August 5th . . . day five . . .

Sitting here around seven p.m. last night, we looked doomed to rain and wind and then, at last light, after I’d closed myself into the tent, the birds sang and the sun beat away the clouds on the mountain tops––all the thunder and grey monsters, dripping with rain, moved north. 

I went to sleep with the wind, pushing my “suburban tent” around. 

It did rain, but only a little and just enough to make me worry if the tent’s fly was really going to keep me dry––it did and you’d never even know there was any rain at all. 

I do a lot of that out here––worry about bears, marmots, rain and now that I might need an emergency appendectomy, or that I might just die from lack of attention. 

I can’t really feel any pain, but that part of my body––my gut––gets really tight when I sneeze or cough in a crouched position, or like I’m doing crunches––actually, I think I am due for a major mountain movement––a super cleansing of the bowels. 

. . . Amazing day. Didn’t quite know what I was going to do this morning, but luckily I stayed right here. 

There was a Japanese family camped right next to me––very nice.

They left around 10 a.m., and then I went up here behind me (up towards Lyell and McClure) assuming that there would be a lake hidden out of view, just past the lip at the bottom of the cirque

. . . but there was nothing more than another small, clear, beautiful body of life-less, blue water!

I could see water coming down from other levels, other places, so I just kept going up, over lush green grasses and petite flowers and drifts of melting snow, all red, for some reason (red algae, I would later find out)  . . . and right now, 6:40 p.m. I’ve got the tent loaded with rocks and the outside tethered with rope and . . . 

I got so high I decided to try for one of the ridges and I made it up there! Amazing view, but even more amazing that I made the climb. 

It wasn’t incredibly hard––just climbing up granite faces, boulder-hopping––but to get up there, up so far away and out of the picture––that was wonderful––this was the first time that I could say that I was here––in the middle of nowhere, alive and doing something so heavenly and alright, so darn macho! 

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Going up towards the peaks there was so surreal, so remote. I always recommend that is up there, do it with someone, as one mistake–––something as simple as a sprain even, where you couldn’t walk, and you might be dead before they found you––but I think I left a note on my tent. 

And the weather just played with me this first night . . . After a happy day exploring up there, the night’s adventure was yet to come. 

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4th of August . . . “Dad’s roll”

Vogelsang junction.

10 a.m. and going pleasantly slow, watching others come and go, up and down the trail. The morning obstacle will just be getting across the river/outlet. 

Last night I spent a good half an hour in the dark, trying to set my bear bags. I am not very good but––and in spite of hardly sleeping all night in anticipation––no bears came round. 

After i leave here, I’ll spend a slow afternoon on Donahue and then rumble on down to wherever for the night. 

I’m looking at less than ten miles a day, at least until and if I start to cut it close at the end. 

I was glad to see the morning light, but it was so gray I thought that last nights clouds had formed into a mostly overcast sky. 

I thought I’d have to get out the rain hood, but I finally peeked up at the western lip of the mountains and the crest was covered in sunshine. 

I think I’ll just wait for someone else to lead the way over the river. 

12 p.m. and sitting below Amelia Earhart Peak, looking out over the great meadow. 

12, 13, 14 . . . below Donahue looking down into the valley and up into the snowy peaks. 

7:20 p.m. wanted to go to the top of Donahue, but the clouds looked and still do––dangerous.

Better to sit here on this very nice point and look at the thunder from a distance––like it’s probably all the way out on 395. 

Nothing seems the same––no trail yet looks like I remember it. 

And it’s amazing to think that last time, we came from the valley and up and over Donahue in one day––but of course this is the new, more reflective and slower, Bob. 

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And I read that last paragraph and think, what the hell? . . . as I know that it doesn’t make sense, that I didn’t come up from the valley, or even Lyell and go over Donahue in the same day. 

Some days are garbled and waiting to be cleared up by the next. I have no recollection of staying at the Vogelsang junction. I’ve even found it very hard and damn impossible to figure out where, exactly, I spent that first night with good old, “Skot” and every time I pass through that general area, before the switch-backs, I am looking up and around, trying to find those cables that we had hung our bags from, but no luck. Maybe they took them down once they enacted the bear can policy. 

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August 3rd, day three and . . . lo and behold . . .

If anyone is really paying attention, it seems that I combined days one and two in my last post, so now we are on to day three . . . oh, and I did catch up to Jen & Julie.

Spent the night with Jen, Julie, Marc and a couple whose names I’ve forgotten. Made a nice fire, compliments of Marc, whho seems to have everything in his pack––a saw and hatchet––so he cut and hacked, like mad––eager to use his tools. 

The girls did a magic job of starting the fire and that was our night. 

Right now I am debating whether to follow them to the base of Donahue. I really need to let them go though, if I am going to spend any quality time up here. I do have some books to read, y’know. 

There’s still so much anxiety within me to bond, to keep up, to go fast––I really need to slow down. 

5:50 p.m. just getting into the long trek up Lyell Canyon––Jen & Julie have me by about half and hour and I think tomorrow, after Donahue Pass, I’m cuttting loose from them––but for tonight it’s time to haul ass up there (into Lyell) and deal with the bears!!!

We had burgers, beers and showers at TM . . . felt good. 

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So I did catch up to them––wish I’d taken a picture of them with my camera that had no film in it. 

I think we took a bus up to the lodge in TM, which is where we took the showers, but I think they no longer offer them. 

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1 August . . . “Ride the rumor, go with the flow”*

Day one . . . I slept like a baby, at least long enough to miss what I hear was a noisy party evening in the camp––those damn K-mart campers over there!!

