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John Muir Trail

Day 4 of 22

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Sunday, July 19th
Upper Cathedral Lake to Evelyn Lake Junction
12.2 miles
1250 vertical feet (ascent)
1950 vertical feet (descent)
9:00


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GPX File

Today would be our first resupply. We started the hike at Glacier Point with 4 days/3 nights of food. Today we'd get our resupply from the Tuolumne Meadows post office. As we had learned from the post office workers, we needed to arrive before 1pm to get our resupply in the most timely fashion. As the trip to Tuolumne Meadows is mostly downhill from Cathedral Lake, we didn't think there would be a problem.

We left camp at around 8:30am. While the trail was mostly downhill, there was a small bit of uphill (about 150 feet) at the beginning. But then the steep descent started. Along the way we passed lots of backpackers and day hikers coming in the opposite direction. Upper Cathedral Lake is only about 3.5 miles from the trailhead on Tioga Road. We passed a family of 4 (including two boys ages 10 and 14) who were also doing the JMT, having started at Mono Meadow. They were also planning to camp in Lyell Canyon today (which was our destination). The younger boy seemed to be having a harder time, though, as we passed him resting with his mom well back of the other two. We did not see them again on our JMT trip; I hope they finished.

Descending toward Tioga Road

Stream

As we neared Tioga Road, a large train of horses and riders came riding up the trail. After waiting for them to pass, we turned right to stay on the trail that parallels the road. The road goes up and down. Eventually we veered left to enter the Tuolumne Meadows campground, following the campground road as it roughly parallels Tioga Road. Eventually we cut over to the side of Tioga Road just before the gas station, then walked along the road the remaining distance to the post office and store. We found an empty picnic table and put everything down at about 11:30am. We'd hiked about 5.5 miles and still had at least 6 miles to go for the day.

Unicorn Creek near Tuolumne Meadows campground

As usual, the store and grill were very busy. We stepped into the grill to get cheeseburgers and fries. Jean went into the store at around 12pm and managed to get our resupply early. This was good, since it would take us a while to repack everything.

Getting ready to unpack our resupply at Tuolumne Meadows

We opened the three five-gallon buckets and went about the task of stuffing them into our 4 bear canisters, ditching stuff we no longer needed. As I had packed a little extra food for the first leg, I now had a bucket full of extra food we didn't need (or at least couldn't fit). I found out that there's a box of free stuff for PCT hikers inside the store, but when I went to dump our stuff there, a note said the box was "out of control" and not to leave anything. So I went around asking if anyone needed anything. I saw the couple we'd seen on Day 2, but they didn't need anything. They'd stayed at Sunrise the previous night and were planning to stay in Tuolumne Meadows tonight. I was just about to throw everything away when a man approached me and asked if it was all packaged food (it was), and he took it off my hands. I was happy it didn't go to waste.

We got back on the "trail" at 1:20pm. Well, not exactly trail, but at least hiking. We started off on Tioga Road heading east, then turned right into the edge of the campground. I knew from the map that this would eventually lead to the trail and then to the JMT. Meanwhile, the clouds had moved in and rain was threatening as previously forecast. We had put on all our rain gear while at the picnic table - pack covers, rain pants, gaiters, rain jackets. It turned out to be rather uncomfortably warm with all this on, though, and we ended up stopping and taking most of it off.

We reached the end of the campground road and got back on the trail, which heads up Lyell Canyon along the river. After about 0.8 miles, we rejoined the JMT, which had done a circuitous route past the visitor center, across Tioga Road into Tuolumne Meadows itself, back across Tioga Road and then across the river. We'd seen the meadow before, though, so we weren't disappointed in missing this section of the JMT. I would venture a guess that most JMT hikers probably skip it since the official trail avoids the store and grill.

Lembert Dome

Lembert Dome

As we got back onto the JMT, a man and two teenagers were coming in the opposite direction. The man somehow identified me, recognizing me from my web site, which he had used. I don't have a lot of pictures of myself on the site, so it was probably a combination of me, my wife, and the two boys. He identified himself as Bruce, and he was hiking with his daughter and her friend. They'd started their hike in Mammoth. That was kind of neat/strange. I wouldn't have been surprised if more people had recognized me on the trail, but he was the only one to do so on this trip (or at least the only one who approached me).

Hiking into the forest with pack covers on

The distant thunder started at 2pm. We put on our rain gear again and endured a little bit of rain as we hiked along the river. The rain let up, but then it got worse around 4pm. It was pretty much constant from 4pm to 7pm. Along the way, parts of the trail were flooded and it got a little cold, but it was all manageable.

Mountains above Lyell Canyon

We had views of meadows, the river, and the mountains to the east. We saw hikers coming in the opposite direction using various strategies to beat the rain - pack covers, garbage bags, even an umbrella.

Lyell Fork

Lyell Canyon

Meadow in Lyell Canyon

We finally neared the Evelyn Lake junction and saw two tents set up. We started looking for a camp site. We found a large site with a fire ring that we were going to take, but despite the large area we couldn't find a place that wasn't slanted. We ended up relocating to a much smaller but flatter site nearby. Another, larger group came in later and took the site we abandoned. There were only about 4 groups of campers in the area that night.

It was difficult to set up camp while it was still cold and raining, but we managed to put up the tent quickly. There was easy access to water, as a stream (probably Ireland Creek) was flowing strongly across the trail nearby. Eventually the rain stopped around 7pm and we were able to cook and enjoy our dinner.

The kids had hiked and camped in cold and rainy conditions before, and didn't complain at all. However, I admit to being rather wet and cold and hoping that the weather would be better the next day. It didn't help that I didn't want to get caught in a thunderstorm on Donohue Pass the next day, so we planned an early start - I set the alarm for 5:45am.


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