John Muir Trail #2 . . . August 1999

July 31, 1999 . . . “The trip begins before it begins” and that’s enough of my surely cliched observations. 

I got on the bus at seven and off at about one p.m.––I kept walking in circles, trying to find the backpackers campground––and before I forget––all the stress of wondering if I’d get my permit is over. 

Except for the chunky ranger-ette, who seemed to enjoy my anxiousness––there were no problems and here I sit, in my new tent, wondering if I should venture out into the civilized world, and pig-out. 

Honestly, I had planned on being so much more eloquent, but I guess I’ll save that for the trail. 

6:30 p.m. . . . I knew it would come to this––the once empty camp is now filled with young scouts and their loud scout masters and mistresses . . . what did I want to say on the bus––something about wondering why I am doing this trip? 

I know there is a magical, wonderful, soul-inspiring reason for being here, but I don’t think I’ll feel it until I am far out of  this valley––these suburbs in the boonies. 

Ranger says there have been bears in the camp ground the last two nights––I’m hoping that the scouts will give them something to go crazy over. 

Jen & Julie, Sayo and Iya . . . 

7:20 p.m.  The shadows have fallen on the valley floor, but Half Dome is still shining bright. 

It’s probably only teasing me, like, “Ha Ha, tomorrow you have to climb all the way up here and you’re going to sweat your ass off and feel all sorts of pain. 

My dinner on this wonderful evening: canned beans, canned sausages, chips, beer . . . gatorade. 



Yes, here comes JMT #2 and yes, I don’t know why I did it, but I think I am working on my theory that #1 just wasn’t perfect and therefore, got to get out and do it again––a practice that I don’t normally hold in life, as I am usually happy, with a difficult task, to just get it done. 

Let me say it right now––I do not like the valley––yes, it holds some great wonders, like El Cap and Half Dome and, oh, about a zillion people and unlike the high-er Sierra, the valley is just down in a hole, from which, yes, the only escape is a lot of sweat and pain. 

And I like to think that once I am on the trail, there’s no getting lost, but being in the valley, one wrong turn and you’re in trouble––or at least I am. 

I would suggest to anyone that figures out that they’re going to have to get in line early in the morning, that they walk the route from the BC to the permit office, in the daylight and remember the various landmarks . . . you might think you know the way and then get within a few yards of the place and make a wrong turn and . . . ah, all part of the adventure. 

Another part of that is the “walk-in” permit. I have done this for every trip and the stress never goes away, not even after twelve JMT’s . . . it doesn’t vanish until you walk out of that office, permit in hand and for me––if I walk out of there, without a permit (only once) the valley is suddenly a very hot, boring place. 

Usually when I am on the train/bus into the valley, I am happy to talk your ear off about the trail, but once we get into the valley and the bus pulls up in front of the visitors center, I am all business and silence. I get off the boat and go from being that overly chatty guy to . . . “where did he go?” guy . . . I don’t give out any info on where the permit office is and usually, people head straight into the visitors center, thinking it’s in there. It’s not. 

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