John's 2001 JMT Journal   

 Not lightning from my trip.  It's just setting the mood.
  1. Pre-Trip 2. Kennedy Meadows to Mt. Whitney 5. Onion Valley to VVR
  3. Mt. Whiney to Onion Valley 6. VVR to Yosemite Valley
  4. Independence 7. Epilogue
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The Trail



PCT 2002

About Me



4. Independence

6/22 con't
I arrived at Onion Valley around 11am having left R & LJ as I bombed down the hill, and began working the parking lot. Most people were just getting there and wouldn't take me to town.
The only shade near the parking lot was at the toilets. And the toilets, while being sturdy cinderblock, are pit toilets, so it stunk.
R & LJ came in while I was working the campground for a ride (with no luck). They were transferring food from their two small Garica bear canisters to the one large Bearikade. They were not coming to town, but had a big list of town chores that I was happy to do, including shipping their ice axes and Garcias back home.
We were eating and cleaning up wondering about trail magic when a SHINY minivan marked Wilderhouse Shuttle Service pulled up with an older guy driving. I was in some ways disappointed. I wanted big-time trail magic. (In retrospect, it was magic that he appeared.) LJ decided to go work him with no results. I had spied a sticker that would let him into military bases on his windshield. I worked the DoD aspect of it and was soon chatting up a storm. Now we really didn't need to work this ride if we were going to pay, but this was a test of next year, so I went for it.
Skip had showed up for hikers that had blown him off at Whitney Portal earlier that week. As noon approached, he could see that they would not be coming down the mountain at their appointed time, and offered to give me a ride to town for $15, half his normal rate for a one-way trip. I accepted and we shot out of there.
It was HOT in Independence. Everything was off kilter: I had been dropped in a hot, flat but normal (non-trail) world, I didn't have 50 or so pounds on my back, and I was strong on my feet. It all came together, along with Independence's 'urban' fabric, to make me think I was in a David Lynch film. I kept looking for a short man near a red curtain singing backwards. I think it was way over 100 degrees. Can you tell I live on the coast?
I first hit the post office. I was happy my first resupply package and bounce box were there. I then set out to find cardboard to wrap up and ship the ice axes. Stepping back out into the heat, I couldn't believe how hot it was. Plus, I was amped up because I had a lot I wanted to get done in this strange town. I created a sturdy but awkwardly-shaped package with the ice axes and slapped labels on both the empty Garcias. I mailed them and got that task done.
As I was diving into my boxes and thinking how brilliant I'd been to include any number of items that I couldn't remember if I'd put in, but when I looked for them, they were there, a man came up behind me and said, "It's a terrible habit." I soon discovered that I was talking to Dennis Coffey, someone I knew from email lists as the man who was hiking the high Sierra with a double lung transplant. He'd been in town a day, so that meant he knew the ropes, so I asked about showers. He offered to let me shower in his hotel room, which was totally cool.
I enjoyed talking with him and seeing his homemade incredibly lightweight gear. Although he reported that he and his doctor felt he was healthy, the rancor around some legal issues with his ex-wife didn't feel very healthy to me. I felt kinda guilty cutting out there quickly, but I had to get other stuff done. I thanked him and was on my way to do laundry.

