a connecting trail heading east along the north side of Crater Meadow. But this connecting trail IS NOT ON the map! There were no signs, and I did NOT see the actual JMT where it crossed the creek. Apparently this unmarked trail connects to an old section of the JMT, because we soon came to a junction with an old sign pointing south labeled "Muir Trail". Farther along, another white metal strip high on a tree read "John Muir Trail" (wish I'd taken pictures). So we felt we were doing ok ...until we came to a 3-way junction with a sign to Deer Creek and the other to Mammoth Pass. No mention of the JMT or PCT!
We took the wrong choice since the Deer Creek started out heading northeast, and we wanted to be heading south. Unfortunately Mammoth Pass was off my maps. The trail meandered around, climbing, and finally heading due north. At that point, we could see the top of Mammoth Mountain to the north, and I had cell service so I called my son in Michigan. He looked up our Spot signal location, and after some struggling to coordinate our different maps (He had Google's terrain view, I had a topo map) I realized which trail we were on. We had to backtrack, and take the Deer Creek route. Walking 200 yards down that trail, we hit another junction with a sign labeling each direction of the PCT.
Once that silliness was behind us, we made good progress, camping at Purple Lake. It is a very pretty spot. I tried fishing, got a fish to follow my lure, but that was it.
Next day we hiked past Lake Virginia, dropped into Cascade Valley and Tully Hole (a meadow at the bottom of a steep slope). Clouds began building, and several hours later, as we arrived at Silver Pass, a quick storm blew through. We were pelted with tiny snow and ice pellets for a short time.
We had planned on camping another night, then realized Edison Lake was within striking distance, so we went for it. We missed the ferry by half an hour, so camped near the pick-up point, and got the 9:45 ferry in the morning. Don's fiance picked us up and we had a pleasant drive back to Fresno.
I'll be driving back to Mammoth with the family this weekend to pick up the other car that we left over there.
Click the flower to see
the rest of the pictures.