If you ever have those big “life” questions looming overhead, or a sense of anxiety from the going-and-going, or if you simply have things to work through, good and bad, go to the mountains– she has all the answers to what you’re seeking.
We hiked Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles on the John Muir Trail and covered almost 30 miles in 2.5 days. It was as if each stone, and every plant, and stream, and lush meadow was placed there with a purpose, with a master plan in mind; a plan which put beauty first, one that wanted nothing more than to awake the senses, the soul. I thanked the Creator for creating such a pure, pure place to breathe in, to really breathe in and feel the love and compassion only found from our Mother Earth.
Along the trek I was incredibly thankful for a few things in particular. One that immediately comes to mind is the Big Agnes sleeping pad I splurged on at REI the night before we left. It was one of those stupid internal battles where I fought the urge to get a sleeping pad for so long because I thought they were only reserved for “old” people and I had never minded sleeping directly on the ground. Well, this was the case before my big splurge and realizing how much more comfortable it was to cuddle with Big Agnes and how much warmer I was because of the layer of insulation she provided. She was less than a pound to carry and practically took up no space in my pack. With that said, if you don’t have a sleeping pad, get one. I will definitely be cuddling with Big Agnes when I go backpacking at Santa Rosa Island next month. Another thing that got me through the 30 miles was Reed’s Ginger Candies. I first came across these goodies at Yoga Soup and was immediately hooked. A friend who was trekking with me unexpectedly brought these candies and they were my little pick-me-ups along the trail. If you don’t like ginger, try something that works for you, but definitely have something that will put a smile on your face and give you that much needed pick-me-up while hiking. I foresee all future backpacking trips will be accompanied by Reed’s Ginger Candies. You can find them online or at your local natural foods store. And I will have to say that I was incredibly thankful for my Smartwool socks, bandaids, moleskin, and first aid kit that all served as my lifesavers by Day 3. I still ended the trek with beatup feet and too many blisters to count, but at least these devices were of some comfort; without them things would have gone from bad to worse real quick.
After the trek we made our way to Mammoth and indulged in a local beer and bacon cheeseburger. We were that table of four girls each glued to our iPhones. We had been without reception for days so this was our first glimpse back into the “real world”. I recommend that all backpacking trips end with a nice, cold locally brewed beer and a bacon cheeseburger.
Day 1: We camped the night before at Tuolumne Meadows to acclimate to the altitude and do a final check on gear. We enjoyed some local beer, accepted the Ranger’s invite to a campfire singalong, and met some hikers who had been on the John Muir Trail for weeks. We hit the trails early the next morning, starting at Tuolumne Meadows and ending at Sunrise backpackers camp. A couple hours in we took a mile detour to Cathedral Lake for lunch which was absolutely worth the extra mile. I took off my pack, laid on the granite rock, and let the warmth saturate my heart, my body. After lunch we continued on our way to Sunrise camp which a hiker we ran into on the way described as “nirvana” and another described to us the “bitchin’ meadows”. After arriving at camp, I can confirm that these descriptions were true and accurate—absolute bliss, nirvana and the most bitchin’ peaceful and serene meadows. Day 1 was mostly a steady incline, nothing too strenuous, but definitely a workout with 35lb packs on.
Day 2: Again, we fell asleep with the moon and awoke with the sun. Hitting the trails early we made our way to Little Yosemite Valley. We reached our highest point of elevation on Day 2 which was about 9600 feet. Half Dome was our view for most of the day and got closer and closer with each mile. When we passed by Half Dome we could see what looked like ants scaling to the top. The hike was mostly level or downhill on this day and we made it to camp by mid afternoon. We didn’t have plans to hike Half Dome which would have added another day, but instead we took a dip in the wonderful snow-melt swimming hole and relaxed on the rocks to warm up. After dinner we took a sunset walk to Nevada Falls which was an additional 3 miles or so. This was our only hike at dusk and the lighting was incredible, a sunset hike is absolutely mandatory.
Day 3: Our last day was the shortest on the trail—about 6 miles all downhill. We passed by Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls. We were able to see the top of Nevada Falls and scale down the side of it for multiple views. We descended a few thousand feet this day so we kept the pace slow and steady and took minimal breaks. At this point we were pretty exhausted and our eyes were set on the goal of finishing. The trail was incredible on Day 3.