Carson Baker

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Hiking the John Muir Trail

compiled May 2015

In July 2014, Dani and I hiked the JMT southbound from Happy Isles to Mt. Whitney. Because this was our first through-hike, we took our sweet time, hiking at a slow pace, in a lazy style, stopping frequently, and re-provisioning often. My only regret is that we didn't go slow enough. It was an amazing experience that went by far too quickly.

Dani's Trip Journal

Day 1

July 5, 2014

Today was our first full day on the JMT. We spent the morning in Yosemite

Valley. Walked to the base of El Capitan. Then we hiked from Happy Isles (the official JMT Start) to Little Yosemite Campground, where we are staying for the night. The hike was steep and we had to go slow, but we made it. Towards the end, we got to dip our toes in Nevada Falls. Tomorrow we wake early for Half Dome. My Fitbit says that we hiked 15.56 miles. I don't think the device is too accurate, but I'll log the numbers it reports each day. Fitbit mileage: 15.56
JMT mile: 4

Day 2

July 6, 2014

Today we woke up at 5am and hiked to the junction of Half Dome (~2 mi). Then we

hiked another 2 miles to the cables that take you to the tippy top. Oh my god, it's so steep and intimidating, but I'm happy to say that I summited. Carson made me a harness out of short lengths of tubular webbing, so I was able to clip onto the cables as I pulled myself up and past the stanchions. I never said negative words as I was going up; I just focused on the next board to step onto. At first I was so sure I wouldn't do it, but I surprised myself, and I am proud! We were so tired after our summit that we only hiked about 2 miles more on the JMT and called it a day. We stopped to get water at Clouds Junction and found a campsite right next to a stream with a little pool. We went swimming (it was so cold) and I did laundry. We got here at around 2:30pm and along the way met a guy named Rick who is camping with us tonight.

Carson says: (1) Bugs are annoying. I don't know if it would help, but I regret

not getting our clothes treated with permethrin. (2) Dani can't pronounce Tuolomne no matter how many times I correct her. (3) I'm worried about our low mileage thus far. (4) We're having fun. JMT mile: 10

Day 3

July 7, 2014

We made it from our early camp all the way to Tuolomne. It was a long long way -- almost 20 miles maybe.

We hiked through such beautiful meadows. It was sort of unreal. Along the way a guy passed us who was doing the JMT in 5 days. Wow. His name was Ralph. His custom ZPacks backpack weighed ~9 lbs. We stopped at the Sunrise Sierra Camp, which was closed, but that was only up a couple of steps from Sunrise Meadow. The weather was perfect for hiking — overcast and cool. It rain/sprinkled on and off during the day with the rain never lasting more than five minutes. We stopped for lunch on top of a rock with an amazing panoramic view. We gained a lot of elevation — made it up to 10,000 ft at Cathedral Lakes. We finally caught up with Rick at Cathedral Lake and he hiked with us for a while. About 2 miles from Tuolomne, Rick decided to stop and pitch his tent. Carson and I sat with him while he set up camp, and decided to hike on so we could get a real meal for dinner. We finally made it to Tuolomne at around 6pm and stopped into the visitor center. We bypassed Soda Springs, but we are okay with that. The ranger at the visitor center told us to go to the lodge for dinner. We walked out and waited for the shuttle even though the lodge was only 2 miles away, because we were hungry and worn out. The bus never came. After 30 minutes we decided to walk and maybe hitch a ride. We started walking and a mom and daughted named Jessie and Vera Martinez (aka the "White Martinezes") offered us a ride and gave me fruit. We were riding for about a minute and we saw Rick walking down the road! He'd been afraid of getting a ticket at the campsite he chose and hiked into town. He read that he shouldn't camp so close to the trailhead, and he really doesn't want to get into trouble. We gave him a ride to the campground and went to dinner at the lodge. We sat with 3 other couples at the table: 2 guys from Norway (one of whichs poke 5 languages); a guy from Sweden and girl from Australia who met each other in Vegas; and a couple from Tahoe. The Tahoe woman was an SLP! I had veggie fajitas and we split a piece of cheesecake. Yum. Worth the calories. After dinner we snuck into the showers — which we really weren't allowed to go to — and took a nice hot shower and cleaned up. Then we walked a mile to the backpackers campground and set up camp. Wow — what a day. Total miles today: 22.42. Also, I've learned how to pronounce Tuolomne. It's like saying "koala" and then "me".

