After planning and thinking about this trip for so long, it was finally time to start! I got up early and packed up my things as quickly as I could, as I needed to get to Yosemite Lodge in time to catch my shuttle bus to Glacier Point. I reached the lodge with plenty of time to spare and got my ticket, which thankfully I reserved in advance (tickets were sold-out, as it was a Saturday). I headed into the food court, but just got a coffee as I didn’t really feel hungry. As I sat down to enjoy my coffee and relax before getting on the shuttle, I saw the backcountry ranger that I met at the laundromat the day before at a nearby table. He came over and said hello, and gave me a ‘bear safety talk’. While I was glad to learn more about Yosemite’s bears and knew the chance of getting injured by one was very low, as a solo hiker, I still sincerely hoped I wouldn’t encounter one while on the trail.
When it got close to my 8:30am departure time, I went out and got in line to get on one of the buses. Although there were many people getting on the ‘one way’ buses to Glacier Point, I didn’t see anyone with backpacking equipment. It appeared that most people planned to take the bus up to the top, and then hike back down to the valley. It was a surprisingly enjoyable ride due to the personable bus driver who narrated the whole way up, and in seemingly no time at all, I was at the top.
I headed over to the viewpoint, which wasn’t as crowded as I expected considering the number of buses that went up there. The view of Half Dome was incredible and at that moment, I felt really grateful that got to start my hike there rather than from the traditional starting point at Happy Isles. It was certainly a more scenic way to start the trail!
I ended up spending an hour at Glacier Point, as I felt in no hurry to hit the trail. I was required to stay at Little Yosemite Valley backpacker camp that night, which was only 6.5 miles away and wouldn’t take me too long to reach. I bought a huge ice cream sandwich and soaked in the views before I finally decided to gather my things and hit the trail.
I began making my way down Panorama Trail, which was very gradual and had the same sweeping views of Half Dome. I was glad the trail was off to an easy start, because unfortunately, I already had blisters. Quite a bit of dirt got into my shoes during my hike the day before and I made the regrettable decision not to stop and clean out my socks and shoes the moment I noticed the problem. I had been blister-free for years ever since I started using Injinji socks, so I was shocked that I developed blisters before even officially starting my JMT hike! It wasn’t painful though, and I hoped that would continue to be true for the rest of the day.
As I headed further down the trail, I noticed that many of the trees around me were heavily damaged, which was hardly surprising considering how exposed the area was. Some of the trees were missing a significant number of branches, while others had been reduced to weathered stumps. It was so different from what I was used to seeing in my usual hiking spots, and I thought there was something appealing about how the weather-worn trees contrasted with the mountains in the background.
I continued along the trail, which no longer was purely downhill. I was a bit surprised that the trail had so many uphill sections, as I thought it would be downhill all the way to the junction with the John Muir Trail. It wasn’t difficult though, and before long I made it to the junction and got on the JMT. There instantly were a lot more people on the trail, but it didn’t really feel crowded to me (Korean hiking trails are much more crowded, especially ones in National parks).
As I was going along, I felt a little confused. The trail kept heading downhill, but I knew that the trail should generally go uphill in order to get to Little Yosemite Valley. I quickly realized I was hiking the JMT in the wrong direction, and turned around. I felt a little silly for blindly following the flow of traffic (which clearly wasn’t going where I needed to go!), and knew the heat probably contributed to me mistakenly going the wrong way. Up until that point, the trail had been exposed to the full sun most of the way, and being out in the sun on a hot day has never been my strong point. In any case, I was quite glad I hadn’t gotten far before realizing my mistake. I soon made it to Nevada Fall and decided to soak my feet in the stream. I needed to be especially careful with my feet now that they had blisters, and couldn’t pass up on such a scenic spot to take off my dusty shoes and relax.
After enjoying a short break at the stream, I decided to move on and make my way to the LYV backpacker camp. After my experience at the backpacker camp in the valley yesterday, I didn’t want to get there too late and possibly have difficulty finding a place to pitch my tent. The trail up to the camp was wide and gradual, and before long, I arrived.
The campground was much larger than I expected and I walked around to find a suitable spot to camp. I found an empty site with a bear box right next to a ‘camp boundary’ sign, and pitched my tent. I hadn’t looked at my watch in quite a long time, and was surprised to see that it was only 3pm. Even with all the breaks and misadventures, it had only taken four hours to get to the campground. I wasn’t exactly sure how to pass the time, as I certainly didn’t have five hours worth of camp chores to do!
As I began doing camp chores at a sloth-like pace, a hiker came over to say hello. He remembered seeing me at the Wilderness Center and as it turns out, we had received our permits at the same time. He told me that he and his friend planned to hike up to Cloud’s Rest and then down to Tuolumne tomorrow, where they would meet his wife and another friend before continuing on the JMT. We talked about our tents a bit, as I was using a Zpacks Triplex, he had a Zpacks Duplex, and his friend had a Zpacks Solplex. It was interesting to run into someone who not only knew what my tent was, but had one too (considering how my tent was stared at strangely back in the campground in Yosemite). After a few minutes he was on his way, but it sounded like I might run into his group later since we planned to summit Mt. Whitney around the same time.
It was now past 4pm and I decided this was a good time to head to the river to filter water and do laundry. Although I wasn’t using any soap (just rinsing with water), I had treated my clothing with permethrin before starting the trip so I made sure to gather water and wash my clothes away from the river. I considered taking a swim, but decided against it as I’ve never been much of a fan of cold water and it wasn’t particularly hot out anymore.
I went back to camp around dinner time. I wasn’t hungry at all, so rather than cooking a warm meal, I just ate some of the peanut butter and chocolate fudge that I bought back in the valley. At around 6pm, I noticed the same ranger that I met at the laundromat and lodge walking around the campground checking permits. Soon it was my turn, and he checked my permit. I had already received his ‘bear safety talk’ at the lodge so he went on to the next campsite, but not before telling me that a bear stole someone’s tuna last night and that the bears generally came in through my side of the campground.
I sat outside for a little longer, then went in my tent. I decided not to worry about the fact that I was camped right up against the bears’ preferred entry point into the campground, and focused on getting some much needed rest. Tomorrow would be my first full day on the trail and I had a big climb ahead of me!
July 23, 2016