Originally this hike was to begin at Bishop Pass Trailhead and end at Cottonwood Meadow Campground but due to the Rough Fire down toward Mt. Whitney we were advised by rangers to either change our route entirely or not hike so we wouldn’t be engulfed in smoke for the entire hike. So we sat down with the rangers at the station in the little town of Bishop, California and revised our itinerary for a less smoky hike. We ended up with an itinerary that would begin at the Pine Creek Pack Station and end at Tuolomne Meadows Campground. This would keep us North of the smoke enough to where we would only have to endure it for a short time before we would have clean air and clear skies.
Our first night we camped right at the Pine Creek Pack Station where we had our first and only bear encounter, thank goodness! Apparently, some of the people that leave their vehicles there at the trailhead decided to leave food in their vehicles while they were hiking. This had disastrous results for them because their vehicles were destroyed so I’m sure they were none too happy when they finished their hike and returned to their vehicles. Needless to say, I had an encounter with one of these bears nearing dusk because I was in between it and one of the vehicles containing a lot of food. Fortunately for me the bear was somewhat fearful of humans so it ended well for me. The caretaker was great and offered us a campsite near his trailer because we had people that were cowboy camping and they were a little freaked out by the bear situation.
We had one of the people in our party get sick so we laid over with a zero day at Reds Meadow for two nights in order to give our friend a chance to catch up. He touched base with us at Reds Meadow and then headed straight to Lone Pine to rest at the Whitney Portal Hostel where we were all to meet at the end of our trip.
The guide below is an excellent resource for hiking the JMT but prior to reaching the JMT we used a different map that we purchased at the ranger station in Bishop, California. I believe it was a Sierra Nevada Wilderness map by National Geographic but the ranger also mentioned that Tom Harrison made a very good map as well.
Here is our final itinerary:
Total Mileage 95
Thursday, 8/27/15: Night 1: Pine Creek Pack Station
Friday, 8/28/15: Night 2: Honeymoon Lake
Saturday, 8/29/15: Night 3: Lake Italy Trail
Sunday, 8/30/15: Night 4: Pocket Meadow
Monday, 8/31/15: Night 5: Virginia Lake
Tuesday, 9/1/15: Night 6: Red Meadows
Wednesday, 9/2/15: Night 7: Red Meadows
Thursday, 9/3/15: Night 8: Ruby Lake
Friday, 9/4/15: Night 9: Lyell Fork Footbridge
Saturday, 9/5/15: Night 10: Tuolomne Campground
Sunday, 9/6/15: Night 11: Whitney Portal Hostel in Lone Pine, California
|SHOES/BOOTS NOT INCLUDED IN PACK WEIGHT|
|MERRELL MOAB VENTILATOR SHOES w/SUPERFEET GREEN PREMIUM INSOLES||30.00|
|TREKKING POLES NOT INCLUDED IN PACK WEIGHT|
|BLACK DIAMOND FL ULTRA DISTANCE TREKKING POLES||16.00|
|OR CONVERTIBLE PANTS(14.8)/NIKE SHIRT(5.9)/Drymax Trail Run 1/4 Crew Socks(2.5)/EXOFFICIO BOXER BRIEFS(3.4)||26.60|
|KELTY COYOTE 80 WITHOUT TOP LID||80.00|
|NEMO VEDA 1P TENT W/FOOTPRINT||45.00|
|ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT REVELATION PRO 20 DEGREE QUILT W/STUFF SACK||29.00|
|THERMAREST NEOAIR XLITE LARGE||16.00|
|THERMAREST ZLITE SOL SMALL||10.00|
|FOOD IN WILD IDEAS EXPEDITION BEAR CANISTER||258.00|
|MEDICINE AND ESSENTIALS KIT||20.00|
|MINI COMPASS AND TEMP GAUGE||0.70|
|SAWYER FILTER MINI(2OZ)/CLEANING SYRINGE/PLATYPUS 1L PLUSBOTTLE(1.5OZ)/PLATYPUS 1L SOFTBOTTLE(1.5)/SCOOP CUP(.6)/BEARPAW DESIGNS WATER CARRIER/MESH BAG||7.80|
|SAFETY LANYARD – LEATHERMAN SQUIRT PS4/WHISTLE/SAFETY PIN/MINI-FLASHLIGHT||3.00|
|POTTY KIT – DEUCE OF SPADES TROWEL/TOILET PAPER/HAND CLEANER/IN ZIPLOC||9.70|
|OUTDOOR RESEARCH HELIOS HAT||2.90|
|Rab Shadow Beanie
|MERRELL MOAB INSOLES||1.30|
|FROGG TOGGS PANTS||4.30|
|MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR ORKO GLOVES||1.50|
|FROGG TOGGS JACKET||4.30|
|VIVOBAREFOOT ULTRA SHOES||6.00|
|EDDIE BAUER FIRST ASCENT DOWNLIGHT JACKET||13.50|
|BASE CLOTHING NOT ON ME – BOXER BRIEFS/BOXERS/SMARTWOOL SOCKS/COLUMBIA L/S SHIRT/SHORTS/MISCELLANEOUS||26.00|
|MSR MICRO ROCKET STOVE(3.0)/SNOW PEAK SOLO POT/LID(4.0)/VARGO LONG TITANIUM FOLDING SPOON(.8)/LARGE FUEL CANISTER(13.1)/SOBE CUP(.8)||18.70|
|WATER BOTTLES – BLADDERS|
|SOBE BOTTLE FULL||29.00|
|SOBE BOTTLE FULL||29.00|
|PRINCETON TECH REMIX HEADLAMP IN HMG NANO CF8 CUBEN STUFF SACK||3.50|
