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John Muir Trail

Day 1 of 22

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Thursday, July 16th
Glacier Point to Illilouette Creek
4.8 miles
470 vertical feet (ascent)
1280 vertical feet (descent)
3:20


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Our trip would begin at Glacier Point since I hadn't been able to get a permit starting at Happy Isles. I had read that there would be a mandatory shuttle service to Glacier Point (wilderness permit holders would be exempt). However, at the time we drove along Glacier Point Road this morning, the shuttles hadn't started yet. The parking lot for Taft Point/Sentinel Dome was full, but there was still plenty of parking at the Glacier Point lot when we arrived at 11am. By noon, though, the lot was full.

I had the bright idea of parking near the far outhouse, thinking it might mask any food smells from the car (deterring any bears). Of course we still put any scented items in the bear boxes nearby, in a bag marked with our intended return date. Of course the smells from the outhouse made it bothersome while we prepped (oddly, it didn't smell at all *inside* the outhouse).

I noticed the car next to us had a form on the dash saying they were parking overnight. The ranger hadn't given me anything like that, and I noticed other cars without it (and I know they were backpacking), so I wasn't too worried. Plus, I didn't really want to put a target on my dash telling people I wouldn't be there anytime soon.

After prepping and eating, we got underway around 12:15pm. We walked over to the Glacier Point viewing area, where it was very crowded with tourists milling about. Half Dome stared us in the face, as well as Nevada Fall. It was a great view as always, but we were here to hike. So off to the right we found the trailhead for the Panorama Trail. And off we went!

Half Dome and Nevada Fall from Glacier Point

Panorama Trailhead

The trail climbs very briefly, then starts a long, mostly gradual descent, mostly southward. It's mostly unshaded, and it was a warm day. I had looked at the forecast before I left and it had called for mostly clear the first 3 days, then a chance of rain starting on Sunday.

Half Dome and Nevada Fall from the Panorama Trail

Descending through the forest

The trail was not very crowded at all, especially by Yosemite standards. We only saw a handful of other people on the trail, and I don't know if we saw any other backpackers. After about 2 miles we passed a trail intersection, staying straight (the trail to the left heads to Illilouette Falls). After this intersection, we didn't see anyone else on the trail at all.

Half Dome, Vernal Fall, and Nevada Fall

The trail then roughly parallels Illilouette Creek, high above the creek. Eventually the trail crosses the creek (an easy rock hop for us), then starts to climb through a previously burned area. This was a bit brutal, as we were still getting used to our pack weight and it was now a hot afternoon. Thankfully, the climbing portion was very brief (about 300 feet).

Illilouette Creek

The trail crosses the creek again, where there's an intersection. We took the left fork and came to the creek again. There were some empty campsites nearby (I don't think anyone was camping nearby at this time), but we decided we would cross the creek and camp on the other side. After crossing the creek we couldn't find any decent sites on the other side, so we continued on the trail up to the ridge. Here, we paused at another intersection.

According to my GPS, if we continued along the trail, we'd reach another creek, so we could probably camp ahead. It didn't look far, so we forged ahead. About five minutes later, we changed our minds. Ahead of us we could see the creek bed lay in a burned area, with hardly any trees and not much apparent water. It didn't look like there were any viable campsites.

We turned around and returned to the intersection to look for sites. I noticed what looked like a large flat area slightly downhill to the west. I didn't know how close it was to the water, but it looked promising. We eventually found that it was a great site not that far from the water (which was just down the hill). In fact, we were very pleased with the site and the kids had a great time playing in the creek (which was easy to walk into and play in). We also arrived in camp at 3:30pm, giving us plenty of time to enjoy it.

Playing in Illilouette Creek near our campsite

View to the east from our campsite

We thought we would have the entire place to ourselves, but then around 6:30pm a group of hikers showed up on the other side of the creek. They stayed a bit, then we saw them hike past the intersection toward the burned area. I said out loud, "what are the chances they turn around?" Five minutes later, they had backtracked just like us, and ended up camping next to us. There was plenty of room, though.

After dinner we saw two bucks roam around near our camp - the first two of perhaps two dozen deer we'd see on our trip. Despite the late company, I thought this was a great start to our JMT trip. I thought it might have been our only opportunity to camp alone (I'd heard that many JMT camp sites were crowded), but that was not to be the case. In fact, we'd be very alone on the very next night...

Two deer near our campsite

Deer at our campsite


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