The sun is very definitely up in the valley. I thought I might have time to hike up in the shade and maybe I will, but for the moment I am still avoiding the future. 

Twelve o’clock and already I am in love. 

Sitting here in Little Yosemite Valley. Quiet. All of last night’s valley revelers are slogging their way up half dome. I went all the way up  there, but got a serious case of of fear and didn’t climb the cables to the very top––I also thought I might save my left leg from any possible damage. 

Met Jen and Julie last night––two buxom east coast yuppie babes––they’re also doing the muir but I think I’ll be letting them go at a certain point, as they are looking to complete the journey in  fifteen days . . . but then again. 

Also met some Germans here. Okay, time to pack up and get out. 

10:30 a.m. junction to Half Dome, heading to Sunrise. 

5:30 p.m. got into Sunrise at about five p.m.––green and grand and quiet, except for the sound of the work crews, loungers, or the horse people or whoever they are––people living in canvas huts? 

No sign of Jen & Julie. No sign of all the people that were ahead or behind me. 

Pics one and two (off dad’s roll) sunrise camp panorama*

Pic#3 sunrise on meadow, pic#4, mark, jen, pic#5-10 panorama up out of sunrise . . . . 

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I don’t think I’ve done the trail yet, where I didn’t/haven’t spent a long while on that first morning, getting out of the valley, or LYV, just sitting there, thinking . . . maybe thinking how I could just stop right now and turn around––it’s never been an obvious thought, but maybe deeply buried in there, something arguing within me, but then, the urge always wins out and the  pack gets hoisted and the legs start moving and so and so, on we go. 

I think I had the hots for Jen and Julie. Don’t remember them at all now, but I think they might have been stoking the fire that first few days and giving me a reason to hustle along, although I never found them again, I don’t think––maybe when I turn the page and get to TM, they’ll be there. 

Murphy’s Law on the JMT with regard to lovely women is they are either going in the opposite direction, or they are out to establish some sort of boring speed record or . . . they’re with some  guy––they’re never going your way. 

I’ve never really trained for the JMT. I don’t go out, months prior, with my pack filled with rocks and hike up steep hills. I don’t bother spending a few days at altitude, before I hit the trail, but then I think my life, for my age, is maybe just a little more athletic than lots of people. 

I’m not athlete, by far––I don’t run triathlons––I get bored as hell, just running, but I walk a lot. I ride my bike . . . I play tennis, go to the climbing gym . . . I don’t sit at a desk job all day––my job is rather physical, when I am working . . . 

. . . . So usually I get it in my head to do the trail and if anything, I stop a lot of the stuff I might normally be doing and getting little aches and pains from. 

I think I’d done something to one of my legs or feet––probably had a case of bad shoes or something, prior to leaving and I got on the trail anyway, determined to slowly walk it out and off of me. Slow start, good start. Ain’t failed me yet. 

*”Ride the rumor, go with the flow” no idea what this means, but it’s a sribble in the book

* Guess who didn’t have any film (remember that?) in the camera

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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. 

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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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Got them Reno Blues . . . July 23 . . . 6:15 a.m.

Reno, Nevada. I’ve been here before and it was no fun. I stood in one place last night until 11:30 and then stumbled off to find the Bishop Greyhound––a wonderful place. 

It’s so odd to be waiting for a bus they haven’t announced yet––it’s like feeling like I have taken the wrong trail. 

I back up, I retrace . . . Yesterday I came off the mountain and out of the woods. I completed one of my most daunting physical tasks ever, and now it’s over. 

It’s almost hard to pull it up––to remember any one moment––to feel any happiness or pain. 

Even the frustration of the Scott ordeal is gone. 

No one knows who I am, or what I’ve done, except the guys at the store who let me go to the front of the line––they were impressed. 

And now here I am in the Reno bus stop, watching the attendants, slowly, almost scornfully, go about their jobs as the tired patrons squirm in their plastic chairs. 

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Yeah, there used to be a very handy Greyhound bus that chugged up 395, stopping in all the little towns. I think it hit Lone Pine at about 10:30 p.m. and got into Bishop an hour or so later. 

There also used to be a great little barber shop in Lone Pine, called Kirk’s . . . You could go in there all dirty and scruffy and without complaint, Kirk would give your smelly carcass a shave and haircut and then, he had the $5 showers in the back––walk out of there feeling great and new and still have a good night ahead of you before catching the bus.

Sadly, greyhound stopped doing 395 around 1998 . . . probably got tired of shuffling drunks and kids from the hell-hole of L.A., to the end of the line, in Reno. 

And even sadder, was the passing of Kirk, the barber. His Shop was one of those cozy places full of pictures on the walls and magazines all about and he seemed to be a beacon of happy gossip and history. 

I think it was JMT #3 or #4 when I was once again, with my buddy, Gio, and we were a few days from finished and met two young girls near Charlotte Lake. 

As is my custom––if you were laying on the ground, bleeding profusely, leg broken and so on, I’d probably, first thing, ask you where you were from . . . so I asked these girls and they said, Lone Pine and both Gio and I got a big smile and I proceeded to tell them that I couldn’t wait to get there to see Kirk and get a haircut and shave. 

And with a little sigh, the girls told me that Kirk had died––gone and crashed his little plane in the mountains and that maybe he was flying drunk  . . . well, that was just sad and all that remains is a bit of the lettering on the facade of the place. Here’s to you, Kirk. 

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. . . And it’s called what––the John Muir Trail?

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. 

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