Posts Tagged With: Long Distance Hiking

John Muir Trail: Impressions along the trail

The perfect imprint of a bare foot along the trail puzzled me.

It was our 26th day of walking when I began tracking the barefoot prints leading down the switchbacks to Garnet Lake. I wondered if someone was walking in those barefoot shoes, the ones with individual slots for each of your toes. But the prints were so perfect, as if each step had been carefully placed to create the most precise impression.

Kenneth Posner stopped for a quick chat and photo.

Playing the part of a JMT detective, I tracked the footprints downhill. They all looked pretty fresh, so I figured sooner or later Reg and I were bound to catch up with the owner. Up ahead, carefully choosing each step along a rockier part of the trail was Ken, the barefoot hiker. We exchanged a few pleasantries. If my memory is correct, at that point he had walked 148 miles without shoes. An unusual approach to hiking the John Muir Trail, but as our friend Lori is fond of saying, ”You’ve got to hike your own hike.” We played leapfrog along the trail throughout the morning before losing sight of him.
When we told the story around our dinner circle that night, Emma, the packer who led our mule train, laughed and explained that when she came up behind him on the trail and saw his shorts and black leggings, she assumed it was Reg and (ready to give a lecture on safety) shouted down at him, ”Where are your shoes?”

That was the only day we saw Ken and we wondered what had become of him. While scrolling through Facebook the other day, I stumbled upon a post which led me to Ken’s blog post and my questions were answered. I’ve included a link for you below.

https://thelongbrownpath.com/2021/09/10/170-miles-barefoot-on-the-john-muir-trail/

I’d encourage you to read through his story. It’s inspiring and may just encourage you to ”hike your own hike” someday too!

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John Muir Trail: Rocky Roads

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While walking the John Muir Trail is a major accomplishment for even the most experienced of hikers, the creation and ongoing maintenance of the path are the true achievements. It is certainly no stroll through the park! Every day presented unexpected challenges for us along rough and rocky trails, testing our feet, ankles and knees. How do hikers do it without trekking poles?

Rocks weren’t always our adversaries. Often they provided a spot to rest our weary feet…in preparation for the challenges ahead.
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John Muir Trail: Dry feet and green meadows

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Lazy afternoon camped at Evolution Meadow.

Water crossings can present a huge problem for early season John Muir backpackers. Having watched countless YouTube videos showing some rather frightening river levels, we were wary of what might flow through the trail in our path. Unfortunately, (but lucky for us) California is experiencing a drought along with what was a low 2020/2021 snowfall year. Even Evolution Creek, which often presents a fast running, thigh-high obstacle, was only ankle deep. That was the only place we chose to take our shoes off due to the lack of large stepping stones.

Reg and I got pretty good at navigating rocks across waterways, but we were happy to see a number of bridges scattered along the trail. A few of them were much appreciated, even after the dry winter season.

While the water levels weren’t as high as we expected, the countless meadows remained surprisingly green and, in some cases, quite lush. We found them to be a relaxing contrast to the sharp angles of steep granite passes and rocky pathways.

There’s nothing better than a fresh green meadow to revive the spirit!
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John Muir Trail: The most beautiful lakes

We camped at Lake Virginia on Day 22.

We were surprised by the sheer number of lakes, ponds and watering holes scattered along the John Muir Trail. Most were so crystal clear that we could count the fish swimming about. Our group was lucky enough to camp at a few of them and Reg and I enjoyed lunch along the shore of others. In between, I snapped photos left and right, hoping I’d be able to remember which was which.

At Purple Lake, we paused and posed for a photo.
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John Muir Trail: Trail Angel Magic

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We crossed into the John Muir Wilderness on August 18th, our 17th day of walking. The following day we tackled another pass – 10,898 ft. Selden Pass. Perhaps because of the lower elevation, the approach to the pass was not nearly as stark and rocky as some of the other passes. We enjoyed the wooded trail, passing by several lakes as we slowly climbed.

Then it got steeper and harder.

“Hurry up!” I heard the shout from Steve, one of our group members. He was standing above me at the top of the pass. “Hamburgers and hot dogs!” I didn’t believe him, but I hurried to the top, just to make sure I wouldn’t miss out if, by some miracle, he was telling the truth. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What I saw sent me dashing back to the trail to yell the very same thing down to Reg…”Reg, hurry up! Hamburgers and hot dogs!”

