top of page

JMT + 1 - August 2015

JMT Section Hike with unenthused pre-teen

About this blog:

I really believe that, in most cases, that an opportunity is something I should say yes to. However, when the opportunity presented itself to not only myself, but my 12 year old daughter, it took a bit more consideration before deciding to say "yes". My hiker friends decided to do a 40-50 mile section hike on the JMT and bring their 12 year old daughter and invited me and mine to join them. Mine was at camp so I had to make the decision without even running it past her...then spent a considerable amount of time figuring out how to "plate" it in order to get the most positive response. Anyway, that all worked out and met up with our hike group in Mammoth to embark on a challenging adventure where we pushed through and beyond circumstances and came back with a new understanding of ourselves. When you're a mom seeing this happen in your 12 year old, it's awesome! When you're a 12 year old girl, it's more, like, what-ev-er.

Mammoth Mountain, California, United States

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It was interesting to do the trip prep for this hike in contrast to preparing for my first hike a year ago. Having some experience alleviates so much fear. I knew that I would bring almost exactly what I brought last year, with a few minor adjustments, and get the same stuff for my daughter "Chum". I knew what "kitchen" and hygiene maintenance items we'd need as well as bedding and tent. What took a bunch of effort was trying to gather food for a week for two people that would all fit into one bear canister. I bought, bagged, condensed, re-bagged, and took out various items...then the next day I'd reconsider some things and do it all over again. We needed to rent a bear can and I wouldn't be able to pick it up until the day before we left, so I wouldn't know if it would all fit until then. (It didn't)

I knew that I could eat anything if I got hungry enough, but was pretty sure Chum wouldn't do the same, so finding foods that were dehydrated AND delicious and required only hot water to prepare was a challenge.

After loading up our packs, Chum's start weight with 2 liters of water was 23.2 pounds and I was at 40.

We enjoyed a long, hot drive to Mammoth Mountain where we joined up with Craig, Heather and their daughter and later that evening, Grandpa Glen. The girls eased into awkward conversation at dinner, then we turned in to try to get some sleep for our morning start the following day.

Mammoth Mountain, California, United States

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Though the two girls had just met the evening before, the chatted as they took the lead and we happily marched off from the trailhead parking lot and into the wilderness. The packs felt heavy and we made a few adjustments but were glad we would be staying in a cabin at Red's Meadow that night and would have the chance to make some more adjustments and get rid of some things... things that may have seemed important while we were at home and now just seemed heavy. No one needed that opportunity more than 83 year old Grandpa Glen. His pack was very unruly! It was taller than he was, listing dangerously to the left and seemed to have more strapped to the outside of it than was contained in it. He had two tube socks holding his water bottles, dangling and swinging aggressively from his shoulder straps. I don't know how he made it through those first 8 miles!

I'm not sure how far we had gone when Chum really began to struggle, but I started wondering how she would keep going. We had bought her new boots a couple days before leaving home and I was concerned about blisters, etc. We talked about attitude and "changing our minds" and trudged on. Lunchtime finally came near Deer Creek. It was a nice rest and it r blessed my heart to watch the girls get to know each other all the while adapting to the physical challenges of the day.

About mid way through the second half of the day, I was the last in our line and my toe caught a root. I began to fall forward, encouraged by the weight of my pack, and landed face in the dirt with my arms pinned underneath me. I was horrified that someone may have seen me, then horrified than No one had seen me! In fact, Grandpa was ahead of me still telling the story we had been in the middle of, never looking back. I knew I could probably only muster the strength to do one push up with that weight on my back, so I had to get it together and make it to my feet...covered with dusty dirt, jarred and rattled. I quickly tried to assess the damages to my body and felt pretty darn lucky to only have a slight headache and broken sunglasses. I managed to trot down and catch up with Grandpa having only missed a little bit of his tale about his son Eric, who would be meeting up with us in Red's Meadow that night.

Pretty soon I realized that some damage had occurred in my wrists, but what could be done but keep going? After what seemed a very long way, we finally made it. The family group rented a large cabin but Chum and I decided to stay in a small "backpacker" cabin where we would have some room to spread out by ourselves.

Hanging out together at the packing station was really nice. We were at such a different pace than last year's trip. We enjoyed a relaxing dinner at the cafe and a shower and went to bed.

