The John Muir Trail ~ Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows ~ California

Day 1 ~ Yosemite Valley to Cloud’s Rest junction.

And so it begins. September 1st. Breakfast of yogurt and fresh strawberries, a last shower, fit everything into the backpack, and we’re off!

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The ‘before’ photo

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Mile 1 of 220 or so… This beginning section is heavily traveled with day-hikers ~ families and octogenarians are zipping past us. Of course we have heavy packs and they have a few snacks, but it is still a little embarrassing!
Obviously our short hikes the previous days and our hiking on American Samoa have done zilch to acclimate me to this altitude. Tim is fairly amused at my snail’s pace, though I did warn him of my tortoise-like aura at elevation.
One mom and her 3 kids (the youngest is about 5) keep leap-frogging us. Seriously. We were relieved when they stopped for lunch.
We have lovely waterfalls and steep climbs for the morning. A nice lunch spot at Emerald Lake gives a nice rest, too. After passing the falls, the masses of people drop down to overnight hikers and the terrain mellows out.

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Vernal Fall

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Emerald Lake

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Nevada Fall

The water in the falls is pretty low, but they are still running. There were swimmers in the pool above the upper fall. Brrrr!
We continued up out of Little Yosemite Valley and up to Cloud’s Rest junction. We met a ranger there who knew several friends from American Samoa (the Bacons and Sean and Cynthia). She was posted tbere because a bear stole an open bear canister a few days before. She had a paint gun to shoot at the bear with if she reappeared! We learned a lot about bear cannisters and the silly ways people mis-use them…
After finding a good camping spot, Tim set to work getting the tarp set up for our new home. We set to work at the regular water filtration and cooking duties, thenhad a lovely sunset with the back side of Half-Dome illuminated.

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Tim setting up the tarp house

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Sunset with Half- Dome

Day 2 ~ Cloud’s Rest junction to Sunrise Lakes

We were up and out of our campsite at the early hour of 10:30. This was just the beginning of our early starts… It is cold and we are from the tropics! Sleeping bags are nice and warm…

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Sunrise from in the sleeping bags

B:  Squir-rel!
T:  Seriously?
B:  Yes, but that is a fluffy gray squirrel. We’ve been seeing the spotted California ones.
(10 minutes…)
B:  Chipmunk!
(10 minutes….)
B:  Bear! !
T:  Oh, wow, it really is a bear!
(She was a lovely dark brown bear who saw us and ran off. Beautiful.)

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We are starting to see views of the mountains through the trees at times. Exciting!

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T:  Should we fill our water here?
B: No, we should cross the creek soon.
T: Five minutes later: I’m going to go back and fill water, but probably that creek will be in 100 yards.
(Yep.)
We’ve heard that water is a bit of an issue. Many sources are dry, so we ask  hikers passing from the other direction frequently.

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We stopped for a snack by a big log. I thought I saw a buck, which is why I stopped in the first place. Sure enough, he was nibbling nearby. Incredible day for wildlife! And velvet on the antlers!

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A young guy came by, asking where we were as he wasn’t exactly sure. He had the JMT book in his pack pocket, and was relying on the small maps in the appendix. I showed him our approximate location just before a large set of switchbacks. Hikers approached from that direction and he asked if there were indeed switchbacks ahead. The lady says ‘OH, yeah. I’m glad I was coming down them’. I cracked up laughing, but then spent the next 2 hours struggling up switchbacks that occupied less than a centimeter on the map. Wow.
That huge climb rewarded us with great views.

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We arrived at Sunrise High Sierra camp. It was dry and the water had been turned off for backpackers, but what a beautiful meadow.

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We left the JMT to head over a rise and down to Sunrise Lakes. We camped at the upper lake and were rewarded with a lovely sunset during Tim’s (second of many daily) very cold showers.

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We were both super tired and feeling the distance and the elevation. The next 12 hours were spent recovering / sleeping in the nice warm bags!

Day 3 ~ Sunrise Lakes to Cathedral Lakes

The sun was nice and warm early, so we did some morning yoga and stretching. We still didn’t manage to leave camp until 10.

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We hiked back down to the JMT and past  arguably the most beautifully situated bathroom ever.

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Gorgeous views over the meadow. Then Brenda saw a caterpillar. Have I mentioned that I really miss wildlife?  Even caterpillars, apparently.

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So in trying to get down low enough to take the photo WITH my pack on… I fell over. And laughed so hard that I couldn’t get up…. (Eventually Tim did pull me up! )

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After recovering from the ‘caterpillar incident’, we headed up and over Cathedral Pass.

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B:  Marmot ! !

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At least I stayed upright.
We set up camp on the N side of the upper Cathedral  Lake. It was really windy and cold, but luckily the wind backed off at night. The stars are super amazing every night, but we are too cold out in the open to properly enjoy them.

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Upper Cathedral Lake

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Camp at Cathedral Lake

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Sunset at upper Cathedral Lake

Sunset while eating dinner, then into the sleeping bags to stay warm!

Day 4 ~ Cathedral Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows

We got up late, as usual, because we were cold. We had an easy downhill hike to Tuolumne Meadows. Once there, the maze of trails was a bit confusing, but we did find some amazingly clean campground bathrooms!
Tuolumne has lots of sport-climbing routes ~ easily visible by all the chalk on the cliffs! There is a rock climbing shop at the Chevron station.
We headed to the post office for our (heavy) resupply boxes. The cafe had warm fries (yum) and the store had hard cider (yummier! ).

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Weird postings on the board

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Hard cider!

We stayed at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in heated canvas tents. If that sounds like an oxymoron.. it is. Tim learned about wood stoves!
Dinners were tasty and family style. We sat with two nice older couples who travel a lot and the men hike and backpack for a week at a time in the area.
We were thrilled to have hot showers, which in my case started fully clothed so I could do laundry simultaneously! The clothes sort of dried overnight….

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We went through our resupply boxes and cut out as much as possible so our packs would be lighter. We haven’t been eating nearly as much as we expected, so could eliminate some if the items.
Another log into the stove, and sleep approaches quickly!

3 thoughts on “The John Muir Trail ~ Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows ~ California

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