Cottonwood to Shepherd Pass, 7 day Sierra Hike, 1969

Cottonwood to Shepherd Pass, 7 day Sierra Hike, 1969

This would be called a section hike today, because we hiked on a section of the famous John Muir Trail.  We called it a Sierra hike in those days, because we tried to avoid the JMT, and enjoy lakes and valleys not on the JMT.  When you hike the JMT you rarely have the energy to get into these areas, and just have to focus on doing the JMT mileage.  We fished, climbed peaks, goofed off, and explored.  We cooked bread and fish over open fires.  Below: view of Langley from the Cottonwood Lakes. I swear this tree is still there in 2016, 45 years later.

Mt. Langely.aa

Our itinerary:

Sat: depart Cottonwood roadhead and proceed up Cottonwood Creek past Golden Trout Camp to South Fork Lakes area for camp (5 miles).

Sun: Ascend basin to New Army Pass for commanding view of Kern Basin and Trench as well as the Owens alley and Sierra Crest. Descent into Rock Creek basin past Rock Creek Lake, down the canyon to the 9600 ft elevation for camp (9.5 miles).

Mon: Cross Guyot Creek to Guyot Pass. Hike to Crabtree Meadow and up the creek to Crabtree Lakes for camp (9 miles). Layover day here.

Wed: hike back down Crabtree Creek to the meadow and join John Muir Trail. Proceeding North to Wallace Creek and climb Wallace Creek valley to timberline campsite (9 miles) near Wallace Lake. Layover at Wallace Lake.

Fri: return to John Muir Trail and hike to Wright Creek, hike up the creek to timberline for camp (6 miles).

Sat: cross country over the ridge dividing Wright and Tyndall Creeks until we meet the Shepherd Pass Trail. Then proceed over Shepherd Pass and descend to Anvil Camp (5 miles.

Sun: Descend the eastern Sierra escarpment to the Symmes Creek roadhead. (7 miles) .
We started hiking before noon from the Cottonwood Pack Station.  As we ascended we paralleled Cottonwood Creek much of the way and had lunch on its banks. Byron, Wendy, and I got started late after lunch and ambled slowly up the trail.  For quite a while it had been threatening to rain and finally it burst on us.  We put on our ponchos and continued for a short distance.  At a convenient log we sat to wait out the storm in comfort.  Byron’s waterproof jacket wasn’t enough to keep him dry so he wrapped up in a tube tent and we just sat in the rain, immensely enjoying the storm.  Soon two couples came down the trail on horseback, obviously fleeing the storm and having a miserable time in the rain.

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We decided to get to camp fast and get out of the mosquitoes so the three of us rocketed up the trail.  We met the others where they had stopped to rest and four or five of us went up a small ridge and had a nice rest with a good view of Langely and some twisted foxtail pine trunks.

When we returned to our packs the others had gone and we joined them shortly at camp.  This was near South Fork Lake, although the lake was not in sight.  Our camp was in large well spaced trees with a thick carpet of pine needles and debris.  We shared a fire with Wally’s group for a supper.  Before supper Wendy, Mike and myself hiked a few miles to Muir Lake.  At the lake we had the fantastic reflections we had hoped for but were being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

The lake and the meadow area around it proved to be awesomely beautiful as I remembered from a trip there a few years earlier. What a fantastic place and who better to share it with than Mike and Wendy. Even though I was prepared as to what to expect I found it hard to believe the view we had seen.  We reluctantly returned to camp, where the others were ready to eat.  Beef stroganoff for supper flavored by Wendy’s bell peppers.  The clouds had abated and we spent a quiet night under the pines. Below: our breakfast: fritters, bacon, eggs, no stove.


Sunday: Breakfast of delicious egg omelets cooked by Wendy, spiced with cheese and bell peppers.  Bacon next,  and then deep fat fried biscuits (which we called Sierra fritters) and honey.  Wally, Conrad, and Byron left early to climb Cirque peak by a cross country route.  Wendy and I were the last to leave camp.  We went slowly cross country to Long Lake, where we rejoined the trail.  After some small lakes and waterfalls above the lake the trail became very dry and hot.  We took many rest stops before we rejoined the others on top of Army Pass.  From the pass we could see Wally and crew on Cirque peak, and had a very good view of Mt. Whitney and Langely.  The rocks on the pass showed horizontal cracks from the release of pressure when the very heavy.  glaciers melted off them. below: near the top of Army Pass.


Below: Army Pass, Mt. Langley


We strung out on the descent of Army Pass with Wendy and myself pretty much at the rear, and we regrouped at a small stream for lunch.  We talked a little about geology with Ron Bisio before he split.  For once Wendy and I weren’t last to leave, but were followed by Jim.  We entered a nice green valley and we stopped and waited for Jim.  He and I took pictures of the stream before the three of us continued.  As Jim left to catch up to the main group we found ourselves alone with the mosquitoes in some cathedral like groves of trees.  We then entered a glacial valley with very steep walls, still alone and I took some pictures of a chipmunk as the skeeters were just killing us. We were in Rock Creek.

We continued toward the head of the valley, by a lake with a very deep blue color and met the others as they turned around and started back down.  Apparently we had missed the trail back where I was taking pictures of the chipmunk and taken a wrong turn up the dead end valley.  We found the right trail but found that it was largely destroyed by the hard winter.  We went down through brush to a large meadow on Rock Creek, still pursued by mosquitoes.  We came to a stream we couldn’t cross, so I went upstream to look for a crossing. We could find no way so just waded across by the side of a perfectly still lake, with large trees on either side and billowy clouds reflected in the water.  Fantastic.


We were all beginning to tire as evening deepened and were all anxious for camp.  We passed through an avalanche area and onto a meadow where we were again confronted with a stream.  This we took off our boots and waded the knee deep rushing water.  Very cold and with sharp rocks, but we were rewarded by a refreshing wade and rest stop. We took off and shortly met Wally at Big Rock Creek. He, Byron and Conrad had come straight from Cirque Peak and Wally directed us up the other bank of the creek to camp.  We rested a bit them prepared supper after a swim.  We had supper of chili mac with taco sauce and pumpernickel break.  He finally joined us but didn’t eat much.  Conrad caught fish, nine in less than an hour, but poor Tim didn’t have such luck.  That night Wendy, Byron and I had a good view of the myriads of stars of the Milky Way, and saw a constellation we had named on another backpack, the Chickenfoot constellation.


Monday: This morning I ate with Wally, Byron and Bill Bridwell so Wally, Byron and myself could get an early start for an unnamed peak south of us.  We got off to a good start after a meager breakfast of french (melba) toast.  We crossed a couple of streams and then began to really haul on the rocky slope.  Wally figured that our elevation gain per hour was 1600.  Near the peak Byron and I jogged trying to reach the peak in 1 hour, 30 minutes.  Byron was 0ne minute short, I was a minute behind him, and Wally was 2 min. behind me.  I tried my delayed shutter release on the summit block.  We viewed the Kern Trench and Picket Guard Peak on the other side.  For an unnamed peak this one sure had a good view of the entire Sierra.  After a short rest we began the descent.  Byron and I got started talking about the experiment I was doing to measure physical changes caused by the trip and he told me about the heart machines they use at San Jose State to measure the strength and conditioning of a person’s heart.   Apparently this machine can detect pulse changes due to oncoming illness (colds, flue, etc) lack of conditioning, or good conditioning.

We overlooked camp and backtracked to the log crossing, still conversing.  Ours were the only packs in camp and we were on our way in minutes.  After some hard climbing over Guyot Pass we really hauled through big stands of foxtail pine.  Above Crabtree Meadow we began a long traverse so that we wouldn’t lose so much altitude and found this a very tiring route.  After at least 2 hours of hard cross country boulder hopping we stopped or a rest at a small lake.  On the map this shows as a meadow with a stream but apparently the high water this year made it a lake.  We deduced that the lake where we were to meet the others was about 300’ above us, over a ridge. We began circling the lake when I heard a voice.  At the far end of the lake there seemed to be people in the trees.  I couldn’t tell if they were our people until I saw Wendy.  We circled the lake and found them just setting up camp.  Man, was I ever glad to see them and be able to rest.  We started tea water and all had a nice swim in the lake.  I found that I had a very large blister and hobbled around barefoot all evening.  As sunset approached the pines on the other side of the lake became tinted with the gold of alpenglow and the face of the cliff stood out in relief from the shadows and lines.   Truly this is the range of light.  Our view of infinity was framed by pines tonight, not too tightly, but just right.

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Tuesday:   This was a layover day at Crabtree Lakes. Everyone took off for their goal for the day: Byron to run the trail to Mount Whitney (18 miles) Wally and Dean Ranger to climb Hale, Young and Hitchcock, the fisherman to fish the lakes above us, and Mike, Wendy and I to explore the lakes above us.  The camp seemed to explode as everyone packed a lunch and some gear and took off for the day.  Mike grew impatient and said he would meet us at the upper lakes, and he was off.  Wendy and I packed my flower books, Wendy’s notebook, our lunches, and headed up to the upper lakes.  We explored the flowers and waterfalls on the way up to the first Crabtree Lake. There we met Ron Bisio as he fished in the outlet of the lake.  The lake was very big, with a giant cliff on the other side. We continued up and met Jim Lawrence below a series of long water falls. We talked with him and were soon on our way up.  About halfway up the falls I could see Mike sitting and waiting for us, but by the time we got there he was gone again.  Evidence of the glacial past were evident in the form of glacial polish, rounded ridges on the rocks, glacial erratics, and in the shape of the valley itself.


At the uppermost of the Crabtree lakes we finally caught up with Mike. I came over the last ridge and saw him sitting on a rock just off shore.  He didn’t say anything but motioned to the water.  When I saw what was there I was amazed.  Hundreds of big red trout, some 15 inches long were just swimming along the shore and in the shallows of the lake.  Wendy and I joined Mike on the rock, and had lunch surrounded by hundreds of  long sleek trout.  They were not darting around as usual, but just cruising, like they were out for a Sunday drive and we were the most interesting thing around.  This is the spawning season, and they were either preparing to spawn or had just done it.  We found that the fisherman were having no luck when Conrad and Tim joined us.  Ron and Jim arrived and were equally amazed, hopeful, persistent, and frustrated. After lunch Wendy headed down and everyone else split for places unknown.  I had the lake to myself and just relaxed around the shore. After a few hours people began showing up and I headed down to our camp with Ron and Jim, taking pictures, looking at flowers, and talking on the way.


We met a forest ranger who was heading up to Crabtree Lake because he had heard of some people who had been catching fish by gaffing them, which is totally illegal. They had been in our camp the previous night, and gave us some big fish, which we had eaten.  Jim and I went on back to camp, where we were soon joined by Byron returning from his work out.  He said he was exhausted but managed to try one of Wendy’s oatmeal cookies before collapsing.  Next we had popcorn balls for a before supper snack and gave Wally and Jim a taste.  Wally and Dean were also very tired from the three peaks they had climbed that day. We took another swim before supper.

Wendy and I talked Byron into going up to the lake above us to see the trout so after an early supper we started off.  We arrived at the first lake as the sky in the West turned gold, were climbing the falls as it deepened, and were at the lakes as it turned a light purple.  Violet turned a darker purple as we took pictures of the falls on the way down and purple turned cobalt blue as we came into camp.  One of the best spent hours of my life. We got beautiful pictures but the didn’t capture the shades of the sky and rocks.


Wednesday: I felt lazy today.  I got up late and we made breakfast of eggs and bacon. Byron, Wendy and Conrad and I were the last to leave camp. We descended the trail to Crabtree Meadow and circled it, passing a camp of many Sierra Club people on a group hike.  Shortly after that we joined the John Muir Trail and passed Jim, and we met him and everyone else later at a stream for lunch.  Everyone but Mike that is, who had apparently charged ahead of the group.  After lunch Wally, Byron, Dean, Wendy and I went down to the stream below us and met Mike.  The others went by a cross country route to a lake near Wales and Wallace lakes.  The rest of us hiked down the trail into the Kern River Trench .  This trail started at Wallace Creek and is now the High Sierra Trail.  As we descended we passed through several life zones, finally reaching transitional, which probably continued to the river.  This zone is characterized by Juniper trees, grasses, manzanita, buckwheat, and is a fairly dry and arid life zone.  After descending 2000 feet we were disappointed by the not so mighty river, so we retraced our path to Wallace Creek.


We picked up our packs where we had left them and began to head toward the Wallace Lake.  Shortly after that we were swarmed by gangs of mosquitoes that were the most vicious we’d met on this trip.  They couldn’t be avoided.  Finally we escaped them and had a peaceful rest on rocks by a slab waterfall. Our view of the Kaweah peaks seemed perfect from here, and we all dozed off for a nap.

When we again got moving we found that we were all very stiff and tired. Also we weren’t exactly sure of precisely where we were.  In hopes of getting a better view we wearily climbed a ridge on the side of the valley and searched in vain for sign of Jim and the others.  The distribution and size of the lakes has been very much changed by the heavy runoff and there were many new lakes and changed outlines.  Still confused by the topography we started to descend with the thought in mind that we might have to camp soon wherever night overtook us.  I tried a last ditch effort, and pulled out my compass, which is a sure sign of desperation. As I was oriented the map, someone said that they saw Jim.  We looked and on the rocky plain below us we saw Jim and Ron and a few others of our group. They were still carrying their packs, so they must have been confused by the terrain also.  We trudged down and joined them near a stream in the skeeter infested tundra.  When Jim told us, between swats, that we were to camp here, I was at once glad to be home, and sad to be camping in such an area of skeeters.  But when I heard that we were going to have a layover day here, I wasn’t real happy.  My group made a fire on a ridge of rock above camp, hoping to catch a breeze to blow the mosquitoes away.  Minus several quarts of blood we went to bed early, planning to get up early and get the hell out of camp for the day. I slept, or tried to sleep with my parka over my face to keep out the mosquitoes.


Thursday.  This day was a layover day, a day of exploration and fishing. After a very short breakfast Wendy, Byron,, Mike and I took off up a high ridge of rock south of camp.  We were free mosquitoes and we found some nice pools and cascades on the other side.  At last free of the hated skeeters we relaxed and lay in the sun.  Wendy and Mike headed upstream as Byron and I lay on either side of a fall and dozed.  After a few hours I headed up and found Mike at Wales Lake, a very large and high altitude lake ringed  on three sides by steep cliffs.  A look at what we thought we Russell convinced us that it was worthy of an attempt to climb it, and we judged that we could climb it without difficulty.

Below: Wales Lake.

Wales Lake Sierra nevada.aa

We started off for the peak pretty unprepared.  I had left my pack down with Byron at the falls, it was already close to noon, and we would have to share Mikes extra clothes, food, and water.  I talked to Wendy a few minutes and we split.  Our route took us through a notch in a cliff, over ice fields, and we finally reached the peak after several false summits and some 3rd-4th class climbing.  A spectacular view of Whitney,  Russell to the immediate east of us, and the Kern trench to the west.  And the cobalt jewel of Tulyinyo Lake, surrounded by barren rock on one side and steep rubble cliffs on three other sides. It remained mostly frozen over and exquisitely serene and peaceful.

Tulyinyo Lk

We had a swift standing glissade during which we tried to see who would fall the least.  This band of snow took us almost  all the way off the peak and we found ourselves on an artic plateau.  After following a stream through this tundra area Mike and I became separated as I began the descent of some giant boulders.  I thought he was behind me but later found that he had stopped to eat.  I reached Wales Lake and saw above me two figures climbing the ridge we had climbed earlier.  One was obviously Conrad but I couldn’t make out the other one.  I shouted but they didn’t hear me.  Mike was so far behind I began to get worried and sat and waited a long time for him.  I contemplated going back for him but this would have just gotten us even more mixed up if we had missed each other.  I went down to the falls and waited.  No sign of Wendy there, but her walking stick was there so I knew she would likely come back to this spot.

After half an hour or so Mike came down and we rested on warm rocks in the sun, the falls calming our nerves and an occasional drift of mist cooling us.  Soon Byron and Wendy came down, and we found that they had climbed Tunnabora Peak.  Wendy’s description of the view of Owen’s Valley sounded great and Mike and I decided to climb it, or at least go to Tulyinyo lake.  In her Scottish burl Wendy said something like “aye, an truly, ya should na due that very thin.” But we were off and on our way, this time with both or our packs and food, water and clothing for both of us.  As we ascended the notch in the cliff we met Conrad and Jim coming down from Tulyinyo Lake.  They told us the lake was a big dissappointment, mostly iced up, as we had seen from our peak, and devoid of life. We talked awhile, then continued, reaching the lake without difficulty.  At the lake we ate and started the ascent  of Tunnabora, what looked like an easy class 2. I had become very tired and had to stop to rest and was exhausted by the time we reached the peak, but what a view rewarded us.  To the East a very sheer drop off to Owens Valley, sough the crystal blue emerald of Tulyinyo Lake, and west of the heartland of the Sierra.  Our stay had to be short because the sun was soon to set, so we signed in after Wendy and Byron and began a traverse of the summit ridge that would put us on the tundra flats.  The view of Mount Carrillon reflected in the blue of Tulyinyo and surrounded by the brown bleakness of glacial moraines and polishes was truly impressive and tired as we were becoming we immensely enjoyed this traverse of Tunnabora Peak.

Whitney and Wales Lk.aa

We arrived at the falls at sunset and were met by Byron and Wally, who had come to swim.  We went down the ridge in semi-darkness and were greeted by the others.  Wendy had prepared supper and we gratefully enjoyed our mosquito flavored food.  “Aye an truly, I should no ha doon it.” I said as I placed my creaking body gently on a rock.  “Aye an truly, for its on the morrow that you’ll be in pain.” Wendy replied, “ee its nobodies fault but yoor oon.”  Too tired to fight mosquitoes , we went to bed early and planned for a hasty retreat out of the Hellhole.  However, this layover day had turned out to be the best day we’d had in terms of scenery and total enjoyment for all. The fishermen had good luck at Wallace Lake and Wally, Dean and Rob climbed Barnard and Trojan Peaks.

Friday: After a sleep of the dead, we awoke to a fast breakfast augmented by fish donated by the fisherman.  Wally, Mike, and some others left early, planning to meet us at camp for that night, a high treeless lake.  Our route was cross country over a ridge and down into a wide glacial valley, the Wright Lakes Valley.  We went slow for a change, keeping together.  On the top of the ridge we passed through the ruins of an ancient forest.  Even in death and decay they trees remained strong and beautiful, their bark stripped and their cinnamon colored wood warm to the eye.  We took several rest stops and thoroughly enjoyed the restful pace and conversation.  In the bottom of the glacial trough we crossed a stream and headed up broad fields of little lupines into a stand of large foxtail pines for another rest.


Above this we left our packs and headed up to a lake indicated on the topo to take a swim. Here we met Wally and decided to camp.  The lake was high and cold, although protected from wind, and perfectly treeless.  Wally assured us that there were no mosquitoes but I think he exaggerated. We started lunch but before I could finish Wally was hot to trot for a peak east of camp.  Wally, Wendy , Byron, Dean and I struck off for a very swift climb. Wendy was sure she was holding us back but I was certainly puffing too and Dean beat us all to the peak by a long ways.  We had a great view of the inner Sierra and the fast enclosing clouds.  To our north was a big dropoff and a terrible knife edge to Tyndall Peak.  We descended to camp and enjoyed a cold swim.  At this time in the evening  the sun reflected strongly against the water and we took several pictures using Mikes diffusing gradient.  This was perhaps the first camp where we seemed to operate as a unified group.  We made a cooperative effort with Conrad with our date nut bread after supper, and Wendy showed them how to make oatmeal cookies.  Supper of Turkey primavera and dumplings.  We had a campfire well into the night at Jim’s fire. I think I may have been too critical of Wally’s cooking over the previous days, but tonight I’ll never forget when Wally brought his pot of biscuits over to the campfire as the other two groups enjoyed Conrad’s date nut bread. Wally split his bread among his group and Byron showed me his.  Black on the outside and not cooked on the inside. Wally said that he had never seen a meal that something couldn’t be saved from, as he scooped biscuit dough out of the black shell and threw the rest in the fire.  I thought I’d better cool it and didn’t say a word as we ate our bread and shared some of cookies with him, but I sure am glad Wendy was in my group and not Wally.  After the campfire Byron, Wendy and I stumbled around looking for a sleeping site, and finally had to sleep on the fields of small rocks. We talked late into the night and hoped the fringes of clouds would not rain on us.

