Getting There Is Half The Fun – Day 0 of the JMT

9/10/2023 (Day -1)

Today is the day!!! Well it’s not “The Day”, but it is a day for sure. Sunday, September 10th 2023 to be exact. Why does anyone care? Well, today is the first day of my travels to resume the John Muir Trail. Who cares? I care of course… and maybe you since you’re reading this. Who knew that the logistics of hiking a long trail could be so complicated. I’m pretty sure I spent the same amount of time planning how to get to and from the trail as I did planning how to hike the trail. Haha! Ok, not that bad, but it did take some time. They always say that getting there is half the fun. Well I have to agree. I’ve only just started and it’s already been an adventure. So pop some popcorn, grab a blanket, and get cozy. My story starts here as I begin to embark on an epic adventure as I resume my travels on the John Muir Trail.

Delays and Getting Things Done

This morning I awoke to a flash of lightning, a crash of thunder, and our power going out. No! Not today! I have so much to do before I check out for the next three weeks. I don’t have time for a power outage. Just my luck. Flash. Boom! Flash. Boom! Then it started to pour. What is going on? Chirp! Silence. Chirp! Silence. My smoke alarm was not happy about the power outage either. Ding! My daughter texts me. “What is the chirping all about?” she asks. “The alarm just lost power. Go to sleep,” I say. Easier said than done. I close my door, but I can still hear the chirping. I put in earplugs, but I can still hear it. Finally I put a pillow over my head. Better. I finally drift off to sleep.

I wake up just before 8 and the power is still off. No! I had planned on working at home to save time. No such luck. I guess I will have to drive to my office after all. I pull myself out of bed and head to the bathroom. Click! The fan starts wiring and the lights suddenly flick on. Yes! There is a God! The power is back on. I head to the kitchen, brew a cup of coffee, and sit on the couch with my laptop. There’s so much I need to do on this last day of work. I’m heading out for three weeks, and when I get back I’m moving my office and furnishing a new model home. I create moving plans, send off several emails to keep progress going and clear complete all important items on my task list. Nothing will make coming back to work easy, but every bit helps to make it less hard. OMG! I forgot to set my out of office email setting! Gah! My brain is fried. I’ll have to figure out how to fix that remotely.

David is out of town, so I also had to meet with the pet sitter. My normal pet sitter was busy, so I have a new one this time. She’s a neighbor and we talked way too long. So much for leaving early. By the time we went over everything regarding the two dogs, two cats, and eight chickens, I was an hour behind with more to do before I could head out on the road.

I wish I hadn’t waited to pack until today.  I’m such a procrastinator.  Really I just didn’t want to compress my sleeping quilts too long and I didn’t want to pack my food too early.  Plus it’s hard to pull myself away from the kids. I love them so much, and I just want to spend every minute with them. I’ll miss them. Three weeks is a long time. It took me an hour to pack. Even as I lay here getting ready to go to sleep I wonder; did I forget anything? I hope not.

On The Road

I say goodbye to the dogs, lock up the house, and pull out of the driveway. Here we go! GPS says it will take 4-1/2 hours to get to Lone Pine. Not bad at all. I listen to music, complete a Spanish lesson, call David, and listen to my book on Audible. Before I knew it I was almost to Lone Pine.

Light bulb! My original plan was to leave my car in Lone Pine and hitch a ride after the trail back to my car. Well storing my car in Lone Pine was going to cost $75. I quickly check how much a shuttle will be if I don’t want to hitch. That will be $80. So, back to my lightbulb idea. Why don’t I drive to Whitney Portal, park my car for free, and hitch a ride to town right now. The sun is still up. I’m sure there are hikers just finishing that will give me a ride. Let’s do it! The worst that can happen is I don’t find a ride, I drive back to town, and go back to plan A.

My First Time Hitch-hiking

The drive up to Whitney Portal is longer than I thought it would be. I hope this works. I don’t want to drive back. As I drive I admire the beautiful landscape. The rock formations are so pretty and the stormy clouds with the sun peaking through over the mountains were creating an angelic look over the peaks. My heart starts to race as I get closer. That must be Whitney! It’s beautiful! Ok, I’m not sure if it was Whitney, but it’s close enough. The snow decorates the edges of each peak and the sun shines over the top giving a magical feel. I’ll be there in three weeks. I’m going to climb that! It’s a scary and exhilarating feeling all at once. I can’t believe this is happening.

I pull up to the Whitney portal parking lot and instantly I see two women coming off the trail. Perfect! They look really nice. This might just work. I hurry and park. Running to my trunk I grab my camp clothes, throw them on and set my normal clothes in the backseat. I pack up all my stuff, grab my trash, and lock my car. For a minute I think I have lost them. Then as I’m heading to the restroom I see them also taking a restroom break. Yes! I offer to take a group picture, make small talk, and then pop the question. “Do you have room for one more in your car?” As luck may have it they did. Yes!

