When I was in college, and taking a class in environmental history, we read the book My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir. I was not a hiker then (not even a person who liked the outdoors) and I thought the book was really, really boring. In fact when my professor asked me in class what I thought about it, out that personal opinion popped surprising even me! Time has a way of changing us and how we think and that happened to me. When a group of five hiking friends decided to go on a trip to the Sierra, my interest was piqued so I signed up to go. Anyone who knows my hiking style knows I sometimes pick hikes by their name. Trail names like Rattlesnake Knob or Zengarden Bald make me just want to get out and explore them. This one was no different!
Our trip began with a 3 day backpacking loop on the PCT and John Muir Trail starting in Mammoth, CA. After picking up our permit at the ranger station, we took the shuttle bus ($7 round trip) from the local ski area to the trailhead. My pack weighed about 28-30 lbs. more or less when you added the bear canister. Not being much of a backpacker, I struggled a bit with all the weight but by the last day I was feeling pretty good about it (maybe eating some of the food helped; still brought too much). Having used an old backpack laying around the house, I vowed to send it into retirement at the end of our travels with the idea that if I ever really backpacked again I would buy something lighter and newer!
Several of us bought the Magellan Scout Tent just for this trip because it was inexpensive (I already own two hammocks). Some of the reviews mentioned the tents having condensation on the inside in the morning and I would say that was a true statement. But all in all the tents were very good and we used them for the entire trip without incident. A very small price to pay for an economical tent.
There was still some snow on the mountains at the end of August and in fact we woke up from our slumbers with ice on our sleeping bags to a beautiful, sunny morning.
Our second night (Ediza) was much warmer (we stayed at a campsite off the lake that could accommodate a group our size). I was pretty beat the second day out and when our leader plopped down to wait for the reconnaissance party to come back and report on camp sites, I was quite happy to make myself comfortable.
Daytime temps were in the 80s but the nights were variable. The scenery was impressive but we were dealing with smoke from a wildfire for most of the trip and most of my photos were not great (I chose to take my small pocket camera instead of my Sony to keep the weight down!). There was plenty of water to be found on the trail and on our third day we passed 3 or 4 lakes on our way back to the trailhead. No open camp fires were allowed on the trail.
What did I learn? First, that I could finish a three day backpack and manage my tent, food, etc. fairly competently. Being on a whole food plant based diet is not an asset on the trail (besides taking a ribbing!) but I managed. One of my other camp mates was a vegetarian but she is a lot more flexible than I am. I did find a few pre-packaged vegan meals at Mast General Store in Greenville which worked for me. Second, that I actually liked it pretty well. We all have personal baggage and mine is that I hate backpacking because I hate the pack. But I’m feeling a little more positive towards it after this trip! I thought the trails were in pretty good shape and a decent hiker should not have a problem with this loop. Finally, one of my fellow backpackers thought it would have been nice to spend a few days at one lake and do some day hikes. I think the best one for that was probably Thousand Island Lake.
We also visited Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks! Blog post to follow.