The Legend of OneBoot: Days 2 and 3 on the John Muir Trail

Waking up that fine morning at the Little Yosemite Valley campground, I got out of my tent and started to get ready for the short day ahead of me. Only 2-3 miles to my camp spot between the Half Dome and Clouds Rest trail junctions, but it was forward progress nonetheless!

As I made breakfast and packed up my things, I made small conversation with the elderly couple who were camped next to me. They were doing a small loop trek and wished me well on my journey.

Breakfast, which would be breakfast for the duration of my trip, was oatmeal with stevia, almonds and dehydrated bananas. It was hearty, simple, and tasty! To cook it, all I did was boil some water in my Jetboil MiniMo, and mix the ingredients in a Mylar Ziploc bag. The bags were durable and reusable, so I never had to cook food in the Jetboil, thus keeping bears away!

As I started off on my daily journey, the trail wasn’t too difficult. I arrived at my camp spot within a couple hours up on the hillside in thick brush. All the other campsites looked too close to the trail, and heaven forbid I get written up by a ranger! The hunt was frustrating, but finally I settled, figuring it was short term anyway.

Taking a Selfie at My Campsite!
Taking a Selfie at My Campsite!

After I set up camp, I walked down to Clouds Rest junction and saw some campers in heavy cover next to a stream. I contemplated moving, but decided against it. The people camped there warned me about a bear that was stealing bear cans and harassing people. Some boy scouts had an encounter and had to yell at the bear incessantly get it to go away. Scary!

After rehydrating myself and eating lunch, I headed back to the part of the trail right below my campsite. I got to dig my first hole to “relieve myself” and realized that it wasn’t too bad after all. I hung out by the trail and started getting bored and lonely. I chatted with passers-by and even got to talk with a couple about doing Half Dome together the next day.

I hoped that the couple would camp near me, but they decided to snag one of the probably illegal campsites closer to the trail. Damn! It was OK, though, because it forced me to spend time with myself. I got brief periods of cellular reception so I could update friends and family as to my whereabouts, but it wasn’t reliable, so my connection to the outside world was terminated as well. That’s the point, right?

After dinner, I quickly went to sleep, admiring the view of Half Dome, contemplating my 3am ascent the next morning. I was nervous, yet excited and was ready to move on with the trail.

View of Half Dome from Camp
View of Half Dome from Camp

Come 3am, my launch began. I packed my daypack and started making breakfast by the trail. As I was cleaning up, this black blob approached me. It was a bear! I couldn’t make out much besides a general shape and eyes since it was still dark, but the bear wouldn’t go away. I yelled and made noise with my hands to no avail.

Crap! What happens now? What do I do? Doesn’t this bear know I’m on a timeline? Finally, the thought occurred to me to blow my rescue whistle. After several hard blows, the bear shifted it’s head. It did this a couple times, and finally wandered off slowly toward Half Dome. Phew! Hopefully he wasn’t going to attack me on my Half Dome approach!

After the scare and packing up, I started on the trail to Half Dome, still in the dark. My gloves were ready, my pack was ready, and the temperature was cool enough to help me preserve my energy.

As I ascended the, the granite trail of steps faded into granite slab as I neared the sub dome. Adrenaline coursing through my body, nerves alive, I continued on. Shortly, I landed myself at the base of the cables as the sun started creeping over the beautiful peaks in the distance. It really was a beautiful sight!

The Dawn Light  Illuminating Half Dome
The Dawn Light Illuminating Half Dome
The Sun Creeping Over the Mountains
The Sun Creeping Over the Mountains

As I started up the cables, I saw a guy sleeping, and another guy making his way down. Crap! I left early so I could go up and down in peace! Fear set in, but I kept making my way. Grab cable, grab cable, pull, flurry my feet up to the next wooden slat! That was the protocol. God, the granite was steep! Was the national park service really certain that I didn’t need a harness? Did people really make it up this thing, and back down?!?! Those were the thoughts that ran through my head.

Then, there were uneven portions of granite, where the cable drooped, and the lack of tension was terrifying! During a rest, I let the guy pass me on the way down, and I continued making my way up.