I run back to my car to grab my backpack and meet them back at the top. I soon realize that they are super sweet to give me a ride. Their car is not big, and we all have to pack in pretty tight. Off we go! I find out they include two sisters and two friends. One of the sisters had already hiked Whitney, but this was the first time for the rest of them. They hiked out at 3am from the Portal and soon realized this year was different. Less people, more snow, and then it started to rain…then hail… then snow. With the sketchy trail they decide to turn back. So close! Such an accomplishment still. On the 30 minute drive we talk about hiking, backpacking, and the extraterrestrial look of the landscape. We wonder if Star Wars was filmed here. In no time at all, we pull into the town of Lone Pine. My hotel is just across the street from the pizza place the women are going to eat at. What luck. I thank them profusely and then head to my hotel.

Lone Pine

The Whitney Portal Hostel and Hotel doesn’t look like much, but it has everything I need and it’s centrally located. There is a gift shop on the first floor and my room is on the second floor. I’m staying in the girls dormitory. It holds 6 people with 3 bunk beds. Quaint. There is a bathroom with shower, sink, refrigerator, and microwave. Cool! This is better that I thought. Inside is an Asian girl relaxing. She speaks a little English and tells me that she just finished the trail. I tell her that I’m just about to start and she wishes me luck as I tell her congratulations. All the bottom bunks are taken, so that leaves me with the top. Boo! I pick the one in the corner, then head back out to eat dinner.

There is a burger joint across the street. Sounds good. I get seated immediately and order a hot tea and a Hawaiian burger which disappears into my mouth instantly. I realize that I haven’t eaten all day. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that though. My stomach is upset and I feel like I’m going to vomit. Suddenly the top bunk is looking to be a really bad spot to be, but what are you going to do. I sit outside at a picnic table and call David. We chat for awhile about our day and then I head up to get ready for bed.

The room is filled with girls now. We all look pretty exhausted, so nobody talks. I’m just going to get ready for bed and head to sleep. As I go to grab my toothbrush out of my bear can I realize that I’ve already made a mistake. I left my quarter to open the can in my pants that are still in my car. Doh! Luckily I’m not in the woods. I head downstairs to get change for a dollar. Now I’ll have four quarters in case I lose one… or two. Back upstairs I grab my toothbrush, brush my teeth, and crawl into bed. I’ve got an early start tomorrow, so I better get some sleep. Unfortunately sleep was touch and go. I guess I forgot how sucky it is to share a room. Beds constantly squeak and I suddenly feel stressed that my alarm will wake them all in the morning. The anxiety causes me to get little to no sleep at all.

9/11/2023 (Day 0)

Well last night was bogus. I got almost no sleep at all. Luckily I’m not hiking out today. All I need to do is take a bus to Lee Vining and then relax until tomorrow. I’m down with that. At 5:15 I drag myself out of bed. I’m not sure why I got up so early, but the thought of missing my bus didn’t sit well with me. The bed creaked as I rose and I felt bad for the two girls still sleeping. One girl had already gotten up 30 minutes ago, but left for breakfast I’m assuming. I climbed down my tiny ladder and grabbed my bathroom kit. Not really caring what I look like today, all I did was go pee, put on deodorant, and brush my teeth. Good to go! Messy hair, don’t care.

The Eastern Sierra Transit Bus

I headed out the door and down the street. The bus stop was only a 5 minute walk from the hostel. While walking two men yelled across the street, “Where are you headed?” “I’m heading to Tuolumne Meadows,” I say. “I’m starting the JMT.” With that the two men headed across the street my way. They had just finished the JMT and we all know how exciting it is to talk with others that know how it is to be on trail. They told me all about the crazy weather and how they almost didn’t summit Whitney. There was rain, hail, and snow. Sounds like they got caught in the same storm as the women. Unlike the women though, they pushed through, determined to reach the top. They also talked about the river crossing at the bridge that was out. Unfortunately they were not able to cross and had to take the long detour. Overall they had a great trip though and shared a few pictures with me. When we arrived at the bus station I had hoped that the McDonalds was open so I could get a coffee, but no such luck. To my surprise, one of the men went back to his hotel and got me and his friend some coffee. Backpackers are the best!

While at the bus top I saw the girl from my room. She too had just finished the JMT. We all talked some more and the men compared notes and stories with her about the trail. Next came another older woman from Australia. Yet again, she was another hiker that had just finished the Trail. I guess I’m the lone wolf who is just starting. It was great to hear their stories though. We even met a woman who had just completed the High Sierra Trail. What an interesting group they all were.

Soon the bus was there and we piled into the Eastern Sierra Transit. I’m glad I made a reservation. It was a busy day for sure! The drive was long and quiet. I’m sure everyone was exhausted. I wrote in my journal, then closed my eyes for a bit. Soon we were in Bishop and we switched buses. This bus was a bit bigger, but with even more people getting on, we filled it. There was an even mix of locals and hikers and their conversations were equally interesting. Exhaustion soon kicked in and I rested my head on the window. We passed Mammoth, June Lake, and before you knew it, we were in Lee Vining. Here at last!

The bus driver unloaded my pack from the back and thanked his lucky stars that my pack was right in front. What luck! Another stroke of luck hit when I went to look how far my hotel was; only a five minute walk! Score!

