John Muir Trail Thru Hike: Day One

Twin Lakes to Virginia Lake: 16.7 miles

Sept. 12th, 2011                                                                                                    

I left the Tamarack Lodge by Twin Lakes in Mammoth and hit the trail by 8:30 am. After almost a year of planning I was excited to finally be on the thru hike section of the JMT. I had already hiked the first 60 miles earlier in the summer and now I would be hiking the final 160 miles solo.

For trip reports on the first two sections of the JMT check out:

Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Solo Ultralight Trip

John Muir Trail: Tuolumne Meadows to Devils Postpile.

My resupply was waiting a few days away at Muir Trail Ranch so my pack only weighed about 14 lbs. The back way to the Horseshoe Lake trail head involved some bushwhacking but soon I was heading over Mammoth Pass. This area is mainly forested with just a slight amount of incline over the 'pass'. I connected with the JMT at Upper Crater Meadow and soon I was out of the forest and there were good views of the Cascade Valley.

Entering the Ansel Adams Wilderness on the way to Mammoth Pass.

Views of the Cascade Valley. The clouds would bring rain later that day.

The trail was well graded even with some elevation changes at the outlet of Duck Lake and Purple Lake. On the way up from Duck Lake it started to hail so while seeking shelter under a tree I put on my pack cover and rain parka. I had made both of these out of lightweight cuben fiber (0.34 oz/sqyd and 0.51 oz/sqyd) earlier in the summer and I was interested to see how they 'performed' in a full on rain shower. The pack cover was fine, but the neck seam on the rain jacket leaked even after being seam sealed. I tried using super glue to seal it, but it leaked a little throughout the next few days.

The rocky trail follows the 10,150 ft. elevation contour around a large bluff and eventually descends to Purple Creek. It was raining steadily but I made good time down the granite stairs. After filling up on water at Purple Creek I made my way up more switchbacks on the way to Virginia Lake.

This section was beautiful and I was amazed by a large formation of huge 'newer' looking boulders that looked very much out of place to the right of the trail. Elizabeth Wenks guidebook describes these boulders as a rock glacier that is slowly moving down the slope. I took a break in this area and checked the few pages I brought along of the guidebook for good camp sites at Virginia Lake. Two girls passed me who I had seen putting on their rain back at the outlet of Duck Lake. When I told them I was checking for a good camp near Virginia Lake one of them commented that there is camping all over the place and to just camp wherever you get tired. I felt like a total newbie sitting there reading the guidebook as they cruised by me on their way to Tully Hole for the night.

Soon I was over the crest and heading down to Virginia Lake. The weather did not look good and it was time to find some shelter quickly. I got some more water and headed up to the trees above the lake in search of a good spot to ride out the storm. I had dinner on a rock overlooking Virginia Lake, a beautiful lake with a nice stream feeding it from above. I had read a lot about this lake and was not disappointed.

After stashing my bear canister in some trees far from my shelter I got into my warm down quilt and started what would become my nightly routine of reading the guidebook and maps for the next days travel. My legs were a sore but I had been training all summer by doing 12 mile hikes on the weekends and I had already done a trip with consecutive 15 mile days. I used the bear canister to roll out my right I.T. band which had been a concern earlier in the season. I had no problems the entire trip thanks to the corrective exercises I learned from my friend and trainer Joe Fox in Newport Beach. I was ready to delay my trip and get knee surgery earlier in the year, but Joe showed my how to fix all my knee problems. Joe is a life saver and I can't thank him enough.

I was awakened in the night by what sounded like a bear knocking my bear canister around the rocks. I had left my stove out since I would be using it again in the morning, and I could here it being bounced around on the rocks. My heart was racing and I was ready to jump out and scare the bear away. After a while the bear seemed to get tired and since it couldn't get at the food it seemed to go away. I was tired and after a while went back to sleep. I tossed and turned most of the night.

Tarp & Bivy in rain mode at Virginia Lake.  

Virginia Lake at the end of Day 1. Ominous clouds never brought much rain that night.

A video of the hail storm on Day 1:

A map of the days progress (click for full size):

twin lakes to Virginia lake elevation profile (click for full size)

Click here for John Muir Thru Hike: Day Two

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