John Muir Trail (JMT)

Originally, my best friend and I planned to hike the entire John Muir Trail (JMT) over 4 weeks, starting in late August 2015 (known as a “thru hike”).  Due to an injury and schedule conflicts, we realized that we would have to break the hike into a handful of trips.  Regardless, we spent a considerable amount of time planning for this adventure and I thought it would be helpful to share with others planning for the same epic hike!  Note: I am not a super rugged camper.  I can camp and hike with the best of them, but I do like to have a few small comforts along the way.  Basically, these recommendations apply to the average hiker (I couldn’t do ultra light).

First off, you will need a permit to hike most of the JMT and they definitely check.  A ranger asked my brother and I for our on the last day of my second JMT excursion.  Play by the rules, or else risk a hefty fine.  When we had to cut our trip shorter, we discussed with the ranger while picking up our permit and they were able to amend the days on the spot.  So basically, request a permit for the maximum amount of time you plan to spend hiking the JMT, and you can always whittle it down later.

Step 1: Request a permit.  This is the PERMIT WEBSITE.  You can begin requesting them exactly 24 weeks (168 days) before your requested start/entry date.  Be on the ball with this as the permits are in high demand and will likely be gone for your day if you don’t submit exactly 168 in advance.  You have to fax in the form or get someone on phone.  I ended up using a free online fax program (Nextiva or eFax) to send my request once every morning (I sent at 8am every morning).  It took me about a week of trying every day in order to get a successful permit.  So plan on building a buffer around your start date, for personal planning.  Only one person from your party should apply each day.

You will also need to know your start and end trailheads.  Our preferred trailheads were:

  • ENTRY: Happy lsles->Sunrise/Merced Lake Pass Through (meaning we had to hike a very long first day from Happy Isles up past the main camp to the Sunrise area.  A longer hike day, but higher probability of getting a permit).
    • First night camp: Sunrise Creek
  • EXIT: Whitney Portal (this is the exit trailhead for those planning to cover the whole JMT and hike Mount Whitney at the end).
  • Exit Yosemite Park via Donohue Pass – YES
  • Half Dome permit – NO (we weren’t going to do this side hike as a part of our trip)

We put in a few other entry trailhead options, with corresponding camp sites (in case our first choice wasn’t available).

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Example JMT Permit (full hike)

Step 2: Planning.  Once you receive the glorious confirmation email telling you that your permit has been reserved, now you can start planning the logistics.

  • Plan to have someone pick up your permit the day before the hike begins (so that you can get an early start on entry day).  We picked ours up at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center (open daily 8:30 am to 4 pm.) – Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Rd, Yosemite National Park, CA 95321.
  • Arrange to drop one car at the exit portal and one at the entry portal and leave them for the entirety of your hike.  Another option is public transportation or having a friend pick you up at the exit or drop you at the start.
  • Purchase or rent a bear canister.  This is required!  I got mine here and loved it: BEAR CANISTER.  I loved that it is clear so I could see everything inside.  Additionally, it’s lighter than most options and the lid doubles as a pan for cooking!
  • Get your gear.  Below is the gear list I created for our trip (I carried way too much on my first excursion on the JMT…then I leaned the list out based on the experience.  You really do not need as much as you think you do!  A light pack is key.)
  • Full JMT Notes
    • Total mileage: 221 miles
    • Plan on < 15 miles/day (we averaged about 10 miles/day)
    • 20-25 lb max for your pack
    • Expect cooler nights (esp at higher elevations)
      • Day: 65-70 degrees
      • Night: 30-45 degrees

Erin’s Packing List:

  • Camping
    • Cooking supplies
      • Stove (jetboil)
      • Stove fuel canisters
      • Dish soap (Dr. Bronners or Campsuds)
      • Dish sponge
      • Spork
      • Pot (lid of bear canister?)
      • Coffee Mug
      • Firestarter/lighter
      • Purification Drops (AquaMira) or Steripen
    • Bear canister
    • Sleeping
      • Camp pillow
      • Sleeping bag
      • Sleeping bag liner
      • Tent
      • Thermarest
      • Thermarest chair converter
      • Headlamp + batteries
    • Navigation
      • Map
      • Compass
  • Clothes
    • Warm coat/Insulating layer – down and/or wool (no ski jacket)
    • Fleece jacket (synthetic)
    • Rain coat – waterproof shell
    • Waterproof pants
    • Thin inner socks (polypropylene)
    • Thick outer socks (NO COTTON – preferably wool with high density loops)
    • Light boots with quality insoles (ArchCrafters)
    • Synthetic underwear (3 pair)
    • Cotton underwear (for night – 2 pair)
    • Long underwear (wool preferred)
    • Pants that convert to shorts (1)
    • Dryfit tops (2-3)
    • Quick-dry sports bra (2)
    • Warm pajamas (fleece)
    • Comfy socks/slippers for night (1)
    • Warm hat & gloves
  • Accessories
    • First Aid Kit
      • Moleskin
      • Hand sanitizer
      • Large safety pin
      • Neosporin
    • Wearables
      • Hat (that covers back of neck)
      • Bandanna
      • Small towel (dries quick)
      • Sunglasses (polarized)
      • Watch
      • Trekking Poles
    • Toilet Paper
    • Extra ziplocks
    • Garbage bag
    • Camera
    • Duct tape
    • Water bottles or Camelbak
    • Superglue
    • Toiletries (nothing scented!)
      • Toothbrush + Paste
      • Soap
      • Shampoo/conditioner
      • Chapstick
      • Nail clippers
      • Medications (Ambien, pain, inhaler, diarrhea)
      • Tampons (?)
      • Sunscreen
      • Bug spray
    • Baby Wipes
    • Rescue Devices
      • Whistle
      • Compact mirror
    • JMT trail book
    • Book to read
    • Deck of cards

Step 3: Food List.  This will definitely take some planning if you are aiming to hike the entire trail.  You will want to ship food supplies packages in advance to you various stops.  It’s nice to bring some fresh vegetables and fruit for the first few days.  We were also surprised to find that we were less hungry the higher and longer we hiked in elevation.  So we definitely overpacked on food, which made our bags super heavy!  My favorite foods along the hike were peanut butter packets, string cheese, beef jerkey, dried pineapple and mango, chocolate anything, oatmeal, and instant mashed potatoes.  We found that the less intensive the prep/cooking/cleanup was, the more we enjoyed the meal. 🙂  Emergen-C, lemonade and crystal light packets were phenomenal for covering the taste of the purification drops in our water.

Food Packing List Ideas:

  • Trader Joes or buy in bulk (~2lb/day)
    • Quick cooking grains & flavors
      • Couscous
      • Quinoa
      • oatmeal
    • Tuna + mayo packets
    • Nuts
    • Dried berries
    • Trail Mix
    • Powdered coconut milk
    • Powdered milk
    • Curry powder (and other packet seasonings)
    • Instant hot chocolate & tea
    • Oranges
    • Hard candies
    • Protein/electrolyte pouches
    • Freeze dried food
    • Water Flavor (crystal lite)
    • String cheese
    • Jerky
    • Tortillas
    • Energy Bars
    • Salami and sliced meats
    • Granola
    • Small candy
    • Mac & cheese
    • Instant soups
    • “Tasty Bite” – Indian food packs
    • Fresh veggies (for first few nights)
    • Freeze dried meals
    • Chocolate
    • Emergen-C
    • Cheeze its
    • Peanut butter
    • Sweet potato chips (salty)
    • Dehydrated foods
    • Instant pancake mix + syrup (spatula?)
    • Ramen noodles
    • Pop tarts
    • Instant mashed potatoes

Notes I gathered from various sites that proved very helpful:

  • Choose the right foods: Dense, high-calorie options are best: Tortillas instead of bagels; dried fruit instead of oranges.
  • Plan every meal: Avoid bringing too much (or too little). Lay out each day, divide portions, and pre-measure mixed foods like rice and pasta.
  • Repackage: Get rid of bulky boxes and inflated packaging. Put food and toiletries into resealable bags or small containers. This saves space and reduces garbage. Make sure to keep the instructions and label each item.
  • Check that it fits: Before you start your trip make sure ALL your food, trash, toiletries, and scented items will fit inside your canister on the first night.
  • Carry the first day’s food outside of the canister: Snacks, lunch, and dinner. Just be sure to keep that food with you at all times.
  • Minimize your toiletries: Just like food, pack small and don’t bring more than you need. Put toothpaste, sunscreen, bug repellent, etc. into small reusable containers.
  • Use your canister correctly: Establish your kitchen about 50 feet from your sleeping area. Make sure to properly close the lid securely at all times. Leave the canister on the ground in an open flat area away from cliffs or streams.
  • All scented items (food, toiletries, and garbage) must fit inside the canister when left unattended.img_1940