|REI PILLOW STUFF SACK||7.00|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT OUNCES||649.00|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT POUNDS||40.56|
We spent Thursday, August 27 at the Pine Creek Pack Station compound where they let us set up our tents in a small grassy area. It was not without drama because two vehicles were already half destroyed by bears because the people left a lot of food in them. The one bear actually returned around dusk that evening obviously looking to get some more snacks but we chased him off with little effort on our part. Even so, we were still well aware that bears are very persistent and would most likely return sooner or later in the night. We moved our tents to a location that was a good distance from the vehicles to be safe and had no further incident.
Friday, we got up and began our ascent of the mountain before us on our way to our destination for the night called Honeymoon Lake. The trek up this mountain was far from easy and required some serious hiking on the exposed trails in the brutal sun.
On our way up Pine Creek Trail we passed both of the Pine Lakes which are quite beautiful and there are a few campsites located there. We ended up camping at the beautiful Honeymoon Lake – one of the coldest swims I’ve ever taken, brrrr! There are some nice large campsites on the South side of the lake.
Saturday began with a long arduous journey upward to cross Italy pass. Italy Pass starts out as a mixture of beautiful woods, ponds, meadows and creeks but toward the top of the pass it’s a barren land filled with large boulders of all shapes and sizes. The trail up to the pass itself has no switchbacks and is pretty tough trying to constantly find the trail.
Once we finally got over Italy Pass and successfully boulder hopped our way along the lakeshore we then headed for lower ground and tried to follow the small cairns erected to mark the faint trail. The trail through Italy Pass was extremely difficult to follow and we often had to stop for several seconds in order to locate the next cairn. This started a mile or so before Italy Pass and continued for a good mile or so afterwards.
Once we linked up with the JMT we headed North and camped in a pine forest for the night. We got up and proceeded North on the JMT where we spent the next night at pocket meadow. The next morning we continued up, up and up to Silver Pass for some gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
Our next stop would be Red’s Meadow where we’d spend a few nights camping in the campground; eating some delicious food and drinking some good beer. There is also a general store at Red’s Meadow that stocks soft drinks, beer, food, hiking supplies and a lot of other things that one might want out in nature.
We visited Devils Postpile, Rainbow Falls and took a ride to Mammoth to do a little exploring and pick a few things up at one of the outdoor stores. This was my first time to Mammoth and I definitely want to go back and do some mountain biking.
Our next stop would be Garnet Lake but camping was prohibited next to that lake and all of the available places were already taken.
We ended up camping a few miles past Garnet Lake at a place called Ruby Lake that barely had a few campsites which was just enough room for our three tents. Ruby Lake is surrounded by vertical walls! It was nearing dusk by the time we finally got there so I didn’t get many pictures of it unfortunately. Not a big deal though because it was pretty closed in between the vertical walls and the trees which didn’t allow many views.
Upon leaving Ruby Lake the following morning we hiked by Thousand Island Lake and through Thousand Island Pass. Thousand Island Lake is a beautiful sight and so inviting but I know that water is cold. I just wanted to explore every island but we just didn’t have time to kill so we hiked on and through the pass which wasn’t tough at all.
This little meadow was full of flat campsites that easily provided enough room for our three tents. We could have fit ten more tents in this space or any of the adjacent area. There were many small side trails that led to more and more campsites.
This ended being the coldest night yet and according to my thermometer it dipped down to around 26 Fahrenheit that night. That’s when I was thankful that I opted to bring my Enlightened Equipment 20F Quilt instead of my 40F quilt. Brrrrr!
