6.18.16 (Sat) JMT
Chris and I leave early this morning from Darwin for the 100 + miles to Mammoth Lakes where we park Ruby, our 2000 Mazda truck. Finding a parking place in this adventure town is no easy task, as the place is teaming with bikers, hikers, skiers, snow boarders, kayakers, and all kinds of adventure seekers in this gorgeous but touristy town of Mammoth Lakes. We walk away from Ruby knowing we will be living only from the contents of our packs for the next 7 days. After getting our permit at the busy visitor center, and attempting to get an update on trail conditions from the desk clerk without much success, except to say the stream crossing will require people to hold hands when crossing, we stand in a long line to catch the shuttle to the nearest campground for the John Muir Trail head. We think we’re to camp at Devils Postpile, but are instructed to camp at the Red’s Meadow campground. While waiting in line, feeling already weighed down by our backpacks, we talk with a lovely mother/daughter team from San Diego that are vacationing here in Mammoth Lakes enjoying some adventure, having already kayaked this morning. Chris’s pack weighs about 35 lbs, and mine is about 25. The weather is bright and sunny, but rather cool prompting me to wear my light down jacket, and there is still enough snow for some of the slopes to be open. We are lucky to have escaped the high heat of the desert projected to hit in the 100s.
After finally boarding the shuttle, which cost $7/person, and shirking off our packs…relief… we take our seats in the front row. During the ride, folks continue to embark, and Chris gives up his seat, he himself being a senior citizen, for an elderly WW II vet, only to have it grabbed by a woman that looks younger than me. Humph! On this small part of the journey, Chris talks with Pacific Crest Trail hikers, other wise known as PCTers, a Czech, a Danish guy, and a Spaniard. Just a sampling of the kinds of folks doing these epic journeys. The shuttle drops us at Red’s Meadow Campground where we meet the host Susan. Susan is from Lancaster, but has been camping here for many years. Interesting lady. Very heavy and drives around in a golf cart greeting campers and collecting fees. We get the spot for half price, $11, because Chris has a senior pass. As he always says, it’s one thing great about growing old. Susan immediately spots our required bear canister stuffed with our food for the week, and informs us of how a bear put it’s claw right through one of these things. She goes on to say there’s a big 400 pound beautiful golden bear hanging around camp leaving huge scat. In hind site, I’m not sure this is the most welcoming thing to tell new campers, many who say their number one fear of this area is the Bears. We’re not nervous, but we are sure to use the bear canister at the campsite per her instruction. Campsite is beautiful surrounded by beautiful pine and cackling bluejays, and has bathrooms and water. We also meet our first through JMT hiker heading south. A pretty young woman from Aspen, hiking with 2 college girlfriends before starting law school. She gives us a pretty good description of trail conditions. Muddy, and lots of snow, especially around Donahue Pass. Her advice? Do Donahue early in the morning and stay to the left. Water crossings ok, though there is one she had a hard time with due to only having a log to walk across. Oh, oh! We set up camp for the night and eat our first dehydrated meal, lasagna. It’s actually very good. Chris fires up his little Soto propane stove, boils water within a couple of minutes, adds it to the dehydrated food, and voila, after letting it sit for a bit, we have ourselves a meal.
So far, so good. Let’s hope my foot and Chris’s back and knee hold up for the duration of this journey. Me starting out with a severe plantar fasciitis and Chris with a suspected torn meniscus along with a history of major spinal surgeries causes a bit of trepidation regarding our capabilities to embark on this 40 mile climb, I mean hike. Besides my foot, some of my greatest worries as we do this journey include: becoming paralyzed with fear due to exposure and height; fear of stream crossings; fear of altitude sickness. Chris also worries of whether or not I can do this hike. Hmmm. Once we’re out there in the backcountry, we’ve got to do it. I can so easily talk myself out of doing this hike. Sweet dreams.