Finally, the path leveled off, and I made it! Hooray! What’s this? More people up here? They’re insane! But at least they were able to take a picture of me. I socialized briefly, told them my story and hung out to take in the views. As they were heading down, I went over to the diving board to check out the valley. It was slightly terrifying, but extremely beautiful at the same time.

I Made It!
I Made It!
Diving Board Selfie!
Diving Board Selfie!

OK then, it was time to make my descent! My gloves were torn to hell, but I made my way. It was pretty easy at first, but then my mountaineering boots started slipping. One of the girls at the top told me to expect to slip, but when it happened, fear set in like no other. There were points where my foot wouldn’t reach the next foot hold, so I had to trust the fall.

The family I met at the top was relaxing at sub dome as I made my way down and there were two others making their way up the cables. Great! I have witnesses for when i fall to my death! I’ll be Yosemite’s great attraction of the day!

As fear rattled my voice, I told the couple to wait for me to get to a more secure spot. They reassured me that I’d be OK, and eventually they passed me. I wished they would’ve waited at the base of the cables, but the situation could have been a lot worse!

I had a couple terrifying slides, but finally made it down to sub dome. As I rested, I saw some cute ground squirrels trying to get my food. they didn’t get any, thankfully, but i got an awesome photo out of the deal 🙂

Sneaky Critters
Sneaky Critters

Making my way back to camp, I passed people with full packs struggling terribly. I wished them well and continued on. I was back at camp by 9am and didn’t want to spend another day in the crappy campsite, so I packed everything up and set off to go over Clouds Rest in the same day!

I went by the creek at the Clouds Rest junction to hydrate and have lunch. While I was sitting, cooling my feet, a couple JMTers passed looking for the official trail. I didn’t know, since I was doing an alternate over Clouds Rest to Sunrise Camp. I wasn’t very helpful, but at least I knew I wasn’t alone on the trail!

As I ascended Clouds Rest, I started getting tired, especially in the heat. I started leapfrogging with some day hikers and passed by many supportive people. Finally, I was making my way out of the forest into the Alpine elevation where every step looked like a foreign planet and the view of the peaks around me came into focus. It was beautiful and worth it!

Eventually, my breaks got more and more frequent. The heat was kicking my ass and emotion was getting the best of me. The couple I passed found some snow and we shared in rejoice over cooling off. As the path got narrower, my balance got worse and I was stumbling my way to the top of Clouds Rest. I was rightly frustrated, but when I finally made it to the top, I was relieved and awestruck of the beautiful view.

It was a party up top, and there wasn’t much real estate to take a breather, but I found a spot next to a group of college kids who were day hiking from Tenaya Lake. I took some photos, conversed, and relaxed. I had just done a crazy amount of elevation gain in one day!

Clouds Rest in the Same Day ?!?!
Clouds Rest in the Same Day ?!?!

I asked the college kids if I could hike with them to the next water source. They obliged and we started making our way down. Exhaustion was setting in, but I kept plugging away. The goal was Sunrise Lakes, but i would have to settle with a closer destination as daylight and my energy waned.

I finally found water and took another break. There was a small lake off the next junction that looked attainable, so I set out for that. But I couldn’t keep up with the college kids! I told a straggler to tell them I was taking a break and started going my own pace again.

Then, we started going uphill again. I was dead and was not expecting it. I started getting emotional, asking everyone how far away the lake was. Yelling at God and the sky ensued, but eventually, I reached the trail junction, and then the lake. I threw my pack down, ran to the lake for water and saw a guy who was also camping there! I could tell he knew I was frustrated, but I didn’t care. I needed food and water!

Camp for the Night
Camp for the Night

After I cooled off, I went back and introduced myself before setting up my tent. We chatted for a little while and then he went to sleep. After hiding my bear can, I went to sleep as well. The lake was beautiful, but the mosquitoes and exhaustion were not worth staying up for.

Thanks for following along with my journey! Within a post or two, you’ll be hearing the story firsthand of how I got the trail name “OneBoot”. Remember, take a hike and spice up your life!

– Doug

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2 Comments

  1. Linda Mills
    September 14, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you Doug for sharing another incredible section of your hike of JMT.
    Amazing! Beautiful pics!

    • Doug Busack
      September 14, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks Linda! It was pretty awesome. Hopefully I can get the rest of the sections out quicker 🙂

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