Saturday: Byron and I got up, or rather woke up, before dawn and waited for a perfect picture of the rosy tint on Mt. Whitney.  Some time later we got up and my group had breakfast of delicious pancakes, fresh apple slices, and bacon. The three of us were again the last to leave camp and saw the others from a low pass looking into a broad glacial valley.  We descended into the valley between Diamond Mesa and Tyndall Pk, and hiked through the Husdonian meadow for an hour or so.  The bleak tundra-like meadow was the stage for our performance of Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea (I was Clark), as well as French trappers, Runners of the woods, Basque shepherds, Swiss shepherds, Scottish hilanders, Austrian crossing the Alps fleeing from the Naziis and Spaniards crossing the Pyrenees fleeing Franco.  Senor Lowry wanted to sacrifice his life and hold off los federales while Wendy and I fled but I wouldn’t have it.  Either we all made it or none of us would. Viva La Republica!  This was our best one act play because as we neared the pass and the French border we saw that some Frenchmen were there and would lead us safely off the mountains and find shelter for us on the way.  After a short rest all but Mike and I left.  We rested a long time and then headed to Tyndall, a big impressive  14,000+peak of the range.


We climbed the north face over good class three rock, mostly friction climbing.  We hurriedly signed in with lightning flashing on neighboring peaks and the thunderhead bearing down on us as we scurried down.  Just above the ice field I kicked loose a bed sized rock that sent several other good sized rocks with it onto the ice field.  They missed Mike by 20 feet or so.  We picked up our packs at Shepherd Pass and had a good long glissade down the pass.

We joined the others at Shepherd Creek in a pleasant little glen by the creek.  For several hours we loafed, wrote in notebooks, and took pictures of columbines and larkspur before Wally, Dean, and Bill got back from climbing Kieth. We had another fantastic supper including popcorn and apricot nut bread for dessert.  Another quiet time of the evening at small campfires before we got to bed late in the night or early in the morning.

Sunday: Although I would have advised a novice to string a tube tent that night, I was lazy and chose to defy the black clouds that blocked the stars, and several hours later awoke to a cold shower.  Still undaunted or perhaps just stubborn, I struggled inside my tube tent without stringing it and without even getting out of my bag.  I suffered in silence for several hours as the wind beat the wet plastic against my face and slowly soaked my bag.  As it started to get light I decided it would be more comfortable to get up and get a fire going for a fast start out.  Jim and Wally were already up and preparing to bomb out to the cars.  An hour after they left people began to get up and we had a fast breakfast before we hit the trail

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Jim and Wally say they hauled but they couldn’t have gone much faster than we did.  We were shaded by the remnants of last nights storm and probably went too fast to enjoy the colored rock walls around the gorge.  We crossed over to the Symnes Creek watershed and barreled down to Symmes Creek.  This area was pleasant but could not compare to the High Sierra we had left.  I was sad that we had to come down so soon.  I didn’t suffer form any craving for food that I had the last year.

The cars were parked in a sagebrush area, near Symmes Creeek. We found that Jim and Wally had left our clean clothes for us near the parking lot but couldn’t find the cokes till someone looked under the clothes.  We washed in the cold water and admired each others blisters.  Mike had some good ones, but mine were really much nicer.  Feeling totally refreshed we put on clean clothes, combed our hair, and stared at the strange, clean civilized people around us.  As we sat there in our contentedness it began to rain.  For 45 minutes we sat in the rain and looked at each other and talked.  Wally and Jim showed up in the van only.  Jim’s car had run out of gas.  We packed into the van and tooled to Austin’s drug store in Independence for the much anticipated milk shakes.  Byron and I got two to go also and stashed them in the van’s icebox.  We met at Dirty Sox hot springs for a swim in the slime pool, although some of us refrained. On the trip back Wendy, Byron and I sat back in the van and feasted on figs, shepherds bread, cokes and the milk shakes, accompanied by Simon and Garfunkel and the Dance of the Shaherizad.  We got back to Lancaster in the afternoon and everyone split for hot showers and home cooking.




Electronic and photography gear is always changing, but it seemed like Jim and I had a pretty good mix of electronics and photography gear when we did the John Muir Trail last summer (2016).  Here is our gear:



This was the photographic gear for the two of us.  Not shown is the iphone 6 that I had, and Jim also had an iphone.  We used the iphones and gopro for slider time lapses, and the camera for stills and time lapse from the tripod.  These pieces are:

Sony a6000 camera, with the Sony 10-18 wide angle lens.  The camera body, this lens, rubber cover, and strap and battery weighed 1 lb 8.4 oz.  This camera rivals DSLR cameras, and has the same sensor as many DSLR cameras. It does time lapse, videos, 11 exposures per second, face recognition and registration, and lots of in-camera special styles.

Sony kit lens, 16-50 mm. Since camera has smaller than a DSLR size sensor, this a “crop sensor”, 10mm on this camera = 18mm full sensor size camera, 18mm = 28, 50mm = 80.

Tripod is the Joby Gorillapod. It has a level, is about 12″ tall, and weighs 6.9 oz.  Its sturdy enough to support the Sony a6000 with the heavy wide angle lens. Photography was important for this trip, so we had more camera gear than most, and we tried to keep the weight down.  This is not the actual tripod we took, but I’ll take it next time.  The tripod we took was the Sirui 025 carbon fiber tripod. It weighed 1 lb 14.9 oz, so the Joby is a big weight savings.

SPOT beacon, at 4.1 oz.  We intended to take this but confusion at the start caused us to leave it in the car, much to my wife’s consternation.

Suntastic sCharger5 Solar Panel: This panel worked great! I had it on the back of my pack near the top, and when we got to camp we set it up for good solar exposure. It recharged my camera battery, 2 iphones, and sometimes the gopro, each day!  It was essential, as otherwise my camera battery was about at 30% at the end of one day.  If I took time lapses with my iphone, it drained the battery pretty fast.

Anker 6700ma storage battery: 4.8 oz.  The solar panel charged this battery and we used the battery after dark to charge the camera and iphone batteries. This combination worked like a charm.

GoPro with plastic case: 5.0 oz.  We took movies with this, as well as with the iphones and Sony camera.

Cable to connect the solar panel and battery, battery and camera: 0.7 oz

We also brought a DIY camera slider which was sturdy enough to support the GoPro or the iphones, and weighed 26 oz. I’d like to leave it behind next time, but it makes some unique video clips.  It was made up of tent poles, tent stakes, end blocks, and a camera dolly, all made of coreplast and styrofoam. The slider is shown in detail here.  Some clips from the slider are viewable in the video Jim put together below.

Sea to Summit Escapist tent system

I had the chance to try out a Sea to Summit Escapist tent system.  The tarp plus the inner bug tent weighs 2 lb 2 oz, and sleeps two.  If using only the tarp, it is 17.6 oz, plus the weight of the ground cloth you chose.  Below is Dave Litster with the bug tent holding two sleeping pads easily.


It comes in 4 units, which can be combined differently for different trips and weather conditions.  It is very light, and roomy when using just the tarp.  All configurations use the tarp, and inside the tarp you can use a pure mesh bug net, or a bug tent which has a floor with bathtub bottom the bottom material extends a bit up the sidewalls.  If there are no bugs, you could leave the bug options behind.  Using the tarp option, you could sleep 3 people.  Using the bug tent, you can sleep two inside the bug tent.

The tarp is pitched by using hiking poles at the ends, plus at least 4 corner stakes, plus 2 sidewall stakes.  That totals 8 stakes for the tarp alone.  If you use the Bug Tent or Bug Net, the four corners of either need to be staked down, and 2 peaks need to be attached to the tarp, and the top corner of each sidewall is attached to the underside of the tarp.  This wasn’t too hard, but ends up being a lot of stakes connections.  The connections are a little rod on the Bug Tent or Net, which fits into a slot on a leather tab.  This takes two hands and can’t be done with gloves.  Both pieces are black, so its hard to do in the dark.  Other tents set up with 6 stakes, this one takes 12 plus 6 connections.  Its not hard, but is a bit fussy. All the stakes contribute to it being very stable in the wind and rain.

This setup is great is great at ventilation, because it doesn’t have walls.  If you use the Bug Tent or Bug Net, they are all mesh, so it is excellent at ventilation, even with 2 people.

It doesn’t have a vestibule, but there is lots of room under the tarp for gear.

Living space is roomy if using just the tarp.  If bugs were not a worry, using just the tarp would be light and compact, but you’d have to bring a separate ground cloth.

The configurations the system can be set up in include:

Tarp (14.5 oz) plus ground sheet (6.6 oz) plus 8 stakes (3.6 oz) = 1 lb 8 oz.

Tarp (14.5 oz) plus Bug Tent (13.6 oz) (it has a floor so ground sheet is not needed) plus 12 stakes (5.4 oz) = 2 lb 2 oz

Tarp (14.5 oz) plus Bug Net (5.5 oz) , ground sheet (6.6) plus 12 stakes (5.4 oz) = 2 lb

tent testing

The tarp and bug tent and net all seemed very solid.  I can see one thing that is bound to fail, and that is the stuff sacks.  To pack the tarp, I had to make three tries before I got it in.  It is about as tight as a sausage inside the stuff sack, and after a few trips I’d expect the stuff sack to split.  It if was half in inch more in diameter, it would be so much easier to stuff and put less pressure on the stuff sack.

The stuff sack for the Bug tent is a little looser, but could be still looser and it would last longer.

The stuff sack for the Bug Net was ok, since it is pure mesh.

The ground sheet also had a stuff sack, which could be dispensed with if weight is a consideration (isn’t it always?).


MSR Thru Hiker tent

We took the MSR Thru Hiker tent on a trip in the Sierra Nevada in August.  It got down to frost a few nights.  There was no rain, no wind, low humidity. One person used the tent, and loved it.


 Tent Weight by my scale: 1 lb 8 oz.  This is one of the few one man tents that weighs less than 2 lbs, has a floor and mosquito netting.  Uses trekking poles for set up.  Was $380, cheaper now like $180.  Its hard to beat for a solo tent.



IMG_1676  IMG_2085 IMG_2163

This is a tarp type cover or “wing” that combines with a mesh inner tent, to form a fully functional tent that weighs less than 2 pounds.  It would be pretty crowded for two, but just right for one person.  It was proven to be easy to set up for a novice hiker, my daughter, who used it for a week in the Sierra Nevada.  Its very light but there are real two person tents that are almost as light, much roomier, and cost more than $100 less.   Functional, light, but not a leader in the field of ultralight tents.  I’d give it a B+ due to its weight.

For one person, this tent is awesome, and will spoil a newby because of its light weight and compact size.

This sets up with two tent poles, like a lot of tarp type set ups.  It takes a number of stakes to set it up, but a novice hiker quickly figured out how to set it up.

Ventilation is a strong point with this tent.  The inner tent is mesh, so a breeze can pass through it easily.  There is space under the edge of the tarp for free passage of a breeze, so I can’t imagine this every having a condensation problem.

The inner mesh tent is wide enough for two sleeping pads, but it works better for one hiker.  For two hikers, you would be bumping a lot, but the savings in weight might be worth it.  You would only need the mesh tent when there were mosquitoes, so you would probably be sleeping under the tarp and on top of the floor, and have plenty of room for two.

There is no vestibule, and no vestibule storage.


Making a Folding Knife from a kit

BSA lockback

My go-to knife for backpacking of late has been a lockback folder which our scout troop gave me. It is etched with the words “Bob – Thank you for your Service to Troop 100.”  What a nice gesture, and it turned out to be a fantastic little knife which is a pleasure to carry.  Its perfectly adequate for any task on a backpack.  Based on my experience with the BSA knife, I wanted to try my hand at making a folding knife, so I bought a folding knife kit from The model was the “Sheriff.”


It came with no instructions at all, and the pdf instructions for other models were not clear on the details of putting it together. They more or less said: cut out handle material, drill holes, assemble the knife using pins, peen the pins: done. After making many mistakes, chiseling off 3 pairs of scales, drilling out or cutting off a set of pins, I made a workable knife with lots of small issues. I thought I’d document the detailed steps I finally figured out by trial and error.

First I did a mockup assembly on a piece of wood, to see how the pieces fit together.

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I measured the diameter of the pins, because the pivot pin, spring pins, and liner pins were all different diameters, and they didn’t send extra pins for the pivot and spring pins.  I cut some oversized scales in a cutoff saw, so I would have a clean edge of wood to put against the edge of the bolster. I traced an outline of the liners on the wood, so I would know where to put the epoxy. I glued the scales to the liners, and let the epoxy dry overnight.


Next I drilled the pin holes. If you drill from the metal side and come out the wooden side, the bit will splinter the wood. I lost a pair of scales that way and had to start over. I finally figured out that if I drilled from the metal side toward the wood, I could use the depth stop on the drill press to have just the tippy tip of the bit make a little dimple on the wood side, then I could drill from the wood side toward the metal. Then I cut off the excess wood with a hack saw. If you cut off the excess wood with a large tooth saw, it is easy to split the wood, but the small teeth of the hack saw don’t put too much stress on the wood. Then I sanded the wood to the edge of the metal, and shaped the wood to roughly the final shape of the handles. I used drum sander bits that fit in the drill press, and they were great. One of the drum sander bits fit into the blade release recess, and allowed those surfaces to be finished sanded before the parts were assembled. The wood is from a block of mountain mahogany a friend gave me, from the Owyhee Mountains of Idaho.


Next the holes were delicately countersunk with a cone shaped bit, and the pieces were assembled with the pins. Peening the first set of pins was a disaster. The second set of pins worked better. I learned that the pins have to be filed very flat, and stick out just a tiny bit from the scales or the pivot. I also learned that the shim material in the kit was crap, and I came up with a 0.007″ shim from an set of feeler gauges I had. I peened the backspring pin first, next the pivot pin, and last the pins on either side of the lanyard hole. The pins were then filed flush with the surface of the wood, and sanded with the wood. If they are forced through the holes, the pins can easily split the wood (which I did, and had to start over).

Peening is best done by many light taps with a 4 oz ball peen hammer, with which the edges of the pin are tapped, with about 6 taps to work around the circumference of the pin, followed by one tap in the center to spread the pin. You partially peen one side of a pin, flip it over and partially peen the other side, flipping over maybe 15 times back and forth. When peening the pivot pin, if it is peened too much, the blade is locked or hard to open. If it is peened too little, where is side to side play in the blade. I peened the pivot with the 0.007″ shim around the pivot pin until the blade got tight, then I took the shim out, and gave it a few taps on each side, then tried the blade for smooth opening. If it gets too tight, it is ruined. I had to drill out one pivot pin and start over. I used a 0.004″ shim on the backspring pin, because if that is too tight it can lock the whole thing up (did that). After three sets of scales and 2 sets of pins, the first knife came out OK, the second one quite a bit better as far as the pins go. Below are the first and second knives I made from the Sheriff kit.


Below is the second one I made, which has better pins than the first one.

Sheriff Lockback knife kit



John Muir Trail 2016, 1st Section, Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

JMT 2016: First Section (7 days), Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

below: Long Lake, our first days campsite



Our gear is listed here

Preparation for the hike

JMT Food Plan

Day -1: We drove to Tuollumne Meadows and camped in the backpackers campground. This was our first night sleeping at 10,000′, and even though we didn’t do anything physical, we hoped just spending the night at that elevation would help acclimate us. It was pretty uneventful, camping wise.

Day 0: We met our ride at the wilderness center, and left our car there. In the car we also left my SPOT beacon, my drinking cup and Luke’s fishing license. Gigi Delong drove us from Tuollumne to Bishop, where I got a new cup, and then to Big Pine where we got a 2 person permit for me and Jim, and Luke and Ian got their 2 person permit, and we had lunch with Gigi.  Gigi was from South Africa and had been in Bishop in the hang glider scene for many years. She was into motorcycles, so she and Jim had something to talk about.  Gigi drove us up the many big switchbacks to Cottonwood Campground at about 10,200’.  We figured it would be good to get our second nights sleep at 10,000’, to help get acclimated. We’d start the hike in the morning and hike up to Long Lake at about 11,100’.

Day 1: We started early, all four of us hiking together.  Little did we know that we would rarely hike as a group the rest of the trip. Our group was me, 66, my son Jim, 20 years old, and our two neighbor youths, Luke Wilnerd 17 and Ian Wilnerd 15. Jim had been on numerous week long hikes and many weekend hikes. Luke and Ian had been on lots of backpacks with their family. I had hiked the JMT in 1971, several section hikes in the late 60s, climbed some 200 peaks in the Sierra, did the Ptarmigan Traverse 3 times, climbed Rainier 6 times, Adams, Hood, St. Helen, Shasta, participated in Mountain Rescue and Nordic Ski Patrol groups.  I’ve remained active in backpacking, with a week long hike each summer and 4 or 5 weekend backpacks. The first days hike was not a hard hike, gaining only 1000’ of elevation when we topped out at Lake 1 of the Cottonwood Lakes. I had been here twice before, and couldn’t help but think how the view of Langley had not changed, and the lake before us was the same.  I think the log to our right had been there 45 years ago also.

We knew we were not far from Long lake and we trudged onward another mile or so, with very little elevation gain.  We ate all our lunch food, and honey waffles were great.  We finally got to Long Lake, and I was super exhausted.  When I checked my blood sugar (I’m diabetic) at the camp we finally found, I was at 87 units. That is too low for me, and was part of why I was so exhausted. I was practically in a diabetic coma. We went around the lake clockwise, and found nice camping in some big rocks on the shore at the 3 o’clock position (where the outlet is at the 6 o’clock position).  We got to camp at noon, had time for the boys to play some cards, and we rested up a bit in the sun. One of the life savers in our diet was to have a cup of Miso soup as soon as we got to camp, and we did it every day. Jim and I had a Pack-it Gourmet Big Un Burriro, our favorite meal, with 2 tortillas each.  Jim and I could have eaten one whole pack each, or a dessert.

Day 2. We had granola and milk, and I had 2 packs of Via coffee with milk and sugar (energy) for breakfast.  Jim had one Via. We were on the trail at 9 am, on top of New Army Pass at 11.  It was about 2.5 miles to the pass. After a picture and a break, we headed down toward Soldier Lake and Rock Creek.


Below: same place, different sign and weather, taken in 1969


During the day we had stopped at the first water after the pass, and sat our packs on some rocks near the trail. A scout group joined us and put their packs among our packs, stepping on Jim’s sunglasses in the process. As we hiked on, Luke was ahead of the group, and stopped at a campsite among big rocks at a meadow through which Rock Creek meandered.  When I came into sight I was glad to see him.  We were within ¼ mile of where the trail joined the PCT. During the day I was unable to eat the Clif bar allocated for lunch of that day, and also couldn’t eat the tortilla I brought for lunch. The lunch food was sufficient to keep me stuffed.

The goal was to get as far as possible toward Crabtree Meadow, and as far as possible turned out to be a total of about 9-10 miles, where we camped at a meadow by Rock Creek.  We were far from Crabtree Meadow, maybe 5 miles away.


At camp Jim and I had pasta with tomato sauce and smoked salmon, and I ate about 1.8 oz of the 2.5 oz of the pasta I had planned on eating. We had brought 2 packs of salmon to add to the pasta, but we found that 1 pack was plenty.  All of our dinners were put together from things like pasta, rice, on quinoa. To that base we added a sauce and some kind of protein.  Our evening meals were, by order of what we liked the most:

Big Un Burrito by Pack-It Gourmet, with 2 tortillas each.

