Wednesday, September 24, 2008

John Muir Trail - Day 7, California, U.S.A. (August 31, 2008)

Day 7: Rosemarie Meadow to Aspen Meadows (approximately 14.8 miles)
The beautiful scenery around Marie Lake almost makes one forget about the upcoming Selden Pass
Here I am in front of Marie Lake
JMT hikers can only carry so much food (due to weight and the fact that all food must fit into a bear-proof can), so they mail themselves additional food to certain points along the trail. Here at the Muir Ranch resupply station, buckets of backpackers' leftover food are free for the taking. Powerbars galore!
Notice that all of the buckets in the previous photo are orange or white paint buckets. Now notice one of our own resupply buckets, in a fetching green color representing the fact that it's a pickle bucket, not a paint bucket. Most of our food for the second half of our trip tasted and/or smelled like pickles!
Here we are with newly heavy packs, thanks to our full bear cans
Piute Creek, perfect for an afternoon swim, marks the boundary between the John Muir Wilderness and Kings Canyon National Park
Drat. Now what the heck are we going to do with the knife-juggling, unicycle-riding monkey that we picked up on Day 2?!?

John Muir Trail - Day 6, California, U.S.A. (August 30, 2008)

Day 6: Quail Meadows to Rosemarie Meadow (approximately 10.8 miles)
Sun-dappled aspen forest makes for a nice change in scenery
Stepping stones seem to comprise a sizeable portion of the JMT
A mutually agreeable arrangement
Well marked trails make for happy hikers; once we joined the JMT at Garnet Lake, we never again lost the trail
A stream meanders through gorgeous Rosemarie Meadow
Laundry time at the campsite; washing without soap (not allowed) in a mossy river leaves something to be desired, but it's sure better than nothing

John Muir Trail - Day 5, California, U.S.A. (August 29, 2008)

Day 5: Purple Lake to Quail Meadows (approximately 15.4 miles)
Long grasses line the shore of subalpine Lake Virginia
The view down towards Tully Hole and Fish Creek
The view from the climb to Silver Pass, just above the timberline
Blissfully flat terrain on the southern side of Silver Pass
Colorful bushes beside the trail near Quail Meadows
One trunk, two treetops!

John Muir Trail - Day 4, California, U.S.A. (August 28, 2008)

Day 4: Reds Meadow to Purple Lake (approximately 14.8 miles)
The aftermath of a fire close to Reds Meadow. The nearby Reds Meadow Resort has a great little diner serving pancakes and burgers to hungry JMT hikers.
Stunning views of distant granite peaks
A lucky horseshoe I found along the trail. Although I would have loved to take it home with me, I couldn't bring myself to carry it after leaving behind a brand new book and a large bag of food (in an effort to reduce the weight of my pack) at Reds Meadow.
The Sierra mountains fade to blue in the distance
A self-portrait from the trail
Purple Lake reflects the darkening sky; thankfully, it didn't rain!

John Muir Trail - Day 3, California, U.S.A. (August 27, 2008)

Day 3: Garnet Lake to Reds Meadow (approximately 13.5 miles)
The still waters of Garnet Lake reflect Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak in the early morning light. If it looks slightly chilly in this photo, that's because it was: we woke up with frost on our sleeping bags!
A large western juniper tree along the trail
Shadow Creek winds its way through a granite canyon
Peaceful Rosalie Lake would be a wonderful place to camp for a few nights
Erin crosses a log bridge near Devil's Postpile National Monument
Devil's Postpile National Monument; the 60-foot hexagonal columns were formed less than 100,000 years ago, following an eruption of basaltic magma

John Muir Trail - Day 2, California, U.S.A. (August 26, 2008)

Day 2: Just north of Koip Peak to Garnet Lake (approximately 15.4 miles)
Our first night's campsite, as seen in the morning sun. If you look closely, you can just make out our tent in the lower left corner of the photo.
The view of Mono Lake from the climb to Koip Peak Pass
Ashley on the way down from Koip Peak Pass, with Alger Lakes in the distance
Ashley and Erin walk through a meadow below Koip Peak. This was just the first place we lost the trail on Day 2.
The beautiful Constellation Lakes, where swimming appeared to be clothing-optional!