When we got off the trail that day we spent a night at the Tuolomne Backpackers campground that’s adjacent to the regular campground but you can’t drive to it. We ate pretty decent that night at the Whoa Nellie Deli! I can’t say enough about the food at Whoa Nellie Deli because it’s probably the best food I had on this trip and it’s very reasonable. It’s located in the Mobil Gas Station just outside of the park. The trip just wouldn’t have been the same without that awesome food.
I got a deal on my Merrell Moab Ventilator shoes because I bought them used on Ebay specifically with this trip in mind. I had already worn them on a few hikes to the Grayson Highlands so I knew beforehand that they would both hold up to the JMT and they would keep me walking with little to no pain. As it turns out, I didn’t get a single blister and that’s saying something for me. I can’t put all the credit on the shoes so I’ll mention the Drymax socks and Superfeet green insoles as well. As a team this gear came together to work very well for me and I’d take the exact same combination if I went back and hiked more of the trail. In fact, this will probably be my warm weather combo on all future hikes. Just an outstanding combination.
Merrell Moab Ventilator Low Hiking Shoes – These are great shoes with plenty of support and ventilation. The JMT trail is very dry and especially this year because of the drought but I got them wet a few times while crossing streams and the split leather dried in no time at all. They have just enough support for non-heavy pack weights (I would hesitate to use with a pack weight over 45 pounds) with the Superfeet green insole in them to shield the soles of my feet. I haven’t hiked with the stock Merrell insoles but they are very cushioned so they are probably not bad but I doubt they would offer the underfoot protection of the Superfeet insoles. As far as the traction and outsole goes well it’s a Vibram so enough said. I got excellent traction and there isn’t one chunk out of either sole on either shoe after the entire hike.
Superfeet Green Premium Insoles: What can I say – I install these in any shoe that I hike in and they’ve yet to let me down. The underfoot protection and support they provide is invaluable.
Drymax Trail Run 1/4 Crew – I was referred these by a friend and I’m hooked! They barely got wet on this hike but dried ultra fast anytime they did and unless subjected directly to water they stayed dry the entire time. The only downsides I found were the stink factor which is more than Merino Wool and I did get a hole in the one sock. But in the socks defense, it was my fault because I snagged them in some prickly weeds when I stepped off trail and any sock subjected to the same occurrence would have the same consequence.
I should also mention two great restaurants in Lone Pine, California where we ate after the hike. We had dinner at the Totem Café on Sunday night and we all had good things to say about it. I had the Steak and Pasta dish that was fantastic. The price was good and it is definitely a place worth returning. For breakfast we ate at the Alabama Hills Café and all I can say is wow! The price was very reasonable here as well and the portions were astronomical. Just plain awesome!
After doing this much of the JMT I will need to go back and finish what I started next year. I just can’t decide if I want to do the remaining mileage as a section hike or if I want to hike the entire trail as a thru hike. Either way, I will be going back to finish what I started next year.
Dislikes and Things I’d Change: Even though I definitely packed way too much food once again(stopping at Reds Meadow should have eliminated 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches) the biggest inconvenience of this hike was hauling that dang bear canister because it’s just so awkward. When I hiked the Wonderland Trail I was able to take a 35 liter backpack and on this hike I could have gotten away with a 45 liter backpack but due to the bear canister I had to take my 80 liter backpack which was a bummer. I wish they would go to the same food hanger/pole system of the Wonderland Trail and other places in order to eliminate the need for a bear canister. With all of that said I have to say that renting my bear canister from Wild Ideas ended up being the best solution to the situation because their Expedition size canister was the only size large enough to carry everything for our original hike. And, at 36 ounces it’s very light compared to anything else out there. I was a little concerned that it may not arrive in time but they got it to me with plenty of time to spare and returning it was easy enough as well. Definitely a worthwhile investment but I really think I could have gotten away with the slightly smaller BearVault Bear Canister. So if I’m able to finish this hike next year I will buy a BearVault Bear Canister so I have something to show for my money when the hike is over.
I definitely need to take a better phone charger or a dedicated camera because the rechargeable battery I took, although 6600mah only charged my phone twice and that just wasn’t enough. Though the time spent at Reds Meadow helped because I had access to actual wall USB Ports where I could charge my phone for free. Pretty cool because they have them mounted on the outside wall of the laundry room. The only bad part is everyone and their brother had their phones plugged in there nearly the entire time.
Most of my other gear worked well with nothing truly failing on me but I will opt to take my large Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter and leave my Sawyer Mini Water Filter at home. It just clogs up too fast on the longer hikes and I honestly believe it’s much more adept to shorter hikes in the 3-4 day range unless you have access to water with virtually zero silt and/or particles.