Step 4: Ship food packages to desired pitstops.  Check out each location’s website to determine exact instructions and timeline of when to send.  Most plan to send 3-5 days of food.

Resupply Points:

  • Address your package to:
    • YOUR NAME; c/o General Delivery; Address of the Resupply Point; HOLD UNTIL (date)
  1. Tuolumne Meadows (22.8 miles)
  2. Red Meadows Resort/Mammoth Post Office (59.2 miles) – redsmeadow.com
    • $35 for mailed packages (pick up btwn 7am and 7pm)
    • Red’s Meadow; PO Box 395; Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
  1. Vermilion Valley Resort (88 miles) *Difficult to get to; NOT ideal
  2. Muir Trail Ranch (107.9 miles) – page 25 – muirtrailranch.com
    • $65/25lb bucket (5 gallon paint canister drum)
    • Has power strip to recharge electronics
    • Store carries fuel, batteries
    • Lodging available for a fee with reservation
    • Muir Trail Ranch; PO Box 176; Lakeshore, CA 93634
  1. Independence (179.4 miles)

In my research, it seemed the best options for resupply were:

  • Tuolumne Meadows (if you have a resupply package here, you can carry very minimal weight for your first few days.  This is awesome because you will be gaining a lot of elevation in those days and you will feel every pound!).  Tuolumne Meadows is right off the trail, so not much of a detour.
  • Red Meadows Resort.  Good place to stock up on your next resupply…
  • Muir Trail Ranch.  Excellent resupply point, basically marking the halfway point on the trail.  You can make a reservation to sleep there for a night or two, if desired.  You will want to send the largest resupply package here as most try to go from here through the end at Whitney without stopping again.  (Independence resupply is considerably off the trail so would cost you some time to get there).

Step 4: HIKE!  Our two short hiking adventures on the JMT are outlined below.

MILEAGE CHECKPOINTS


 

JMT – Part 1: August 2015: Happy Isles to Tuolumne Meadows (21 miles) ROUTEimg_2102

  • Day 1 – woke up at the crack of dawn in order to take our time on the continuous ascent.  Gorgeous views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome.
    • Camp: Near Sunrise Creek, just past the fire-ravaged forest. img_2108
  • Day 2 – we had a fitful sleep as a bear tried to eat the stove of our neighbor’s fullsizerender-1campsite!  We woke with the sun and made our way to Cathedral Lakes (our second camp site).  The meadows outside Tuolumne are stunning.  They seem to go on endlessly.  We passed Sunrise High Sierra Camp, where we stopped for lunch.  We got to Cathedral Lakes fairly early, which gave us a pleasant break.  We swam in the frigid water and set up camp.  We enjoyed hot chocolate by the water’s edge and played cards.  Perfect end to an excellent day.
    • Camp: Cathedral Lakes (this is a MUST.  We could have stared at the mountain reflection all day)
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  • Day 3 – Due to the stress of the injury, we decided to hike out at Tuolumne Meadows. From there we grabbed the bus back to Happy Isles, where we picked up our entry car.  We enjoyed greasy pizza and celebrated with a glass of wine.  We then drove to get our second car from our planned exit point (Mammoth – Red’s Meadow).img_2213

JMT – Part 2: August 2016: Lyell Canyon (Tuolumne Meadows) to Devil’s Postpile (31 miles) ROUTE

  • Day 1 – hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Lyell Canyon.  Stunning!  Words cannot describe the vast open meadows and the sudden build of the mountains at Donohue Pass.  My brother and I opted to camp just before the footbridge that begins the ascent to Donohue Pass.  Lovely campsite that felt very secluded and close to a great water source.  A few deer even visited our campsite.
    • Camp: Lower Lyell (before the footbridge)img_6590

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      Our favorite view in the meadows.  Too bad you aren’t allowed to camp here!