The laundromat in Independence is why people have washing machines in their homes. The building itself was designed to make the inside unbearably hot, and the added humidity and heat from the washers and dryers worked to create an unimaginable environment, made worse by the fine dust from the desert of the east side. I felt like no one had done laundry in this place for 10 years; that this place was waiting for me to come along so that it could finally breath its last breath and collapse. It did have a utility sink. It's strange to note it, but the presence of a laundry sink lifted my spirits in that laundromat.
My waiting for the cycles was not idle time. I used the folding table to sort my food. I had plenty of room to lay out each day's food. The pattern of days in front of me, I could see where I needed more food, what I could ship ahead, and what I could ship home. I then put it all in my gigantic Garcia bear canister, borrowed from Robin W. I had room in it when I was done.
The main incentive for a box going home was my MRS Dragonfly stove. It was going home because I was in love with my alcohol stove and the HEET had come through the mail just fine. That homeward bound box got some other stuff in it too, mostly extra food.
As my food dance was coming to an end and the dryer was doing its thing, I happened to look up. On top of the long-empty laundry soap dispenser was a bottle of HEET. I used the rest of it to top off my fuel bottle and put three baggies of my 8-grain breakfast mix, hoping that someone (a hiker) wanted some change of pace for breakfast. Finding the HEET was trail magic, pure and simple.
I did have my white gas to get rid of. I wasn't going to pour it down the drain. I ended up buying a Nalgene-like Coleman bottle for almost $9, putting the white gas in it, fiercely labeling it, and giving it to the guy at the gas station.
With the white gas gone, I could send my packages, leaving just a few things to pick up and a few calls to make. What seemed to be the only supermarket in town was on its way to closing. They were strategically ordering and restocking the shelves, but it was down to bare bones with an odd assortment of items. I found what I needed though, and the people were very friendly.
While on the phone, I managed to place a Campmor order without a catalog, check my messages, Richard's messages, and leave a message for my Dad (Packages were here. I'm alive.)
As the day passed, I'd been noticing the very dark clouds building over the Sierra. It wasn't long before saw lightning. It was clearly raining up there.
I was ready to leave town. I headed up to the road to the portal and tried to get a ride with no luck. It was getting late. I asked some kids if they thought it was going to rain down here. They all though it would.
Normally, it wouldn't be that big a concern for me, but I realized I'd made a tactical error: I'd stashed a lot of my gear, including my pack cover, insulating layers, and cursed Gore-Tex parka beyond Kersarge Pass. Plus, I hadn't really thought of my stash in terms of waterproofness, just security. I also realized my headlamp was up there.
I gave myself until 4:30 to get a ride, then I was calling Skip. At 4:30, I called Skip who was there in a flash with granddaughter Katy in tow. We got some raindrops going up, but the drop off was dry. I was ready to hit it in about a minute.
I was chomping at the bit to get to my gear and regroup with R & LJ, who'd had a leisurely hike back to the Bullfrog Lake area and were waiting for me. I set a mean pace and headed up toward the black clouds and lightning fighting the approaching night even though it was only 5PM in the middle of the summer. I set the goal of not stopping to rest until the big lake, and I didn't. I wasn't frantic; I was determined and focused once I had made the decision to get back on the trail and not stay overnight.
I continued to roar up and stopped once more to gulp down some water and food, and put on my wind shirt against the increasingly cold wind coming off the mountains. It was about this time that I realized that I'd forgotten to eat anything while I was in town. I thought about how much time it would take to got into a restaurant and sit down, but didn't get past that. I was hungry and running on adrenaline.
As I got to the final approach to the pass, I became elated. I even thought I saw R & LJ at the top waiting for me. It turned out to be a park boundary sign.
I reached the top at 7PM slowing only like a roller coaster pauses when the tail is still going up while the front is beginning to be pulled by gravity.
Pass achieved. Next goal: get to gear.
I'd taken mental snapshots of where the gear was and found it after a few short miles. Everything was there, and dry.
I repacked and set off for my next goal: find Richard and Lori Joy. I stopped to pump enough water for a dry camp and put on my headlamp. I was singing part of a verse from Krishna Das over and over. I didn't know the Hindu words, but it was comforting.
The trail was easy on the other side of the pass, and soon I saw a message formed in small rocks: JOHN with an arrow pointing west into the continuing trail. I saw one or two more signs as I pressed on into the night. I knew I was OK, but had a primal urge to be at home, which, on that night, was with my friends. They'd asked for tortilla chips. My pack was full, so I was carrying the delicate cargo up front tucked under my sternum strap.
I finally saw another message with an arrow pointing off trail. Home!
I said hello in stride, but got no reply. As I turned into the trees, I saw a tent, and I immediately thought, "Oh no. The signs were for a different John." R& LJ have a tarp. I'd been wiping the messages out with my foot as I walked to eliminate the visual impact. The other John would be lost. My feeling of mistakenness evaporated with the next turn of my head. My light illuminated Richard and Lori Joy's tarp set up but unoccupied.
No sooner had I determined that the bags under the tarp were empty, than I saw their headlamps nearby coming from the west. They'd walked with Brian (?), the tent owner, to Charlotte Lake to get water.
My first priority was eating. While I told the story of my day, I cooked, and we ate chip and laughed. They hadn't been in any rain. I calmed down having achieved my goals, visited with friends, eaten and made my home for the next 10 hours.
14 miles out to Onion Valley and back in.


Bearikade Bear Canister with lid off
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