Spaghetti with tomato sauce and freeze dried sausage granules

Pasta carbonara with bacon

Pasta Pesto with salmon

Pasta with Tomato sauce

Scalloped potatoes with bacon

Mac and cheese with bacon

Jim and I did some laundry in a stuff sack with water and soap.  Then we set up the camera slider and took some videos alongside and in Rock Creek. There were a few mosquitoes, but very few. There had been very few mosquitoes all day, even though the hikers we met in Bridgeport and Mammoth had warned us of massive swarms of mosquitoes. They had been in the spot where we now were about 2 weeks earlier, and the mosquitoes were that much fewer in the two weeks. I was relieved that all of my systems were working ok: knees, hips and back. I had been afraid something would snap or pop, and incapacitate me.  Luckily, my only issue was being tired at the end of the day (real tired).

Day 3 – Jim and I were up at 7, and packed up so we headed off without Luke and Ian.  We told them we’d wait for them at the PCT junction, and we waited 1.5 hours for them there. We didn’t realize that this would be the pattern for most of the 22 day hike. We hiked along the meadow at Rock Creek, and shortly started the uphill grind to Guyot Pass.  We were planning to top off with water at Guyot Creek, near the top of the pass. When we got there it was almost dry, but we found a place where we could dip one cup of water at a time, to put in our gravity filter.  From Guyot Pass, Luke and Ian hiked ahead.  The area around Guyot Pass was a strange place, with no bushes or grasses, and with big pine trees in white gravelly covering.  It wasn’t soil, it was gravel. Below: me and the strange terrain of Guyot flat.


For lunch today I had plenty: 1 salmon pack from dinner last night, 1 tortilla, 2 cliff bars, pepperoni sticks, pistachio, Banana chips, and dried mango.


We got in to camp at Crabtree Meadow at 2, so it was a pretty short day that we would have to make for in mileage on a later day. The elevation gain was about 1765’. We had mac and cheese for dinner, preceded by Miso soup.  I couldn’t eat my half of the mac and cheese, and Jim got extra or we gave some to the perpetually hungry Luke and Ian. There were a few mosquitoes at Crabtree, but they were not bad.

Our camp was near the beautiful creek, and near a big flat top rock.  The rock was owned by a family of fat marmots, and they were fearless about hanging out there.  They had covered the top of the rock with marmot drops, and I looked out over the meadow and saw another 20 or so marmots over the large meadow. I realized that there were probably 50 marmots there, and they each produced as many marmot drops as our family, and the poop was rinsed by rain into the creek. The creek still looked beautiful, but I definitely filtered any water we got out of it. The plan was for Jim to head up to Whitney the next morning, like at 4 am or something. Luke and Ian could join Jim if they wanted to.

Day 4 – Jim got up a 4 am, and took my camera and both of my hiking poles, so our Tarptent became a tarp laying over me. Luke and Ian accompanied him on his trip to the top of Mt. Whitney.  My plan was to rest and recuperate from the effort of the past few days. I walked around the meadow and took pictures and set up the motor driven slider, using my cell phone as a time lapse camera. Below is my video on the camera slider. Details of its construction are here.

The boys got back about 3 pm, and we did a little video interview of how their day had gone, which is below.

Below is a shot Jim took from the Whitney trail.


Day 5 – From Crabtree Meadow we headed to Wallace Creek, 4.7 miles away, and then left the JMT for a side trip to Wallace Lake. I had hiked in the area of Wales and Wallace Lake on the 1971 JMT, and I hoped we’d have time to visit Tulainyo Lake, but our meager mileage the 2nd day of the trip had used up the layover day I had planned. We hiked up Wallace Creek pretty much cross country, and got to Wallace Lake after about 4 miles and 1200’ of elevation gain.  The sun was incredibly bright at that elevation, and all we could do was seek shade.  We had left Crabtree Mdw at 8 am, and got to Wallace Lake at 2 pm.  Luke did a lot of fishing, caught at least one fair sized one, and Jim and I had pasta carbonara for dinner. My sunglasses came apart due to a lost screw in the frame, and I was able to reconnect the frame with dental floss.


Day 6 – We hiked down to the JMT from Wallace Lake, then headed toward Tyndall Creek. The Bighorn Plateau was otherworldly, and we got our last view of Whitney. At Tyndall Creek there were a lot of scout groups, and we continued on. The map showed a lake to the left of the trail, about 400-500’ higher than the trail and .5 miles off the trail, so we headed there and had it all to ourselves. Jim and I had scalloped potatoes and bacon, which we ate sitting our comfy chairs looking at an incredible view, but it was pretty windy. We had hiked 8.5 miles and Jim developed his first blister. I didn’t have any foot issues the whole trip, but Luke had blisters almost from day 1, and Ian had foot issues also.  They ended up wearing running shoes and carrying their boots for most of the trip. That night Jim and I didn’t put up the tent, but used it as a ground cloth. There was no sign of rain, no mosquitoes, so why not?


Day 7 – Jim and I headed for Forester Pass, leaving Ian and Luke to catch up later. A big guided group led by Zoom and _______, of California Alpine Guides, were headed up Forester a bit behind us, and I was impressed that such a large group could all be in pretty good shape. Below: our crew just below the top of Forester Pass.


Jim on the top of Forester Pass.


After a bit of rest on the pass, we headed down just as the CAG group arrived. We continued toward our goal of Vidette Meadow, for a total mileage of 12.1 miles for the day. We were tired at Vidette Meadow.  In fact, I was tired at the end of every day, so I’ll quit saying I was tired.

Day 8 – Jim and I were up at 6 am, on the trail by 7:15 am. We headed out fast to try and intercept our horse packers who planned to meet us at Charlotte Lake. We polished off the 1200’ gain to the sandy clearing above Charlotte Lake. Jim waited there, and I walked down to Charlotte Lake to make sure the horse packers hadn’t beaten us to the lake. Back at the trail intersection, we waited another hour and the horse packer showed up with our 4 plastic buckets of food, and took our trash. Luke and Ian showed up in time to get their trash onto a mule saddlebag.  There was only one problem: the deal had been for the packers to bring us a resupply of fuel, and they didn’t!  We had 7 days to hike to the next resupply and no fuel!! Are you kidding me? The horse cowboy, Reeve, said another string would be heading up later that day, so Jim waited for the second string to show up, which took at least another 2 hours.

I went ahead, and started up Glen Pass. Early on I realized that I had left the camera tripod down with Jim’s pack and I waited for him to show up. He had found the tripod, and saved me the trip down to retrieve it.  Jim had waited for the second pack string, but they didn’t have any fuel for us either.  Dang, we were screwed. We headed up Glen pass already tired, and got to Rae Lakes shortly before the shadow of the ridge to the west put our camp in shadow. Jim and I swam in the lake, and washed clothes. I washed all my clothes, so they were wet all night and part of the next day. Again we slept on top of the flattened tent, and saw the stars.

Below: heading to the top of Glen Pass.


Below: Rae Lakes, where we camped on the isthmus.


Next: on to MTR!

First Section, Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

Second Section, Rae Lakes to MTR

Third Section, MTR to Reds Resort

Fourth Section, Reds to Tuollumne

Our gear is listed here

Preparation for the hike

JMT Food Plan

John Muir Trail 2016, 2nd Section: Rae Lakes to MTR, northbound

JMT 2016: Second Section (7 days), Rae Lakes to Muir Trail Ranch

Our gear is listed here

Preparation for the hike

JMT Food Plan

First Section, Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

Third Section, MTR to Reds Resort

Day 9: I was reminded all night that I would prefer to sleep in my long underwear, but the night before I had washed ALL my clothes.  I was in my sleeping bag nekkid. My clothes were draped over every branch of all the trees around out camp, so it looked like the Beverly Hillbillies were camped here. They had not dried much overnight, and were still quite damp.  I put on my damp clothes, and had some oatmeal and coffee before we hit the trail. We took one last look at the Rae Lakes and peak called Painted Lady.

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Jim and I left early and Luke and Ian were to catch up with us later. Ian talked to a ranger at Rae Lakes, and was given a canister of fuel.   Jim and I stopped at Woods Creek, which was below 10,000′, and thus wood fires were allowable. We made a wood fire and cooked our evening meal, planning to eat lunch foods for dinner, when we would be above 10,000′ and thus could not have a wood fire.

Zoom and his crew were at the bridge, and he showed me a cool camera tripod and dirt scoop. Jim and I had Pesto Pasta with salmon for lunch, and a pack of salmon for a trail snack.  After a big cooked lunch, we crossed the bridge over Woods Creek and started up Wood Creek, destination Twin Lakes. The mid morning meal seem to sap me of energy, and before we got to Twin Lakes, I was bonked. Ian had found a campsite in some big trees, and I was glad to quit for the day. We had hiked about 10 miles. We were below the trail to Sawmill Pass, maybe 3 miles short of Twin Lakes.  Zoom and his crew were headed to Twin Lakes, so we consoled ourselves that our camp site was uncrowded. We were camped about 100′ from a busy mountain stream, so I took my filthy long sleeve nylon shirt down to the creek, and put in a rocky pocket, weighted down by a rock. I left it in the spin cycle, hoping it would be sparkling clean the next morning. My light tan shirt was filthy with dirt, even though I had washed it with soap about every other day.

Day 10: The next morning, my shirt was pretty clean, but still dirty looking. Don’t bring light tan clothes. Jim’s identical shirt, but a dark gray in color, looked nice and clean by contrast. We got going slowly, and headed to Pinchot Pass.  I don’t remember this pass as hard, I just put it in low gear and seemed to float up the pass. Our packs were a little lighter than when going over Glen Pass, the hardest butt kicker to far. Far harder than Forester. The alpine pools below Pinchot Pass were beautiful.


We got to the pass at the same time as Luke and Ian, and also met Yoshihiro Murakami, aka Hiro, aka aLow Gear, and his photographer companion. Hiro has done a tremendous amount of hiking around the world. and I think he has done the JMT or parts of it several times. Their packs looked incredibly heavy, with big camera gear.


I remembered we had taken a picture of the same spot in 1971, so I created the shot as best I could. Below, me in 2016 on Pinchot Pass, with Lake Marjorie behind.


Below: Chuck Ringrose on Pinchot Pass, 1971.

day 20.1a Chuck Ringrose on Pinchot Pass

From Pinchot pass, we headed down past Lake Marjorie, down to the So. Fork of the Kings River and up the Kings River, destination as close to Mather Pass as we could get. Where we crossed the King River I stepped on a rock that rolled, and I fell backwards with my legs all twisted. I lay there for a second and thought “I might have hurt something in that little slip.” I upclipped my pack belt, got my shoulder straps off, and untwisted my legs. I lay on the grass nearby for  5 minutes or so, and finally concluded that I was OK.

We got to about the 10,500′ elevation, and Ian found us a nice campsite. We had hiked about 11.5 miles today, and reached camp at 5 pm. Jim and I had started at 7 am, Luke and Ian started at 10. Jim and I had swam in the Kings River at a lower elevation, and Jim swam near our camp.

below: setting up camp on the Kings River, 10,500′:

Timelapse of clouds at camp on Kings River:

We again saw Hiro and friend as they passed through on the trail. Their packs were huge, and heavy.

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Day 11: Today took us over Mather Pass, to the beautiful Palisade Lakes. Below: stream south of Mather Pass.


South of Mather Pass.


Below:from the top of Mather Pass looking down at Palisade Lakes.


As we got close to Palisade Lake, it started to rain. The picture below is near where we camped, above the upper Palisade Lake.


It started to rain and hail at 2:45, so we decided to camp a little short of our mileage goal, but it was a beautiful area. We probably did 8 miles today. We decided that if it rained on future days, we needed to put on rain gear and keep going. We had pasta carbonarra with bacon tonight.  Very delicious.

Day 12: Jim and I took off to get to Big Pete Meadow today, and I didn’t see the Wilnerds all day. Below: our last look back at Palisade Lake.


We went down the Golden Staircase, and had some easy and fast hiking on Palisade Creek.


I caught up with Zoom and his group of 11 paying clients at Grouse Meadow, about 10 miles into the day.


Below: Zoom and crew at Grouse Meadow.



I kept going in light rain to Big Pete Meadow, for a total day’s mileage of 12 miles. Jim showed up in a bit, and said he had seen the Wilnerds earlier in the day, but not lately. It rained a bit but not really hard.  We cooked dinner in the rain shadow of a tree, on a wood fire. A doe and her fawn were pretty comfortable around the meadow and camp. Jim hiked back to see if he ran into the Wilnerds, and found them camped about 4 miles back. So he added 8 miles to his mileage today.

Day 13: We waited for about 2 hours for the Wilnerds to show up, then headed for Muir Pass. This part of the trail was new to me, because in our 1971 trip we had to head out to Lake Sabrina after hitting Evolution Lake. I was very excited to break the Muir Pass curse, and get to Evolution Lake via Muir Pass. Below: headed up from Big Pete Mdw.


climbing climbing climbing


The sweet taste of victory, topping out at the Muir Trail hut. We were on top at 2:30.


Below: our gang at the hut.


Below: the gazelles heading down from Muir Pass, headed to Evolution Lake.


Below: Evolution Lake, after a 12 mile day. Jim and I washed clothes, and had scalloped potatoes with bacon.


Below: time lapse over Evolution Lake

The Milky Way from Evolution Lake. I’m still learning this photo skill.  My problem is getting sharp focus.


Day 14: We would head toward Muir Trail Ranch, but likely would not make it all the way there.  We forded the creek at the lower part of Evolution Meadow.


Luke was especially keen on getting to MTR before 5, as he seemed to be starving to death. He hiked on ahead, hoping to get access to the hiker bins where hikers put their excess food and supplies. We found the famous John Muir rock, but the angle of the light made the inscription very hard to read. It says “1917 Muir Trail”. My shirt is quite a bit cleaner than Jim’s by the way.


The rest of us got to MTR there a little later, and found a camping spot in a public camping area near the river, and about half a mile from the MTR gate.  This had been a 15 mile day, and I felt pretty good. Luke got to the hiker buckets before the 5 pm cut off and scored several energy bars.

After we had dinner we headed down to the river, forded it, and searched for Blayney Hot Springs. We searched all over the place, and finally returned to a black mud hole we had passed up earlier as being too filthy for immersion. We put one foot in the dark and muddy water, and decided to take a mud bath. The temperature was perfect, it was about 4′ deep, and we soaked until our fingerprints were pruny. Tomorrow we would walk through the gates of Muir Trail Ranch where they would sing songs for us and throw rose petals on us, and we could have a hot shower and hot food in the evening, and sleep in a real bed.



First Section, Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

Second Section, Rae Lakes to MTR

Third Section, MTR to Reds Resort

Our gear is listed here

Preparation for the hike

JMT Food Plan







John Muir Trail 2016, 3rd Section: MTR to Reds Mountain Resort

JMT 2016: 3rd (4 days), Muir Trail Ranch to Reds Resort

Our gear is listed here

Preparation for the hike

JMT Food Plan

First Section, Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

Second Section, Rae Lakes to MTR

Fourth Section, Reds to Tuollumne

Day 15: Our camp was in a backpacker pigsty about .25 miles from Muir Trail Ranch (MTR).  It was a pigsty because behind every tree was a cluster of toilet paper and poop. Absolutely gross. We had breakfast, and headed over to the MTR entrance. MTR has a fence around it, and a gate that said “Open at 8, closed at 5” or something like that. We were on time, so we walked in. There were several log buildings there which were a shed for managing hiker buckets, an office, a dining hall, and a residence and some employee dorms. There was also a grassy area with a table and a shade tarp, and benches on one side with buckets filled with donated food from hikers. The food was free to any hiker. There was a whole bucket of oatmeal, one for bars (granola, energy, breakfast, etc), one for Peanut butter, one for drinks, one for dinners. Maybe 10 buckets with food in them. There was also a corral, and stable, because MTR is primarily a horse ranch.  People stay in the cabins, and go on horse rides with a cowboy and a bunch of other guests on horses.


We had reserved a tent cabin for Jim and I, and Luke and Ian had the neighboring tent cabin. The tent cabins has two beds, electricity, a wooden floor, and a small table. Super deluxe compared to sleeping with your face in the dirt. Jim and I took a shower first in a different small building, with hot water and soap! Then we took our clothes over to a clothes washing area where they had water in a hose, laundry soap, and some manual washing devices. The water ran brown out of our clothes for several wash cycles, and the clothes were “cleaner” but not “clean”.  We hung up our clothes on a clothes line.


We had no plans till dinner time, when we heading to the dining hall with about 20 other paying guests. They don’t sell dinners to backpackers passing by, only to paying overnight guests, which we were. A kitchen crew of about 4 made the meal, which was turkey burgers, fries, and a salad. If they made burgers for passing hikers, they’d make a million bucks a day.


In the evening we went to the lodge and Jim found a guitar there, and played a few songs.


They had a fenced spa next to the dining hall, and the water was about 3′ deep, and maybe 106 degrees.  That is HOT, but wonderful for short soaks. Jim went in at 1 am, and I woke up when he got back and went in at 2 am.  Its was incredibly wonderful.

Day 16: We jumped out of bed to get the breakfast in the morning, and pigged out on blueberry scones, eggs and ham, coffee, and juice. They also had sliced bread and we made a sandwich for lunch on the trail.  Then we headed to our cabins, and packed up and hit the trail.


The goal for the day was Selmer Pass, and the incredible Lake Marie on the other side of the pass. We heard a helicopter at a meadow on the way to Selmer Pass, and learned that an old guy had died of a heart attack, and his son had hiked in to see him off on the helicopter. The way up Selmer pass was gorgeous, and the view of Lake Marie was awesome.

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Below, Lake Marie and scraggly Bob


When we got to Lake Marie, I was more tired than usual. I had picked up a cold, and was very fatigued from the cold. In camp I just lay down for awhile and Jim set up the tent and got some Miso soup in me. We had hiked about 8 miles to Lake Marie, and gained about 3000′ of elevation.

Day 17: We headed for Quail Meadow today, a 12 mile day.


From Lake Marie we headed down to Bear Creek, forded it, and continued along it for quite a while. Then we gained a heck of a lot of elevation to cross the waterless Bear Ridge, Then then down the other side for what seemed like forever.  We crossed Mono Creek on a nice steel bridge, and then instead of taking a left to Quail Meadow, we took a right and shortly found a camp in the woods. The Wilnerds, whom we had not seen all day, found us shortly before dark .

Day 18: From camp we headed toward Silver Pass, which was about 4.9 miles and 2800′. We were on the pass at 2 pm. We passed the beautiful Silver Pass Lake, and headed toward Tully Hole.  My gas tank ran empty before we reached Tully Hole, and we camped along Fish Creek.  The Willnerds had gone ahead to Purple Lake, and Jim and I camped by ourselves. I decided this night that the cold was draining my energy too severely, and I would go home at Reds Mountain Resort. I was OK with that decision. Total mileage for the day: 10 miles. Below: lake before Silver Pass.


Day 19: I knew I was going to be slow today from the cold. I asked Jim to hike ahead to Reds to get there before the store closed, and if they had any cold medicine to hike back and meet me on the trail. He stayed with me as we climbed about 1200′ out of Tully hole, past Lake Virginia, and on to Purple Lake. There we saw the Wilnerds and just kept going. Jim left me there, promising to bring some cold medicine back. Below: Lake Virginia


Below: Stream below Lake Virginia


From Purple lake the trail was slightly downhill, sandy for the most part, and I cruised along in a daze. The Wilnerds passed me, and close to Reds I passed them as they lay down to take a nap.  In another mile or so I met Jim as he was coming back for me, with cough drops. He took my pack, and to my surprise I was only about a mile behind him, so we reached Reds in 3/4 mile. We dropped our packs and went in to the cafe and ordered hamburgers and shakes. They didn’t have French fries.  Shortly Luke and Ian joined us, and we had another pig out. The post office had the resupply buckets we had mailed to them, and we found our way to the backpacker campground. Later we went back to the area of the cafe and took showers and washed clothes.  Jim and I had hiked 18 miles this day.  I said that if I can hike 18 miles, I can do another 3 days of hiking and get to the car at Tuollumne.