Mammoth Lakes, California, United States

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I was tremendously thankful for the shower and bed that first night "out"... and relieved that we had a full day at Red's Meadow so I could try to recuperate after my tumble. Craig's brother Eric was to arrive in the night sometime and we would be ready to hike out the next morning. We got a nice easy start with some coffee and a short walk to Rainbow Falls. The girls took a dip in the ice cold water.

I must say I'm dreading going on. My body is in so much pain. I don't have full use of my left arm and hand and every joint screams when I start moving. I can't believe tomorrow will be like yesterday mileage wise and I'm not sure I have what it takes to keep Chum encouraged and moving along too. But, I'm not comfortable with the idea of bailing out and taking the shuttle back to Mammoth. Yesterday I was encouraged when Chum said "I'm trying to do what you told me to do about changing my mind...but it's hard". I agree. So I'm working on gearing up mentally rather than bailing out.

We talked about how bad our feet hurt and I said that as bad as they hurt, they won't hurt any worse. "They only get so bad and that's it." We'll see if I stand by that tomorrow night.

I spent some time this morning going through and getting rid of food I thought we could do without. We had lunch at the cafe and now Chum and Sophia are on a horseback ride.

ps. While the girls were riding horses I tried to take a nap. There was quite a ruckus outside our little cabin, some voices, a language I couldn't recognize, someone on the steps outside my door. I didn't want to get up, but finally just had to see what the heck was going on out there. When I looked out the window I saw a Muslim woman with her prayer rug spread out at the bottom of the stairs of the cabin going full prayer mode. What a random spot to set up! I couldn't understand why she had chosen that spot. Heather figured out that it was due to the fact that our cabin was named "East" making the logical spot to face for afternoon prayer. It was terribly unfortunate for a couple of reasons... 1) The cabin was just called "East", she was actually facing south, and 2) During the previous night I had decided NOT to walk over to the camp restroom at 3am opting rather for the bottom stair of my cabin...

Mammoth Lakes, California, United States

Friday, August 7, 2015

I woke up at 4:30 to the sound of thunder and rain. That's such a great, cozy sound until you realize that it's "Go Hiking in the Mountains" day. My alarm was set for 5:30 so I prayed and laid still for a while. After a bit I got up and got our stuff ready, having to think through what rain gear we had. As it got light out, I was relieved to see that the clouds were more patchy than threatening.

When doing the meal planning and packing I was under the impression that we would eat a hearty breakfast at Red's Meadow Cafe before heading out, but soon realized that I was wrong. Chum and I ate our morning snack for breakfast which put us a bit short of food for the day...but certainly not going to starve.

We did over 1850 feet of altitude gain today on a 8.1 mile hike and got through a little rain and even some hail. Craig decided that we should cut our goal short by .4 miles today to stay south of the storm clouds. We had planned to stay at Garnet Lake, but settled into a large and beautiful campsite at Gladys Lake instead. Breath taking.

Chum powered through after a rough start and found her groove and discovered that talking about Minecraft, a wish for a new computer, next year's school supplies and The Ellen Show help her move forward with a positive attitude. Truthfully, except for the Ellen Show, I had to try to not scream while listening!

We quickly got to setting up camp and were done by 3pm and relaxed and explored around the lake. Such a different pace than my last trip where camp set up and dinner were hurried in order to get off to the warmth of a sleeping bag. Tonight we got dinner going around an actual campfire and Chum and I were still tucked all cozy in bed at 6:15 while we listened to the others laughing around the fire.

Mammoth Lakes, California, United States

Saturday, August 8, 2015

It was a beautiful morning and the Gladys Lake campsite was incredible. I made some coffee around 5:30 and we packed up and got off at a leisurely pace. Chum was doing battle with me with a really bad attitude. I finally just told her that if she wanted to quit and head back, this was the last chance. She said she wasn't going to quit, so we marched on.

