Aug 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm #1293186
This year my wife and I took our two youngest daughters, Hannah and Natalie, on the John Muir Trail – after having gone the previous two years first with their two oldest brothers and then with their older sister and Hannah.
Last year was very different than 2010 due to enormous amounts of snow that made crossing the passes “interesting”. This year on the other hand had no snow at all – but it rained and hailed an unusual amount of days and an unusual amount of hours during these days. So we got every year a totally different experience out of the JMT.
The second year in a row the permit lottery at Yosemite assigned us Lyell Canyon as a starting point (the first year we got Sunrise Lakes). So we had again no luck in getting Happy Isles, but we were not really sad about avoiding the crowds from the valley.
During our first day the girls enjoyed wading and swimming in Lyell Canyon
On the second day the girls crossed Donohue Pass
and met there an unfriendly group of hikers who felt little girls should not be in the wilderness where only real men belong – one had to make that famous sign while saying “F… yourself and your mother”.
Hhmm, what can you say as a responsible parent to such people while your daughters are listening and watching? So we just kept going our way on to Island Pass where we stayed for the night with a beautiful view of Banner Peak.
The third day we picked up our re-supply at Red’s Meadow. We found time to fish and swim in Shadow Lake
and still make the 18 miles to Red’s Meadow before 7 pm to get a cheeseburger and milk shake.
On day 4 we detoured to our favorite hot spring.
The next day we wanted to re-join the JMT at Silver Pass, but stopped below the pass at the Lake of the Lone Indian due to a thunder storm.
After the thunder storm cleared we saw a huge fire cloud in the distance
On day 6 we went over Silver Pass and all the way up Bear Ridge to Bear Creek
The next day we went over Selden Pass
to Blaney Meadows where we enjoyed swimming in Warm Lake and sitting in the hot spring
On Day 8 we picked up our re-supply at Muir Trail Ranch, which took us until lunch time because Hannah and Natalie played with the dogs and kittens. When we could finally break loose, we hiked to McClure Meadow.
The next morning we fished some more
and made our way past Evolution Lake up to Muir Pass where we stayed in the hut due to a huge storm that delayed us for several hours
From Muir Pass we made it the next day past the kid-eating rock monster
and Big Pete Meadow
to Deer Meadow.
The next morning we made it up the Golden Stair Case to Lower Palisade Lake for a swim
before we continued over Mather Pass where it hailed on us
On day 12 we went over Pinchot Pass
and crossed the hanging bridge at Wood’s Creek
before staying at Baxter Creek where we prepared our usual trout for dinner on a grill we found there
The next day we passed by the beautiful Rae Lakes
and went over Glen Pass to Bench Lake Ranger Station.
On day 14 we continued over Forester Pass
and by Tyndell Creek
to Crab Tree Meadow which made for a 19 mile day.
On our last day we went over Trail Crest to Whitney Portal. When we reached the trail intersection it hailed and the top of Mt. Whitney was not visible in the clouds.
After some discussion with Natalie who was the only one who never stood on top of Mt. Whitney we decided to leave the summit for another day.
So we continued down to Whitney Portal
and the girls had finally the burger they were dreaming about for the last three days …
This was a memorable trip. The photos don’t show how much rain we had – simply because we barely took our cameras out in the rain. Nevertheless the kids had a great trip. Doing 218 miles in 15 days and having a lot of fun along the way was only possible because the girls went UL. When we weighed their packs at Whitney Portal both girls’ packs showed less than 10 lbs with some food left. Right now the girls are already scheming about the next trip. Let’s see where they drag me around next time …Aug 21, 2012 at 12:38 am #1904444
Incredible trip report Manfred. You and your beautiful family really showed how it's done. Happy, healthy and enjoying the beauty the world has to offer. And those girls were putting up some big miles. What an amazing family experience to have. Way to go!Aug 21, 2012 at 1:04 am #1904446
@jasongLocale: iceberg lake
Nice trip! looks like thunderstorms have been a theme this summer in the sierras.