  • Day 2 – Our plan was to hike over Donohue Pass and onward to Island Pass, where we would stay the night.  Yet, as fate would have it, another conflict required us to shorten the excursion.  So we opted to pack up our camp and leave all the gear at our camp site.  We then took light daypacks and hiked up to the pass to take in the views.  Totally worth it!  We practically ran down the mountain back to our campsite.  From there, we picked up our packs and hiked back out at Tuolumne.  An intense 18-mile day!
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    On the ascent to Donohue’s Pass

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    Upper Lyell…had we known, we might have camped here!

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    Donohue’s Pass!

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    My brother and I…another successful trek!

If you have any questions, please reach out at any time!  Happy to provide any insight on camp sites, mileage, packing lists, etc.  Bit by bit, I will get through this whole trail. 🙂

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

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Rafting the Colorado River – Grand Canyon (September Launch)

Upon returning to the world of technology, hot showers and flushing toilets, I wanted to share our inspiring adventure from the last three weeks rafting down the Colorado River, inside the Grand Canyon.  These excerpts come directly from my highly-classified journal.  For those not aware of my journal entry style, I assign a title to each of the 18 days of the trip, along with daily highlight.  Here goes!

Type of Trip: Self-planned on a private permit, 18 people among 5 rafts, used food service company to plan meals

Dates: September 2006

Hotel: The great outdoors!  Phantom Ranch is a great half way point to hike in/out

Transport: Fly into Phoenix and drive to the launch point via shuttle/personal car.

Day 1: “The Launch”  Lee’s Ferry in Marble Canyon

  • Final rigging of the rafts, rafting a bit too long and having to eat PB&J sandwiches in the dark….mmmmm, yum.  Everyone reveals their instrument (required by our trip leader…the Coyote, aka my uncle).  Dick manages to misplace his trumpet mouthpiece in the sand, sad being that it is only our first night.  The first box of fine Merlot is cracked open.

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Day 2: “Dancing for Twizzlers” Rider Canyon, just below House Rapid

  • The “young boat”, manned by oarsman Jess and passengers Matt and myself…established a fun game in order to prove one’s worthiness of a highly coveted Twizzler – dancing.  Chris’ boat was also quite competent at the game.  Soon, all boats were participating as a silly method to stay warm as our first few days were chilly and rainy.  This day marked the famous birth of the “underwear tree” (our clothes were perpetually wet), when beef stroganoff became a regular in the leftovers, the “Birthday song” made its debut, and “ziplocking” became a verb.  Group dance parties by the camp fire becomes a regular evening event, along with group jam sessions (Jess brought an electric piano, Matt – guitar, me – flute).  Apparently, if one is to depart on a river excursion and there is a portable, battery-operated piano along, it is in your best interest to memorize the words to Poison’s “Every Rose Has it’s Thorn”.  Lastly, Brian was the victim of a stealth robbery of his food bag…between those ringtails, scorpions, and soon-to-be-discovered vicious tent carolers…one must always sleep with one eye open.
  • Day hike: North Cyn – it rained quite a bit that day, but we were still able to explore a lot of the canyon.  We sought refuge under a large rock outcrop and had lunch there.

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Day 3: “Three Chipmunks Band” Shinumo Wash, Red Wall Cavern.

  • Slow rapids day though the “Roaring 20’s” rapid definitely left its mark on the Hafner boat, Grand Canyon Trash Tours 2006 043with Linda at the helm.  In the Red Wall Cavern, the musical instruments saw their second appearance.  Pictures do not do the cavern justice – it is an enormous amphitheater carved out by high river flows.  A must stop for lunch.  I completed my first successful “high side” maneuver today – where you avoid flipping a raft in rapids by throwing all our weight up against the high side of the boat.  We finished off the day with Mike’s delicious halibut.
  • Day hike: Red Wall Cavern – Located along river mile 33, Redwall Cavern is a ginormous ampitheater carved by high river flows into the Canyon’s limestone walls. From afar, the cave looks deceptively small, especially compared to the towering cliff above it. It’s not until you get out of the raft and start walking into the gaping expanse, and keep walking and walking, that you realize just how impressive it is. John Wesley Powell estimated that it could hold upwards of 50,000 people. Modern estimates are considerably smaller, but this sandy cavern is still large enough to play an epic game of baseball or frisbee.