Day 4

July 8, 2014

We woke up at Tuolumne Meadows backpacker's campground and went to the Tuolumne Grill for breakfast. At 9am the post office opened and we got our resupplies! We spent two hours repacking supplies into our packs and writing postcards. They had special tables for those picking up resupplies to organize their stuff. There was a table of PCT thru-hikers organizing their stuff. One wacko was hiking with a lamp — like an actual table lamp. Another smelled so bad that you gagged when he walked by. We also met Amanda from Vermont. Amanda was hiking solo because her hiking partner got sick. She left a little before us, but we caught up to her and she ended up hiking and camping with us all day. We saw quite a few folks trying to fish on the JMT. We also followed a couple for a while who were going to get married on top of Mt. Whitney. We camped at mile ~33 across from a beautiful meadow and river. It is so beautiful; I almost can't believe it. Carson's heel "hurt like the dickens," but he took some Tylenol and it is feeling better. Carson found a perfect pooping spot. I read LOTR and it fits so well with my surroundings.

Fitbit mileage: 15.85 miles
JMT mile: 30

Day 5

July 9, 2014

We hiked over Donahue Pass. It climbed up to more than 11,000 ft. Wow, what a rough morning. We crossed over from Yosemite into Inyo National Forest. We caught up with Amanda, passed her, and later she caught up with us and was having a hard time hiking alone. The view from the mountain was spectacular. About a mile after crossing Donahue Pass, we stopped so Carson could have a poop. While waiting, I tried my phone and discovered that I had cell service and 4G! I checked in with the family, and we posted two pictures to Instagram. We stopped at a river, and ate, and bathed. We are camping at a site near Rush Creek. No calamities today. The sun is hot and strong, but the air is cool.

Fitbit mileage: 13.41 miles
JMT mile: 39.9

Day 6

July 10, 2014

We woke up a little late. We had breakfast in the tent to avoid mosquitos, and quickly began hiking. We made it to Thousand Island Lake around noon. We wanted to soak our feet and relax, but after we finished lunch it started raining and hailing on us. It feels like we spent an hour wrapped up in our ponchos. I read LOTR as the sky was coming down. That was cool. We didn't know whether the hail would continue, so we decided to make some mileage. We hiked up, and then down again, and saw several beautiful lakes. The prettiest was Garnett Lake, which ended with a cool foot bridge to cross it. We're going to try to avoid Amanda because she's such a downer. Carson helped some grandparents find a camp site since their family was too far ahead for them to catch up. Tonight we are camping at Shadow Lake. There are rocks under our tent and we're not sure if it's legal camping, but we're staying anyway [turns out, it wasn't]. Our feet smell so bad. We get to Red's Meadow tomorrow! Yay showers! Yay real food!

Fitbit mileage: 15.33 miles
JMT mile: 50

Day 7

July 11, 2014

Wow — we made it a whole week! We got to Red's Meadow at around 3pm today. We were walking across a bridge earlier and Carson's foot slipped and he fell down between the planks, bending his pole a bit. It still works though! We each took a hot shower for $7, and I shaved! Eight days is the longest I have ever gone without shaving. We were also able to do a load of laundry and get a real meal, which was amazing. Carson, of course, had a burger and I had tuna, salad, and potato chips. We also shared a strawberry milkshake. Right when we got here I bought us each a tea, and I got a nectarine for me and an ice cream sandwich for Carson. There is a store here with some good stuff to buy. I am going to buy some bandanas to make pads to cushion my backpack straps. We stopped for lunch at a little river today and sat with a guy named Ryan. He was going to meet up with his parents at Devil's Post Pile and ended up at our campsite at Red's Meadow. Devil's Post Pile was cool. We could have gone to it, but it would have been an additional side trip, so we opted to look at it from across the valley. We're going to do another load of laundry in the morning. Also, Amanda the Downer (aka Old Saddlebags) finally decided she couldn't hang and left on a bus.

