John Muir Trail – A key decision

7/4/2017 – 7/6/2017 (Days 6, 7, and 8)

After a slumber at edge of Sandy Meadows I felt better.  My infection wasn’t bothering me as much, but I thought I’d see how it would go.  I still felt pretty discouraged.  I forced down some beans and rice and started my hike.  As I went up the gentle grade I could not figure out why there were so many mosquitoes.  There had a lot in Crabtree meadows, but this was a higher elevation and there was not swampy meadow here, just sand.  Yet, every time I stopped they were all over me.  Wallace creek was simple but Wright creek was a little worse than Crabtree creek.  I changed to my river crossing shoes, and forded the river.  Getting dressed, I encountered the Canadians the first time. At the time there were three of them, all PCT hikers.  They were fast and driven.  We exchanged pleasantries and they continued on.  This was the start of the ascent to Big Horn Plataeu.

Deer and marmots lined the trail.  At the top the air was crisp.  A fire plume in the distance bellowed upwards to the heavens.  Ultimately peaceful, I saw no one else until Tyndall Creek.  The comments of the dangers of Tyndall Creek played back in my head as I approached.  I heard Tyndall creek miles before I saw it.  At the trail crossing the river was about 15 meters wide, steep, and fast moving.  Brush on both sides of the river would make for a difficult entry and exit.  Downstream looked to get steeper, and I saw some falls, so I headed upstream.  In about a mile I scoped a potential crossing.   I saw three travelers southbound through the woods.  I hailed them and they walked towards me.   I asked them if this was a good spot.  They ripped off their shoes and all crossed barefoot, threw on the shoes and continued.  They were nonplussed, focused, and wasted no time.  I took my cue.  I changed my shoes and started to cross.  It looked worse than it was.  The stone bed was slippery, but I went slow.  The water only went up to my thigh, splashing my stomach occasionally.  I made it across, waved and started to change back into my hiking boots.  I was almost complete when I saw Nosebleed, Ramses, and California Gold.  I waved at them and showed them where I had crossed.  Here they are crossing the mighty Tyndall Creek.

The trail after Tyndall turned into a creek bed from the snow melt.  Half the time I waded through muck or stepped on rocks.  Shortly after the creek I hit my first major snowfield.  I put on my crampons and went to work.  I saw no trail.  I went from rock out cropping to rock out cropping.  I found an ice traverse path and took it.  I looked back and saw not only Nosebleed’s group, but another group of six.  That was Emma’s San Diego group.  I pushed forward.  My feet were soaked from going through the snow.  I ran into two more southbound hikers.  They wanted to know how much snow until it was done, they were tired of the snow and wanted it to be over.  They let me know there was a lot of snow ahead.  I pushed forward into the mountainous cul-de-sac.  Determined not to fail a Forrester ascent, I wanted to get as close as I could to the base.  I stopped at the second to last out cropping to the base at 12,000 feet.  I setup my tent next to a rock wall, and cooked some Top Raman with dried vegetables.  My body graciously received this tiny bit of warmth.

It was cold.  I finished my dinner right as the sun dropped behind the mountain.  The temperature dropped instantly and I became very cold.  I got into my sleeping bag and did what I could to stay warm.  To say it was a cold night grossly understates how cold it was.  The cold air went right through my tent, sleeping bag, jacket, and socks.  I shivered most of the night.


I wanted to be the first up the mountain, so I hustled out before sunrise. I was up anyway from the cold so I jumped to it.   I crossed two snowfields and hit the base of Forrester as the San Diego group caught up with me.  We had to do an ice scramble ascent.  There was no trail, just some random boot tracks here and there.  After a 200 foot ascent of an ice sheet we hit trail, which we followed for a bit, and then a large ice traverse, then more switchbacks.  I was going to make it.  When we got to the dreaded ice chute, it looked like nothing.  I had already done ice traverses that were more difficult than that.  One of the folks from the San Diego dropped his ice axe and had to climb down the ice chute to get it.  Oops.

I was elated making it to the top.  The view was amazing.  But I was just as amazed to see flowers, birds, and insects up there.  I rested a bit, then started down, which consisted of a long ice traverse.  The San Diego group opted to glissade down (400 foot glissade), I decided not to.  Down snowy switchbacks and some small glissades, I descended into the valley below, crossing the Bubbs creek ice bridge.  I lost sight of the San Diego group and Cucumber.  Once the snow drifts disappeared, I found a nice spot pine needle bed campsite to take a nap.  I washed my shirt hung it out to dry, and laid down for for a power nap. I awoke refreshed.  I walked along Bubbs creek; heavy on my mind was the thought as to whether I should continue or quit.  My food was not working out well.  I wasn’t hungry, but I also wasn’t eating much.  My chaffing was better and not hurting anymore, but this was much more difficult than I had thought it would be.  Just before the Bubbs Creek Trail Junction, Radagast and Tennison caught up with me.  We exchanged pleasantries and forged ahead.  I was tired, and I had hoped to get to Bull Frog lake, but a traveler told me campsites were closed.    I turned up the trail towards bull frog lake thinking I would go as far as my legs would carry me.   Half way up, I saw Cucumber at his site.  I asked if I could share the space, he agreed….I looked a little farther and found another campsite between two streams.  I moved over there.  As I ate dinner, it started to rain.  I hopped in my tent.  The next morning, I asked Cucumber if he could text my wife and kids to let them know I was OK.

The next morning I started off and went up by bull frog lake and headed towards Kearsarge Pass.  My first food drop.  I had eaten very little of my food and was still contemplating quitting.  In reaching the top of Kearsarge I marveled at the view.  I stopped to watch the clouds pass.  How do things get so beautiful?

A few glissades and a lot of switchbacks down I headed towards my food drop.  The campsite was abandoned and closed due to storm damage.  I headed off through the gate to Danica’s.  I walked up, feet dragging, and encountered a man with a lip full of chew and a pistol tucked into his belt.  He invited me to sit on the porch.  It was the first real conversation of my trip that didn’t consist of trail updates.  We talked about the mountains, hunting, the Army, young people, and the history of the area.  It was a rich discussion and an much needed distraction.  After an hour or so, I told him of my trouble with my nutrition plan and how I was thinking about quitting.   He walked inside the cabin, and came out with a can of french cut green beans and a hand full of crystal lite mix: “Someone left these behind.  I’m pretty sure you can do the hike, give yourself more credit.”  I took the beans, the Crystal Light and his advice to heart.  I started back up the mountain.  I couldn’t reach the top, so I stopped just above Flower Lake for the night just before a thunder, lightning, and hail storm.


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