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John Muir Trail - Northern Section

Backpackers: Carl Fisher, Ed Tucker, John Gundry, Joe Gundry








Devil's Post Pile









At Donahue Pass




Looking down at Lyell Fork River from Donahue Pass




Reflection on Lyell Fork River




Sunset light filtering through the smoke of the Rim wild fire




Lower Sunset Camp

 August 24, 2013 No miles

  • Flew from Green Bay to Las Vegas, rented a small car into which we stuffed the four of us and our gear
  • Drove to Mammoth Lakes CA (about a six hour drive) where we picked up our permit to hike along the John Muir Trail and then camped at Reds Meadow

 August 25, 2013 9.5 miles

  • Woke up to frost on the grass and lots of condensation on our tent flys
  • Ed drove back to Mammoth Lake ski area to leave the car while we hiked and caught a shuttle back to Reds Meadow
  • Highlight was seeing Devil's Post Pile during the first hour of hiking  A very neat natural feature.
  • Sunny and breezy all day – very pleasant
  • Good energy in the AM but after lunch we were all running low on energy – we blame the altitude change from 7600 feet to 9300 feet.  We went as high as 9600 feet
  • Arrived a Rosalie Lake at 3:00PM where we camped for the night
  • Spent some time finding the best location for our tents – there were plenty of “widow makers” – standing, dead trees that a big wind could blow over and make a wife a widow.

August 26, 2013 10.2 miles

  • Woke up to temps in the mid 40’s – felt warm
  • Completed three different assents during the day but overall we descended 300 feet for the day
  • Lunch at Garnet Lake
  • Our big discussion today centered on deciding if we should turn around.  There is a 40% chance of thunderstorms right during the time we plan to go through Donahue Pass which is at 11075 feet.  Thunderstorms increase the likelihood of lightning strikes and there is little to no protection at the pass.  Ultimately we decide to press on and see what the morning brings
  • Sunny all day – camp at Rush Creek

 August 27, 2013 8.0 miles

  • Carl had a sleepless night.  Fever, sinus infection, stomach issues
  • Sunny and clear most of the day, vindicating the decision to press on
  • Tough, long, 2000 foot slog to ascend to Donahue Pass (over 11,000 feet in elevation)
  • Gorgeous views of where we had just come and to where we were going
  • Camp tonight at Lyle Fork Base Camp which is at the same elevation we started the day

August 28, 2013 10.0 miles

  • Almost all the backpacking today is flat along the Lyell Fork River on the PCT.
  • Sunny all day with uneventful hiking
  • Arrived to Tuolumne Meadows Backpackers camp around noon where we….
  • Went to Yosemite Grill to eat hamburgers for lunch and get resupplied with wine from the store
  • Ate freeze dried food at camp for supper – we decided that it was “too far to walk” to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge – I guess we were getting lazy (or maybe just being cheap).
  • Carl continues to have sinus issues – purchases overpriced medication at the store
  • To add insult to injury not only is Carl’s sinus’ acting up but as he was chewing on an M&M a crown came off one his teeth.  Fortunately there had also been a root canal so no pain.  A quick call back to the dentist in Green Bay results in putting the crown in a zip lock back, not losing it, and waiting until returning home to have it reattached.

August 29, 2013 8.0 miles

  • Slow start out of camp since today is a short, low mileage day
  • Caught shuttle to Tenaya Lake Trailhead
  • Hiked 3 miles to Lower Sunrise Lake where we set up camp and went swimming
  • For supper we hike 2 miles (one way) to Sunrise High Sierra Camp where we paid $40 each for a meal assessed to be only acceptable.  At least it wasn’t freeze dried!
  • Dinner ending just as daylight is fading so we hike back at a fast pace (which is really fun after a big meal) and the last ¼ mile was in total darkness

August 30, 2013 10.5 miles

  • Day-hiked to Clouds Rest on this very sunny day, elevation 9426
  • Consumed wine and cheese near the top
  • From the top of Clouds Rest we could see the smoke from the wild fires just as the smoke began to make its way up Yosemite Valley. 
  • Upon return to camp we were joined by a couple of professors from a CA university who had hiked in for a swim.
  • We talked about hiking out due to concern about being choked with smoke the following day.  Final decision was to stay and about 2 hours later ash from the wild fire started falling.  Oh well, too late now.

August 31, 2013 3.0 miles

  • Worst fears realized when we woke – thick, pungent smoke everywhere and our tents coated with ash.
  • The hike, fortunately, was all downhill to Tenaya Lake Trailhead where we caught a shuttle back to Tuolumne Meadows backpacker camp where we planned to spend the night.
  • Tuolumne Meadows was covered with smoke as well so we…..
  • Had another burger at the Yosemite Grill before catching the YARTS shuttle bus at 4:00PM back to Mammoth Lakes and our rental car.  The plan is to camp at Reds Meadows again before heading to Las Vegas to following day.
  • Smoke seems to be following us as Mammoth Lakes had plenty of smoke as well so we….
  • Decided, what the hell, head for Vegas even though we wouldn’t get there till around mid-night.
  • Carl called his wife to let her know of the change in plans and she warned of flash flood warnings in Nevada.  A quick internet search showed the intended route going right through the heart of the warning area so we …..
  • Decided to drive an hour and get a motel room for the night however….
  • No motels available in the town we selected because there was some sort of fair in town so we….
  • Continued heading for Las Vegas with lightening in the distance around the mountains.  All was going well until….
  • We came upon the results of a flash flood.  About 6 to 8 inches of sand and desert rocks strewn across the road which we hit going about 45 miles an hour.  Ed handled it well and did not lose control of the car.  We got out and checked the car and found …..
  • No obvious damage so we continued – now only going about 20 miles per hour in the middle of no-where Nevada until….
  • We came upon a group of cars with their 4 way flashers on.  We came to a stop and found….
  • One care completely washed off the road and stuck in about 2 feet of sand.  We pulled out our cell phones to call for help and guess what….
  • No cell service in the middle of no-where Nevada.  Out all the cars we were the only Americans so we were looked to by everyone figure out what to do.  So we….
  • Did not come up with any good ideas. Until one of the individuals helping out asked if the “On Star” on his car might work?
  • Excellent idea – so we went and pressed SOS and got no response, so we pressed normal On Star with the same result and then SOS again.  Nothing happened.  Oh well, but…..
  • Not 5 minutes later a patrol car showed up with lights flashing (so maybe the SOS had been answered).  With the police now in charge we….
  • Continued to head to Vegas with Carl and Joe leading the way on the road-throwing large rock (fist and head size) off the road.
  • Rest of the evening was uneventful.  Did not make it to Vegas as we found of motel around 1:00AM that was reasonably clean and not too expensive.