Fitbit mileage: 15.16 miles
JMT mile: 59

Day 8

July 12, 2014

We woke at Red's Meadow and had breakfast. I spoke to both mom and dad this morning. We ate at the Red's Meadow restaurant and then spent about three hours trying to repack our packs to fit all of our resupply stuff. Today was rough. It was monotonous and all uphill in sand. There was also very little shade and a boring landscape. We crossed from Inyo to Sierra National Forest. After dinner, Carson slipped on a river crossing, and got his right foot wet. We are tired and hopeful that tomorrow is prettier, shadier, and has more downhill. We took very few pics today and just trudged on. Tough was our roughest day so far. Carson's back hurts and my feet hurt.

Fitbit mileage: 16.49 miles
JMT mile: 70

Day 9

July 13, 2014

We stayed at the outlet of Duck Lake (called Duck Creek) last night. Today has been much better so far. We are having lunch at Virginia Lake and there is a rainbow in the sky. We met an older man named Stan whose trail name is 'SlowMo'. He's doing the PCT as a way to restart his life after losing his son three years ago and his wife one year ago. Today is a lot better than yesterday. There are ups, but also downs, and there's way more to look at. We spent about 2-3 hours at Virginia Lake. We went swimming and Carson did some bouldering over the water. As we walked away from the lake, we ran into a group doing a series of smaller hikes. The leader of the pack was Ken. All their packs weighed 50+ pounds. Wow. That would suck. We made it to Squaw Lake tonight. We chatted with Peggy, who is hiking on her own and who we saw at Red's Meadow too. Squaw Lake is so beautiful. We are at the top of a mountain and there is a beautiful alpine lake with a waterfall. We got to see the sunset tonight from up here. Wow. We also saw two more rainbows in the sky. Carson had chocolate cheesecake for dessert. My homemade dehydrated chili was really good: probably the best meal I've had this whole trip.

Fitbit mileage: 14.71 miles
JMT mile: 80

Day 10

July 14, 2014

We took Goodall Pass down to Vermillion Valley Resort. What a nasty hike. The beginning was beautiful: alpine lakes and mountain deserts. We took Goodall Pass, which is not on the JMT, because it gave us a direct route to VVR. Normally hikers get picked up at Lake Edison, but the lake is so low that they aren't able to do that. The hike was really rough. It was mostly downhill, but all of it in sand, which killed my feet. We were accosted by mosquitos and flies for most of the hike. We got to VVR and saw some familiar hiking faces. Today we also had to cross several rivers/creeks. I fell into one, bruising my arm and leg and soaking my right side. The river and creek crossings were more challenging likely because we were off the JMT, and they weren't maintained as well. We had a fabulous dinner at VVR. I had veggies and polenta. We did all our laundry because they had temp/loner clothes we could borrow. I wore Tommy Hilfiger pants and a Hawaiian shirt that were both about 6 sizes too big. We also tried a little slacklining and chatted with some fellow JMTers that we have been leap-frogging with: Adam, Emory, Zoey, and her cousin Nora. We played two games at dinner: "Fact or Crap" and "Who Am I?". We got a room at VVR. That means we got a hot shower and a bed. We haven't had cell service since Red's Meadow. I wish I could check in with family. It is stressing me out a bit.

Fitbit mileage: 18.31 miles
JMT mile: 90

Day 11

July 15, 2014

We woke up at VVR and slept in a bit. We had a tasty breakfast and paid out our tab for staying at the resort. We took the "ferry" — which was really an old fishing boat and a 8HP Evinrude — across the mostly empty Lake Edison. As the boat came to the other shore, we saw Rick! Then we had to walk along the dried-up lake bed for about a mile. Hiking through sand is tough. We hiked with the group from yesterday (Adam, Emory, Zoey, and a new girl) for about 3 miles back to the JMT. It was overcast and cool today. We decided to eat dinner in our tent because the mosquitos were so bad. it was a good thing thing though, because we were safe in our tent when a big storm blew through. Tomorrow we will hit the halfway mark!

Fitbit mileage: 14.89 miles
JMT mile: 95.3

Day 12

July 16, 2014

We woke up at Bear Creek and tried to dry off our tent as much as possible. We hiked up over Silver Pass and as we neared the top we stopped for lunch. The sky looked like a storm was rolling in so we quickly set up our tent and got inside. It rained for about three hours, but we stayed dry. I read and Carson napped. Silver Pass was incredible. There were several lakes: Mary Lake, Heart Lake, Sallie Keys Lakes. We passed them all as we hiked up and over the ridges. We reached our halfway point! We are at mile 105 on the JMT. Tomorrow we pick up our next resupply at Muir Trail Ranch.

