John Muir Trail Daily Log: Day 0-5

Hey Friends! We’re back from the John Muir Trail and forever changed for the better! Over the next few weeks we’re going to roll out some blog posts containing photos paired with select days from my written journal from on the trail, and video daily logs that we recorded on trail. This first one will cover day 0-5! Enjoy!

Thousand Island Lake - Morning of day 4

Thousand Island Lake - Morning of day 4

Journal Entry: Day Three

Camp spot at the end of day 2 - 35mm film

Camp spot at the end of day 2 - 35mm film

Woke up at 4 am and we were on the trail by 5:15 am. We find that we can get on the trail faster if Owen works on our gear and I help Sissy with hers. The first thing we had to do was a spicy little crossing of Ireland Creek, which was the creek we were camped by that night. The current wasn’t quite as strong as the night before because the cooler temperatures of night slow the snow meltdown but it still was moving impressively fast. I was the first to cross the raging creek on a log. My balance wasn’t as good as it normally is being that it was first thing in the morning. Sissy attempted next, and it was very clear that she wasn’t going to make it across by walking on the log. She kept falling off before she made it to the water... This would be a really bad time and place to fall in. Owen came across the log next and dropped his gear and went back over to retrieve Sissy’s gear while I coached Sissy through straddling a different log to scootch across. It was slow but effective! She made it to the other side mostly dry! As she made it across I laughed and said: “Who needs coffee anyway?!”

From there most of the morning was spent climbing out of Lyell Canyon towards Donohue Pass under the incredible light of the morning. We seem to be some of the few people that prefer to start so early in the morning. We went hours without seeing anyone. The light is best for taking pictures at this time anyways. The climbing was slow going until we got to a deep river crossing that required us to switch into Bedrocks with Donohue Pass in sight. We decided to continue to hike in Bedrocks for a while because the map indicated that we’d need to cross a lot more waterways. The map was right, we crossed a few more creeks and kept climbing higher above the valley. The water was insanely beautiful below, with an incredible mountainscape in every direction. It felt like every foot we climbed we would stop and say “are you kidding me?!” We lost the trail a bit as we got close to our final push up Donohue because most of the trail was under a good bit of snow. This was our first serious section of snow. In a line, the three of us pushed it up to the pass, periodically we all stopped and started yelling cheers to one another. I was the first to get to the pass and was caught off guard by how emotional I was. The beauty of the whole scene was overwhelming. After a quick snack on the summit, we started the long slow multi-mile slog through the snow down the back of Donohue.

A constant stream of PCT hikers were coming up the back. Hundreds of them. While waiting for Sissy at one point someone recognized us from our videos with Lando. It was weird to be recognized in the middle of the backcountry, but in the end, it just felt like we had an instant friend which is awesome! We stopped at one point on the descent for a snack and Sissy brought up her initial interest to bail at Reds Meadow in two days. It was hot and we all decided to table the conversation until we got to camp. After the long downhill, we had more uphill to tackle before we arrived at camp. My hip started hurting really badly. I suspected that it was from standing around with a hip cocked under the weight of my pack. I felt better when I was able to keep moving, so we decided that I should press ahead alone to camp in favor of not hurting myself more for later days on the trail. Last I saw Owen and Sissy was crossing a river somewhere at the beginning of Island Pass. When I was on my own going over Island pass I got really off-trail because of the snowpack that still remained in the area. As I was searching for the trail I was listening to a book that played this clip from JFK “We’re not going to the moon because it’s easy, we’re going because it’s hard” tears immediately started to roll down my face as I pressed in the direction I suspected the trail was in. That quote perfectly summed up why we were out here, and why we do a lot of the things we do. Shortly thereafter, I found the trail and pressed on downhill towards camp. Thousand Island Lakes came into sight and had a surprising amount of snow still around the shoreline and ice floating in the water. By the time I got down to the lake, I realized that there were a lot of JMT and PCT hikers all trying to find places to camp around the lake but most of the sites remained under the snow. To find a spot to stay the night I found the trail that went alongside the lake and followed it. Most of the trail was underwater because of how swollen the lake is. Some spots were knee-deep and had trout swimming up the trail and others were entirely under snow what hovered over the water. Finally, I found a place for us to stay the night, set up Sissy’s tent, and walked back to the fork in the trail to be sure that Owen and Sissy could find me.

Right as I got there I heard “Who cooks for you” yelled from off in the distance. (That is our call to each other when we’re separated in the woods) I looked up and way above on the hillside, hardly in sight, was Owen and Sissy coming down the hill. I have no idea how Owen recognized me from that far off. Sissy claims that his love for me could spot me from even further away. When they made it down the hill I lead them to camp via the underwater trail. At camp, they told me about a steep embankment of snow that lead to a creek crossing up on Island Pass. I remembered it and thought about how dangerous it would have been if I’d fallen there while I was alone. The near vertical drop went straight down into the creek if you lost your footing. Apparently, Sissy did just that! Owen said that as Sissy fell down towards the creek he dove down after her and both their lives flashed before his eyes as he dove. Luckily, they were both fine just a little shaken up. We made dinner: Backpacker’s Pantry Louisiana Red Beans and Rice. Our bodies seem to prefer basic meals after such a long hard day because it tasted AMAZING. Sissy again had a hard time eating. We had our candy bars for dessert. Sissy retired to her tent long before the sun went down and Owen and I settled in to watch the sunset over Thousand Island Lake and recount the parts of our day that we’d spent apart. I was sad that I couldn’t hike with them, I missed Owen, and I was tired of my hip hurting so badly. The sunset was spellbinding and we soon after went to bed. 

Date: 07-12-19

End Elevation: 9944 ft

Total Distance: 13.2 Miles

Time on Trail: 12 hrs 43 mins

High: 11,001 ft

Low: 8960 ft

Ascent: 3140 ft

Descent: 2178 ft

Video Log: Day 0-5

Thanks so much guys! Next week we will have the next installment for you all! See you soon! MAK