John Muir Trail, 2018, Second Week, Kearsarge to MTR

The first part of the trip ended with a zero day in Independence, which was wonderful!! A full day of R and R in Independence was greatly appreciated. We went to the local museum, which has lots of information about Indian history and the Japanese internment camp at Manzanar. Gary’s Mom was a young woman at Manzanar during the war, and Gary’s Dad was fighting in Italy and Germany. Fully rested, and hoping that our food drop had been left at the Charlotte Lake Ranger station, we headed up Kearsarge Pass. Although our packs were pretty light since we weren’t carrying much food, it was a tiring climb. We got to Charlotte Lake by 3 or so. The plan was for Ken from Berner Packers to leave our food drop at the ranger station. We found a nice campsite at Charlotte Lk, and retrieved our food from the ranger station with a sigh of relief.

The next day we got an early start up Glenn Pass, and cruised over it with no snow on the pass, and no water either. Water sources that were usually flowing were dried up, so we were glad to get to the first water on the other side for a refill. Glenn Pass is usually a very hard pass, but i think that is often because you often get a late start up the beast, and there is often snow to deal with.


From Glenn Pass we hit Rae Lakes, and found a camp on the spit of rock between the upper and 2nd Rae Lakes, and set about washing clothes. We had run into Nam and Joe on the trail, but we inadvertently lost them when we split off the trail to our 2016 camp site. The next morning we got going early enough to have a nice view of the first Rae lake, and the rock above it known as the Painted Lady.


Our next day was to head down to Woods Creek, cross it, and head up toward Twin Lakes. That was farther than Ian and I had done in 2017, and farther then we did in 2016. It was quite a push, dropping from 10,600’ Rae lakes to 8600’ to Woods Creek, then back up to 10,600’ at Twin Lakes. At Twin Lakes we ran into Nam and Joe again, and camped with them. The view below is of Dollar Lake, which we passed on the way down to Woods Creek, and the suspension bridge that crossed it.


We had another cold night, and woke up to frost everywhere. We started up the trail with Nam and Joe.


Next for us was to get over Pinchot Pass, with our destination for camp to be in Upper Basin on the other side of Pinchot, Below is the view down the north side of Pinchot pass, with Marjorie Lake being the lake on the right below. This trail was super rocky and slow going, a great place to twist an ankle. We stopped at the first water below Pinchot Pass.

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After Twin Lakes at 11,600’, we climbed to 12,500’ Pinchot Pass, then dropped to cross the So. Fork of the Kings River at about 9200’, then go up the SF Kings River to about 11000’. We camped as near to Mather pass as possible and the next day headed over Mather Pass to the Palisade Lakes. In 2017 crossing the SF Kings Rivers Woods Creek took the lives of 6 hikers. This year crossing it was no big deal. We didn’t even get our feet wet.


From Mather Pass, we headed down the super rocky trail, past Palisade Lakes, and down the Golden Staircase. We camped at the first campsite below the Golden Staircase, by Palisade Creek. Shown below is looking down the heavily engineered trail called the Golden Staircase.


The bottom of the Golden Staircase is in Palisade Creek, and the next day we headed another 14 miles or so, past Big Pete Meadow. At that point my air mattress was not holding air, and I was sleeping pretty much on the hard ground. I didn’t even do that when I was 20 years old. We stopped a little early so I’d have time to find the leak in water, and we found a place to sleep at monster rock, the most horrible creature ever seen on the JMT. It tried to eat Gary, and almost got him!


We aroused pretty early and headed toward Muir Pass, at 11,950’. We passed some nice meadows, beautiful lakes, and finally got to the Muir hut on top of Muir Pass.


It would have been nice if the mileage for the day was over, but we still had a ways to go. We had another 5 miles roughly, to Evolution Lake, and we hiked to the bottom end of the lake to camp.


The next day was our last day before we hit Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), where we had mailed our food drop. We did not have reservations to spend the night in one of their cabins, and the fellows were concerned that the 15 miles we had to cover would be tough. I got packed up earlier than the others, and headed off. I had suggested that the 15 miles would be done quicker than other 15 mile days that we had recently done. I had said the route to MTR was largely downhill, lower elevation, and partly on a sandy trail. They were a bit worried about reaching MTR before the 5 pm closing time, and I said not to worry about it. However, I really didn’t want to miss the deadline, so I hit the gas, which is a pretty pathetic thing for a 68 year old. However, I hardly stopped and made the best time I could. I got to MTR at about 3, and since I had my and Gary’s pickup ticket, I got our food buckets. On the way we passed Muir Trail rock.

At MTR they had buckets full of cast off food left by other hikers, and anything in the buckets was free. They were sorted into categories like: peanut butter, drinks, dinners, electronics, granola bars, breakfasts, etc. There was a lot of decent food there. I asked one of the staff if they had any vacancies at the cabins, which I knew included showers, a super nice hot spring, chef cooked dinner and breakfast. I knew there were some cancellations because some people were afraid to hike in the smoke of the forest fires that had occurred earlier in the summer. We did not have smoke even for one day, partly because the fires were in the north, and we started in the south. To my surprise, they had a cancellation for the next day, and I blurted out “we’ll take it.” It was not cheap, like $180 I think, but included a meal worth about a million dollars, a shower worth about a million dollars, a super hot and clean hot springs worth about a million dollars, and clothes washing facilities worth about a million dollars. So $180 each was well spent. We hung around the riverside campground that day, and checked in to our cabin the next day.


We set about washing clothes in the hand washing setup, hung them up to dry, then went to dinner. By then it started spitting rain, so we took our clothes down, and at the mess hall they took our clothes to put in their dryer. Later the dried clothes were delivered to our cabin. Dinner was incredible, and the hot springs was super clean and hot, I estimate 105 degrees.