Friday, September 5, 2008


We left Reno on August 13 for Yosemite National Park to start the John Muir Trail. This was to be by far the longest backpacking trip we’ve done and we spent many hours over the summer preparing for it – hiking and doing exercises to get in shape, planning, shopping for and packing food (nearly 120,000 calories!), organizing resupplies of food and other consumables, downsizing our backpacking gear, etc. Our plan was to hike north to south in 17 days with three resupplies along the way – at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, at Reds Meadow Resort near Devils Postpile National Monument, and at Muir Trail Ranch. After all this planning and preparation, we were quite excited to be so close to finally starting our trip.

Our first task in Yosemite was to acquire a permit for the hike. Some of the permits are reservable months in advance, but since we hadn’t reserved one, we were left trying to snag two of the daily first-come-first-serve permits out of Yosemite Valley. After driving in from Reno and dropping off our resupply packages at the Reds Meadow Resort and the Tuolumne Meadows post office, we set up camp at Hodgdon Meadows for a brief night’s sleep. We got up at 3:00 am for the final drive into Yosemite Valley to camp out in front of the Wilderness Center to get our permit.

We got to the Wilderness Center shortly after 4:00 am to find that there were already several people lying in sleeping bags on the steps waiting for permits. We set up our camp chairs and settled in for a few hours’ wait.

As the sun finally rose, there was a line behind us, including one guy who was planning to hike the whole JMT in 6 days!

We felt pretty good about getting our permit until we learned that two of the people ahead of us represented a group of nine. Thankfully, they were looking for a different type of permit than we were.

Finally, the office opened and we got our permit. Whew!

After that, we drove over to the backpackers’ camp to set up. The backpackers’ camp is basically a large group site that is saved for backpackers the night before or after their trip. There were oodles of other people there and we were afraid it would be noisy, but as it turned out, most people were hiking out early the next morning so it was really quite quiet.

After we’d set up our tent, we went to the post office to mail a couple of packages. There, we discovered that a new Yosemite stamp was debuting that day and you could get a special first-day cancellation. We bought an extra envelope and stamp to save.

We spent the rest of the day making final preparations for our trip. Because bears are a problem in the valley, we spent a lot of the time cleaning out the car. We needed to get all the food, toiletries, and anything else that might smell corralled into bins to be left in a bear locker at the trailhead. We also spent a bunch of time at the laundromat washing blankets that we were afraid had some residual odors from being stored near toiletries. Finally, we finished cleaning, put a sheet over everything in the car to make it look less interesting to passing bears, and parked Caroline in the backpackers’ lot. Exhausted from an early morning and a long day, we went back to our camp and collapsed.

We were up bright and early again the next day, anxious to start our big trek. We packed our backpacks and stopped by our car on the way to the trail to drop off a few things. Much to our horror, when we got to our car, we discovered it had been “beared” overnight!

The black bears in Yosemite are notoriously badly behaved. Since the backcountry camps have been cleaned up and are no longer a source of food for the bears, the trailhead parking lots have become the “bear buffets”. A bear had opened our door like a pop can and climbed in the car looking for food. You might think that the bear would have trashed the inside of the car as well, but thankfully it did no damage at all inside. Some bags were moved around, but nothing was shredded, opened, or otherwise destroyed. Sadly, the outside of our car was not in good shape.

A park volunteer took our incident report and sent us over to the garage to have them patch up our window. We still weren’t sure what we were going to do, because clearly we couldn’t leave our car in the parking lot for the duration of our hike in its current state. Even if patched with cardboard and plastic, we weren’t comfortable leaving it for so long.

After some debate, we decided that we’d have the car towed out of the park to be fixed while we were hiking. This would solve two problems – our car would be fixed by the time we finished the trail and it wouldn’t be sitting in Yosemite and subject to the bears’ aggression in that time. The people at the garage were very helpful and went out of their way to help us find a good body shop that could fix our car.

We carefully drove the car back to Tuolumne where the tow truck could pick it up. Sitting in the parking lot, it created quite a stir as lots of people stopped to gawk and take photos. Poor Caroline!

Finally, the tow truck arrived and off Caroline went to get a new door. A nice couple, Julie and Dennis, that we met while waiting, was going to Yosemite Valley and offered us a ride back, which we happily accepted. Along the way, we stopped at some scenic overlooks and saw Bridalveil Falls.

Finally back in Yosemite Valley, it was too late to start our hike that day so we went back to the backpackers’ camp to set up again. We’d try again the next day to start our trip. What a day it’d been!

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Thank you for the pictures. To be honest, he did less damage than I was envisioning.

Cannot wait until you come visit!!!!