The elevation gain and loss at first was just easy and pleasant. We stopped for a snack on a bridge over a waterfall after a long downhill switchback. We knew that after that rest stop there would be a long uphill section. We went up and up and up for hours. During that time we sifted out in a couple of groups, Craig, Sophia, Heather and Chum were ahead followed by Eric, Glen and me. At one point I went ahead and got an energy burst and caught up with Heather and Sophia was a bit ahead of us. When I asked where Chum was Heather said she was charging up the mountain. She and Craig reached the top first. As we rounded a bend on the trail we could see them perched way up on the peak. When Heather and I got up there I thanked Craig for staying with Chum and he let me know that it took him a great effort to do so. Moment of pride for me.

The view from the top was magnificent but cold and rain clouds were gathering. We were kind of concerned about Eric and Glen and were relieved when they finally appeared at about the time it started raining. We all did our best to hurry down through the rain and hail with some thunder to Garnet Lake. The temperature was dropping and I was concerned about lighting and having to get camp set up in the rain. Chum and I worked well together and had the tent set up quickly, threw our packs in and jumped in behind them. There were a couple of really big, sky ripping thunders and I tried to give her some comfort and assurance that I don't think was very believable.

Finally the rain slowed then stopped and Chum and I realized we hadn't had lunch so I whipped up some mac and cheese at 3:30. As soon as she finished it I fixed some split pea soup for dinner and we were all cleaned up by 5:30.

Finding a potty spot on our slopey hillside campsite was challenging, but since it was done raining, we meandered around the lake until we were sure to be out of sight. The view from the chosen spot was spectacular. We looked across the lake at the beautiful pink mountains in the late afternoon sky. The clouds opened up and let a shaft of sunlight through. Breathtaking. Since one of the things I'm most afraid of on these hikes is being really cold, Chum and I always head off to bed early as soon as the temperature starts going down. We laughed as we took off our really stinky socks and hung them in the tent to dry.

Chum's attitude was stellar today after that one, initial show down. Yesterday I told her I couldn't be more proud of her...until today. Her mind overtook her matter and there was no stopping her. She has been an absolute delight and her personal triumphs and victory will hopefully be fuel for her future successes. My heart is full of gratitude for this opportunity.

Mammoth Lakes, California, United States

Sunday, August 9, 2015

We had decided on a slow start as a group this morning but since I had been holding my pee since 2:30 or so, I got up at 5:15 to take care of that and fix some coffee. Craig was already up on the top of a nearby peak to watch the sunrise. I don't necessarily like the idea of "camping" and just sitting around some lake all day. But, having a slow start vs. having to charge off by 7:00am is pretty nice. We pulled camp together and Eric and Craig took a chilly morning plunge into the lake. We finally set off around 10:00 or so heading uphill for about 1.25 hours until dropping down toward Thousand Island Lake. The girls were ahead with Craig, Heather and I were in the middle and Eric and Glen pulled up the rear. Although the uphill is difficult, the pace is comfortable and we can enjoy the scenery. Chum and I hadn't had lunch so we set up camp and fixed something to eat.

The day had a different feel because we started out late, didn't have to cover much mileage and settled into our next camp with so much daylight left. Chum and Sophia jumped in the lake a couple of times and we explored and just had fun hanging out.

I always wondered what bear poop looks like and today I found one. It was unmistakable...filled with ziplock bags and other kinds of wrappers. We had heard reports that there had been some bear activity at this lake and having seen that poop we really took extra care with keeping things clean and put away.

As usual we were in bed early...although this was our latest night...8:00.

Mammoth Lakes, California, United States

Monday, August 10, 2015

Last night was our coldest night but it was still not windy, which made me listen to every sound I heard almost anticipating it would be a bear. We didn't have any trouble but Erik did wake up and see a large, black figure whose eyes shined back in his light. He decided to not shine the light at it anymore and just laid awake with his tent light on for the rest of the night.

As we headed away from the campsite in the morning we saw some girls at a campsite near ours who had used a couple of bear bags instead of mandatory bear canisters and they said that 2 bears had ripped and popped the bags and sucked their food out for about 2 hours in the night. Better them than us.

We decided to change our route for the day from the ridgeline route to the shorter and less challenging River Trail. It was, for the most part, a beautiful wooded trail that ran through the valley. But it was long. We had planned to camp at Agnew Meadows but found out that it was closed. Instead we just kept heading toward Red's Meadow, knowing that it would make tomorrow's hike shorter. The girls blazed ahead and soon Heather, Craig, Sophia and Chum were no longer in sight or within hearing distance. Erik, Glen and I walked for what seemed like a couple of hours and started wondering if we had taken the wrong trail. Eventually Erik dropped his pack and let Glen and me rest and he went ahead to look for them. Craig had done the same from his point ahead of us, came back and carried Glen's pack and we were one unit once again!

