We were excited to begin our hike on the John Muir Trail! Stepping into the unknown…treasures to behold and mountains to explore. Snow covered passes, waterfalls, cascading rivers and steep, rocky mountains to climb! Warm days and cold nights…dry, dusty air with a touch of dizziness, headache, nauseated stomach…huffing and puffing down the trail! Take some Ibuprofen…ginger…Diamox…and drink lots of water! Still we felt the effects of hiking in higher altitudes…but nothing was going to stop us!
We hiked to the Little Yosemite Campground which is only 4.9 miles down trail. We saw our first momma bear and her cubs along with an occasional mule deer. Passing us up would be several mule teams over the first few days. One rider up front followed by 6 mules carrying their loads of supplies for the wilderness campgrounds.
We settled in to our campsite and later took a trip back to the Merced River to filter water and to bathe in its frigid cold waters. Later that evening the Park Ranger was making his rounds and checking permits. We had questions which he was very helpful to supply an answer. Our plan was to hike up the Half Dome tomorrow and we were going to leave our gear in the bear boxes and retrieve them later. The Ranger suggested that we just carry all of our gear and stash them at the base of Half Dome. This would save us an additional 3 miles of hiking. Sounded doable but what about animals getting into our gear I asked? He told us to separate all of the smelly toiletries along with the food and place it in our bear vaults. Hide the bear vaults in one area and the packs in another…”No problem” he said. It would be a Food Violation if we chose to do it differently. “No Problem”…
We were on trail at 5:20am making our way to the turn off trail for the Half Dome only 1.5 miles away. We decided to carry our packs and do as the Ranger suggested. We hid our packs amongst some downed logs, took pictures to help locate them later and placed our bear vaults in another area. We know to put EVERYTHING that has any smell to it in the vaults! And we did!
Half Dome is a popular granite rock to climb. She stands at 8,842 feet and bears the name Half Dome because of her domed shape. You reach what is called the Sub-Dome by climbing up rock stairs…a very steep climb for many. The final 400′ ascent is steeply up the rock between two steel cables used as handholds. Once on top you have a fairly flat surface to explore and take pictures . You can look down into the valley below or see for miles around. You must have good sticky, rubber type gloves to ascend and descend. They are a necessity! We ate a snack and walked on top for over an hour and a half…then time to go down! We decided to go down face first. Several were now coming up the cables and we descended down with ease.
From the top of the Dome it is 2 miles back to her base…where we had hid our gear. Tiger Lily had approached the packs first and said “It was not good”…the packs had been ripped open and all of our gear laid out in the open! Teeth marks on our Jet Boils…my water filter…teeth marks on my ball cap and on my tent…the sleeping bag that Tiger Lily was using had down feathers all over the ground…nearly every stuff sack had been ripped open…our brand new Thermarest NeoAir sleeping pads had holes…(Tiger Lily had to purchase a new one…and I get up several times during the night to blow mine back up…even after they have been patched and duck-taped) Teeth bite holes in some of our clothing…and our packs…well they are being held together with duck tape…
We were very thankful that our down jackets, rain jackets and my sleeping bag had not been touched. We were told later that when a bear is successful at receiving food…that behavior is repeated time and time again. It wasn’t that we had anything in our packs to lure the bear to it…it is that the bear at one time had successfully done the same thing and did find food. One example given is that there is a female bear in the area that will roll the bear vault to the edge of a cliff, kick it over and go retrieve the food from the cracked open vault.
Tiger Lily and I will press on…this is just a part of the adventure that may happen while out in the backcountry. We were not deterred by it! I always remember what a friend back home, a 2014 AT thru-hiker, “Rowdy” says…”No Adversity…No Adventure”…tis true!
Love to all…
The Double “D” Sisters…as in dehydrated and delirious…or that could be duck-tape and delirious!
When we get home we are going to have a “Gently Used Gear Sale”…just place your fingers over the bear teeth holes on my filter and she still works like a charm! Our packs will have traveled the John Muir Trail covered in silver and you will only have to blow up my air mattress a few times during the night to stay a float! lol lol lol
The thin air is getting to me!