First Section, Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

Second Section, Rae Lakes to MTR

Fourth Section, Reds to Tuollumne

Our gear is listed here

Preparation for the hike

JMT Food Plan

John Muir Trail 2016, 4th Section: Reds to Tuollumne

Our gear is listed here

Preparation for the hike

JMT Food Plan

First Section, Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

Second Section, Rae Lakes to MTR

Third Section, MTR to Reds Mountain Resort

Below: our first night destination, Thousand Island Lake


 Day 20: Clean and happy, we had breakfast at the cafe at Reds Mountain Resort. It was wonderful, and we carboloaded for a few more days of strenuous hiking. We took a short bus ride to Agnew Meadow, and started hiking there at 9:45, saving a few miles of uneventful trail around Devils Postpile. We had hiked the same route to Thousand Island Lake in 2015, and it was just about as tiring as then. When we got to the Lake at 4 pm, we had a few hours before dark, and found a campsite a quarter mile or so counter clockwise from the outlet. It was a bit windy, but calmed down as it got dark.  This short but tiring day was about 7 miles, and 1800′ of elevation gain.


Day 21: Jim and I headed for Island Pass, which was so gentle it was hard to tell where the pass was. Donahue was more of a challenge, and Luke and Ian caught up and passed us just before the 9900′ Donahue Pass. We had phone service there, and we all had a chat with somebody at home. Jim and I left and headed down the other side, and left the Willnerds on the top, and we found out later that they were talking to their Mom.  Below: sunrise over Thousand Island Lake.

Below: our last look at Thousand Island Lake and Mt. Banner.


below: close to Island Pass.


Before: Island Pass area


Below: a little closer to Donahue Pass.


Jim and I reached the Lyell Fork of the Tuollumne River, crossed, and followed the trail down the Lyell Canyon. The valley, lakes and river were beautiful. I ran out of gas at about 9800′ level and we camped.  An hour or so later the Willnerds showed up, and we ate our last trail dinner.  Below: Lyell Fork looking back at Donahue Pass.


Day 22: We lost some elevation to get to the lower elevation of the river, then followed the meandering river toward Tuollumne. It was flat easy trail, and I think we hiked 8 or 10 miles to the road. First we hit trails with lots of non-hiker looking folks of all ages, from infants to old folks in wheel chairs.


Below: Lyell Fork of Tuollumne River


Below: more Lyell Fork.


First Section, Cottonwood to Rae Lakes

Second Section, Rae Lakes to MTR

Third Section, MTR to Reds Mountain Resort

John Muir Trail, 1971, Preparation

1st week of hiking: Tuollumne Mdw to Reds Resort

In 1971 my younger brother Mike and I planned a 28 day trip on the JMT, with 12 people. Some people might be interested in our trip as a view into backpacking practices, philosophy, and technology in those days. Current travelers on the JMT have seriously lighter loads than we could accomplish in the 1970s, and they cover many more miles per day than we did, but one thing different about our trip was that we climbed 17 Sierra peaks, did a lot of fishing, and had layover days. With no permits, stoves, water filters, bear canisters, GPS, iPods, etc., the 70’s was a simpler time, but the beauty and allure of the Sierras remains an unchanging constant — as it was in the day of John Muir, as it was to us in the 70’s, as it is to hikers today. In 1971, me being 21 years old and my brother being 19, we were winging it on doing the JMT.  MTR and VVR didn’t exist as backpacker way stations, as far as we knew. There were no guide books, and the trails were not as well marked as they are today. We didn’t mail food in buckets to Reds or Onion Valley, we had friends drive them up and we met at the trailheads. We had hiked from Cottonwood over New Army Pass to Symmes Creek in 1969, spending some time  in the Wallace and Wales area and climbed some peaks. In 1970 we had hiked from Bishop Pass to Sawmill Pass, and had climbed some peaks there, notably North Palisade. But we had the most important things to succeed in such an endeavor: confidence and ignorance.

day 4 IMG2184

day 28 IMG248.25

Our 1971 backpack of the John Muir Trail began as a two man trip, just my brother Mike and I. The closer we got to the planning state, the more we found other interested people. It reached five or six and we decided to make it a Y’s Hikers (YMCA) trip in order to be insured with the Y. Almost immediately we had a party of 12 or possibly 16. The extra four were Scouts, but when Mike refused to put them in one cook group they dropped out.

After weeks of preparation both individually and collectively, we left the Lancaster, Calif. YMCA on a Saturday morning with 12 hikers, full backpacks, and the greatest of expectations. The Powells helped transport the group up the Owen’s Valley, over Tioga Pass, and on to Tuolumne Meadows. On the way up, we took a break at Lone Pine to shuttle a car to Whitney Portal where it remain parked for 28 days (you could never get away with that today). If I remember, we had to stop a couple of times with one of the cars to pour water over the radiator because it got too hot going over Tioga Pass.

day 15 Steve Siebert

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day 25 SCA515


day 27 SCA241


Once dropped off at Tuolumne Meadows, all we had to do was hike 227 miles through the roughest, highest, and most beautiful mountain country in the North American Continent.



1.  S Toulumne Meadows to Rafferty Creek
2. S Rafferty Creek to below Lyell Creek
3. M Lyell Creek, over Donahue and Island Pass, climbed Donahue Pk, to Thousand island Lake
4. T Layover Day

5. W Thousand Island Lake to below Lake Ediza
6. T layover day, climbed Ritter and Banner
7. F lake Ediza to Trinity Lakes
8. S to Devils Postpile, get food drop, hike 2 miles out of DP
9. S to Purple Lake
10. M over Silver Pass, to Quail Meadow
11. T to Lake Marie
12. W over Selmer Pass to Evolution Valley

13. T over Shit for Brains Pass, to Midnight Lake
14. F to Lake Sabrina, get ride to South Lake
15. S to Saddlerock Lake below Bishop Pass, climbed Mt.Agassiz from Bishop Pass
16. S To Barrett lakes
17. M layover, climbed Polomonium, Mt. Sill,
18. T to Palisade Lake
19. W over Mather Pass to Lake Marjorie, climbed Split
20. Y: over Pinchot Pass to Rae lakes
21. F To Onion Valley, over Glen, Kearsarge
22. S to Flower Lake
23. S over Kearsearge Pass to Bubbs Creek, climbed University Pk.
24. M over Forester Pass to Wright lakes
25. T Layover, climbed Russell, Constitution, Tunnabora, Bernard
26. W another layover for Group A, climbed more peaks, to Wallace lakes for Group B
27. T To Hitchcock lake for Group A, layover at Wallace Lake for Group B
28. F over Trail Crest to the Portal, group B spent the night on top of Whitney
29. S group B down to Whitney Portal

Wendy and geeksB

This is a letter from Mike to me when I was still off at college, and he was in Lancaster starting to get things organized.


Here’s the signup $50 paid:

Kevin Anderson; me; John Laine; $10 deposit Chris Hughes;Robert Bouclin; Tomlinson (age 14 but really wants to go and went on shakedown hike); Lowry, Conrad; You; Wes Little; and Madeline Payne (ah yes, Gordon’s has put in a mountaineering line. Wipe out for Eaton! Wally to help buy food w


holesale. Cheep. Good equipment. The jacket sold for $25 at last meeting to Payne); and Antonia Reeves

Plus two kids who want to wait until an Explorer Scout trip is scratched (they won’t commit themselves yet so neither would I on Oking them).


The first 11 seem alright to me, though Anto


nia Reeves and Robert Conchil weren’t on shakedown. The other two will have to commit themselves and $10 by next hiker meeting. I don’t really think 13 would be too many (+Sue? Is she going part?). Also Byron might go part with us. Que responde es? Shakedown was to Kern Peak with Wally Henry – an ickey trip, but it found a leader (I stayed home).

On food—I can get egg noodles and macaroni from the Wrangler cheep cheep cheep. All dehydrated, good for perhaps two meals on each 7 day segment. John Laine said any grits and he’ll wipe us both out (cream of wheat!). Will hold Y meeting and demand deposits, hand out medical slips and plan what support trips can be run. Powells volunteered their van for the shuffle, but with 13 people and packs it alone just won’t hack it. Drivers are you, Laine, the rest illegal. Don Shaw wants everyone to become Y members ($2) for insurance, so we probably should go along with that. I propose a s

plit group when we hit the N. Pal Sill area—with peak baggers and trail-o-phobes taking last years route. We can hassle that out on the trail.

Rob Culbertson was drafted into the Army and Kevin Anderson into the Treasury. They still mail bank notices to 2121. Its frustrating!. Kevin A’s parents are willing to drop off food—how about Primmer? Still in? Logistics are going to be interesting! Where do we keep the food that is to be taken up to us?


Boy, have you got problems


day 25 SCA513



We decided to charge every


one $50 each, for 28 days worth of food, plus gas for the transportation to the trailhead and back. We were all students and we were trying to keep it inexpensive, but that was ridiculous. If we had charged $100, we could have eaten a lot better. At the end of the trip, Mike and I were accused of profiteering by one hiker, because one guy thought he had paid top dollar ($50) but the food was crap.

I got out of school the week before we were to leave, and the week before the trip was when 95% of the work on the food was done. Our itinerary was planned and we already had out food drops in order. Of all the preparations I guess the food was the most work.

After the menu was made we had to buy enormous quantities of food, enough for 12 people for 27 days. These supplies purchased, we took over the facilities of the Palmdale Y for the week. The five or six steady workers became quite expert at food packing and accomplished the largest food packing in the history of the Y’s Hikers club, with no major problems. By Thursday our bundles were lined up along 3 ½ walls of the room, all in order and ready for the food drops. We had one big bag for each of the 3 cook groups, for each week. We would start out with one of the bags per cook group. They were bundled and stored in Mike’s bedroom, till they were picked up and delivered by our support parties, the Powells, the Peca’s, and Ken Primmer.

The concept of “hi-tech” in the early 70’s had a

very different connotation than it does today with our access to GPS, cell phones, iPods, digital cameras, altimeter watches, LED head-lamps, Lithium-ion batteries etc. Our hike was just two years after man walked on the moon, so our idea of hi-tech electronics was pretty much limited to transistor radios and 8-track tape decks.



We used Ensolite closed-cell foam as a sleeping pad (a luxurious 3/8 inch of comfort), as there was no Thermarest or any other deluxe sleeping pad. Kevin had a Kelty half-torso, aqua-blue, inflatable mattress and pillow that, much to our surprise, lasted the entire trip without a leak. Down bags were (and still are) as good as it gets, but with limited tent technology, we always worried about getting them wet. For tents we mostly used a bright orange tube of plastic called a “tube tent,” which was about 8 feet long, and when you strung the nylon twine between two trees, it formed a triangle with the floor being about 4 feet wide. Tube tents were a no-win proposition — leave both ends open, and the rain blows in with the slightest breeze; button them up, and you get just as wet from the condensation. They at least had the virtue of being cheap and fairly light weight. We only strung up the tube tents the few times it threatened rain; otherwise, they were used as a large ground cloth to stake out your sleeping area and to keep your gear and cloths out of the dirt. Most nights we all slept out in the open, under the stars.

day 15  JMT1971054

There were no internal-frame packs then, and many used the latest Kelty external-frame packs if they had the dough (model BB5?). Of course, these had to be purchased from Dick Kelty himself at his store on Victory Blvd. in Sun Valley (near Burbank) Calif. Kelty Packs brought to the main-stream the use of nylon material, aluminum frames, clevis pins, hold-open bars, divider compartments, mesh pack panel, padded shoulder straps, and a hipbelt consisting of a wide nylon strap (no padding) with a stainless-steel, quick-release buckle. It was a trick to keep the hipbelt from digging your Levi’s pocket rivets into your hip bones, and your t-shirt often got pinched in the hipbelt buckle, eventually tearing a hole in it. I think the basic pack was around $25 and you could match it with a backpacker frame for $25 or a mountaineering frame for $28 with a bar that extended a few inches above the pack for lashing extra gear. The pack only came with 2 top side pockets but you could purchase 2 bottom side pockets and a large back pocket that was sewn onto the main body of the pack (if you look at the photos, you can see the various versions of the basic Kelty pack). These were “bombproof” packs that could comfortably carry a heavy load and that you knew would never fail. In 2016, Kevin Anderson still has, and sometimes uses, his 1971 Kelty pack that he took on this trip. Other members of the group used the venerable REI Cruiser, or other Kelty knock-offs.

Most of us had the classic waffle stomper boots, or all leather (and heavy) mountaineering boots with the Vibram-Lug sole. Someone had a lighter boot called the “John Muir Trail Boot.” As they quickly started to show wear, we joked that they were good for exactly one trip on the JMT. I think most of us had cotton athletic socks worn under a heavy wool sock to absorb shock and wick moisture. Many had tennis shoes to wear around camp and Kevin had moccasins that were light and felt great after hiking all day.

Navigation was done with topo maps, a compass, and we had one altimeter in the group– GPS was more than 20 years in the future. I think we had one altimeter among the group because they were expensive, high precision instruments akin to a fine watch. They had to be constantly calibrated to a known altitude, which was most commonly done using the elevation of a lake posted on a topo map. Watches were analog, had to be wound daily, and only the expensive ones were truly waterproof, which is probably why most of us didn’t take one. As a result, we quickly acclimated to the natural timing of the rising and setting of the sun. Flashlights were heavy and batteries didn’t last very long. I don’t think anyone had any kind of night-time illumination except perhaps some candles. Everyone had a hat of some kind, but sunglasses seemed optional. We used sun-tan lotion, but I don’t know how much it protected. We did get burned the first few days where we spent a good deal of time on snow pack getting over Donahue and Island Pass. After the first week, everyone was so tan that we never again burned, even on the high-altitude peaks. Cutter Insect Repellent in the form of a white cream with a distinctive smell was the best at the time, but it was no Deet. Cat-hole toilet hygiene was essentially the same except there were no alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

There were no polypro or other synthetic clothes, and I thought I was being very innovative to have a short sleeved nylon shirt to wear. Also popular were cotton fishnet shirts from Sweden that provided good circulation and could be layered with a t-shirt then a sweat shirt. Mostly we wore cotton t-shirts and sweat shirts with a wool, and windbreakers and wool long sleeve shirt. Levi, button-fly jeans were standard with cotton athletic shorts for hot weather and swimming. The cotton and wool worked well so long as you had a chance to dry it if it got wet. Most of us had a down coat, and for rain gear we had ponchos of coated nylon or just vinyl.

Being students, our food was the cheapest we could get, and Mike and I planned the food based on our experience with weekend backpacks. We didn’t reckon for bigger eaters than us, nor for a big increase in appetite which hit everyone after a week on the trail. We packed up all the food for 12 people for 28 days before we left, and a week’s worth of food was delivered to us at three trailheads along the way. In the menu plan below, A-1D = A (first week), 1D (first dinner).  A1B = first week first breakfast, etc.  This was crap food and we were hungry for a lot of the trip. Our fishing activities were absolutely necessary to augment our menu and especially our protein.

JMT menu plan pg 1_Page_1

We didn’t routinely carry stoves but cooked over small fires. We used steel Army Ranger cooksets, one for each of the 3 cook groups of 4 people. These great cooksets had two nesting pots (that could be used a double-boiler), and a fry pan lid. We got pretty good at baking bread and biscuits and I recall using the double-boiler to melt Herseys bars mixed with powdered milk to make frosting for a cake. Each cook group had a small grill made of aluminum tubing that was carried in a cloth bag, and the pots were stored in a pillow case because they were filthy with soot.   We didn’t use water filters in those days, and giardia was unheard of. The classic Sierra Cup, hung on a belt, was the status symbol of choice, but many used a Coleman plastic cup or a collapsible cup. Canteens usually held no more than 16 oz. with wide-mouth plastic bottles being popular. Drinking bladders were not needed because you simply dipped your cup or canteen as you hiked by the numerous streams and lakes along the JMT.


We didn’t use bear canisters, we didn’t hang our food, and we never had a problem with bears. There were no permits, and I only saw one ranger on the whole 28 day trip. During the weekdays, between trailheads, we saw few other hikers. We didn’t do much training before the trip, and got in shape on the trail, but several of our party were runners by habit, or cross country team members, and everyone was pretty young. By the third week we were strong, and on the fourth week we were in superhuman shape. The notes that follow are from the journal I kept on the trip.

John Muir Trail 1971 first week: Tuollumne Mdw to Reds Meadow Resort

JMT 1971 Preparation

2nd week of hiking: Reds to South Lake

1st week: Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadow Resort:

By late afternoon, we had all regrouped and departed from the trailhead near the Tuolumne Meadows campground. We were filled with anticipation of the adventure that lay ahead and yet also trepidation as to whether we (and our equipment) were up to the challenge. There were no cell phones, and many times during the trip we would be as many as 24 hours away from assistance. If something on us or our equipment broke, we would have to make do. However, the size of our group gave us a breadth of experience, expertise, and ability that would allow us to deal with just about any situation. Once again, we had ample supplies of confidence and ignorance. Below, seated: Nancy Hall, Bob Shaver. Standing: Wes Little, John Laine, Kevin Anderson, Steve Siebert, Steve Little, Mike Shaver, Madelyn Paine, Chuck Ringrose, and Conrad Lowry.

day 1.1 tuollumne 1 hughes113

below: Tuollumne Meadows, looking up toward Donahue Pass and Donahue Peak.

day 1.2 Lyell River hughesjmt014

As we ventured further into the canyon, we continually tweaked and adjusted our packs and tried to find our natural hiking cadence, which always takes a long time at the beginning of a trip. Later, we would find the “zone” within a matter of minutes.

As the group approached Rafferty Creek, its flow was much larger than expected. We felt it could not be safely crossed and we also assumed it was the Lyell River, so we started following it upstream, which was the wrong way. As evening approached, we reached a camp on the creek. We were all tired and a little sore, even though it was a short day, because none of us were used to the heavy packs and none of us were in shape for that high elevation.

My girlfriend Beth drove up from Modesto, and I hiked back down to the Meadows to meet her and spend the night there.

Below: Rafferty Creek I think

day 1.5 Lyell R hughesjmt005

Below: Bridge over Rafferty Creek

day 2.6 Lyell River hughesjmt016


Below: camp our first night

day 1.11 hughesjmt008

Below: looking up to the last elevation to gain before leaving the Lyell River.  Wait a minute, is that the trail covered in snow?

day 2.9 Donahue Pass hughesjmt018

I got up early and bombed up to Rafferty Creek but the troops had already split. We finally met Conrad, John, and Mike. The whole group had apparently gone up Rafferty Creek rather than up Lyell Canyon and the JMT. We had all been fooled the evening before when reading the map. When the mistake was discovered, Conrad dropped his pack and ran up the trail to catch Chuck, but never caught up with him.

Since no one had seen him leave camp that morning we all hoped that he would realize his mistake and come back down the trail, to rejoin the JMT.

We went back the trail ourselves to the Lyell River, where Beth left us and headed back down to Tuolumne Meadows, and we started up Lyell Canyon. Reports told us that one group of 4 was ahead of us, and a larger group ahead of them. We knew the smaller group was ours and hoped the other included Chuck.

Cruising along all afternoon we caught sight of Chris Hughes a few times but never caught up with them till camp that night at the headwaters of the Lyell River, a campsite arranged the day before. We made camp and hoped that Chuck would make it in and that everything was all right with the people that were with him. They showed up shortly, after climbing up Rafferty Creek and then an exhausting hike cross country to our camp on the Lyell. Not a good start to the trip. Everyone was very tired, and we set about making supper and a good nights sleep.