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Day 4: “Commencement of the Water Wars” Nankoweap Ruins (~mile 40-53)

  • The river version of the Wild Wild West was born with the attack on Chris.  The plot and perfect execution of the attack by assailants, Jess and Erin, wrecked havoc on the Coyote Crew of 16.  Chris was standing on his raft, gazing off into the canyon walls (typical), when Jess strategically asked if there was a rapid approaching…both parties knowing full-well that there were no rapids for miles.  All the same, Chis stood puzzled, and turned his head for a split second.  In that second, a bucket of icy chocolate water soaked him from head to toe.  Erin, grinning devilishly, clenched the empty bucket…and two significant events occurred simultaneously: the beginning of the 1,000 year was and the nickname “Precious”.  This day also marked the beginning of our bocce ball obsession.  With a crew of adventure junkies and engineers, a new game was fashioned “Extreme Bocce” (names for it’s difficult, rock-laden courses).  Soon to follow – “Night Bocce”, with the reigning champions “Dos Beeches”.  For a sentimental reminder, the stars.  The stars. The stars.  Just wow, I have never seen a night sky the rivals the beauty of endless stars, shooting stars, planets, constellations and satellites.  So vividly cool.
  • Day hike: Nankoweap Ruins – super awesome Indian ruins carved into the side of the cliffs.  Incredible history lesson, and the views of the Colorado river from this spot are stunning.

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Day 5: ” This is one big ditch!” miles 53-71

  • Nurse Mol (my mother) went overboard in Tanner!  Thus, the cocktail clinic opened a little late this day.  Mom and Brian were thrown overboard on a monster wave in the middle of the rapid.  They were washed a ways downstream, only to be rescued by Woody in the ducky (kayak) in knee deep water.  Alliances began to form in the water wars.  All teams were suicide diving…going for legs, empty buckets, wristwatches…whatever they could get their hands on.  Julie’s ruthless commitment to the war gained her the title “Zena, the Warrior Princess”.  The name stuck until we realized another Backbuster had already claimed that name, so Julie’s was promptly changed to “Athena, Goddess of Justice”.  That woman knows revenge.  Dick coins the phrase “This is one big ditch!”, referring to the Canyon.

Day 6: “Poisidon’s Revenge” miles 71-87, including Hance Rapid

  • The oarsmen had their first scouting session just before the Hance Rapid (9/10 on the rapid scale) to determine how we should approach and tackle the beast.  Every oarsman had a specific method of attack.  Chuck always managed the courage to go first and be the “probe”.  Chris needed his angels down in the bow. Grand Canyon Trash Tours 2006 144 John needed absolute silence on his boat.  Coyote has a calm that manages to make one forget that they were in a smaller boat with a leak on the bottom.  Jess threw on his lucky bandana and smiled reassuringly.  Christine turned, non-chalantly, towards the dukcy and got ready to take Hance head-on.  Needless to say though, I think everyone was a little nervous despite appearances.
  • The aftermath: Jess, Matt and Erin were thrown out, Coyote was washed overboard, and Christine swam nearly all of the monster.  Jess somehow managed to hoist himself back into his own boat, row out of the rapid and rescue Matt…all in a matter of about 20 seconds.  Wendy, Julie and Chris graciously saved me and agreed to a temporary truce in the water war.  Christine was ultimately rescued as well, after a few unsympathetic encounters with boulders in the rapid.  I was pretty shaken up afterwards, and gagging on water for a while after.
  • Day hike: Clearwater Creek – on of the canyon’s best kept secrets.  We had the whole place to ourselves!  Great waterfall at the end.

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**Reflections on the first half of the trip**

The biggest challenge of the first half (before Phantom Ranch) was getting to know everyone in the group and discovering each other’s comfort zones.  We spent a lot of time rowing the flat water, with little current, and learning how to prepare the meals and pack/unpack our bags.  A lot of work to do, little day light to work with (9pm being absolute bedtime) and I obviously cannot ignore the fact that whenever there was a lull in the conversation, “Groover chat” came up (the Groover is our portable toilet).  The women wanted to Groover set up in hidden forested areas, emphasizing privacy.  The men, on the other hand, preferred the edges of vistas, with great views…great views for the groover and great views from camp of the groover.  Not my thing.

