|Hiking the JMT
|It was our third year of
trying to complete the
hike. Back injuries
stopped the first two
years, this was to be the
year we got the monkey
off our back. We
started at North Lake,
which is where we
ended last year. We
drove to Bishop from
Utah along HWY 6 on
Saturday the 5th of July.
It took about 8 1/2
hours. We slept in
Bishop, went to church
on Sunday morning,
then hiked 4 1/2 miles
to Piute Lake.
|It is a fairly steep climb from North Lake Trailhead to Piute
Lake. There is 3 stream crossings, a steep narrow mule
worn trail through the trees, an open shale section and then
the staircase, to reach the ledge to the overview of the
valley below. The trail progresses past several small bodies
of water, and you get to walk past the squid tree ( my name
for it) It was warm and the snow melt was producing wet
trails through a series meadows that led us to Piute Lake.
|I had incorrectly figured the mileage for the distance to the Piute Bridge from North Lake. I had
figured th whole distance was about 15 miles, it was almost 20. The last 4 miles to the bridge are a
killer, steep and very rocky with boulders. We had hiked 15.8 miles at the end of the day and
camped a hundred feet past the bridge. Geoff found a 2" brown scorpion in his tent in the morning.
The trail from Piute Bridge to the Goddard Bridge is some of the easiest trail on the hike. The trail
follows the river and is never steep. It has some rocky sections, but is easily managed as it has
been used a lot and was well maintained. A group of CCC Camp youth were there working on the
trail. I was unaware that the CCC camp still existed, but they told me it had switched from a federal
program to a state program which the state of California had chosen to keep active. This section of
the trail has everything from desert like areas to forested with ferns growing in the undergrowth.
There is a 3rd bridge on this trail, the link between the desert side of the river and the forest side.
After crossing the Goddard Bridge you have about 1/4 mile till the Evolution switchbacks. They are
about a 850 foot climb in elevation. They eventually level out and the trail leads you for a 1/2 mile
to the Evolution crossing. There are actually 3 streams here within about 100 yards. The first has
always been about knee deep for me in the 4 times I have crossed it. This time Teri and I were
ahead of Tom and Geoff so I fished for a while. I caught about a dozen just downstream from the
crossing. There is a great little camping spot about 75 yards past the 3rd stream. We hiked there
with our water gear on and made our gear change and ate out lunch.
Tom was having some energy problems as we stopped here for lunch. He took an hour nap. We did
not understand how sick he was getting and we got impatient. We left them and told them that we
would meet them at Evolution Lake. Teri and I hiked up close to the McClure Ranger station and
stopped by the river to eat and to fish. We were surprised that Tom and Geoff didn't catch us, but
we pressed on. We hiked on past McClure and Colby Meadow, and were heading up the
switchbacks to Evolution. Teri started to get sick. We pushed on for about a 1/2 mile past the big
water crossing on the switchbacks, and she could go no more. We set up camp overlooking the
valley from where we had just come. I found that Teri was ill because she was calorie starved.
|My hiking buddy was
my daughter Teri, the
other two in our
group were Tom and
his son Geoff. Tom
and I are 54 yrs
old.Teri is 17 and
Geoff is 31. Teri and I
were about 40
minutes behind Tom
and Geoff. Teri was
having a tough start.
Her trecking pole
wouldn't lock in place,
so we had to tape it.
She had a new pack,
boots and hadn't
gotten much sleep
the night before. We
found Tom at a
camping spot by
Piute Lake. We set
up camp and got
some rest and food.
After a good nights
sleep, we woke up to
a glorious morning. A
clear sky, no breeze,
what a great picture
of the reflection of
the rangers cabin on
The trail was wet as
we hiked up to the
top of Piute Pass.
We sat down for a
break and breakfast
and had a helicopter
that kept buzzing us.
It was the sheriff. We
found out later that
there were 4
individuals lost in the
JMT zone. All were
The trail was often
flooded as we hiked
along. I saw two
different kinds of
toads above the
mountain on the left
is the same view that
I took last year of the
snow that spelled
I caught 10 small
fish, 5 Brooks, 5
Golden Trout during
breaks we took along
this trail. By the time
we exited to our cars,
I had caught 111
trout. These 5 Brook
Trout were the only
Brooks i caught the
whole trip. Everything
else were Golden.
|I got Teri to eat
better and we took
pictures and went to
bed. No sign of Tom.