Our itinerary for the trip was not planned for each day of the week. We picked three high and about equally spaced trailheads for our food drops, arranged for the food to be delivered to the trailheads on each Saturday, and the itinerary between food drops we figured out as we went. That allowed us to adjust the pace of the trip, and choose layover days for the best areas we found, or the best fishing or climbing, or to avoid mosquitoes. This loose itinerary worked out very well.   One thing Mike and I didn’t anticipate was the urge of the hikers to get to the next food drop as early as possible, even a day or so early. Sometimes just making it in time was tough, but it was always nice to get a hamburger and shake, and take our clothes to a laundromat to get them washed.

Below: Where the JMT crosses the Lyell fork and heads uphill to Donahue Pass. Wait a minute, where is the bridge?

day 2 JMT1971151


Below: the top of Donahue Pass, I think

day 3.1 JMT1971033


From Lyell Creek we headed for Donahue Pass, where we had lunch. The view of Lyell was quite good, and Chuck and I headed off from there to climb Donahue Peak. It was about 2 miles and 1000 ‘ gain from Donahue Pass to Donahue Peak. We agreed on a place to meet the others at Thousand Island lake, and wished them a good trip as we headed for the peak. The peak was an easy one, but it gave us a late start for Thousand Island Lake.   We were wet from the snow when we crossed the Woods Creek Valley, a very secluded and peaceful place. Going up Island Pass I was really tired and we reached camp totally exhausted. The main group had beaten us to camp by only a few minutes, so we all hustled around for supper. As evening deepened the imposing view of Banner was spectacular. The peak really dominates the area, appearing to be an Everest from our camp.

Below: stream crossing between Donahue and Island Passes

day 2 JMT1971131

Below: stream crossing on the way to 1000 Island Lake.

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Below: Thousand Island Lake

day 3 .14 outlet of Thousand Island Lake Passhughesjmt023 day 3 IMG2184 - Copy

Layover Day at 1000 Island Lake:   Everyone was ready for a day of loafing and I sure was. Nancy loaned me a book that John was carrying, and with the book I hiked back over to the lovely Woods Canyon and spent the day reading and fishing. I returned in the evening, and found that everyone had used the day to fish, wash clothes, read, write, and sleep. Several had gone off and spent the day alone as I had. It was almost a new moon, and that night the Milky Way made a stunning sight against the profile of Banner Peak.

Below: Conrad soaking up some sun at 1000 Island Lake. Note the foam sleeping pad, and tube tents used as ground cloth.

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Thousand Island Lake

day 4 SCA598

Below: camp at 1000 Island Lake.

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Being literary sorts, we had several books and magazines to read on the trip. Here John borrowed Kevin BOM, but is more interested in Wes’ Playboy.

day 4 SCA626

Next day we headed to Lake Ediza. This was really a fun day. We got a late start from Thousand Island lake and traversed past Purple and Shadow Lakes toward the trail that branched off to go to beautiful Lake Ediza.   A few of us were alternately bombing and going slow, and we all had lunch at Shadow Lake.   The entertainment for lunch was provided by John and Nancy. We had passed a group of girls and John was full of plans and ideas of meeting the girls, which didn’t make Nancy happy.

Below: Garnet Lake

day 5.2 Garnet Lk. hughesjmt027ps

Conrad’s stylin hat and shades.

day 5.7 JMT1971145

Below: Nancy takes a cold shower.

day 5.8a SCA593.10

The group of girls hiked past as we ate lunch and made no reply to John’s warm greeting. What he did get was a rock thrown by his girlfriend Nancy. After a long lunch we climbed a hill to the valley below Lake Ediza. Chuck and I stopped at a falls for the others to catch up and had a nice shower and rest. When the rest of the group caught up several more had showers in the falls before we headed up toward Lake Ediza. About ½ mile below the lake we found a really nice campsite near the deep and silent stream. After some exploring we found a meadow and marsh area really thick with wild onions, which we set about harvesting. My cook group, Chuck, Madelyne, Wes Little and myself had enough to fry them into a good vegetable dish and added some fish caught at Thousand Island Lake that we had carried with us.

We had a campfire and cooked popcorn and most groups had breads or cakes before retiring.   Chuck was given the task of baking bread for our group, and really burned it badly. He made up for it later in the trip by turning out a series of flawless breads.

We cooked in groups of 4, and each group had a steel army ranger cookset. This set had a pair of nesting pots, with wire bails. The lid was a shallow frying pan, with wire handles that folded against the side of the pan. By putting water in the outer pot, and bread mix inside the inner pot, we made a double boiler, and could cook bread and cake mixes. We always camped in wooded areas in those days, and had wood fires. Stoves were an optional kind of thing, and only Conrad and Chris had a stove on this trip. We baked by putting the nested pots on a bed of coals, and then we put coals on the lid to heat the top of the mix. With practice, the breads could be baked perfectly, and were delicious. Each cook group also had a grill with three wires, which would be placed between two rocks with a fire under it. The outer pot became black from the smoke and the cook set was carried in a cloth bag.

This day was a layover day, so the fishermen planned to hit Lake Ediza. Chuck, John and I were gong to climb 14,000′ Mt. Ritter. We started out early, reaching Lake Ediza at dawn. We went around the south end of the lake and soon found ourselves kicking steps up the glacier. We were heading for the notch between the two peaks of Ritter and Banner, both 14,000 foot peaks. Earlier that Spring three out of a party of four Sierra Club climbers were caught by a storm on Ritter and the three froze, the fourth one got out. We were carrying a newspaper clipping about the tragedy to leave in the register. All the prominent Sierra peaks had a metal register on their top, which opened to reveal a hardbound book in most cases. The tradition was that each climber signed the register, and could describe the weather or the trip, where they were from, and whatever else they wanted to say. The full registers were replaced with new books periodically by Sierra Club members.

All the way to the notch we ascended the snow field by kicking steps in the snow. At the notch we looked at the north side of Ritter and it looked really hard to me. From the notch we were about 500 vertical feet to the summit of either mountain. John wanted to stay but we talked him into continuing for a ways.

We stared up the most prominent chute and climbed its ice until it became quite steep and terminated. Chuck and I both had ice axes, but I don’t think John did. At that point John had had enough and waited for us there. Chuck and I climbed up and left out of the coular into the coular to the left. We just traversed across the top of this one to a ramp leading to the top. Three belayed pitches across the coular and 3 up the ramp. At the top of the ramp it was boulder hopping to the peak across boulders and wind fluted snow. We signed and read the register as we huddled from the wind. To the west we could see Half Dome and Yosemite, north were the big lakes of the Owens Valley: Mono, Crowley, and Owens. South was the whole of the Sierra and a tiny bump that I recognized as Mt. Whitney, our destination some 200 miles away.


Too bad it was too cold to really enjoy the view. After a quick lunch we started down, picked up John on the way, much shaken from 3 hours alone on an exposed coular, and had a long wet glissade to the notch between Ritter and Banner. At the notch Chuck began running up the south face of Banner, scrambling up the peak like a madman. John and I waited for him and we was to the top of Banner and back down in no time at all. The glissade from the notch to the bottom of the glacier was very fast and John especially enjoyed it. The trip down to Ediza and home to camp was uneventful, but Lake Ediza is a beautiful area.

Not much ground to cover, and we got off to a late start. From Ediza the trail took us by Shadow Lake and through rather uneventful country toward the small, marshy, Trinity Lakes, our destination for the night. We had lunch together on rocks, and met an old man and his daughter who were doing the Muir Trail also. She was a student at Berkeley and very cute. She wasn’t John’s type, we all decided; too brainy. Apparently her father was beginning to have problems with his legs and was becoming discouraged. He’s a tough old guy and I hope he makes it.

After lunch Conrad and I lagged behind, talking. We were overtaken by a group of four middle aged fishermen.

“Hello, where you headed?” they asked.

“The Postpile. How about yourselves.”

“Same. Have those ice picks come in any good or you?” They were referring to our ice axes, which several of our group were carrying.

“On Donahue Pass they were life savers, and we used them climbing Mt. Ritter also.”

“Oh. Say, has that mob from Toullumne passed you? A big party doing the Muir Trail.”

And thus was born the name of infamy that spread terror in the hearts of backpackers far and wide. Mothers would tell their kids “you’d better eat your spinach or the Toullumne Mob will get you.” That may be an exaggeration, but the name stuck with us and seemed to fit. This was perhaps the start of a feeling of group unity, a feeling that would grow after we’d weathered a few storms together. We were the Mob, or the Toullumne Mob.

We reached the Trinity lakes and spent the afternoon sitting around, throwing rocks into the water, and other intellectual pursuits. John, Kevin, Madelyn and Wes were not here and had presumably missed the lakes and gone bombing down toward the Postpile. Mike put on some running shoes and ran after them, passing John and Wes and going on after Kevin and Madeylin.

Meanwhile Mike had returned. He had run down Kevin and Madelyn, and they were on their way back to Trinity lakes. Kevin showed up shortly and said that Madelyn was far back and having a hard time of it. Mike had left the two of them at a trail crossing, the other trail going deep into the heart of the Minarets. This was also the last time Kevin had seen her, since he left before she was ready to go.

When she didn’t show up for a while more, Chuck went to help her carry her pack up. It was fully dark by now. After 40 minutes Chuck hadn’t returned so I went after them, with Nancy waiting supper for our return. I ran down the trail to the trail crossing Mike had told me about, then on towards the Postpile. What had happened, had I missed them somehow? Had they gone on down to the Postpile for the night? Had they taken the wrong trail? When I reached a river crossing too dangerous to cross at night I headed back, calling all the way. About a mile from Trinity Lakes Mike met me. They hadn’t shown up at camp either, so all we could do was wait until morning. We assumed they were together, and Chuck could handle any emergency that came up.

We had an uneasy night of wondering about Madelyn. It was at this time that I was really struck with my responsibility. No matter what happened, I was responsible for the safety of eleven people. I cursed myself for not having made a stronger point earlier about not going off without a map and with no idea of where you were going.

Early in the morning Chuck came into camp.

“Where did you find Madelyn, and where is she now, at the Postpile?”

“I never found her. I spent the night at the river. Ran all way down to the Postpile and couldn’t cross the river on my way back. No sign of her here?”

“Damn! We thought you would have found her and you two would have spent the night somewhere together. How the Hell could she get off the trail, anyhow?”

We knew that she had food so if she didn’t panic she would be OK. I packed up and took off down the trail, agreeing to meet Mike and the others at the Postpile, where we could search the place if she hadn’t been found. At the trail crossing some fishermen had seen a girl in red windpants heading down that morning. Yes, she had come from the Minarets trail.

I bombed on, and found her at the trail heading into the Postpile. She was fine, but shaken after spending the night alone on the wrong fork of the trail. She had discovered her mistake the next morning, and waited for us on the bridge when I found her. God, what a relief! We went on to Reds Meadows and I bought her breakfast at the café while we waited for the others. Apparently when Mike and Kevin left her they were so close to the fork that they assumed she would either remember the way she came or read the sign. She did neither, and hiked up the wrong fork until overtaken by darkness.

I filled her in on the happenings of the evening, and she really felt bad about causing us concern. She said that she had really learned something and would be more careful next time. Chuck and Mike arrived, followed shortly by the group. Some had found a natural soda spring and mixed it in the canteens with Wyler’s lemonade for a kind of natural soda pop. A few of us had breakfast and everyone made a raid on the Reds Meadows store, resupplying for the coming week. It was becoming obvious the the food we had packed up for the trip would keep us alive, but to be full and satisfied we needed to buy supplement food in the form of bread mixes, dry cereal and powdered milk, and extra lunch foods.

The hot showers at the Reds Meadows campground (a rustic bath house serviced by a natural hot spring) were really heaven, and after the showers we went back to the store in time to see several freshly-baked pies being devoured by almost stuffed hikers. We had lunch there, and waited for our resupply goods being driven up by the Powells, who should have been there by mid-morning. I walked down to the lower campground to see if they showed up, and was joined a while later by Madelyn. We waited and waited, and the Powell’s van finally showed up at 2:00. We hopped in and drove to the Reds Meadows store and proceeded to sort, divide and pack our food for the coming week.

Something new for us that we tried on this trip was rotating cook groups every food drop. We hoped to put everyone with everyone else at least once. That would also allow us to avoid very large personality clashes. At the food drop, the new cook groups had to get together and divide their community gear (cook sets and grills) and food as evenly as possible, with each member carrying several meal bags. Each meal was a self contained bag, with drinks, dessert, and main course for four people in one bag. For lunches, each person had a separate lunch bag for each day, and in each bag was a complete lunch for one. That way, no matter where people were, they had their lunch for the day. They could also easily throw a lunch in a daypack for a day hike on a layover day.

John Muir Trail, 1971, Second week, Reds to South Lake


1st week: Tuollumne to Reds

Second week, JMT 1971

After we got our food supplies at the Reds Meadow Resort food drop we had to pack our trail lunches, which included meat (salted and sliced dried beef ) from a glass jar, a chunk of cheese about 3″ x  2″ x 2″, one chunk per day, peanuts, raisins, candy bar, and iced tea mix. After our experience the first week, a lot of our people were buying extra food such as powdered milk, cereal, French bread, instant pudding, bread mixes for baking, and extra candy for lunches. By 3 PM or so clouds had built up and by 4 PM we were ready to take off. We wanted to get away from Reds Resort a few miles and make camp before it rained.

The packs were heavy but everyone was in good spirits on the climb away from Red’s Meadow Resort. A few miles up the trail we found a small spring and hurriedly made camp, putting up tube tents and making fires. We had a good meal of fresh meat and vegetables before retiring early to bed. Everyone was in good shape for rain protection before it started raining , tents up and gear covered.

Below: Red Cones

day 9.1.a Red Cones hughesjmt050

Mike and I put the ends of our tube tents together and had a long talk about the route of the coming week, and general happenings. We had a very large distance to cover, and would require some 15 mile days. Everyone was getting in good shape, but Madelyn seemed to be having a hard time and Nancy was having problems with her boots. Madelyn was fairly steady in hiking, but just very slow. I was more worried about Nancy’s ankles. We would be entering the Evolution Valley and that would be a point of no return for us. Once there, we would be in very bad trouble if anything happened and if her ankles were bothered by the easy first week, they probably would only get worse during what we started to call Hell Week.

This was the first of increasingly hard days. Next day we had eight miles to go to Purple Lake and a lot of elevation to gain, so we got an early start. We spread out but kept a steady pace past Red Cones and on. Madelyn was really slow and I stayed back with her. We mozzied along all day and got to Purple lake two hours before dark. There the fishermen, long deprived of fishing, were off doing their thing. Everyone was quite tired and fearing rain, most slept in tube tents.

A lottery has developed. Wes and Steve Jepson have a three man tent (the only tent in our group) and so will allow one person to sleep in it on a night threatening rain. Lots were drawn, and numbers assigning turns to sleep in it. I got a very low number, so I’m of out of the lottery. High numbers were Chuck and Nancy. Now they can wait till they think it will rain and use their tent turn. They can also save their turn and sell it for food. Chuck used up his turn this night, and it didn’t even rain.

As evening deepened around Purple lake the clouds were doing some fantastic things to the peaks on the other side of the lake. They swirled and lifted, revealing peaks then engulfing them, sometimes letting in brilliant shafts of the now orange setting sun.

Purple Lake below:

day 9.16.a purple Lake hughesjmt066

Day 11 of our trip: Big day ahead. Twelve miles and Silver Pass to cover. Yikes, 4 miles more then yesterday, and that day just about did Madelyn in. We tore out of camp like lions, sprinting past Lake Virginia over the ridge and down down down 1300′ into Tully Hole. I was last to leave camp, and hiked along till I caught up with the Mob at the hole. Here we realized that Steve wasn’t among us. He had left before I, and I even directed him to the trail. This was a key day and a several hour delay would blow the schedule of the week to bits. There was an alternate trail that he could have taken, so Chuck and I were going to do a pincher movement, Mike staying with the group. Just before we started the search good old Steve came ambling down the hill. He had gotten off the trail and had been trying to catch up all morning.

Much relieved, we continued and caught up with the others for lunch at Squaw Lake below Silver pass. Mike pulled something in his groin when stepping over a stream, but it seemed to be better after a rest and lunch. The lake was small and nice, just below the big ice fields that we would be climbing in the afternoon to get over Silver Pass.

Frozen Squaw Lake, below Silver Pass

day 10.6 .a Chief Lake near Silver Pass  hughesjmt073

Nancy was having problems and so was Madelyn, so they took off early. They burnt out on the pass and were really wiped out by the time the top was reached. We were really strung out now, and Conrad, Steve, John and I were pretty far back. We were angling down, hoping to make Quail Meadows by dark. Several miles the other side of the pass Steve said that he hadn’t seen Mike come over the pass. I didn’t even know that he’d hurt himself at that point. John, Conrad and I headed back up, leaving our packs at a fisherman’s camp. At the pass, no Mike. We went down the other side and found Mike where Steve had left him, not far from Squaw Lake. He was OK but couldn’t carry his pack up the ice field. John carried his pack up and we kicked steps for him and he slowly reached the top of the pass.

When we reached our packs on the other side of the pass we divided up his pack and slowly headed down, with Mike carrying only his empty pack frame. After a while John and Conrad left us, traveling ahead to bring up a cookset and food in case we didn’t make it to camp. Without weight and going downhill, Mike’s pulled groin seemed to improve and pretty soon we were moving along at a pretty good clip. I was prepared to stop and camp for the night whenever he had had enough, but he only got stronger.

By the time it was dark we were moving at a slow steady pace, taking stops to rest Mike’s groin muscle. An hour or so after John and Conrad left us we had crossed a river and were doing switchbacks when we heard voices. We yelled, thinking it was our people at Quail Meadows. We continued down, and shortly met John and Conrad at a large river, the north fork of Mono Creek I think. They had been unable to cross it, after searching up and down for a log or rocks to use to cross. We were really tired by now, and just said screw it! We would just wade it and to Hell with it. John took one end of my 120’ climbing rope across, with our flashlights shining on the rushing water, and used an ice axe for balance. (We didn’t have hiking poles in those days).

In the middle it was over knee deep and moving fast. The ice axe helped with balance and he made it across and tied the rope to a tree. Then Conrad and Mike went across, tied to the rope and so fairly safe. I went last, the way lighted by flashlights from the other side. It was pitch dark, the water was like ice and the current really strong.

On the other side we all felt tired and weak, and now wet, and slowly trudged the ¾ miles or so to camp, where we were greeted with surprised looks. The three of us had hiked 17+ miles that day, the others 12 miles. If was now ten o’clock and they had eaten long ago, assuming that we would camp with Mike somewhere. The girls made cocoa for us and we had some soup before bed. The girls had really had a hard day also and Madelyn especially. It was especially disheartening to learn from the early group that there was a bridge over the river not far from where we forded it.

Day 11: The plan would be for Mike and Madelyn to go out to Lake Thomas A Edison to the west, a hike of 5-6 miles. There they would call someone from Lancaster for a ride home, and come back up with the next food drop at South Lake, both of them thus missing the super mileage of Hell Week, and hopefully recovering to rejoin us later. I was hoping Nancy would go with them and take the rest of the week off.

If there was a Vermillion Valley Ranch, or a Muir Trail Ranch, we didn’t know about them. There was no internet to look things up, no JMT reference book that I knew of, and I don’t think there was enough JMT traffic to support places like that as a business.

Sunrise on Quail Meadow was beautiful. We were in fairly low elevations again, and the meadow was a carpet of grasses and flowers. During the night, Nancy had decided to go home with Mike and Madelyn.

Wes and I headed down to the lake with them, and left them on the shore to wait for a ferry which we learned later never came. Wes and I said goodbye and then rocketed up the trail after the others, our destination – Lake Marie. After going straight up a mountain for an hour or so, I passed Chuck, coming back after a compass he had left at a rest stop a ways back. He told me the others would be at lunch by now, so I cruised on, passing his pack shortly where he had left it.

The lunch spot was at a ranger cabin on a very nice stream. The ranger was a wilderness patrolman, and Chuck and I talked to him a long time about how he got the job, what his duties were, and how we could get the job, etc.