John Muir Trail - Day 1, California, U.S.A. (August 25, 2008)

The John Muir Trail (JMT) is one of North America’s most famous hiking trails, stretching 212 miles from Yosemite Valley to Mt. Whitney, California. The trail passes through amazingly beautiful and diverse scenery: sun-dappled lodgepole pine and aspen forests, stark granite peaks, secluded alpine lakes, and peaceful meadows with meandering rivers.

The grandeur of the landscape is matched only by the challenge of traversing it. Backpackers ascend and descend more than 10 passes through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, remaining at altitudes of 9,000 to 12,000 feet for most of the hike. The trail culminates at 14,497-foot Mt. Whitney – the highest peak in the continental United States.

Along with my friends Ashley and Erin, I hiked a slightly altered version of the JMT, traveling from north to south. We started just east of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite at the Mono/Parker Pass trailhead and joined the JMT at Garnet Lake, on our second day of the 16-day journey. We calculated our total mileage at just on 200 miles, and it was definitely the most physically challenging activity I’ve ever done.

Late August/early September was an ideal time to go: the skies were mostly sunny and blue, the days weren’t too hot, and the nights weren’t too cold. The trail was neither too crowded, nor eerily deserted – on average we passed maybe 10-20 people per day. Most days, we felt as though the wilderness area was ours alone, and that solitude in such a beautiful setting was uniquely enjoyable.

Hiking the John Muir Trail is truly a once in a lifetime experience!


Day 1: Mono/Parker Pass trailhead to just north of Koip Peak (approximately 7 miles)
Along the JMT, backpackers are required to store their food in bear-proof canisters. Here's my bear can stuffed to the brim, with one day's worth of food spread out on the floor.
Here we are, just about to begin our 200-mile journey. Notice the clean clothing and happy smiles of novice JMT backpackers!
Erin and Ashley hit the trail
The striking landscape near Parker Pass
Our first pass; there's nothing like going from sea level to 11,000 feet on the first day of a trip
Small blue lakes add color to the dry terrain en route to Koip Peak

Monday, September 8, 2008

Photos of Point Lobos, California, U.S.A. (August 16-20, 2008)

Point Lobos State Reserve, just south of Carmel along California's central coast, has been called the "greatest meeting of land and water in the world." The reserve's craggy shore and signature cypress trees - often shrouded in fog - have been painted by countless artists over the years.

In addition to its natural beauty, Point Lobos has an interesting cultural history and a surprisingly diverse plant and animal community. Depending on the time of year, visitors can see harbor seals, elephant seals, sea lions, sea otters, pacific gray whales and orcas, as well as foxes, coyotes, black-tailed deer, bobcats and mountain lions. Every autumn, monarch butterflies migrate south to Point Lobos and other locations along the central coast, where they cluster in the trees until spring. The reserve is also one of only two locations in the world where the Monterey Cypress tree grows natively.

Point Lobos has long been one of my favorite places, and after the many amazing sites I've been fortunate to see this year, it still tops my list. The dramatic coastline, the barking sea lions, the mysterious cypress trees, and the powerful Pacific Ocean give visitors more than enough to admire. But there's a peace and beauty to Point Lobos that runs deeper than the scenery. The photos below don't begin to give it justice; you'll just have to see for yourself.
Monterey Cypress trees cling to the rocky shore above the Pacific Ocean
Whaler's Cabin was built by Chinese fisherman in the 1850s; today, it's a cultural history museum. Over the years, Point Lobos has been the site of a whaling station, an abalone cannery and a granite quarry.
Deer can frequently be spotted along the trails at Point Lobos
Old Veteran Cypress clings tenaciously to the rocky wall of Cypress Cove
China Cove, with its small, secluded beach and turquoise water
The view south down the coast from Pelican Point

More Photos (III) of the Monterey Peninsula, California, U.S.A. (August 16-20, 2008)

Visitors enjoy the sunny weather at Carmel Town Beach; the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links overlooks the northern end of the beach
Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for its art galleries, high-end boutiques, fine restaurants and quaint storybook cottages like the one pictured here
Carmel River State Beach is a quieter alternative to nearby Carmel Town Beach
Father Junipero Serra founded the Mission San Carlos Borremeo del Rio Carmelo in Monterey in 1770; it was the second of California's 21 missions. It was moved to its present location in Carmel in 1771, and Father Serra is buried within the mission grounds.
The view south along Carmel River State Beach