Fitbit mileage: 13.97 miles
JMT mile: 105

Day 13

July 17, 2014

We made it to Muir Trail Ranch today and picked up our third resupply. After that we hiked up and passed into Muir Wilderness. We met two guys at MTR named Dave and Tony. They were both philosophy professors. I had a hard time today realizing that we have hiked for two weeks and we are only halfway through. It is hard not being able to contact my family, especially to see how grandpa is doing. I also think about how hectic life will be when we get back, but I know that we are making the right choice to get out of Houston for a while. We crossed Evolution Creek and camped on a big slab of granite. The stars were incredible and we could see the Milky Way perfectly. Carson explained to me why you can see the Milky Way when we are in it. The Milky Way is a spiral, and we are at one end of the spiral — we are seeing the other end [Carson now claims that's not what he said.]

Fitbit mileage: ?
JMT mile: 117

Day 14

July 18, 2014

We are hiking up over Muir Pass today. It is a long way up, but I am in better spirits today. Carson gave me a new mantra: "Every day in every way, I am getting stronger and stronger." Carson was feeling a little sick — maybe from drinking that gross dehydrated milk today or from general hunger or dehydration. Carson is always hungry now. We plan to go just beyond the pass today.

[Later...] The landscape today was incredible. We walked by Evolution, Sapphire, and Wanda Lakes. We skimmed 12,000 ft. today and made it over Muir Pass. The summit hut, built in honor of John Muir, was really neat. We hung out with some cool dudes on the roof and a ranger came up and gave us a bit of history on the hut. Muir pass is at an elevation of 11,955 feet. The hut was built by the Sierra Club in 1930 and is right at the top the pass. It provides hikers with temporary shelter on an otherwise exposed and desolate section of the trail. The structure was built one stone at a time and the stones and tools were carried up to the pass with mules.

Fitbit mileage: 20.18 miles
JMT mile: 132

Day 15

July 19, 2014

We started down the big hill (or "heel" if you're an Okie) around 9:00. Carson had his first "Appalachia" from the Outdoor Herbivore. Blech. The big problem for CB was that during the night, as he went to pee, he fell down a granite slab and badly cut both heels (not hills this time). He's limping around. Mosquitos were bothersome throughout the day even at camp (mile 146.7, >10,000 ft). [Carson writes..] Dani complained a lot today. She started "100 years of Solitude." I finished "One Summer" by Bill Bryson. We haven't bathed in five days. Feel smell something rotten. We are desperate to get to Onion Valley.

Fitbit mileage: 22.6 miles
JMT mile: 146.7

Day 16

July 20, 2014

[Carson writes...] We have a triple-snorter in the tent. Number two has a weird case of the giggles after a very tough day on the trail. We started out early and made it one mile to Palisade Lake. Then … hail, 40mph driving winds, rain, and pea-sized chunks of ice pelted us as we donned our ponchos and braced against a boulder for cover. We cowered for thirty minutes before backtracking to a flat spot and setting up the tent again. Three hours later the sun broke, so we dried our clothes, and tried again. We made it less than a mile before the hail re-appeared. So up goes the tent. We were drenched. An hour later we tried for the summit of Mather Pass and made it with thunderclouds looming. We made good speed down the pass and are now camped at mile 157. Didn't get cell service on top of Mather Pass. We have another shot at Glenn Pass tomorrow. Haven't showered in forever. Very very pretty today.

Fitbit mileage: 14.82
JMT mile: 157

Day 17

July 21, 2014

Today we got an early start! We were hiking by 7:40 am. We climbed up Pinchot Pass and spent lunchtime on the summit. The trek down from Pinchot Pass was loooong. Going down is harder on my body than going up. We were leapfrogging with a couple we refer to as "Yakity Yak" because they are so chatty. On Pinchot Pass they gave us some red beans and rice because they said they had too much food. Showoffs. They were also vegan and told me to check out a magazine called "Veg News" or something like that. We made it to mile 171.1 on the JMT. There wasn't any cell service again and I am feeling sad, worried, and guilty that I haven't been able to check-in with my family. Mostly, I want to check in on grandpa, who had his second round of chemo on Wednesday (about 5 days ago). We haven't had cell service in six days. Tomorrow we will tackle Glenn Pass and hopefully also Kearsarge Pass. We are about one-quarter of the way up Glenn Pass now. We both really want sushi and a shower.