This is how we crossed streams in those days: barefoot, no hiking poles, ice cold water. And we LIKED it that way.

day 11.5 on the way to Lake Marie hughesjmt084

We reached Lake Marie before sunset, and camped with a fantastic view of the Seven Gables and the Silver Pass area we had just crossed. We were going through this country much too fast to really discover it. But it couldn’t be helped this week. Next time, make a food drop at Lake Thomas A. Edison and go more slowly through the Evolution Valley. It would be worth the time.

Below: Lake Marie, one of the most beautiful lakes on the JMT.

day 12.1 Marie Lake .a hughesjmt095

At Lake Marie, the fisher folk were pulling out monsters because it was apparently the spawning season with many big fish gathering around the outlet. Steve was doing the best, and since Steve and I were in one cook group we said that we’d get supper ready if he just kept pulling them out. Every cook group had a fisherman and got some fish for supper and breakfast. This lake was quite beautiful and would be very nice for a layover day. The fishing continued, with everyone having good luck. We were in cook groups of 3 now that Mike, Madelyn and Nancy had left, and we had more food than we could eat, and nobody complained about that.

We had a group meeting to discuss the plans for the week and confirmed a plan first proposed at Purple lake. The facts were that we wouldn’t be able to make the next food drop by staying on the JMT and going over Bishop Pass to South Lake. We could only make it by going cross country over the crest and down to Lake Sabrina, then getting rides around to South lake by Saturday. The hike Wednesday was the key to the whole ball of wax. We had to get over Selmer Pass and as deep into the Evolution Valley as we could, at least to its first meadow.

Day 12: We got kind of a moderate start, crossing Selmer Pass at 10:00 or so, hiking through Heart Lakes and Sallie Keyes Lake, and down down to the South Fork of the San Joaquin river that flows out of the Evolution Valley. The day was nice and cool with pleasant cloud cover but no rain. We met lots of fishermen and saw little of each other, we were so spread out. Some people wanted to visit a hot springs off the main JMT (Blayney HS near Muir Trail Ranch), but were unable to cross the river to reach it. I don’t think Muir Trail Ranch was in business as a hiker way station at that time. Chuck had bombed far ahead and we never saw him until we all got together at the first meadow in the Evolution Valley. Then we hiked as a group to a good campsite close to Evolution Lake. The day had been more then 12 miles but we all felt pretty good. I think we were getting in shape and the extra food didn’t hurt any.

Evolution Lake

day 13.4 .a2.jpg

Day 13, Thursday: This day we would see what we were made of. After 4 miles on the JMT, we regrouped for a snack around Sapphire Lake and started on the cross country jaunt over a notch between Mt. Darwin and Mt. Haeckel. The “pass” was “Hungry Packer Pass” but one malcontent in our group called it “Shit for Brains Pass”.  Chuck had been over it twice and Mike and I had been over it once. When we did it, we came from the other side and called it “one way pass”. We would be going the wrong way on One Way Pass today. We called it “one way” because the tilt of the rock caused all the ledges on the other side to slope downward, and they were covered by loose gravel on the rock, which made the footing very treacherous. There was no trail, and it was climbing over boulders all the way.  A fall backward was very possible, and would have been very bad.

We stayed together and headed first to a cirque lake below the notch (lake 11,808 on the topo), and from there straight up approximately 900 feet. Some of the hikers had little experience on this kind of stuff but everyone remained calm and put one foot in front of the other. Steve was shaken because of the exposure and the imbalance of the heavy packs, and we were all much relieved when we did the last grab and step onto the flake summit.

day 13.10b .a. IMG3965 day 13.10f .a IMG1690

On the other side, a snow field extended from the top and continued into a glacial-blue lake (lake no. 12,345 on the topo) covered with snow and ice. The snow covered all the sloping gravel-covered steps that Mike and I had experienced, and after a short rest we all glissaded and/or “boot skied” down to the lake. From there it was boulder hopping for an hour to Midnight lake, where we camped for the night. We figured we were in pretty good shape to get to Lake Sabrina the next day. A short hike would get us there, and from there we had a day to get to South Lake and our food drop. The camp at Midnight lake was quite a rest since we knew that we had done the hard stuff of the week, and the hardest week of the trip. The Mob really did well on the 2nd and 3rd class rock route.

Looking down the way we had come up.  Oh my!

day 13.13 hughesjmt125

Looking down the way we had to go. Oh my!

day 13.11 hughesjmt123

We slept in and consumed as much food as possible so we wouldn’t be carrying it down with us. Before we left for Sabrina in small groups of 2-4, we put on the cleanest clothes we had, Conrad sporting a never-before-worn red jersey. The rest of us made do as best we could. After starting we pretty much bombed down to Lake Sabrina. Since it was a long weekend lots of day trippers and weekend backpackers were coming up the trail as we bombed down. We must have looked a sight, with patched clothes, filthy packs, tanned like Indians or burned and peeling, two weeks of beard, etc.

Chuck and I bombed down together, getting comments from clean hikers like “there’s another one Mommy,” or “a fellow just like you passed a minute ago”, referring to Conrad. Also “there’s another muscle man,” referring to tank tops or fishnet shirts I guess. We stopped and talked to several people but usually just passed with a greetings. At Lake Sabrina we entered a new world. Conrad and I walked on the wooden dam, passing fishermen and little kids and feeling like visitors from another time. We dropped packs and regrouped at the cafe for lunch, taking over several tables and keeping the cook busy for quite a while. We consumed a lot of food.

The plan was to hitchhike in groups of 2-3 around to South Lake, where we would regroup at the dam and spend the night. As we had a boisterous lunch we got to talking with some fishermen who offered us a ride to South lake. Four of us loaded up, Conrad and Kevin already having gotten rides and left. The young fisherman turned to be a Vietnam vet, and proceeded to fill us in on his Army days. In the middle of Claymore mines and humping 9 day patrols we saw Conrad and Kevin on the roadside. Their ride had gotten them halfway and then took another road. The vet stopped and we somehow crammed two more packs and people into the car.

As we got out at South lake an old man in shorts bounced up to us.

“Where are you fellas headed?” he asked.

“We’re going to spend the night here and then go to Onion Valley.” I replied.

“It just so happens I’m the camp host, and I’ve been saving a group campsite for a group just like yours.” He was a Sierra Clubber from way back, with pins from the Sierra Peaks Section and the 100 Peaks Section in his hat. It turned out that I had met him on an SPS trip with the Sierra Club. He knew a lot of the older SPS climbers, like Wally, Glen Lougee, Ed Lane, Dan Eaton, and just about everyone that I could remember in the SPS from being on a few trips with them as a guest of Wally.

The old time mountaineer was Ed Alcott. He and his wife were working for the Sierra Club and Forest Service here at South Lake as camp coordinators. We told him about our trip, and he said he could tell we weren’t the usual weekenders by the equipment. Alcott was at one time a real pioneer of mountaineering, with tremendous experience in climbing all over the Sierra, and he remains active in leadership in the Sierra club and especially the SPS and 100 Peaks Sections of the Los Angeles chapter.

He showed us a campsite that was hidden from the crowds at the parking lot. It was on the lake shore and so hidden among rocks and trees that no one ever found it. We settled in for the night and Ed and I talked about climbing some of the same Sierra peaks. When Chuck arrived he knew Ed and they talked about Chuck’s upcoming expedition to Peru. When Ed left to join his wife at their trailer for supper he sent his greetings to Wally and wished us a good trip.

It was still fairly early in the afternoon so Chuck, John, and I got everyone’s clothes together for a trip to the Laundromat. We filled two packs with very nasty clothes, and headed for a laundry 5 or 6 miles down the road. We arrived at the small town laundry and put our clothes in the machines, 4 of them. Chuck put all his clothes in, and was left naked. John and I kept out our track shorts. John and I went to the one café in town to get soap and ice cream, leaving Chuck jaybird naked in the Laundromat.

We walked into the café wearing only track shorts, bearded and probably pretty nasty in appearance. We had a cone, bought soap, then I bought a cone for Chuck and hit the road back to the laundry. In the laundry Chuck was hiding in the back room. Apparently a lady had surprised him in his birthday suit, and he thought she was returning with the cops at my approach. He had gotten Conrad’s half washed sweat pants out and was wearing them around.

He took his cone and ate it sitting on a washer reading a book. I took a chair and planted myself at the door as a lookout, and wrote some letters. I wrote to Sue and thanked her for the candy and food she had sent up with the last food drop, and wrote of the happenings of two weeks to Beth.

We were a pretty odd trio. I was on the porch of the local laundry wearing track shorts. John was in track shorts, down at the café rolling dice with the customers, and Chuck was sitting in soaking wet sweat pants, eating an ice cream cone that melted over his knuckles, and reading the Wall Street Journal. The final touch was when Chuck looked up and yelled “Number 1!, Number 1! My stock has gone up since last week!!”. Just then his washing machine started to buck and I broke out laughing at him.

I went down to the café and John joined Chuck at the machines. The water in the front loader had turned brown, and looked like root beer. At the café I had a delicious apple pie and milk. Fantastic! John came back down and said that Chuck had ordered dinner at the café on the hiway for us, and four of the Mob had come down to eat supper also, leaving only Conrad and Steve at the packs.

We gathered at the café (Bishop Creek Lodge) and Chuck and I had showers and washed up. Dinner was baked chicken with all the trimmings, plus a really nice looking waitress — all for $3.50.

We got a ride in the bed of a pickup back to camp, and I forgot my papers and Starr’s guide in the pickup when we got out. Damn! At camp, Conrad and Steve were pissed. We really hadn’t planned to have a wonderful dinner while they ate dehydrated food, honest. They didn’t buy it and were pissed as hell. They threw their scalloped potatoes in the ground and stamped on them, threw their dehydrated peas at us and were only more infuriated when one of us would grin and pat his stomach or burp. All John could do was lean against a tree and grin contentedly, holding his stomach aching with chicken and potatoes.

John Muir Trail, 1971, 3rd week, South Lake to Onion Valley


1st week: Tuollumne to Reds

2nd week: Reds to South Lake

3rd Week: South Lake to Onion Valley

Conrad and Steve were pissed that the whole group except them had gone down the road to a cafe, and pigged out on wonderful food.  To make it up to them they were promised a free breakfast and shower at the café the next morning, but they still felt betrayed. I guess if we were thinking we would have brought them something the night before. God it was good to be full of good food. What a peaceful sleep we had!

Day 15: Conrad and Steve left early for their promised breakfast and we all slept in at our South Lake camp. The Peca brothers arrived early, accompanied by Madelyn, Nancy, and Wendy’s brother Clay. Madelyn was going with the Pecas on a two day trip, then would rejoin us the next week at Onion Valley. Mike was still out of it, besides, we had lost one of his boots in getting him off Silver Pass.

The Peca’s, about six of them, planned to go over Bishop Pass, on over Thunderbolt Pass, a cross country route, and camp at the Barrett lakes on the other side. This was a very hard trip for his group of young boys and 3 girls. They charged off with our best wishes, and we leisurely set about our food packing over watermelon and trail lunches. We planned to go over the same route, Barrett Lakes via Thunderbolt Pass.

day 15 SCA514.a

During the packing, Conrad went off to buy something at the store down by the dam, and when he returned Beth was with him, much to my surprise. At Yosemite she had said that the drive over would be too long and she wouldn’t be able to make it to South Lake. I agreed that the southern food drops were too far to drive from Modesto. She had driven up anyway and arrived that morning. It was a good thing she had met Conrad at Tuolumne so they recognized each other.

She joined us for lunch, as did Ed Alcott and his wife, and we finished up packing food and rearranging cook groups. Beth and I walked down to her car and got her little rucksack together for an overnight camp. She would accompany us to Saddlerock lake for the night, then she would hike back to South Lake on Sunday, and drive home to Modesto.
Letter from Mike:

Bob: Made it out to the phone at Shaver lake—41 miles. Hiked 7-10, hitch-hiked the rest. Aggravated blisters on pavement hike—pretty bad now. Sue came Wed 12:00 and picked us up, home again by 6:30. Mom and Dad due next week. I’ll be up Onion Valley if I can coerce Ken into taking 2 more people (Madeline and I). Big troubles with Peca expedition, but it you get this, they’ve been worked out. Gaad! Never again!

$150 cash left—with $60 owed to Y, plus Powell’s van and other little trips. Not very unlikely we’ll need another $5 or $10 a head to cover it, but don’t know for sure yet. $150 in Y’s Hikers treasury we might have to dig into.

First day home was a blast. In prep for Mom I had to vacuum rug, clean up, do dishes—I’ll make some girl a good wife.

I enclosed what extra food I could find to beef up your post hell week. Not much, but it will help.

Mom and Dad bought 10 acres in Palisade, near Bedford’s they wrote. The three month stay in Colo lasted 2 weeks, they’ll be home soon. They went back to Kansas, Grandpa’s, Billies, The Carlton picnic and all.

Peca leaves tomorrow night (Fri) for S. Lake, and I’m gonna attempt to help get things in order here—so, see you at O. Valley. Sorry I couldn’t make it up there, but I couldn’t hike far with you and Peca looks pretty cramped for room (and I bet someone’s coming back from your group. am I right?

Your clean and full bro.


We left the parking lot in the afternoon, reaching Saddlerock Lake after a leisurely hike up. Beth was really hard put to make it, no matter how slow she and I went. We got to camp an hour behind the first groups and set about making fires as the sun went down. Beth, Nancy, Chuck and I ate together at a camp in trees by the lake shore. Beth and I slept in a stand of trees near camp after a short fire at the other two groups’ camps.

We had a long day ahead today, so much as I would have liked to spend the day with Beth we had to be off. The others took off before me, and I walked Beth down partway to South Lake. After leaving her, I charged up Bishop Pass, hoping to catch up to the Mob by noon. On the way I passed the Peca’s, strung out and wiped out. They had been unable to cross Thunderbolt Pass the day before, and had bivouacked below it. No wood, no water, no grass to sleep on. The group had eaten cold food and two of the young boys were quite tired and cold. Madelyn apparently had been one of the strongest of the group, an overweight girl being the main hindrance. They would camp the night at Saddlerock, then hike down to South Lake.

Looking up at Bishop Pass and Mt. Agassiz, from near Saddlerock Lake.

day 16.1 Mt.  Agassiz hughesjmt128

Letter from Bob to Mike:


Everyone OK here. Madelyn sure surprised me at South lake. How’s the leg? Hurry back. I’m going crazy with this bunch of nuts.

Thanks for the food, send more. No real problems in the Evolution Valley, but lots of hard work. Got to go, Beth is here. Thank God! See you at Onion Valley.


Letter from Beth to Mike, July 4, 1971

Dear Mike: I told Bob I would drop you a little line. First of all, I’d like to devote a sentence of two to my observations of the trip. I have never seen Bob so edgy and uptight. He has always been easy going and level headed. He said he hoped you would be well enough to join the trip at Onion Valley or at least come up for a visit on the food drop. I believe he needs a little of your brotherly companionship. This is not what I am supposed to write so I’ll get down to other things.

The group needs more dried milk. Conrad and Steve tried to buy some at South Lake but other packers had bought out the general store. So they are going to do without for awhile.

Susan might like to know that Robert had written a letter to her. But when he lost his Starr’s Guide at South lake the letter and notes and everything else was also lost. So she is not forgotten. He really appreciated the candy. And, he appreciated your dividing up the cheese. It did save them time.

Well, enough’s enough. I’d hope your leg is OK, Mike, and Susan’s job is going well.


Beth Millerman

I caught up with the group at the top of Bishop Pass, where they were eating lunch. Chuck was just leaving with three others to climb nearby Mt. Agassiz, a climb of 2000′ to the 13,891′ summit. Wait a minute, were we on speed in those days?  Who needs that kind of workout after reaching the top of a 12,000′ pass?  The rest of us had a leisurely lunch before we started on the cross country jaunt over Thunderbolt pass to Barret lakes. This pass is not in the climbers guide but is a good shortcut to the Barret Lakes, avoiding Dusy Basin and Knapsack Pass, which we had used the previous year on a 9-day trip.

Below: the Mob on Bishop Pass.

day 16 IMG5150

Below: From the top of 13,891′ Mt. Agassiz, looking at North Palisade and (right) and Sill (left).

day 16.2.a. Sill and N Palisade from Agassiz hughesjmt134

Nancy was really having a hard time keeping up and we stopped to rest quite a bit. Those of us who had been hiking steadily were getting in pretty good shape, with all the 10,000′ passes and heavy packs. On the top of the pass were three packs and the camps of some climbers. We waited here for an hour and a half, snacking and waiting for Chuck. We finally saw them coming much higher than we had come from, and they acknowledged our yells.

At their approach we packed up and headed down the ice fields toward Barrett Lakes, romping down and sliding all the way. Above the lake I stopped to guide Chuck and crew to the camp. John and the others went on to pick a good camp site. I was enjoying the sunshine and being alone until Chuck showed up on the pass. I flashed them with a mirror and they homed in on me, then we went on down to what we thought would be a camp.

Barrett Lake, looking up at North Palisade.

day 16.3 North Palisade from Barrett Lake hughesjmt137

At the lake we found it clear of ice and dry ground around its edge. We began gathering wood before dark. By then the woodpile for my group was waist high and growing, our fire burning higher than I usually have a campfire.

We had lots of food tonight. Chuck, Conrad and I talked around our fire until late into the night. I am truly thankful for Conrad’s constant tranquility. He is never up tight, always helpful, and always one to be counted on in an emergency.

Day 17: Chuck and I set off to climb the peak next to North Palisade, Polomonium Peak. A quick breakfast for Chuck and I, then off we went for the U notch, a notch in the ridge between North Palisade and Polomonium Peak. From this side, the south side, it was mostly scree and talus climbing until the upper third, then onto some more solid rock and talus. At the U Notch we met some other climbers, a group of three Sierra Clubbers climbing North Palisade, and a pair of hot dog rock climbers who knew little about mountaineering.

Below: taken from around the top of the U notch, looking down at Palisade Glacier.  Whoa Baby, that gave me butterflies!

day 17.a SCA338

At the U notch we had a good view of the Palisade Glacier, since from the U notch to the north was about straight down to the Palisade Glacier thousands of feet straight down. From there we would climb below and upon the ridge of the Palisades to the east, to Polomonium Peak. The first pitch looked reasonable so I led it, hoping to give Chuck the fearsome appearing second lead. The pitch was quite exposed and after 80-90 feet I anchored with slings and belayed Chuck up. Then he did a pitch about the same as the first, with fairly easy moves and solid handholds, but very exposed. The third pitch took me over a jagged notch and to a very small belay spot on a blank wall, very exposed. Chuck followed and a few feet before reaching my belay spot climbed up a crack for 10 feet, then up some 3rd class for 20 feet. It’s a good thing he’s climbed this route before, because the route is impossible to find by using the climbers guide. The crack Chuck led was definitely 5th class and exposed, though he used no protection, and anchored himself with ‘biners and slings. From here I led through house sized boulders, over the tops and between them, to within 20 feet of the summit. Chuck led the last move onto the summit block of Polomonium Peak, and we rested. The summit block was dining table sized, and flat, one side vertical to the glacier below. I definitely didn’t hang my feet over the edge, and could barely peek over the edge.

day 17.1.a climbing Polomonium IMG127 - Copy

We watched the rock climbers 400 yards to the west, on the other side of the U notch.

“What’s the big peak over there?” they asked.

“That is North Palisade. It’s only a scramble from where you are. You ought to go climb it.” They had already done the hard part of the climb, climbing the glacier and the wall of the U notch. They sure didn’t know much about the area if they didn’t know they were on North Palisade, the most dominant and difficult peak in the area. Mike and I had climbed it last year, so I preferred climbing a peak I hadn’t climbed before, like Polomonium. One of them repelled down to the U notch. When he was down the guy who was left called down to him for instructions on how to rappel. Oh boy, that is a very dangerous thing to do with no practice. I guess they weren’t so experienced at rock climbing after all.