Like a mirage, our trail angels appeared as we summitted. Fully prepared with a gas grill, they had hiked up to Selden Pass with 50 pounds of frozen burgers and buns, hot dogs and buns, ketchup, mustard, a cooler of Sierra Nevada beer and banana bread for dessert! The four had flown from across the country with a plan to surprise the father (who was walking the trail) of two of the young men, but all who passed by that day shared in the surprise of a lifetime.

We posed for a group shot, sans two of our members who had yet to arrive…and picked up the couple in the blue shirts in the back row as friendly photo bombers.
Many thanks to this group of four, for their generous spirits and excellent taste in beer. You all created a special memory for us!
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John Muir Trail: Over the river and into the woods

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Crossing Wallace Creek and climbing 1,000 feet to the Bighorn Plateau eventually brought us to one of our more unique and out-of-the-way campgrounds near Tyndall Creek. The day was hot with long shadeless stretches that were especially tiring for all who had summited Mt. Whitney the day before.

The Shepherds Hut was well off the beaten path and one of the most unusual sites we camped in.

It might appear charming in the photo but by the time we all reached our campsite (a good mile off the trail and not well marked) it was late and getting dark. We all still had to set our tents up, organize our things and filter water for the next day…and we were all tired, cranky and hungry. Thinking back, this was possibly the low point of the trip for Reg and me. We went to bed wondering just what we had gotten ourselves into.

However, it wouldn’t be the last time that our itinerary seemed at odds with the reality of our day. We were learning that a John Muir Mile could not be trusted to cover the same short distance as a regular mile. And we had many more miles to go.

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Coddiwomple

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We are so ready!

 

 

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Timing is Everything

Because Reg and I both were quite sick in early March, we are entering into our fourth week of self-isolation at home in Oregon.  Did we have the virus?  Who knows, but timing, as they say, is everything.  These past few weeks have given us much time to reflect.

We may be stuck indoors, but we enjoy the ever changing view out our front window.

We returned from England and our South West Coast Path adventure last year in early October.  As it turns out, over the past six months, our timing has been extremely fortunate.  Two days after returning home, I found myself driving 600 miles south, to California, to assist my 93 year old father who was still living in my family home…alone.  I bullied him (yes, I did) into a move to an assisted living facility, both for his safety and our family’s peace of mind.  A fortuitous move as his health declined rapidly over the next couple of months.

We said goodbye to my Dad (pictured above) three days before Christmas.  He was the last of his generation on either side of our families.  He hoped to one day celebrate his 100th birthday, but that was not meant to be.  In January, with the help of an amazing realtor (who snapped the official “sold” photo of Dad’s house) we sadly closed the door of the home and life he loved.  Our boys and their partners all made the trip out to California, joining us, along with my brother Kenny, as we said our final goodbyes.

Reg and I returned home in February, feeling somewhat lost as we came to terms with the fact that we were now the “older” generation.  As we settled back into a routine we began to feel the pull of adventure once again.  Perhaps another distance trek would get us back on track.  But where?

As you can see, we are not at a loss for ideas.

Once again, timing proved to be everything.   The decision of where to go was taken out our of our hands.  For the time being, we will remain armchair travelers, experiencing adventure through our television programming.  While not as exciting, it has allowed us some pretty amazing adventures…ones we’d never dream of attempting.  For now, we’ll focus on remaining healthy and settling  for walks around the neighborhood.

 

 

Categories: Ashland life, Oregon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

South West Coast Path in 5 Minutes

 

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South West Coast Path: A Walk Through History

The morning after our arrival at Land’s End presented a sunnier picture of this iconic landmark.

Our soggy, arrival at Land’s End will forever be imprinted on our memories, a goal we worked extremely hard for some days. However, our last day of walking was filled with visions of the historic remains of the region’s tin mining industry. Fortunately, the rain caused me to pack my good camera deep inside my pack, or I’d probably still be out on the bluffs snapping photos.

The BBC series Poldark films on location along this stretch of coast.

Much like the Doc Martin series put the little village of Port Issac on the map, the BBC series Poldark brings the world to the Pendeen Coast, where the Geevor Tin Mine (closed in 1990) remains open as a tourist attraction.

As we walked out of Pendeen, we were surprised by the number of crumbling remains of a once thriving mining industry. While it all seems very romantic now, history tells a different story of the dangers that lurked underground.

The coast path meandered past a number of remains. We couldn’t help but take a closer look.
Other scenes were best viewed from afar.
Eventually, the path required our full attention.
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