The next morning I
having left Tom
when suddenly they
were there coming
up the trail below our
tent. They came and
rested for awhile,
and told us that they
had camped just a
1/2 hour behind us.
While Teri and I
cleared our camp
Tom and Geoff went
on. Tom was having
a terrible time with
no energy, and not
feeling well. We met
up with them about
2/3 the way around
where Tom was on
his bedroll resting
|I went and caught 5 fish from the lake, and came back and cooked them. We ate those so I caught 6 more and we ate them. Tom and Geoff
left Teri and I to clean up and we soon caught them. The picture just above shows Teri crossing the creek inlet to Evolution Lake. Click on
that picture and you will see that it also shows is that Tom is laying on the ground just past the edge of the water. We were unaware he was
there as I took this picture. We were also unaware of how dire the problems were that Tom was experiencing.
After I crossed I asked Tom how he was doing. He was on the verge of tears as he squeaked out, "not good".
Our goals suddenly changed for this trip. Getting Tom out safely became our focus. His dad had died with heart problems when he was
about 1 year older than Tom was, and we were afraid that this could be problems of that kind.
The four of us are Mormons, or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and worthy male members of our
church hold the Priesthood of God. As a priesthood holder I have been part of many marvelous events. This became one of
them. I said to Tom "We could give you a blessing." He responded that at some point that would be good. I said "now would
be a good time". He said "OK".
The process of giving a blessing includes two parts. There is the anointing with oil and with prayer, and the sealing of the
anointing, by another priesthood holder and a blessing given, once again done through prayer. Tom asked me to do the
anointing and Geoff to do the sealing and blessing.
As Teri handed me the consecrated oil from the first aide kit, the spirit of the lord was poured out upon us. All four of us
started to cry as we knew that God was with us and aware of our needs at that moment.
As I anointed and prayed I could barely speak as the tears, and the Goodness of God overpowered my physical body.
Geoff Sealed the anointing and gave his father a blessing. Geoff too was overcome with the spirit, and was directed by the
spirit to bless Tom with health and strength enough to safely return to his family.
After the blessing we all sat around for a while and talked about how strong the spirit had been poured out upon us.
We gathered our things and hiked to Sapphire Lake, where we set up camp.
give you a larger
The trail to Sapphire Lake was easy going.
The hard part was deciding what to do. Tom was not going to be able to make the whole trip. What we were thinking at this time was that we
would hike out Bishop Pass and to South Lake. This was a little shorter than going back the way we came, but the thing that was on Toms
mind was the two passes that we would need to pass. Tom didn't know if he could handle them. We spent the night thinking about it.
I had a great desire to go over Muir Pass. I had kicked myself a million times for deciding to go out Piute Pass last year after hurting my back
at the Evolution Meadow triple crossing. We had camped for 36 hours at the same location that we had put on our dry gear this year, then
went back and out North Lake. My desire to cross Muir Pass was causing me to pressure Tom to go out through Bishop Pass. He finally said
that Teri and i could go on and he and Geoff would go back to North Lake and get my car and meet us at the Portal with it.
I had several things flash through my mind. One was that I said earlier that I had made a mistake leaving them behind. Another was when two
years before Tom gave me the instructions that if he should die on the trail that I was to drag him off the trail, sit him up overlooking a valley,
take GPS coordinates of where he was, then to leave him there and give the coordinates to his wife and tell her that is where he is. I didn't
want to have that conversation with her, nor did I want to explain to her why when he was so sick that I left him and Geoff on their own to get
back. We came up with a compromise. Tom and Geoff would hike back to where Teri and I had stayed on the switchbacks, and Teri and I
would hike with day packs to Muir Pass and take some pictures, then go back to Sapphire and get the rest of our stuff and hike down and
meet them at the camp site. Teri and I got our things and away we went. They got their stuff packed and headed the other way.