Fitbit mileage: 20.5
JMT mile: 171.1

Day 18

July 22, 2014

Today was a big big day. We were hiking by 8 am; had breakfast by Arrowhead Lake. While we were eating breakfast at Arrowhead Lake, Yakity Yak #1 walks by. He turns around and goes back the way he came from. Next thing we know, he has taken off all his clothes and is jumping into the lake naked. He really didn't try to hide from us at all. We also hiked past a dad who was hiking the JMT and said he'd seen a bear near our campsite that morning. We climbed up Glenn Pass (12,000 ft). It was a real knacker of a climb. Carson looked like he was going to fall over or pass out. We finally got to the top and it was packed. There were about 30 people at the top. We quickly took our pictures and started the climb down. We hiked down Glenn Pass and made it to the Kearsarge Pass/Onion Valley Junction. We hiked two miles up through Kearsarge Pass and I finally got cell service! I called my family and felt better about the world. After checking in, and after Carson chatted with the rock-climbers on the pass, we started the hike down from the pass to Onion Valley Campground. We got about a quarter of the way down and realized we could make it down in an hour and decided to call and book a room for the night in Independence. We finally found a place with availability called "Ray's Den". We made it down to the campground and tried to find a ride into town. Town was about ~10 miles away. No one was willing. Finally, the campground host agreed to give us a ride if we paid him for gas. We did and snuck him an extra $10 because we were so appreciative of his help. His name was James and he was so so incredibly nice. He is the campground host, which means he acts as a janitor for the campground and collects the money. He says he's pretty much able to go on hikes whenever he wants. He brought us into town and took us straight to Subway, which was the only place still open. We walked in at 9:05pm and they said they closed at 9. The owner said that they'd make us something. Maybe we looked desperate… While we were placing our order, James brought in the extra money we tried to give him. We walked out of Subway and an off-duty police officer gave us some food he had had for takeaway. We graciously took it and walked to our hotel. We got to our hotel, checked in, and went to our room. Carson devoured one of the burgers the cop gave us and we both tore apart the waffle fries. Then Carson ate half of his Subway sandwich. I ate a Subway salad. The burgers were from Carl's Jr and it was odd that the officer gave us his two bags of uneaten food. It was even more odd when we realized that there was no Carl's Jr. in Independence. So we don't know where he got the food from! We were both really happy with our real food! Then we both took showers and looked in the mirror for the first time in a while. Carson is SKINNY. I think he's probably lost 15 lbs. We decided to spend two nights in Independence to recharge before we finish the JMT. I am so happy to pee in a toilet, eat real food, shower, and sleep in a real bed tonight.

We're off the JMT right now. No forward progress.

Day 19

July 23, 2014

We took a rest day in town today. We stayed at the Independence Inn. We picked up our resupply at the post office and found that Catherine had sent us a package. She sent us a clean pair of socks and two bandanas. That's really nice. I went to the hotel across the road (Mt. Williamson), because we were originally planning on staying there. I wanted to make sure we didn't have mail there. Hilary sent me a letter! It was so nice to hear her encouraging words! We ate tacos and fresh fruit. We did laundry and mainly hung around, chilled out, and planned the rest of our trip. We ate a tasty dinner at the only restaurant in town and we're getting an early start tomorrow. We have 4 days left!

No mileage today/REST DAY!

Day 20

July 24, 2014

We left Independence this morning. Jim, the owner of the Independence Inn, gave us a ride back to the Onion Valley Campground. We hiked back over Kearsarge Pass and back to the JMT (7.5 miles). Then we started hiking up Forrester Pass. We were passed by Atticus, the 14 year old, who we last saw going north-bound. He and his dad are almost done with their JMT 'Yo-Yo' trip. We found a somewhat slanted spot for sleeping by a stream. Atticus' dad told Carson we don't need to filter our water this high up. We are at 11,300 feet right now and we have 2.5 miles to the top of Forrester Pass tomorrow. 3 days left! It's hard to believe. We are at mile 186.3 on the JMT. Carson keeps blaming Clippy for his tent-farts. I know it's not Clippy. [Clippy is the anthropomorphized binder clip that we use to open our bear cans.]