Day 7: “Pumpkin and his Seeds” Phantom Ranch, mile 87-96.5

  • We said good-bye to some of our esteemed friends, including Linda, Jess, and Woody.  We were introduced to our new comrades, Tom, Jim and Willy.  Chris, donning all orange clothing, became known as the “Pumpkin” (he preferred “Great Jack-o-Lantern”, for a more masculine title).
  • Day hike: Phantom Ranch – the midpoint of the rafting trip and the only place where members of the group can hike in/out.  There was also a payphone where we could make calls to our loved ones.  

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Day 8: “Day of the Gems” Crystal Rapid, miles 96.5-112

  • The rapids, named for precious gems, were fairly big in this stretch.  The crew scouted Crystal and all managed to find the line perfectly to avoid the big holes.  Excellent run by all oarsmen.  Chris’ boat, amidst the celebration, managed to find its way to another rock in the lower Crystal Rapids.  HIGH-SIDE!  Good thing he had the angels working for him.  Julie was also nominated for having the most adorable shiver in the group.

Day 9: “Longest Day Ever” Elves Chasm, miles 112-133.5

  • Covered a ton of ground today.  Grasshoppers have found their way onto our rafts.  ThIMGP1108is marked the day when Brian ran Bedrock and won the understatement of the year award “Yabba Dabba Do!”.  With a nonchalant, but somber, high-side instruction, Matt, Brian, Tom and Willy pin-balled down the water road less traveled.
  • Day hike: Elves Chasm– very cool hike where the oldest rock in the Canyon can be found (~1.8 billion years old!).  John was the first ambitious one to jump into the chilly pool beneath the falls and make his way up the cave to jump off the top.  

Day 10: “Mama and her Sherpas” Tapeats Creek

  • Note to self: a hike with the Coyote is never just a simple stroll down Main Street.
  • Day hike: Thunder River– this hike is absolutely stunning.  Cascading falls, water plunging out of every Canyon wall, vegetation so lush that you find it difficult to believe that you are in the middle of the desert. The picturesque landscape reminded me of a postcard.  The hike back to camp proved a little more difficult.  Molly was shimmied across the teeny excuse for a trail, hugging the side of the mountain.  Matt was in the front and Brian was bringing up the rear…that’s a family that knows the value of teamwork.  With the wind blowing wildly, the gravel trail narrowing, and the cacti calmly waiting at every bend for another innocent victim to embrace them…the group finally made it to the end.  The end of the trail, that is. We had gone the wrong way back!  Ultimately, we decided to free climb down the vertical face, with some scary exposure.  Not excellent for those with a fear of heights.  Luckily, with the help of some experienced climbers in the group, everyone got down safely and my mother was re-nicknamed “Mountain Goat Molly”.

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Day 11: “Tent Caroling and Food Fights” Deer Creek & Pancho Camp

  • This evening, at the request of the “Old-Wise One”, Chris nominated himself as the “Sacrificial Pole” for the pole dancing competitions.  John took the heavyweight title for the foot war championship, Grand Canyon Trash Tours 2006 148beating out our exquisite chef, Mike.  The tent caroling began with earnest.  Caroler’s at Jim’s tent saw two full moons that night.  We learned the true meaning of “hit ’em straight” and finding a “tight spot” on the river.
  • Day hike: Deer Creek – a neat day hike along the Thunder River with Hopi Indian hand prints embedded into the Canyon walls and small, warm-watered pools at the top.  The pools, with small waterfalls cascading into them, provided a nice shower amidst a hot, sweaty hike.

Day 12: “Upset at Matkat” Matkatamiba

  • We successfully ran Upset rapid later in the day (a 7 on the rating scale with current water levels)

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  • Day hike: Matkatamiba – hiking through the caverns of Matkat.  The pristine cavern, carver out by an ever meandering stream, was astounding simply based on its structure and color schemes.  Thin cavern walls in a symmetrical pattern of ghostly white, grey and blackish stripes accented by the water flowing through.  