We had a short snack on the windy summit, then crossed a fluted snow field (8” fluting) and began the down climb of a notch in the ridge. This was definitely 4th class and exposed, and coming down last and without protection was uncomfortable. From the bottom of this notch we continued with 3rd class scrambling below the crest of the ridge, galloping to the summit of Sill in 30 minutes or so. It was really great to be climbing hard at 14,000 feet and not being really tired, just breathing strongly. On the peak of Sill we opened the register and what the Hell? A book but no pencil! A quick assessment showed us having as writing materials: water, powdered tea, chocolate, coffee powder, and hard candy. One letter at a time I wrote the date and our names with water, then sprinkled instant coffee on the wet letter. The effect was rather distinctive, looking like curdled, dried blood.

From Sill we bombed down to the east in the large bowl created by Sill and the peak we named Sucker Peak when we had climbed it a few years previously with Wally, thinking it was Sill. Then we traversed around the shoulder of the rock to the south, and came around at a point to the east of the Barrett lakes. Here the snow was soft and we could tell that our planned route over the cross country pass of last year’s 9-day trip would be very hard with the snow cover of this year. We sloshed our way back down to the Barrett Lakes and had supper before dark. A conference concerning routes resulted in a change of plans. Because of the snow cover at this elevation, we would bomb straight down and rejoin the Muir Trail some 3 miles below the Palisade Lakes rather than stay high on the cross country route that had been so nice last year.

Day 18: to Palisade Lakes.  We all got up early for a change and got a good start. We stayed together in the morning, hoping to reach the Muir Trail by noon. In midmorning Chuck and Wes got separated from the main group and went bombing away. We got together above the trail and had a quiet rest and lunch on Palisade Creek. I left early after lunch and hiked alone almost to the Palisade lakes, where I stopped to write letters as the others passed. This trail is really beautiful with flowers and flowing water, perhaps the best country covered on the trip so far.

Looking back down the valley of Palisade Creek, toward the peaks of the Black Divide.  This was at the start of the Golden Staircase, I believe.

day 18.4 Palisade Creek hughesjmt141

We reached the Palisade Lakes at mid afternoon and spent an afternoon in the sun, writing letters and sleeping. Camp was open, spread out, protected and lovely in a stand of pines. Cheesecake for dessert but not enough food to fill us. We had a good campfire into the night talking about fencing and swimming then went to be bed hungry. The trouble was, I couldn’t bitch about the food because I had planned it. Sorry about that folks. The moon tonight was so bright you could actually read a book by it. A very lovely view of the lakes and the moon. Hungry as hell.

Below: Palisade Lake, with Mather Pass on the ridge behind.

day 18.6.a Upper Palisade Lk. hughesjmt143

Day 19: We hoped to make much mileage today, if possible crossing both Mather and Pinchot passes. We were on top of Mather by 10:00 and the Mob bombed off toward Pinchot Pass as Chuck and I split off to climb Split Mountain.

below: from near Mather Pass looking back at Palisade Lakes.

day 19.3.a Palisade Lakes from Mather Pass hughesjmt146

From the top of Mather Pass looking toward the Kings River, Lake Margorie, and Pinchot Pass.

day 19.5.a So. from Mather Pass hughesjmt147

Below: from the south side of Mather Pass, looking north to where we had come over.

day 19.7 S. side of Mather Pass hughesjmt149

I wasn’t going to climb Split since I had already climbed it twice, and had broken my foot on it the previous year when a loose rock rolled down and smashed my foot. Split Mtn was a big pile of loose rocks, with no solid sections like the granite of the Palisades. I waited at the lake below it and spent 3 or 4 hours napping, waiting for Chuck. At 2:00 I talked to some climbers coming down and they said Chuck had jogged past them on the way to Split and then was on his way down before they reached the peak. Last seen he was bounding toward Split’s sister peak, Prater.

Chuck returned to my lake an hour or so later, and we left for Pinchot Pass at 4:00. We steamed across the high plateau and didn’t stop until we reached the Kings River. Here Chuck stopped to eat and said he was really wiped out. I don’t why, I was feeling just fine. Crossing the Kings River required a ford, below.

day 19 hughesjmt294 - Copy

From the river we climbed out of its gorge and on toward Pinchot Pass. We would not make it before night and would possibly have to camp on this side of it the way things were going. We planned to stop and rest at Marjorie Lake below the Pass and when we saw the world-famous Tuolumne Mob there we blessed them and dropped our weary butts for a rest.

Apparently Nancy had been wiped out on the climb out of the Kings River and Conrad had decided she wouldn’t make it over the pass and down to camp on the other side before dark. They had left the King’s River at 4:00, and made camp at 5:00. We arrived at 6:00. We had enough food to eat tonight, and Chuck, Nancy and I made two far out fruit cakes with chocolate topping. We raided our trail lunches for raisins, peanuts and chocolate for the cakes. This lake is very high and beautiful, but with very little wood. I wouldn’t camp here again if I needed a wood fire. There are lakes a bit lower which have plenty of campsites and wood for fires.

day 19.11 Lk Marjorie hughesjmt158

Day 20: We left Lake Marjorie and tore over Pinchot Pass like a pack of anemic turtles, with Steve and I bringing up the rear. On the top of the the 12,500′ pass pass we watched a pilot buzz the Woods Lake area in front of us, again and again. He was mostly below us in elevation. Chuck and I went from the Pass to climb 13,500′ Pinchot Peak.

After climbing Pinchot Peak,  Chuck and I headed down Woods Creek, and up the South Fork of Woods Creek, past Twin Lakes, past Dollar and Arrowhead Lakes, and toward the Rae lakes. It was a long ways and we became exhausted. The scenery around Woods lake is quite lovely and we moved slowly. On the climb toward Rae lake we started moving out and flew on as dusk deepened. At the lakes we didn’t see our people, but the hordes of scouts kept pointing us on toward the spit of rock dividing the lakes. We almost missed our group, which was camped on the top of a hill in the center of the isthmus. The mosquitoes were bad, but got fewer as evening deepened. We had fires late into the night with puddings for dessert and Chuck burnt our popcorn by trying to cook it on a Primus gas stove. Below: Rae Lakes, and Painted Lady.

day 20.12 Rae Lakes Painted Lady hughesjmt170 - Copy

Day 21: The plan for today was to get up before dawn and have a sunrise breakfast on the first pass of the day, Glenn Pass. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? The motivation was Onion Valley, where we looked forward to food, showers, and, refreshment. For the first time Chuck and I were the last out of the sack, last to break camp, etc. We got up at our usual time, shortly after dawn, and by then most of the group was packed and leaving. We got up and headed for Glenn Pass, all of us arriving at 8:00 or so for a breakfast cooked on Primus and Svea stoves. The side of Glenn Pass which we came up was partly covered with snow, and for the exercise Chuck went straight up the snow rather than on the trail. After a short breakfast we bombed down Glenn Pass and headed for Kearsarge Pass.

Looking up at Glenn Pass, from the north.

day 21.1 Glenn Pass hughesjmt171

We ambled through the dry wooded area and explored some side trails. We had agreed to meet at Bullfrog Lake for lunch before hitting the pass, and everyone gathered there at 2:00 or so except Chuck. Lunch was very leisurely, but no Chuck as of 3:00. The others left and I stayed to wait for Chuck, since several people had seen him behind us during the day. At 4:00, no Chuck, so I started back, jogging the 4 miles to the top of Glenn Pass. I jogged back and at our lunch spot where I had left my pack I met some hikers who bore a message from the Mob. Chuck had gotten ahead of us during the afternoon and everyone was on route to Onion Valley. That was a relief, but I had just jogged 8 miles in addition to the days mileage. Below: Bullfrog Lake

Day 21.7 Bullfrog Lk hughesjmt177

By now it was dark and I was tired. By the top of Kearsarge Pass, I was really tired and nearing total exhaustion as I drifted down the other side. Chuck met me when I was half way down, on his way up after me. At our camp in the campground at Onion Valley we had been rejoined by Madelyn accompanied by two of her friends. They brought beer and a party was in progress. We cooked supper and consumed as much food as was possible, then everyone drifted over to the Onion Valley store – a rustic log building with a dining room and small store (it was torn down sometime in the 70’s and the foundation is all that is left). Inside were the cowboys who ran the pack outfit, and we sat around telling lies about the trip and drinking beer. As the night wore on the refreshment flowed, and the cowboys sang a few cowboy songs. Kevin was becoming friendly, in a 15 year old way, with the 16 year old waitress. The height of the evening came in the chug-a-lug contest. John and Man Mountain Steve drank against three cowboys, and Steve shut them all down.

At that we left, all but Kevin, that is, who stayed for a few minutes to talk with the waitress. After 5 minutes I went in after him and we went back to camp, swaying all over the road. I had visions of Kevin’s parents showing up, and wondering what the hell kind YMCA trip we ran. I had a feeling that some parents might show up tomorrow to resupply clothes and food. As Kevin and I staggered toward camp, a car pulled up that looked suspiciously familiar. A window came down and my Mom’s head came out and said “Hi, Bob.” I tried very hard to talk rationally and not with any slurs, and got in the car to talk for a while. Kevin went on to camp and beer cans there were hurriedly collected and stashed. Back in the car I chatted with Mom and Dad. They had returned from Colorado where they had bought property. Mike was coming back on the hike for the last week, his groin muscle apparently doing better and with a new pair of boots supplied by Kelty.

Ken Primmer was also on his way to join us for the last week. Jim Lawrence and Roger Bell were coming for a weekend backpack in the area.

John came down from camp and said hi to my folks, then I went with him back to camp. Kevin’s parents were on their way, we learned, and would have a cow if they found their 15 year old son drunk. I told him they were coming and to start thinking of getting sober. Actually he had only had four beers over the course of the evening, but that was more than he had ever had, and he was definitely tipsy. We were all in bed by 11:00, and just as I was getting comfortable lying in the desert sand between sagebrush bushes, a figure was over my head whispering “is this the Muir Trail group from Lancaster?”

“Yes” I said as I slid deeper into my bag. “Where is Kevin Anderson?” The air was silent except for a wind in the sage around us. “I think he’s over that way,” I directed him. It was Kevin’s Dad, and he found Kevin and talked in low tones for a few minutes before he left.

“Hey, Kevin, what did your Dad say?” someone asked.

“He said my Mother and brother are here and will have breakfast with me in Independence tomorrow.”

“Is that all?”

“Yeah. I don’t think he smelled my breath. He didn’t say anything.” (I’m sure our body odor was stronger than any smell of alcohol)

We finally got settled down again and I let the wind off the desert take me off to sleep.

John Muir Trail, 1971, 4th week, Onion Valley to Whitney Portal


1st week: Tuollumne to Reds

2nd week: Reds to South Lake

3rd Week: South Lake to Onion Valley

4th Week: Onion Valley to Whitney Portal

Day 22: After the drunken blowout at the Onion Valley cafe, the next morning we went in the cars of Ken Primmer, my folks and Kevin’s family to Big Pine for breakfast, and to restock on extra food and to replace worn out equipment. I had a fantastic greasy breakfast, and it totally filled me.

day 22.1 SCA506

We milled around town buying socks and shirts, and lots of breads, cakes, pudding, powdered milk, and candy, to supplement our prepacked menu. We then returned to Onion Valley by noon, bought more food at the store, and proceeded about the large job of unpacking our food bundles and dividing them up into cook groups. It seemed that all the pressure was off me now that Ken and Mike were with us. Chuck had told us the previous night that he would not be going on for the last week, but would go get his car and go home.

day 15 SCA514.a

Sometime in the afternoon we were finally ready, and ambled the two or three miles to Flower lake. There we discussed plans for the week, the fisher folk fished, and we just lazed in the sun. At supper we prepared spaghetti, but Steve Jepson dropped our pot full of spaghetti, leaving our dinner on the ground. We dined on bread pudding and drinks. Steve felt very bad, we felt very hungry.

Spaghetti anyone?

day 22.2 CA.backpack.Muirtrail.b.w.03

Day 23: The plan was to get over Kearsarge Pass and up Bubbs Creek as far as the highest wooded campsite. We would be headed for Forester Pass, which we would cross on Day 24. Ken, Kevin, Mike and I left early and hiked fast to the Bubbs Creek area. Ken and Mike had much trouble keeping up with Kevin and I, because we were in awesome shape and accustomed to the heavy packs. At Bubbs Creek we dropped packs and climbed University Peak, a big scree pile. The run down was fast and furious, with lots of rocks in your socks. Back at the packs we found an unintelligible note from Conrad, something about right turns and river crossings. We found them at a camp half a mile upstream from us, and we set about preparing a filling supper with dessert. We hoped to get an early start on Forester Pass, so we all went to bed early.

Below: Ken Primmer and me, Bob Shaver

day 23.3 SCA511



Day 24:

“If we’re going to get an early start, we’d better get up,” said Madelyn to me.

“What time is it? Its still dark!” I said sleepily.

“5:00” said Madelyn.

“Christ!” I exclaimed, and rolled in my bag to catch at least another hour of sleep.

Madelyn wasn’t making any friends on this Monday morning. After trying to get me up she went to the members of her cook group. She told Conrad that she was going to the stream for water and if he wasn’t up she’d pour water on him. He wasn’t up so she did pour water on him, a full quart of ice cold water, and from his own water bottle at that! Later that day Madelyn requested to be in another cook group, so we put her in with me and the food-spilling Steve Jepson!

After the excitement of Conrad’s baptism, we did get a good start and churned up Forester Pass with surprising speed. We met a large pack train coming down this side of the pass with the brand of a triangle inside a circle, which we learned was three corner round. They had spent two or three days cutting the path in the snow fields for their mules to get down. It sure is easier to be on two legs once in a while. On the pass we had lunch and Ken found a pure white Polomonium, the purest white I’ve ever see this high altitude plant, which is usually blue. Below: looking up at Forester Pass, located in the notch.

day 24.0 Forester Pass hughesjmt188


Below: from the top of Forester Pass, looking south.

day 24.5 looking s from Forrester Pass hughesjmt195 - Copy

Below: Columbine found on the top of Forester Pass.

day 24.6c SCA559

From the top of Forester, we straggled out and headed for the night’s destination: the first water and wood on the other side, the Wright lakes. As a group we hiked very slowly this afternoon, although Ken and Mike and I did some bombing as we left 30 minutes behind everyone from the pass and passed everyone before Wright lakes. We were all fairly tired at these lakes, and lazed around a few hours before supper. The fishermen scouted the area and saw a few fish in holes to be tried the next day, which was a layover. Below: in the area of Wright Lakes.

day 24.15 Bighorn Plateau hughesjmt204

Day 25:

Today’s layover was to be a good chance for everyone to get away from everyone else. Mike left early.

Mike and I planned to meet at one of the high Wright Lakes, but when Ken and I got there he wasn’t to be seen. I sunned while Ken fished, and after an hour or so we heard a shout, very far away. It was Mike, but he was very high up on a wall to the south of the lake.

Ken stayed and I went up to meet Mike. He had found a section of rocks which was pulling away from the main wall in a 20 foot slice, just like a piece of cheese being cut off a block. Where it was coming off a trough was formed, ten feet deep vertical walls that looked like Mayan masonry. We were joined at the stoneworks by Kevin, who had been hiking by himself in the area. This young fellow is very mature for his age, and will be a fine mountaineer if he keeps it up.

day 25 SCA342

We all speculated about the mysterious stone walled trench, then headed together toward Bernard Pk. This was a class 1 walkup, but the view was fantastic. In the registers, which dated back to the 1920s, we found lots of Norman Clyde signatures, 3 or 4. There was no wind, and the view of Whitney was very good. To the north east stood the mighty Mt. Williamson, a very imposing peak from any angle. To the west the Kaweahs shimmered in the distance across the Kern Trench. We had lunch and ran out of our short supply of water, then headed down through much scree and a field of nice polomoniums. Below: Whitney and Wales Lk from Bernard.


Below: me and Kevin on top of Bernard Pk. Whitney in the background.  It was nice to get the boots off.

day 27 IMG1661

Back at camp we found that the fishing had been fantastic, and Kevin hurried to go get some fish at a higher lake. Ken had caught lots of fish, thrown most of them back and apparently all the cook groups had enough to add to their meals. We had a campfire around a fire built by John. White man build large fire, stand far back, Indian build small fire, stand close.

The topic of the evening was what our plans for the next few days would be. The itinerary decided by the group at Flower lake would have us move the next day to the Wallace lakes for a layover there, then to the top of Whitney Friday night, and down to the cars on Sat. Some people thought that the trip from Wallace to Whitney was too hard. This group wanted another layover here at Wright lakes, Thursday to Hitchcock lake, Fri over trail crest to the portal.

Some of us didn’t care for this plan because it would mean a layover in the same place for two days, plus missing the beautiful scenery, climbing, and fishing of the Wallace lakes, where we had been before a few years earlier on a 9-day trip. Its advantage was that it evened out the mileage. The final split was mostly old time hikers opposed to newer hikers, and the perfect solution was the splitting into two groups. To go to Wallace lakes were Ken, Mike, me, Chris Hughes, and Conrad. We were to meet the others at the top of Whitney and spend the night there, then hike down to the Whitney Portal together.

Day 26: After a fast breakfast the Mob split into two groups. We (me, Mike, Conrad, Chris and Ken) got one cookset together, and the five of us took off for Wallace Lakes. Conrad and Chris were sorry that the other two fishermen, Steve and Kevin, would not enjoy the incredible fishing we hoped to find. We cross countried most of the way, and found the camp that we had used several years earlier when with Wally Henry and Jim Lawrence. There we dropped packs and took lunch to the upper Wallace lakes. There we fished, sat, and sunned. The fish were spawning and the outlet was a black mass of fish that churned the water white when they were startled. I caught one by hand by swimming in the stream and grabbing a trout slowly by the gills in a rocky pocket. That evening we had very large trout, as many as the five of us could eat. Mike headed over toward Wales lake, where he took pictures and hiked till evening. The area was much drier than when we had been here last, but the view of the Kaweahs was fantastic.

day 26 JMT1971086 - Copy

Day 27:  The plan for today was for Mike and I to climb by priorities: Russell, Constitution, Carillon, and Possibly Tunnabora. Ken and Chris wanted to climb Bernard, and bake cakes in the afternoon, and Conrad wanted to fish and bake. Mike and I left and hiked up the granite trough below Wales lake where two years earlier we had left Wendy and Byron when we climbed Constitution.

Wales lake looked the same as always, spectacular. At Tulainyo Lake the clouds were dark above us and a cold wind whipped us. To climb Russell we went up a 3rd class rock wall south of the lake, then hung a sharp right and started on some exposed 2nd and 3rd class to the first summit. This we signed in at the register, and continued to the true summit as the clouds swirled in on us, then were swept away by wind. The main mass of clouds was over Mt. Whitney, and I was watching for lightning there. Usually all the clouds that reached the summit of Russell were wisps and fragments of the big clouds massed over Mt. Whitney. We took the register to an overhang and read it over lunch, interrupted by runs out to look at rainbows and rain on the Kaweahs and Owens Valley and stuff like that. We got a small amount of rain and small hail. Below: Tulainyo Lake, mostly frozen over, Owens Valley behind, from partway up Mt. Russell.

day 27 SCA519

Below: me in my Skeltor phase, or after losing a pound a day for 25 days.  Drying my socks off near the top of Mt. Russell.

day 27 SCA521

Below: Mike on top of Mt. Russell, signing in the register on top of the peak. He’s wearing the new boots given to him by Kelty.  these were prototypes, and had soft soles rather than Vibram soles. The brand was Vasque, and I think these were the first boots that Vasque made.

day 27 SCA549

The register was a good one, rich in old time climbers and mountain history. In 1943, the register said, a man signed in, followed by the signature of a ranger looking for the same man, who went missing. The ranger assumed he had headed down the north face and would look there for him. The next entry was a further explanation. The Ranger had found the man’s body at the bottom of the north face, which he had tried to descend and had apparently fallen to his death. We had passed the place where he fell, and would pass it again on the way out. That was kind of creepy.