Fitbit mileage: 20.5 miles and 530 floors climbed
JMT mile: 186.3

Day 21

July 25, 2014

Today we woke early-ish and Climbed Forrester Pass (13,000 ft). We got such a good start yesterday that we made it to the top by 10:45 am. Carson hiked and danced his way up. It was a very pretty pass and that, combined with the walk down, made this one of our favorite days. We took a break in a meadow and had lunch under a big tree. We walked through a barren meadow that reminded us of a cross between Mars and the Salvador Dali melting clock painting. We saw a lot of marmots and a huge jackrabbit. Carson chased them and discovered that he is faster than a marmot, but not faster than a jackrabbit. It's not actually possible to catch a Marmot though, because they're very quick to dart into a hole in the ground. We saw rangers cleaning the trail. They were using shovels to clear the path. What a chore! Today was super windy. At one point my hat blew off and landed in a pile of dried horse poop. Yuck. We are now in Sequoia National Forest. We are camping near Wallace Creek at mile 198.9 on the JMT. Carson was in a great mood today and he danced a lot. We talked about how to measure the height of a mountain. Tonight is our penultimate night in the tent. Tomorrow will be an easy day because we just have to get to Guitar Lake at mile 206.

Fitbit mileage: 18.14 miles and 241 floors climbed
JMT mile: 198.9

Day 22

July 26, 2014

We slept in a bit and didn't start hiking until after 9am. We made it to Guitar Lake at around 2:30pm and set up camp. We almost wished we had climbed Mt. Whitney today, but I suppose it's nice to relax before what should be our biggest day. We are at 11,500 ft. right now. Our plan is to wake at 3am, start hiking by 4am, get to the top at around 8-9am and then begin our long descent. We will climb about 2 miles up, leave our stuff at the junction, and then climb the last 2 miles to the top of the tallest peak in the contiguous United States. The walk down might be more difficult that the hike up because we have to switchback 8.5 miles down to Whitney Portal and then we have to catch a ride into Lone Pine were we have a room booked. I feel that I have gained more from this experience than I realize that I will look back on it fondly. It's been so tough. This is the most physically demanding thing I've ever done, but I think my body has handled it pretty well. I miss being connected, especially to my family and my mom. Carson and I are ready to move on in our lives and in our careers. We have to move and we have a bus to deal with. Carson says he wants to keep hiking forever, but I really think he wants to sit in a chair and drink a chocolate milkshake. He also really wants to watch some chess on YouTube. Our feet smell and we are scraped and bruised all over. I am so ready to go home. I will miss the sweet smell of the pine trees and the incredible views each day. Okay — less than 24 hours left.

Fitbit mileage: ?
JMT mile: 206

Day 23

July 27, 2014

Our last day! We woke up at 3am, packed up our gear, took out snacks, and started hiking up Mt. Whitney at around 3:40am. We hiked in the dark with our headlamps on. We made it to the trail junction as it was just barely light enough to see. On our way up, we got spooked by a guy who stumbled out of the darkness and right onto the trail in front of us. It turns out he had gotten off-route. It was about 2.5 miles up to the junction. Carson saw a shooting star. The stars were really so amazing. There were so many and we could see the Milky Way! We made it to the trail junction at 5:30am. I left my bag and hiking poles at the junction and took out my bear can. Carson took out his bear can, but kept his pack on since it was light, and he didn't want to risk animals getting into it. From the junction, it was 1.9 miles to the top of Mt. Whitney. I am so glad it was light out by the time we hiked the last 1.9 miles up because there were some treacherous spots with third-class climbing and it got really narrow. We made it to the top of Whitney at around 7:30am. It was the perfect time to be there. The sun was still rising, but it wasn't too crowded and the sky was a little cloudy, but still clear. We took a lot of pictures and signed the trail log. We looked and saw none other than Rick's name listed for the previous day. Rick Novak from Julian, California! How did he beat us?! It was amazing being at the top of Mt. Whitney at 14,505 ft. We saw the sunrise and we could see for miles in every direction. It was windy, but so peaceful and I felt so happy. We made it to the end of the JMT! Mile 211.9. I can hardly believe it.