Collectively we decided to head on a couple more miles to Soda Springs campground which we knew nothing about. We saw a bridge and weren't clear which way to go, but suddenly noticed cars and rv's and realized we were at a "real campground". It was almost like CIVILIZATION...but not quite. It struck me as funny that the part we were most excited about was probably a tie between a picnic table and the bear box. Nobody seem thrilled to see the outhouse. Frankly, I'd rather be in the wilderness and lean against a rock than in the middle of a campground in a stanky hole toilet. Any way, our mileage for the day ended up at 10 miles, which was awesome and tiring and rewarding.

We scrounged up some wood and made a campfire and all sat at the picnic table and ate together and laughed and talked and sang. It has been a real pleasure to get to know these really fine people...good beings. And I like the way you get to know someone by walking mile after mile, with no real distractions other than that which nature offers. Grandpa Glen has made sure to include Chum and call her a "granddaughter" along with Sophia. He did that once he found out Chum no longer had a grandpa. Makes me tear up even now, just writing it.

Thanks Glen.

Glen is a very funny man who performed so well, not to mention that he is 81... He is hip and funny and tender hearted and practical and so happy to be on this trip. He has been challenged by it, but has remained positive and steady.

This trip's pace has afforded an opportunity to get to know Erik better too. The last trip was too fast, too hard. I enjoy his quick humor and easy demeanor...Again, quality people.

It has been so fun to watch Sophia and Chum fall into a really fun relationship. They had a great time taking the lead and are completely legit hikers now. Chum took care of filtering all our water from the lake this morning! Craig and Heather are such smart, funny and genuinely good people and parents and I've enjoyed seeing them with Sophia. She is a fun, creative, confident girl and I really hope she and Chum can remain friends.

Mammoth Lakes, California, United States

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

It was somehow an extra restful night last night, even though we didn't sleep very well as a whole. I heard a bunch of foot steps out and around in the wee hours but saw a light as well and figured it wasn't a bear with a light...come to find out it was Craig, awake at 2am wandering around the campground because he had gone to bed at 8pm and was done with his shut eye by 2:00. Anyway, knowing we had very little left to hike to get to back to Red's Meadow, we had a relaxed morning and every one drifted out of their tents when they were ready.

Heather, Craig and I had discussed earlier that we wanted to turn the girls loose with about 2 miles left on the trail and let them finish first and alone. Craig gave them directions and told them to stay put if they weren't too sure about going forward. We gave them money for snacks to get at the store and have while they waited for us. They were nervous and waited for sight of us when they weren't sure, but once they were confident they took off and were eating ice creams when we arrived around 11:30. So, they were on their own for the most part from 9:15 to 11:30ish. Several people stopped them to ask if they were alone. They loved it. We were proud.

We ate late breakfast and early lunch at the cafe, said Goodbye to sweet Glen who took the shuttle back to Mammoth and his car, said Goodbye to Erik who set off on his 15 hour motorcycle ride home and then we did some laundry.

After showers, foot massages for me and Heather given by the girls and dinner at the cafe we enjoyed the pinnacle of the evening activities which was arm and leg wrestling amongst the ladies. The Hougards hold the Arm Wrestling Championship title and the Hunsakers easily leg wrestled their way to victory. Tomorrow we will check out of our luxury cabin and take the shuttle back to our cars and head back to real life.

Hiking is hard. Real life is hard. Figuring out how to take the lessons of one and apply them to the other is key.

A couple of the big take aways for me: God is super faithful and ready to answer prayer of the "everyday"...Like "please wrap our feet in your tender mercies" or "please don't let it rain or hail more than we can deal with"...or "please multiply our food to cover us on this trip!"

It was a blessing to be able to share in the victory of Chum in overcoming challenges that she really had to overcome alone. Only she could change her thinking from negative to positive...only she could harness the power she needed to "get up the hill". What a blessing.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page