When the clouds cleared for a minute we packed up and left, moving as fast as possible while remaining safely on the rock and the route. Before going to Tulainyo Lake we climbed nearby Carillon, signed in fast, and continued to Constitution Pk., a peak hard to reach and seldom climbed.

There we found that one Raul DeSoto had climbed the peak since our ascent in 1969, and left a piece of paper. We left a notebook and pencil in a band-aid tin and entered our ascent of 1969 as the first recorded ascent, entering DeSoto after us, then adding an explanation of the placing of the register. We covered the register with a few rocks on the highest point, which is where other climbers would look first for it.

We descended down Constitution, crossed to Tunnabora, and drew in the awesome view of the entire Owens Valley below us. Near exhaustion we started back to camp, which we reached before dark. There we were surprised by the fantastic breads Ken had baked, one with chocolate topping that he had made out of the chocolate bars from our lunches. We had one bread for supper as the sun turned the Kaweah Peaks orange, and after supper made another bread, the best of all, that we planned to carry with two others to the top of Mt. Whitney the next day. After the bread baking we went to bed, planning to get up early for the long day to the top of Mount Whitney.

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Day 28:  It had rained a little bit during the night and when we got up shortly after first light the clouds were resting on the peaks of the crest and the Kaweah ridge. During breakfast a rainbow formed that arced across the entire valley we were camped in, and the day promised a cool hike as we started the two miles of cross country down to the John Muir Trail. There we talked with passing Sierra Clubbers and continued in intermittent sunshine toward Crabtree.

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We had rain before we reached Crabtree meadows, and at the last wood below the pass we sat down and cooked dinner, planning to eat trail lunches and our breads for supper on the top of Mt. Whitney.

After dinner we gathered wood and filled our packs to overflowing with all the wood we could carry, planning to use it to cook with on top of Whitney. With packs heavier than anything we started up the pass, stopping at a stream to fill every container we had with water. We trudged in a cold breeze for a long time, and after seemingly endless switchbacks reached Trail Crest, the top of the pass. From there it was 1.9 miles of trail, and 1000′ of elevation gain to the peak.

As we reached Trail Crest we met Steve, John and Nancy going down the other side of the portals. They and the rest of the group had decided not to spend a night on the peak in bad weather, probably a sane decision, but we five decided to watch sunset from Mt. Whitney. We were well enough equipped to survive any weather, although rain or snow would certainly be uncomfortable. The five of us had been looking forward to sleeping on the top too much to give up the plan.

As we regrouped at Trail Crest the cloud cover showed signs of breaking up, and the sun finally fought its way through to us. The warmth was really a blessing as we hauled on packs and continued carrying these water and wood filled packs at 14,000+ feet, toward the top of Mt. Whitney about a mile away and 300 feet higher than us. Below Muir Peak Chris, Ken and Mike dropped packs and went to climb the “little “ 14,000 bump.

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Conrad was becoming sick from the exertion and elevation, almost to the point of throwing up, so I stayed with him, thinking I’d have time to climb Muir on the way out in the morning. Conrad and I continued slowly on the sky trail toward Whitney, battered between the pinnacles and notches with very strong winds. At one notch we found thousands of small squares of colored paper with an inscription in Tibetan (?) and mysterious figures dancing across the page. As we puzzled over them the turtle back of Whitney was bathed in a gold light, and we stumbled on, halfway expecting a holy revelation at the summit. As Conrad and I did the last switchback onto the summit the three tigers came steaming up behind us. Conrad stopped to rest and I went on with Ken to the register at the cabin. We signed in and went off to look for a campsite as clouds raged around the peak whipped by super winds. On the top of Whitney it was a flat area with a stone hut. The surrounding area was flat, with large rocks raised only a few feet above a bed of smaller rocks, so we just got away from a larger group that was camping near the cabin, and hoped that it wouldn’t rain or snow.

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Ken lost a contact lens just before the sun went down, so we all froze our butts trying to find it. When we did (it was in his cuff) the sun had turned the west a beautiful orange, with clouds lined in gold that made us forget the cold wind and cold night ahead.

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I found a far out place to sleep. It was a rock slab that had a space under it just big enough for all of me but one leg. I put my tube tent around me and my bag, and wormed my way in, leaving my head out till it started raining later that night. When I was fully inside it was very tight, and as it rained water ran down from the top of the rock and slowly, over a period of hours, soaked my down sleeping bag. I couldn’t see the world outside and slept in spurts till dawn.

I dreamed that Beth had come to see me, and was too cold to sleep. She came over to my bag to get in with me and be warm. She shook my shoulder to wake me….

“Bob, Bob” said Chris Hughes, shaking my shoulder.

“What?” I said, unzipping my bag to let Beth in.

“Bob, there’s snow all over and its falling fast,” said Chris.

“Damn! Lets get out of here before the trail is covered!” What a disappointment! It was Chris instead of Beth.

As I worked my way out of the rock crack I saw a world of gray and white, with the sky engulfed in clouds and the ground muffled in 2 inches of snow. The wind was strong and cold. Everyone was getting up, and we hurriedly dumped the 400 pounds of wood out of our packs, poured out 65 gallons of water, and either stuffed our sleeping bags in stuff sacs, or just jammed then into our now empty packs. I saw Ken fooling with his fishing pole, trying to get it in his pack, then he just snapped it in half and jammed it in his pack. Within ten minutes we were off down the trail, ponchos flapping in the wind and everyone soaked. We had 18 miles to hike to reach the car.

The snowline was very high, above Trail Crest, and from there we were splattered by rain. On the switchbacks the water was inches deep and after a time we gave up trying to keep out feet dry, and just went splashing through the puddles.


The water on the trail finally did my boots in, and the sole of one boot came loose from the arch to the toe. I had to throw it out and drag it back to walk in it, and even so I often turned it under. We bombed down to Trail Camp, and stopped there for a rest and to eat one of our breads. I took my boots off and put on running shoes. The place was alive with a group of scouts, with tube tents all over the place and kids running around everyplace. We must have looked like something strange, ponchos over huge packs, bearded and brandishing ice axes. We continued down and finally the clouds cleared and the rain stopped in Bighorn meadows.

We were not in the mood to stop and take off our ponchos, and we just barreled down the trail looking very out of place, but feeling like it was the people coming up carrying Coleman lanterns and thermos jugs who were out of place. The day trippers were amazing in the assortment of trivia that they hauled up the trail, from lawn chairs to Coleman stoves and picnic baskets.

Gravity pulled us down and down, and we finally reached Whitney Portals and rejoined the rest of our group. They had spent the night nearby, been rained on, and had missed the spectacle of the Whitney sunset. They found it hard to believe that if we were to do it again, we would chose to spend the night on Whitney and hike out in the rain. The last day and night was the best of the trip, especially since I was with people who had shared many experiences and good times in the mountains before. We all felt very good about finishing the JMT.

I was also very glad that the endless hassle was over and swore never to do it again. The only way is with a small group of good friends, or solo. We piled in cars and headed to the store at Olancha, tanked up on food, and went out to Dirty Sox hot springs for a splash.

Below: the gang at Dirty Sox HS: my brother Mike, Wes, Conrad, Ken, me (Bob Shaver), Chris, John, Kevin, Nancy, Steve S. Steve L, Madylin.

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We had hiked 227 miles, climbed 17 peaks, and backpacked for 28 days. Some clean clothes and a shower at home in Lancaster put a nice end to the trip.

Notes immediately after the trip for next time:

  1. fewer people, 6 at most, 4 would be fine. A one week shakedown trip might help before the longer one.
  2. More food. The quality of ours was OK, but there just wasn’t enough for the big guys or for when we were really burning lots of calories.
  3. the food drops were OK once we got them organized, but it would be nice to simplify them, perhaps buying at stores wherever we came out, perhaps mailing packaged drops to post offices.
  4. it would be nice to take five or six weeks instead of 4. More time should be spent in the Evolution area for sure, also the Palisades. The pace of the last week was good.

44 years later, 2016: My backpacking lately has been with my son’s Boy Scout troop, and we do 5-7 backpacks each year. I am in touch via email with Conrad, John Laine, Kevin, my brother Mike of course, Jim Lawrence, and Chris Hughes. Ken Primmer died of Parkinson’s. Conrad’s brother Mark, one of our hiking buds from the 70s, still actively backpacks. Kevin Anderson, his daughter Jenna and wife Suzanne have joined me and my son Jim, wife Tuckie, and daughter Laura and Ciera for  backpacks in the Sawtooths, Wind Rivers, Sierra Nevada, Uintas and White Clouds of Idaho of 5 to 7 days each. Kevin, now a federal judge, has joined my son and I on about 5 week long trip. In 2016 my son, then 2o years old and I hiked the JMT. My email address is

Restoring a vintage knife

I found a way to turn a $10 knife into a $20 knife, using about $10 worth of brass Corby bolts and some mountain mahogany wood slabs.  This project didn’t make sense economically, but it was fun and turned out nicely.  This knife was part of a three knife set which I received as a wedding gift in 1975.  It was used in the kitchen for many years, and then as a camping knife more recently.  The blade was badly stained, and the wood handle had seen too many visits to the dishwasher.




I had been given a block of mountain mahogany, so I sliced off a couple slabs for the scales.  I drilled holes for brass Corby bolts, epoxied it together, and trimmed and sanded the scales to fit the tang of the knife.  It came out pretty nice, considering how it started. The wood is really that red.



JMT Food Plan


Doing the JMT is easy.  Selecting the gear is easy if you have been backpacking some.  The hard part is logistics and choosing and packing food, which is the subject of this post.  For our 2016 JMT, we had a 7 day section that we’d start with seven days of food in our packs from Cottonwood.  We’d meet up with horse packers at Charlotte Lake and get another 7 days worth of food, which would last us to Muir Trail Ranch. There we would pick up 4 days worth of food to get us to Red’s Meadow.  There we’d pick up 3 days of food to get us to your exit point, Tuollumne Meadows. All food had to fit in our bear cannisters, where were BeariKade carbon fiber cans. For our later food pickups we mailed plastic buckets of our food for each section to the horse packers, Muir Trail Ranch, and Red’s Meadow, following their shipping instructions.

For lunches we had a meat, some kind of carb, Clif bars and Builder bars, cheese, a sugary drink, and snack food.  Our lunches were these items, with each week having a few substitutes.


beef jerky        7 oz for 7 days (in later weeks we had pepperoni, and loved that stuff)

dates                9 oz for 7 days

Clif Bar            1 bar per day

Builder Bar     1 bar per day

Gouda cheese 5 oz (one wheel per 7 days)

yogurt raisins   8 oz for 7 days

dried mangoes  7 oz for 7 days (some weeks we had dried peaches)

Candy bars       1 per day for Jim, I didn’t have any

Triscuits             1 box for 7 days (other weeks we had Ritz crackers, or tortillas)

Sugary drink like Tang or Wylers, one L per day, plus several Crystal Lite envelopes per day

Every time we stopped I ate something and and drank lots of water. We didn’t pack up 7 individual bags for each lunch, to save space in the bear cannister.  But each day I’d put my lunch food for the day on the back zippered pocket of my pack, so I never had to get in my pack all day.


For the first two sections we had 2 oatmeals per breakfast (each), just to save space in the bear canisters. Also 2 Via coffees, 2 packs of sugar for the coffee for me (not Jim), and dried milk for the coffee for me (not Jim). In order to get on the trail earlier I’d have the two Vias in one cup, and the 2 oatmeals in one cup.  We had some raisins to add to the oatmeal.  Next time I’d add nuts, cranberries, and brown sugar to the oatmeals to spice them up. In the sections where we had fewer days to jam into the bear canister, I had Raisin Bran Crunch and milk from dried milk, and Jim also had cereal and milk, instead of oatmeal. We packed a baggie for each day’s breakfast into a separate bag: oatmeal, coffee, mild, and sugar.


For years I have made dinners from the grocery store rather than use freeze dried meals like Mountain House. Angel hair pasta cooks in only 3 or 4 minutes, and the 1.9 L pot on my Caldera Cone stove works well for these meals.  Using the simmer ring on my stove I can simmer the pot long enough to make scalloped potatoes or Mac and cheese, without burning it on the bottom.  After many years of backpacking, I had my favorite dinners, and we just repeated them in each food drop.  At the start of the trip my favorites, in order, were those below:

(1) Packit Gourmet Big’un Burrito with 2 tortillas each.

(3) pasta carbonara with bacon

(6) scalloped potatoes with bacon

(2) spaghetti with sausage granules

(4) Pasta with pesto and smoked salmon

(5) Pasta with tomato sauce and salmon

(7) Mac and cheese with bacon

The favorites by the end of the trip are shown in parenthesis in each line above. For the second set of 7 days we had the same 7 meals, and in subsequent food drops had the top 3 or 2 of those. Recipes for the bottom 3 meals are available if you ask me for them.

For every dinner, we started with a cup of miso soup as soon as we got to camp.  It is salty and savory, and perks one up nicely after a long day of hiking.  We always had enough for a cup of cocoa in the evening, and a cup of tea before bed. All the ingredients for a dinner for 2 were in one bag, except for cocoa and tea.



Sapphire Lake in Idaho’s White Cloud Range

I got to go with our old scout troop, Troop 100 in Boise, for an October hike to the White Cloud Range. The first night we camped at the car, and my tent was glistening with ice crystals when I went to bed. I think it got to the low 20s that night.  Below: the boys at our fire.


The next morning none of the boys complained of being cold, and I had my zero degree bag, so I was fine.  The gang below started for Walker Lake, 7 miles into the Big Boulder Lakes.


The hike in was cold, and about a mile below Walker Lake turned to snow.




We hiked in about 7 miles to Walker Lake, were we found 2-3 inches everywhere except in a rocky spot on the trail.  I pitched my tent on the actual trail, and slept on the trail, with rocks on either side of me.  But it was flat in that spot and I didn’t have any trouble sleeping.



The next day we headed up to Sapphire Lake, shown at the outlet below.  The surrounding hills were covered in snow, the sky was blue, and the white clouds completed the picture.  I told the boys that this was the most beautiful place in the world, and having just hiked the incredible John Muir Trail this summer, I had not seen a better spot on the whole JMT.

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Some of the guys were fishing, and caught 4 that were quite large.  They were Tenkara fishing and fly fishing, and Josh even tried worms. These fish are as long as this scout’s forearm!


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The route to Sapphire is a cross country route, no trail, and there was one place where it was a little sketchy with all the rocks covered with snow.  Below we were heading down the ridge trying not to lose our footing in the snow.


We cooked the 5 keepers in foil with butter, lemon pepper, in the coals of the campfire.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.


Except when you see mountain goats on the hike out.


The Sawtooth High Route

We got to experience another trip in the Sawtooths this August.  Joining my wife Tuckie and I were daughters Ciera and Laura, Laura’s boyfriend Jason, and long time hiking boddy Kevin and his lovely wife Suzanne. Kevin and Suzanne got a head start as we were delayed by detours caused by the Pioneer fire.  They hiked toward Toxaway lake the first day, and we 5 (shown below) started the next day.


We camped at a small unnamed lake below Toxaway, and didn’t hook up with the Anderson’s until the next day. Below: Tuckie, Ciera, Laura, and Jason.  On the hike in Tuckie tripped and fell on her forearm on the rocky trail.  Between the 5 of us we had enough first aid supplies to bandage her arm, but we were lucky she didn’t break her arm. She was tough enough to keep going a bit more till we found a nice campsite.


The next day we headed to Toxaway, only to learn that the Anderson’s had pushed on to Edna Lake, the next lake on our route that would take us to Cramer Lake, and Redfish Lake.  Below, Tuckie with bandage on her arm, Toxaway Lk behind.


Below: me with my 29 day beard from hiking the John Muir Trail.


We left Toxaway Lake and headed toward Edna, in pursuit of the Anderson’s.  As we ascended the switchbacks we got a few last views of Toxaway.


At the top of the divide we headed down a few miles to Edna Lake.


Heading toward Edna we saw where all the smoke was coming from. So sad to see the air filled with smoke.


We were very glad to connect with the Anderson’s at Edna Lake.


The next day we rested a bit, and the Anderson’s showed us how to catch nice trout in these high altitude lakes.



Below: me and Ciera at Edna Lake.


Next day we headed to Cramer Divide and Cramer Lake for the night.  Jason and Laura are below before Laura’s blisters got severe.



The Anderson’s below at Hidden Lake, which we didn’t have any trouble finding.



Below: the Anderson’s approaching Cramer



The beautiful Shaver girls on top of Cramer Divide.



Below: the whole gang on Cramer Divide.



Below: Bob and Laura on the hike to Redfish Lake, where we caught the boat to the lodge.


JMT 2016 Gear List

My gear is ever changing, but for the JMT hike it was pretty similar to this group of gear.  This photo is Jim’s gear, which includes the tent we shared.  I carried the stove and cookset.  We both carried solar panels and batteries, also bear canisters, chairs, and similar clothes.  The base weight (gear in the pack, but no food, fuel or water) of my stuff was just shy of 20 lbs.  If you figure 2 lbs of food per day, on the stretches when we carried 7 days worth of food, my max weight would be 34 lbs, plus 16 oz for fuel, and one liter of water.


I walked to work every day for the 3 months before the hike, with weight in the pack and wearing my boots, so I was the only one of the 4 in our group to not get blisters or have food problems. Every day the pack would get lighter as we ate food, and by the end of a segment when we were out of food, it would be a feather light 20 lbs.


In the pack
REI Flash 62 pack 3 lb 1 oz
Western Mountaineering Warmlite 32 degree sleeping bag 1 lb 10 oz
Exped sleeping pad 1 lb  .4 oz
STS inflatable Pillow 2.4 oz
Western Mountaineering down coat 13.5 oz
Golite rain coat 12.5 oz
MLD rain pants 1.7 oz
1.9 L Evernew pot set, TrailDesigns Sidewinder cone and stove, salt and pepper, bic lighter, scrubber pad, simmer ring 1 lb .6 oz
Suntastics solar panel 7.2 oz
Ankar 6700 ma battery 4.8 oz
REI Flexlite camp chair 1 lb 12.9 oz
Petzl eLite headlamp 0.9
Vivo Barefoot camp shoes 12.9 oz
stuff sac with dry bag closure 3.2 oz
Cup, bowl, spoon 5.7 oz
Golite wool hat 1.8 oz
Aqua mira water treatment 3.2 oz
iphone 6 and charging cable 7 oz
Extra pair underwear 2.4 oz
Extra 2 pair socks 7.4 oz
Long underwear for sleeping 1 lb 5.2 oz
Light gloves 1.5 oz
2 oz bug juice 2 oz
2 oz sun block 2 oz
Chap stick 40 spf 0.4 oz
Nylon cord 1.1 oz
Mosquito head net 0.8 oz
Pack cover 3.9 oz
Portable bidet 2.1 oz
Extra bic lighters 1.4
Compass 1.7 oz
Sony extra lens 16-50mm 4.7
2 spare camera batteries 3 oz
Toiletries: Wet wipes, camp soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, deodorant, earplugs, nail trimmers, sanding board, hand sanitizer, face cloth 5.5oz
First aid: scissors, tweezers, bandaids, moleskin, 4×4 pads, tape, ace bandage, Advil, motrin, needle 5 oz
Repair stuff: air mattress repair kit, ripstop nylon repair tape, duct tape 1.9
Bearikade bear canister 2 lb 2 oz
Total base weight: 19 lb 12 oz
Worn or Carried
Nylon zip off pants
Long sleeve nylon shirt
1 pr socks
Columbia hat with neck cover
Webbing belt
Sirui T-025x camera tripod 1 lb 14 oz
Handkerchief 1.3 oz
Lock back knife
1 pair underwear
Sony a6000 camera plus 10-18mm lens 1 lb 5 oz
Group stuff Jim carried
MoTro tent ( 2 lb 4 oz
Katadyn gravity filter 8.7 oz
Camera slider 1 lb 5 oz
Leki Micro Vario Hiking poles 1 lb 4 oz