El Mono Motel

As I walked up to the El Mono Motel I was pleasantly surprised by the cheerful vibe. Flowers and lush green grass adorned the slope that led up to the porch of the hotel/café. In each nook and cranny there were happy people sipping their coffees, talking, laughing, and eating their treats. Classic rock filled the air. What a hip spot. I’m glad I thoroughly read the reviews. This place is a gem for sure! I went inside and crossed my fingers that my room would be ready, but alas it was not. No worries. I figured as much since it was just barely ten in the morning. Instead, I ordered a caramel latte and a poppyseed loaf to eat on the back garden patio. If I have to be stuck without a room, this is definitely where I want to be. I soaked up the rays for about an hour, but feared I’d soon burn without sunscreen and moved to a wicker loveseat on the deck. Hopefully it won’t be much longer. This girl needs a nap.

Three hours later my room was ready. Yes! I couldn’t wait to just crash on the bed. The moment I walked in the room I was in awe. I don’t know if it was because I was so tired or because of the quaint feel, but I lean more towards the quaintness. It was perfect! Everything looked new and fresh. The bed was covered in a linen duvet of orange, cream, olive, and tan foliage. There was also a tiny electric stove at the end of the bed. Off to the side was a sitting area with a bookcase filled with books about birds and history. The bathroom had a golden hardwood barn door and the shower had a natural river rock floor. I don’t think it could be much more perfect. Now I wish I had stuck with our original plan and David was here. I think he would have liked it too. I’ll have to plan another trip one day.

Getting Organized

I instantly fell deep into the pillowy comfort of the bed. This will be my last night in a bed for a few days. I’m going to soak up every minute! … or not. I’m not much of the relaxing type. It lasted a few minutes and then I decided to organize my pack. I pulled out the whole thing inspecting each item. What better time than to take a pre-hike gear pic! I love gear pictures. It was hard in tight quarters, but I managed. Afterwards I carefully packed each item away, deciding where it was best so I can access them when needed. While inspecting each piece of gear I remembered that I needed to shorten the tie outs on my tarp, which led me to realize that I never dried out my things from my hike in June. The tarp was still damp and slightly musty. Good going Chana! Oh well. At list it didn’t turn black. I cut the ties and threw it on the floor to dry out.

Next I wanted to confirm my bus stop location for tomorrow. Hopefully it’s close. I look up the Mono Basin Visitor’s Center and realize the it’s almost a mile away. Hmmm… I thought it was closer. Next door is the Mono Basin Community Information Center. Maybe that’s it. I walk nextdoor and confirm it is not the correct location. It is in fact about a mile away. Instead there is another much closer location that I should have chosen. How did I mess that up??? Well it’s me, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I make quite a few dumb mistakes. We can fix this. I call the YARTS information center to see if I can switch it. Luckily it’s not too late. She’s able to switch my reservation. Yay! Now I only have to walk 600 feet. You’re probably laughing that I don’t want to walk, but I assure you, the feeling of walking down a street and walking in nature is quite different. I also feel that hiking and backpacking feel different as well. I prefer backpacking to a location vs hiking and ending up back at my car. They both have their pros and cons I suppose, but I’m more of a backpacker.

The Last Supper

Once my reservation was fixed my stomach started to rumble. It was angry at me for only eating a tiny slice of poppyseed bread today. Looking at the clock I saw it was only 3pm. I can’t eat dinner at 3. I push my hunger to 4pm and then I bolt out the door. Just two buildings down was a BBQ joint and it smelled heavenly. I’m a carnivore through and through. You won’t ever see this girl turning vegetarian anytime soon. I pick a spot on the patio and order up a glass of wine with a huge plate of ribs and fries. While I wait I help myself to the soup and salad bar. This meal is going to be epic! Halfway through my soup the ribs come. I have to wipe the drool from my face. Not one spec of meat is left by the time I’m done and my fingers are drenched in sauce. Delicious! I also eat the corn and half the fries. Oh that’s not it though! I also order a huge brownie a-la-mode. Yep, I’m going all out for this last meal. The table of travelers from Poland next to me order up ribs all around after seeing my plate, and the table behind me says that they now have to order the brownie after drooling over mine. LoL! Glad I could help others make good food choices.

The Last Shower

After dinner I head back to my room and jump in the shower. It’s hard to get out of the nice warm water. I’ll miss showers for awhile. I scrub every inch of my body twice and scrub my head with shampoo until I create a pile of suds at least a few inches high. There’s no conditioner so I use lotion. Is that weird? I works I guess. Lastly I scrub the bottom of my foot. I really want this scab to come off. Finally! It breaks free. I’m free! No more scab for me. That sucker took a full 3 weeks to heal. Or was it a month. I’m not sure, but way too long.

Well it’s off to bed for me! Tomorrow is the day. I’m going to unwind by writing in my journal, call David, and hit the hay. Nite!

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Comments 2

  • scooter.pea : Sep 16th

    … Chana, best of luck on your journeys, I will be following you on this one…
    … stay hydrated…

    • Chana Putnam : Sep 19th



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