Thursday, October 3, 2013

John Muir Trail Part IV

Day 3.

We left our high-altitude camp (about 2 miles south and 1000' below Forrester Pass) and were immediately descending towards Tyndall Creek. The sun was out and there were only a few tiny clouds in the deep blue sky. The temperature was decent...after then sun came up it warmed quickly and we were able to drop the long pant legs and long underwear tops soon after we had started hiking. We had a long way to go today, our goal is to get as close to Trail Crest pass as possible for tomorrows climb up to Mt Whitney and then descend part way down towards the Portal. I had my eye on Guitar Lake, which is only about 3 miles from Trail Crest summit, which would give us a 14 mile day (we have no significant passes to climb today so I was expecting our pace to be higher). We were both feeling pretty good, the high altitude hasn't been a problem since we woke up at Kearsarge Lake. Our legs were doing better now too...turns out backpacking/hiking is significantly different than pedaling a bike. Which was working to my advantage...Greg is INFINITELY stronger than I on the bike right now (and for the last 2 or 3 years). However I was matching him step for step now, and even pushing him for longer distance later in the days up here on the trails. It felt good to be beating up on him for a it's been a LONG time since there's been any of that! (and no, we're NOT ALL).

Here the trail descends towards Tyndall Creek. We are still about 12,000' right here.

 Heading in to the bristlecones, down near 11,500'. Our trail is on the left of the picture.

 Greg at the base of a dead bristlecone. They are like statues, and the wood is nearly as dense as stone. When branches fall they lie on the surface and don't rot..the trees grow SO slow that the rings are SO close together that the wood can just lie on the surface for centuries. Even the dead ones will stand until their supporting dirt/rock finally erodes away.

 An unnamed little pond in a high altitude plateau...we are back near 12,000' 
again on this unworldly landscape.

That's me out pushing the pace (Greg's camera battery died on day 1, and he kept wanting me to take a picture of this rock, that tree, that pond, this stick (well, maybe not the stick)...and I was in full-on MOVE IT I finally tossed him the camera and said "go for it".

 The trail just goes and goes...we descend again into the treeline from the surface of Mars. It's amazing how many landscapes you can see in one day of hiking. I've got my mind on making Guitar Lake, and nothing is going to stop me.

 And once again we are hiking the edge of a beautiful clearing. It wouldn't have surprised me a bit to see bears down here, but we didn't' see a single track or evidence that any were around.I could see them rolling over logs looking for bugs in this area. But except for some deer it was just us.

 That's me next to a couple of bristlecone statues (you can see on the left how vibrant they are when totally alive). No idea what killed these 2 (well, can see the third dead-one peeking into the picture on the right) smack in the middle of a beautiful bristlecone forest. There were only a few dead ones, and they were scattered far and wide.

 Now we're in the thick of contrast to earlier in the day back near Forrester Pass!

We came upon this wonderful meadow that I have chosen to call "Matt's Meadow". On the hike up from the Portal to Whitney there is a very similar meadow that Greg has claim to. You can see our trail in the shadows just below the trees on the right. What a lovely spot!

 We're getting close now...I believe this is Timberline Lake (there's a "no camping" sign, or we'd have stayed there). We still have a mile or more to go though, up above the timberline AGAIN.

 And here we are: Guitar Lake. There were already a decent size group (or groups) of people camped down by the rocks near the we stayed up on this little plateau overlooking everything. The creek that feeds the lake is on the left just a hundred yards or so for our evening water supply, and we had a nice little campsite in a small area of large rocks, giving us some protection from the wind (not that it was bad). We're back to about 12,000'elevation here.

And one of the last pictures of the day: the sun setting over the northern peaks, giving us their shadow on our southern mountains (and the moon is out). Trail Crest Pass is the little notch/low-spot below and to the right of the moon (about half-way between the moon and the right edge of the picture, then go straight down). If you then follow the ridge to the left from Trail Crest there are 3 little jagged peaks sticking up just about in the middle of the picture, then the next one is a rather unassuming peak  (seems lower than the jagged ones but it's not) which I believe to be Mt Muir (also a 14er), and then the next one which has it's peak hidden by the rocky ridge is Mt. Whitney. The view of Muir/Whitney from the backside (western side)  is quite the opposite to their eastern side, which is straight down cliff. From the back they gently climb thru oodles of large rubble until suddenly you are at the cliff/peak summit. The trail to Whitney summit goes right past that notch between Mt Muir and Mt Whitney...looking thru the gap is enough to make your stomach's a terrifying drop and I can't even get very close. 

Many years ago on our 2nd trip up Mt Whitney (from the portal...we did the up and back in one LONG day) we hiked it at night to see the sunrise from Whitney.Well, we didn't quite make it, and as it was getting close we were in that gap, so I climbed up thru the boulders to the summit of Mt Muir for the sunrise, while my brothers stayed in the gap. We also flew a few gliders from that notch, trying to see how far we could get one to go..but the winds are pretty violent along the steep face and none went very far other than to blast back into the jagged cliffs. 

And that about wraps up our day three (2nd full day) on the trail....we made the 14 miles I was hoping for, and now have a short distance to Trail Crest tomorrow so we can have a shot at the side-trip up Mt Whitney (depending on how we feel/what time we get up there). Tomorrow will be another big day for sure!


  1. Apologize for the long delay on finishing the backpacking story....QUITE busy at home just now. This coming Monday we have granite countertops arriving (and being installed) both bathrooms and kitchen. To save money Jeannie volunteered ME to do the preperations (ie: demolition) of the current tile (concrete underneath) countertops...THAT is a lot of work my friends...which has grown to include prepping the walls for new splashboards (part of the demo was to remove the current 4" tile splashboards, which damaged the drywall significantly)...also found that the hot water shutoff valves have all corroded so badly inside that I can't turn them have to turn off the house water at the street and then remove and replace the valves. I also am responsible for plumbing the new sinks w/ all new fixtures. Hope to find some 'spare' time soon.

  2. Ha, aren't you having some fun! Well, when you get a chance, you should read about your backpacking trip because it sounds like you had a great time! My hubby would love a trip like that.

    I've signed with Katusha Team for 2014 and am really looking forward to a change. I should be doing more lifestyle and entertainment pieces rather than straight race reporting, which is a welcome switch from 8 years of race reporting! I've said 'there was a breakaway, they were caught and a sprint followed" or "he attacked in the last 3k of the climb to win solo" as many ways as I can think of! Off to Italy next week for the first Meet and Greet with the team - hooray!!! Now to get them to race in USA....

    1. Hey Cathy, congrats!!! Wow, that sounds AWESOME!!! Glad to hear you have a change of venue, and also a 'style' change in content....always good to step out of your comfort zone into something new...keeps you motivated and fresh, and your skills sharp. Keep us posted on very exciting for you! I've never (yet) been to Italy...but it's quite high on my 'list'!

      Enjoy!!! (green with envy here!)