what exactly happened with the 'gentleman' on Donahue pass?Aug 21, 2012 at 1:56 am #1904448
@oiboyroiLocale: South West US
I'm kinda shocked at that dudes behavior. It's rankles me just to read about it. What kinda loser has to put down little kids? Sorry you had to put up with that. Coincidentally, the only time I've passed a blatantly rude hiker, it was at Donahue pass. Something about the air there I guess.Aug 21, 2012 at 7:44 am #1904483
This "gentleman" was feeding marmots from a bag of chips. My wife asked him to please not do that because it would create a problem for the marmots and all future visitors to this place. When he told her "that is non of your f..ing business", she asked him politely to please watch his language a little around these little girls. He then went into a rampage with many f-words that she shouldn't bring little girls into the wilderness. That these girls don't belong here, ruin the experience for real wilderness people and that my wife is "f..ing" irresponsible to bring them. At that point I asked him to slow down and let go of it. He immediately picked up on my German accent and told me to "crawl back to your f..ing country, where you belong — there is no place for you f..ing b..stard here in the US, so GO BACK".
At that point I told my wife and children to just move on. I didn't see any point to discuss anything any further with this guy and his friends who got a kick out of the whole show and encouraged him to keep going on his rampage.
It was an unfortunate incident, but only a small distraction during our whole wonderful 15 days on the trail. We kept going and kept enjoying our daughters' enjoyment along the way.
ManfredAug 21, 2012 at 7:59 am #1904489
Very strange and I'm sorry your family was subjected to that. A-holes can be found anywhere, but in general, experiences in nature such as backpacking tend to help us let go of such feelings. Exposing our children to nature and wilderness is so important, as the work of people like Richard Louv is showing. To think of how strong and healthy your girls must be to hike 18 or 19 miles a day. You are setting a great example, IMO.Aug 21, 2012 at 8:25 am #1904493
excellent trip report !!
sounds very memorable for all.Aug 21, 2012 at 9:09 am #1904512
Awesome trip and report!Aug 21, 2012 at 9:23 am #1904518
@davidlutzLocale: Bay Area
Nice work, Manfred. Again.
You've really made some great memories for your kids that will last a lifetime.
Funny how the "real men" have big shoes, big packs, hard-sided Nalgene, etc……Aug 21, 2012 at 9:55 am #1904533
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Manfred: Thanks for an inspirational trip report and great photos. I too figure that the family BPing trips are much easier, and spectacular trips like yours only possible by going UL. We're 51/45/12/7 years old so there are only a few more years before the kids are carrying more of the load than we do.
Like your wife, I'll say something when I see people cutting switchbacks, littering, ignoring quiet hours in Curry Village 5 days ago, etc, although I've learned to choose some settings and not others. My wife doesn't like the confrontations that sometimes follow, even when you're polite. And having kids along lets them go in a mode of being shocking to deflect the attention from their own stupidity. About the marmot feeding, I'd more likely direct my comments to my children, "Remember to not feed the animals" within earshot of the offenders if I was going to say anything, although more likely it would orginate from my kids, "Why are they doing that? It's bad for the animals." and then we could have a discussion why someone might not know/care/think the rules apply to them, etc. As to their a-holery in response, the world provides many teachable moments to families. For kilometers afterwards, you can be discussing "Why might they have responded like that?" "How did it make you feel?" "How would you have responded?"
I'd also theorize that while every decent person on the trail is impressed by your girl's accomplishments (my 7 year-old daughter hiked Happy Isles-Half Dome-Happy Isles on Thursday) and touched that you're having such amazing adventures as a family; if a person with poor ego-strength has their "manhood" or abilities challanged, it can get ugly. Nothing negative was said, but my then 11-year-old got some looks of disbelief bordering on denial that we'd hiked the Grand Canyon to the River and back in a day by high-school athletes and marathon runner types who'd bonked trying the same thing while after 18 miles and 10,000 vertical feet, he had a big smile on his face.
Keep doing what you're doing. That kind of family activity and involved parenting is the best innoculation against tweener- and teenage troubles and conflicts. I look at the best parent-child relationships I know among my peers, and they all had that level of engagement throughout their childhood.Aug 21, 2012 at 10:07 am #1904538
@delvxeLocale: Pacific Northwest
Thank you, Manfred for the post and photos. I hope to take my daughters up there in the coming years and find your post a good motivation and inspiration.
could you share your gear list?Aug 21, 2012 at 10:36 am #1904549
Thank you so much for posting this. I have twin girls who turn six next week. As someone who's sadly never put in an 18-mile day I can't imagine my girls doing it.