We began our hike down Mt. Whitney at around 8-9am. We hiked the 1.9 miles back to the trail junction and passed so many people going up to the top. I am really glad that we went up when we did. We picked up our stuff at the trail junction and started making our way down to Whitney Portal. It was around 8 miles down. There were so many folks coming up the switchbacks as we were going down. We hiked down for so long. It seemed like the longest hike of our trip and I did end up getting more steps in than any other day. First, there were switchbacks to the trail camp. While in a trail camp, we saw some marmots gnawing on some people's food. The dummies didn't store their food in a bear can like they are supposed to do. Carson and I got a video of the marmot feast. We kept walking down and it started to get dark and these ominous clouds rolled in. It soon started raining and we put on our ponchos. It continued to rain until we reached Whitney Portal. Our feet were wet and Carson got his first bad blisters because the rain made our shoes so wet. The rain was pouring down and we needed to take refuge for 20 minutes. We ducked into a cave/overhang with two guys who were starting the JMT from Whitney and going Northbound (NOBO). Carson started fantasizing about Cheeseburgers at the first switchback. He saw rocks turn into cheeseburgers and trees turn into cheeseburgers. Toward the end of our hike down a woman passed us going uphill. Carson asked her if she had a cheeseburger. She looked confused and said, "No." Carson yelled, "THEN GET OUT OF MY WAY!" The woman looked shocked. We finally made it to Whitney Portal and vowed to never approach Whitney from that side. Holy moly — there are 10 miles of endless switchbacks that go up, and up, and up. We got to Whitney Portal and went to the store so Carson could get a cheeseburger. All I could really have there was a plate of fries, so that's what I got. Fries and a lemonade. We hitched a ride to Lone Pine and I ran into a grocery store to buy fruit and club soda and met Carson back at the hotel. We both showered and reconnected to the world. We ate dinner at a place called "Seasons", and I had my first glass of wine in about 25 days. We went back to the hotel, packed up, and went to bed.

JMT mile: 211.9

Day 24

July 28, 2014

We're going home! We woke up at 4:30am so that we could catch the Eastern Sierra Transit bus to Reno. They only took exact change so right before we went to bed, Carson ran out to find an ATM. We saw so many familiar faces on the bus including the dudes we camped next to at Guitar Lake, Lyell, the 11 year old and his dad, and the guy who got lost going up Whitney in the dark, Matt. The driver started our journey by playing movie soundtracks on the PA. The Jurassic Park theme! It was such a great way to start our day and end our trip. This began our ~16 hour journey home. It took 6 hours on the bus to get to Reno. We got there at noon and our flight left at 4:30pm. I paced the terminal, and we read, and I discovered that one of my pricy orthotics had fallen out of my pack, probably into the back of the bus. That's what happens when other people handle my gear. [Later...] We are now on the second-leg: a flight from Phoenix. We get in to Houston at 11:30pm. Nash is picking us up. He says he's bringing the delousing kit. We are both so ready to be home, to sleep in our own bed, and wear clean clothes.

Final thoughts:

It is hard to sum up our experience. It was both one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and one of the most mentally (and the most physically) demanding things I have ever done. I do feel healthy, strong, and proud of myself.

Here are some of the things we liked and disliked on the trip.

Carson says, "I cast a vile pox upon:"

  • Amanda "saddlebags"
  • Mountain House
  • Quinoa "cheddar mac"
  • Hailstorms
  • Cell network providers
  • Curry Villagers
  • "Going" when he denotes himself

I bless:

  • Onion Valley host "James"
  • The generous lone pine sheriff
  • Independence Jim
  • Clippy Clipford
  • Rick! And Atticus! And Lyell!

Dani says, "Here's the good:"

  • The stars at night
  • Probar Chews
  • Food at resupply spots
  • My warm sleeping bag
  • Clippy!
  • The folks who gave us a ride: Campground Jim, Jessie and Vera Martinez, and the Aggie engineer
  • Getting better at hiking
  • Books on tape
  • Getting stronger and leaner
  • The views! Favorites: coming down from Forrester and Kearsarge Passes

"Here's the bad:"

  • Stinky feet
  • My slowly deflating sleeping pad
  • Putting in our contacts
  • Aches in my toes and shins
  • Climbing up forever, climbing down forever
  • Not getting cell service
  • Dry, bloody noses
  • The masses on Glenn Pass
  • Dehydrated food
  • Super cold mornings
  • Finding a spot to pee and digging a hole to poop-both without being seen
  • Hail storms
  • Being stinky
  • Dirty hands, fingers, legs, etc.

Bonus Video

Being alone in the wilderness for days on end makes you a little loopy.