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Day 13: “Eco-Quest: Are These Guys from New York City?” Havasu Canyon & camp at National Canyon

  • Layover day, due to the extended day hike.
  • Day hike: Havasu Canyon Hike – this was my absolutely favorite hike of the whole trip.  Known as the Garden of Eden in the desert, Havasu Falls is one of the most well-known waterfalls in the world. Located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, the beautiful turquoise pools and spectacular waterfalls are breathtaking.  Wendy, Chris, Matt, Tom, Christine and myself embarked on a 4-hour hike through river crossings, over rock ledges, past the famous and lush Beaver Falls, and into the Havasupai Tribal Lands.  We were walking so fast to make it to Mooney Falls, we were likened to an NYC city pace.  Mooney Falls was astounding – huge turquoise falls billowing over the edge of the Canyon about 50 yards up.  The Falls cascade down into a pool of water only ankle deep.  Large, droopy trees grow from under the water and provide ample opportunity for rope swings over the smaller, descending waterfalls at the base of Mooney.  Truly a magical place.  

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Day 14: “Eco-Quest: Part II?” National Canyon

  • Perfect layover campsite.  Chris, John, Wendy and Willy set up a ropes system to get our group up the Canyon wall and into some spots unknown to our veterans.  This evening marked the All-Team Bocce Grand Canyon Trash Tours 2006 198Tournament.  The teams included Scorpions, Sacrificial Poles, The Hobbits, Wet Willies, Bleached Bums, Dos Beeches, Big Kahoneys, and the Trash Tours.  The night’s festivities were made up of limbo competitions, Lava Falls shots in honor of the River Gods, tent caroling, Dick’s trumpet playing TAPS, wheelbarrow races, lap dances performed by men…and so it was, the “15-year laugh” resonated throughout camp.

Day 15: “SPAM & Not-so-smart Bombs” Lava Rapid

  • Lava Rapid has been on our minds since we started the trip.  This scary, mega-sized rapid is a challenge for all who embark on a Colorado River trip.  In our case, success.  The oarsmen all found the bubble line, missed the Greyhound bus hole and dodged the meat grinder…need I say more?? The celebrations to follow were unprecedented.  Everyone had been storing a costume in the very bottom of their river bags for this moment alone.  We saw everything from an obviously chilly “Julie” to an actual “Piece of Crap”.  Chuck might have been surprised an albino toothless beaver didn’t make it to the party…or did it?  About 5 Budweiser/Bailey’s/Early Times Bourbon shots later.. the tent carolers were on a mission for Chuck.  The chants and animal grunts could be heard all over camp.  Chuck even stuffed a sleeping bag to try and dupe the poor, drunk tent carolers.  Gas was set alight, Dr. Evil disciples emerged in the kitchen, “Build Me Up Buttercup” became a theme song, and the Hammus Alabamus still lingered in the pot.

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Day 16: “Tenacious Tadpoles” mile 191-205

  • The group all wore t-shirts and skivvies to breakfast in honor of their beloved trip leader.  Apparently, one big night can put an entire crew to bed by 8pm.
  • Day hike: Spring Canyon – not a very exciting hike. Minimal water surrounding the algae-laden creek filled with tadpoles and mini frogs.

Day 17: “I don’t see anyone here who is above the rim” camped at upper 200, Pumpkin Springs

  • Last full day and I cannot believe how far we have all come.  Tom’s boat officially became the party boat of the trip, manned by Dick, Willy, Jim and Tom.  The were armed with water guns and a full drag-bag of Budweiser.  Grand Canyon Trash Tours 2006 252The 1,000 year war saw a peace treaty after Chuck pulled out the secret weapon, and the water equivalent of an Atomic Bomb: the pee-bucket.  The Hobbits won the Bocce Tournament.  The theme of the trip became “Go Big, or Go Home”.
  • Day hike: Pumpkin Springs – cool little pool on the edge of the river but only the Coyote braved the arsenic waters.

Day 18: “Feeling Sedimental” Diamond Creek Take-out

  • Brian’s wit inspired today’s title.  Back to civilization.  Extremely sad saying goodbye to our new, but lifelong friends.  LAST CALL FOR THE GROOVER!  An epic adventure that will stay in my memory for a lifetime.