The real day 1. Or day 0. This was the day where at some point in time, some step of the foot would be the very first one of thousands that would carry us an untold, or at least unknown number of miles.
After sitting around the fire with Lindsey and Riley, I departed to my chamber making sure I had done all the last minute tasks that I needed to. Not that it really mattered, because nothing would be so important as to delay or cancel a departure. We slept that night and in the bright, cloudless, cold air of the alpine morning, we packed. We stopped by the restaurant to get what passed as food in these parts. Anywhere else it would be trash…but here it was amazing. Breakfast sandwiches, sausage gravy swamped over biscuits. Milk. Things like this.
We moved our car over to the wilderness permit area, the place where most people park when leaving from Tuolumne. It was here that we sorted all of our goods, determining what to take and what to leave. Not that we had much to deliberate on.
What we did not take, we locked inside of a squatty brown metal bear box, about 4x3x3 feet of bear proof real estate. There were about 15 of these lockers set along the outer edge of the parking lot. Every single one of them full of another hiker's gear, or a resupply to pick up. My big decision was what pair of shoes to take- hiking boots, or hiking shoes? I'd bought these Kayland Zephyr Mid boots years ago and never wore them because they hurt my ankle. Achilles, specifically. The back of the boot dug in to my Achilles and gave me a blister/laceration. Not bad, but not what you want out of a hike. 2-3 years ago I put them on the shelf. And I waited for this day, this trail to use them. Because I'd never wear boots otherwise. Not my style. I don't like them.
I also had a pair of trusty La Sportiva Sandstone GTX shoes that have served me many miles in many places. Both shoes are waterproof, the Kaylands using eVent and the La Sportivas using Gore-tex. I had some green super feet insoles to use with whatever pair I decided to go with. I wore each one in the days before departure and after severely customizing the fit, I went with the Kaylands. I skipped a couple of eyelets on the right shoe when lacing. I put in the super feet but took out the green plastic support piece. I finally got them feeling good on my foot. So the La Sportivas went in the locker. My gear went in my pack. The car got parked. The keys were sealed inside of my backpack, and around Noon, we hit the dusty trail. (Literally. It was dusty in this section.)
And so the hike began. Like any hike I've ever been on before. I was sort of disappointed there wasn’t a starting gun, a checkered line on the ground, nothing. It just started. The first section of the trail up Lyell canyon is the flattest of the whole trip. It gains 100 feet of elevation over 8 miles before going up the first pass, Donahue.
I didn’t do much route planning of the trip. I didn’t study maps, read books (but Lindsey did this feverishly). I feel like that ruins the discovery aspect. I like taking it all in as I go. So when I heard Lyell canyon…I was expecting something that dropped down in to the rugged granite. That wasn’t the case, but looking back on it, this was one of my favorite sections (there were lots of favorites) but I didn’t take much time to stop, enjoy, take photos. At this point I was concerned with rationing memory card space and battery. I did have a cell phone though, so I took some photos and videos with it. I could charge the cell phone with the solar panel. I could not do that with my camera. Small oversight on my part.
So we hike the John Muir Trail southbound, hugging the Lyell fork of the Tuolumne river. If you ever get the chance to do even an overnight backpack- do this. It's easy. It's close to civilization, and the river the trail parallels is nothing short of fairy tale status.
This was the first time either of us had been backpacking in 6 months or so. So the weight was a bit of a burden. I remember the discomfort in my hip. And I'd adjust and then the shoulders would be sore. And back and forth it went. Nothing earth shattering, but it was palpable.
Hiking goes faster when talking, and faster still when having a conversation. So I taught Lindsey wilderness first aid. I think I did a pretty good job. I felt confident that should I get struck by lightning, I'd be in competent hands. And at this point of the hike, I was expecting to drop out of this lush, green, gently flanked canyon and in to granite boulder high country where we'd walk over ridgelines exposed to clouds, weather, elements. That was my impression of the trail.
The National Park's impression of the trail was that part of it was too worn out. So they were going to reroute it. About 6 miles after starting, we came across a laminated 8.5x11 sheet of paper with a small color map of the trail and the re-reroute. This sheet gives a quick description of why, how, etc. And the map shows the current trail and the rerouted path.
This sign was placed at one of few junctions on the trail. The reroute detoured up a side trail and then reconnected with the JMT. There was no scale on the map, so it was hard to get an idea for distance.
Here's what the sign conveyed.
Orange was the re-route.
So we hike up the side trail, knowing that we'd be making a sharp left on the new section of trail and we'd be heading back down towards the river.
We didn’t weigh packs because we didn’t have the means to, but mine was about 35lbs at the start. Maybe 40 since I was carrying some stuff I didn’t really need. We begin ascending this side trail looking for the reroute. The side trail quickly goes up a series of steep switchbacks. After about 30 minutes of walking on this trail and seeing nothing, we decide to say screw it. Screw the re-route. We're going to hike on the section that we know is on our map. So we go back to the junction where the trail originally was supposedly rerouted. It's late. We're tired, hungry, and light is far below the apex of the canyon walls. We set up camp in the middle of the junction and decide to give it a crack tomorrow. 6 trail miles for day one. Plus the 2 miles we hiked on the stupid ass reroute trail. Waste.
We drank from the pristine water of the Lyell fork. Cold, crisp, delicious water and we cooked dinner on the esbit stove using the wind screen I'd made from foil the day before. It worked well. The area we camped in was pretty populated. About 7 other hikers or hiking groups total. We slept.
There are no notes from this day because I kept my journal in my backpack lid. After this, I'd move it to my hip belt pocket. Here's the map from Day 1.
On day 2 we'd meet some cool folks, go over the pass, experience solitude of being lost. Experience the loud noise of being searched for. Things would break. Illness would befall. Day 2 was a beast.
Photos from Day 1