Not all plans end up the way you planned them. This is especially true in long distance hiking where one or several things can change even the most carefully researched and crafted plans. In a nutshell, the original plan was for the three of us (my husband, son and I) to hike from Devil’s Postpile north to Happy Isles, return to Mammoth Lakes and take a zero day, then for my son and I to continue from Devil’s Postpile south to Mt. Whitney.
What ended up happening was a bit different for a few reasons. The first reason was that I was having some lower back pain, which after much discussion between the three of us, it was decided that my son and I would not continue on the second part of the trip toward Mt. Whitney. The second reason was that my husband was really enjoying the trip and would miss out on the second part due to business obligations. We thought it might be nice to come back and finish the trail together.
So, while my husband had business in Las Vegas for two weeks, my son and I got some bonus trips to Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks. I’ll make a separate post for those trips, but here’s what we did get to hike on the JMT this year.
Day 1 6.27.16 Devil’s Postpile to Garnet Lake.
After a day of finishing up last minute business in Mammoth Lakes, we were ready to get on trail. We took the shuttle bus out to the Devil’s Postpile and started northward. The trails were much less rocky and rooty than in New England and we enjoyed that! Beside the nice footing, the grades were easy and there were views everywhere. We certainly were not in the green tunnel of the east. The elevation did not affect us too badly, a little slow on some climbs for my son and I. Ethan seemed to have no problems at all. We did end up doing more miles than we had calculated, and were happy to see Garnet Lake after 14.5 miles instead of 11.7 miles.
Day 2 6.28.16 Garnet Lake to Lyell Forks Bridge.
For some reason the first half mile out of camp really rough for Cameron and I. A hill that should have been easy was not, we were probably still adjusting to the altitude. We took it slow and by the time we got a mile in things were good. There were lots of gorgeous lakes in the morning, including Thousand Island Lake. We also crossed over Donahue pass. The climb up was slow, so again, we just took our time. We kept guessing as to where it would be. To our New England eyes, we picked out the straightest line up and over. Not so, in the west, there are switchbacks and the pass may not be where you think. The south side of the pass was relatively snow free, but the north side still had a big snowfield. Not a problem and easily negotiated, and once past that there were beautiful views in Lyell canyon. Meanwhile, we had been watching some clouds out to the west since starting the ascent to Donahue Pass that kept gathering and getting darker. We descended down to Lyell Forks bridge and found a nice flat tent site. Just as we got the tents set up and inside it started to rain. Perfect timing!
Day 3 6.29.16 Lyell Fork to Tuolomne Meadows
Gorgeous cool morning, and the meadows of Lyell Canyon were really beautiful. We had our permit checked by a ranger, but she was really friendly and seemed like she really liked her job. We got to Tuolomne meadows early in the after afternoon and found the campground after a bit of studying the map and getting directions. We picked out a campsite in the backpacker area, and then went to the store/grill for some food. We ended up sharing our campsite with a 2013 AT thru hiker and another couple who were hiking the JMT.
Day 4 6.30.16 Tuolomne CG to Sunrise Creek
We got out of Tuolomne Meadows and since it was early morning we were able to see deer in the meadow and a coyote. Further down the trail, we were passed by a pack train of mules hauling supplies all the way to Sunrise Camp. It was another day of great views, and of course new ones as we started to travel down the valley past Sunrise Camp and toward Yosemite Valley proper.
Day 5 7.1.16 Sunrise Creek to Happy Isles
Another beautiful morning in the Sierra, and we could see down the valley where we were headed. We hiked through a burn area, but it seemed like wildflowers and grasses were already making a come back in the area. We descended past the Half-Dome trail and made our way to the bridge over Nevada Falls. The sound was incredible – complete with bass notes that I know did not get picked up when I tried to make a video. As we descended, we had a spectacular side view of Nevada Falls from the trail. The closer we got to Happy Isles, the more people we began to see, then it became crowds right before arriving in Yosemite Valley. We did a lot of descending and were actually happy we did not have to face all that ascending on the first day if we’d headed south from Happy Isles.
Even though we were not able to finish the trail this year, we were so blessed with the ability to enjoy what we could and get a taste for the beauty and majesty of the Sierra. This is definitely a hike that will be continued!