I was what . . . thirty-seven or thirty-eight, when I did my first JMT . . . and I hadn’t really been doing a lot of backpacking in the in the last 10-15 years.
I’d done some with my dad. I’d gone out and done my great Mineral King solo-adventure there in the summer of ’73 or so, but then after high school and four years in the army, I moved to San Francisco, where I settled myself into ( a closet in a punk rock club) thirteen years of punk rock, disco-clubbing and a diet of one-night stands, donuts, pizza and greasy late-night chinese food––but not a thought really about being out in the middle of the Sierra Nevada and I had barely heard of the JMT.
But something was calling me and I decided to once again, attempt to go from Mineral King to Mount Whitney––otherwise, pretty much known as the High Sierra Trail.
I really don’t remember what I was doing? Did I buy the Dana for this trip? I don’t think so. I think I took my old Universal external frame backpack, on its last trip. I used my dad’s old Svea stove and I, once again, took the greyhound bus to Visalia, then hitched back into Mineral King.
I got a crazy ride from a gorgeous girl and her Italian boyfriend, who scared the hell out of me, driving Italian style, full-blast, horn honklng, around all the blind curves.
This time I had a map and a real plan. I didn’t get lost and I ate like a king.
A few days into my trip, I met a couple––big, good-looking in a george clooney kinda way kinda guy and his never before been backpacking, girlfriend––I think they were engaged.
Anyway, he wanted this trip to be special and so he hauled all kinds of delicious food and let’s just say I do not remember one single freeze-dried meal coming out of his pack.
They also had too much food and for the three or so days I tagged along with them and just happened to show up when they were cooking––I was fed, very well.
Somewhere near lower Crabtree Meadow, he finally told me that he wanted a little alone time with her and it was time for me to move on ahead of them––and with a full stomach and Whitney almost in sight, I took off.
I got to the top of Whitney early in the afternoon and sat there, planning to spend the night, but all that silence and solitude was getting to me––I think I was even a little spooked at being up there all alone.
It was sunset and I hustled into the hut, packing up, thinking I could maybe get down to trail-camp at least and then just when I was ready to start running down the trail, up came two people––a guy named Jeff and his Japanese wife––they’d just finished doing the JMT and decided to spend the night on the summit.
I was so absolutely happy and suddenly not at all lonely or scared. And as we three got to cooking up some food in the hut, another climber arrived––He was a Czech guy, named “Ivo” and he’d come up the Mountaineers route with a good sized bottle of whisky.
The four of us settled into the hut, leaving the cold outside, eating, drinking, laughing––it was a great night and all the while, I was thinking, I gotta do this John Muir Trail.