July 27, 2010

JMT Day 1

211 miles to Mt Whitney?!?!

Date: Wednesday, July 14
Miles: ~24
Start: Happy Isles
Camp: Tuolumne Meadows

The first sentence in the trail journal of the trip: "Bear Attack @ 445am"

What a way to start the trip! Andrea woke me up and asked if the rattling sound outside was a bear. My first response was "No, go back to bed, you're paranoid," but then the metallic rattling sound of something trying to break into the bear boxes grew louder, and it was quite evident that a bear was about 10 feet away. We think some other campers who arrived after we went to bed didn't do a very good job of closing the bear boxes, and the bear ended up successful in getting our first day's rations! Luckily our BearVaults were safe (slobbery, though). Andrea's canister had a solid bear claw mark right across the top.

The plan for the first day was to take breaks every 30 minutes and hopefully make it 15-17 miles. We started at 6am, walked the mile from the campground to the Happy Isles trailhead, and were finally on the John Muir Trail! Two hours and two-thousand feet of climbing later we took our first break... so much for the first part of the plan to take breaks every half hour. During that time we diverted temporarily off the JMT and took the steeper but more scenic Mist Trail, which passed by a series of awesome waterfalls which sprayed us and kept us cool. We'd highly recommend other JMTers take the Mist Trail as well.

We had constant company all morning from all the Half Dome hikers, but separated from the crowds once we were past the junction at 9am. From that point forward most of the trail stayed in the forest. We were moving faster than anticipated and felt a lot better than we thought we would as well! In the mid-afternoon we reached Long Meadow, home of two million freshly hatched and hungry mosquitoes. We pretty much RAN that 1.5 mile stretch, waving our hands frantically to keep them off our faces. Mosquitoes would be a recurring problem for the first 5 days on the trail.

After reaching Cathedral Pass we had already climbed 6000 feet of vertical, and it was still early in the afternoon, so we just decided to make the first day an epic one and go all the way to Tuolumne Meadows. We took a long break at Upper Cathedral Lake, then started the last 5-6 miles of the day. We reached the Tuolumne General Store at 630pm, bought Nestle Crunch Ice Cream bars and some more DEET, then headed to the campground for the night. We were exhausted, but pretty thrilled to have pulled off a huge first day on the trail. All our doubts about our fitness were erased; we actually were in as good of shape as we had thought a week earlier. The 100+ mile weeks of running (50+ for Andrea) were already paying off.

Heading up the Mist Trail

Vernal Falls

The side of Half Dome that most valley visitors don't see

Yosemite National Park

Our first peanut butter / nutella wraps!

Feeling surprisingly good for the first day

Long Meadow right before we hit mosquito city

Heading towards Cathedral Pass

Upper Cathedral Lake

A nice cold swim

Tuolumne Meadows

Tired by the time we hit the general store

Enjoying some CRUNCH ice cream

Two crucial items

Our last non-wilderness campsite. After this, there were no more tables / bathrooms / roads / etc.

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