How did they train for the hike? Is it a matter of just being active kids (running, biking, soccer, etc.) or did you do specific hikes to work them up to that kind of mileage?
I too would love to see your gear lists for the trip. You indicated that you had a lot of rain – typically that would mean hiking with wet feet. Did anyone have blisters or other foot issues?
I've taken the girls on overnight backpacking trips a couple of times already and they're eager to do more. I'm truly inspired by your trip!Aug 21, 2012 at 10:59 am #1904558
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
>How did they train for the hike? Is it a matter of just being active kids?
My datapoints are a daughter (7) and a son (12).
Daughter (7) is a stud muffin. The world is her gymnasium. She doesn't walk down the stairs – she climbs down the bannister. She also has always had a strength-to-weight from where/who, we don't know – iron cross on the rings, can climb a vertical door jam with finger strength, etc. For her 7th B-day party, she requested a rock climbing theme so I built two 24-foot-tall climbing walls. I was leary of her on Half Dome last week and the deal with my wife was that they'd turn back when half-baked. But the deal with the daughter was, "If you want to climb one really big rock today, you can't get distracted and climb all the little rocks along the way. Them's the rules today!" She made it, and the cables were a big, positive kick-in-butt. She was tired for the last half of the downhill and there was more literal and verbal handholding to keep her moving.
Son (12) is all slow-twitch muscles like me – not a sprinter AT ALL but we can just keep going all day long. He was 10 when I realized he wasn't slowing me down on day hikes (I carried the daypack). For 6 weeks before the Grand Canyon (at age 11), we'd each spend 10 minutes most mornings doing stairs in the house – up & down, up & down – get sweaty, and then shower and start my day. That, and we did flat miles (the only kind around). 2 to 5 miles on a beach or trail a few times a week while talking about life, math, Harry Potter, whatever. Last week up Half Dome, we'd prep'd much less. He did great, never slowed us down or complained about anything. He was only a little sore. I (51) was moderately sore 2-3 days out and now, 5 days later have no issues. If he'd done some prep work (we both will next time – Whitney!), I could put some weight on his back (and off of mine).
Neither of them walk to school like I did. We make them get out of the house at least once every day or they'd read non-stop. They climb trees, make snow forts and sled down hills. He (12) has PE in middle school. School has grade school recess outside down to -10F. At home we kick them outside to -15F. Family activites tend to be active – hike, ski, canoe together a few times a month. For years, we'd tried to keep the backpacking and hiking fun rather than impressive but now we're including some impressive, iconic stuff as well.Aug 21, 2012 at 11:28 am #1904564
2010 when we returned from the JMT with our (back then) 15 year old twins (Philipp & Daniel), the experience was for weeks a topic at our dinner table, conversations with friends, etc. Our girls complained that we do the real fun stuff only with the boys — this complaint is partially based on the fact that the Boy Scouts do way more fun outdoor stuff than the Girl Scouts. We told them that it has nothing to do with gender, but with age and we would take them too, once they are 15. The 12 year old (Cassie) argued that next year she would be 13 and that is almost 15 and the 8 year old (Hannah) argued that she is just as strong as Cassie. This went on for weeks. Finally in October 2010 when Hannah turned 9 we agreed to take them in 2011 on the JMT if they would go every other weekend (rain or shine) on a 10 mile backpacking trip with us and do a 30 mile weekend during Spring Break. To be honest I thought this would be over before Christmas. The winter of 2010 was very wet and lead to record snow levels in the Sierra for 2011, so every time we went hiking, we did so in the rain. Somehow I thought the kids would loose interest, but the opposite happened. They enjoyed it more and more. The rain didn't deter them – it opened new experiences like seeing newts and banana slugs. So the girls stuck to it and we went 2011 in an epic snow year with many deep creek crossings and had a blast.
When we came back Natalie (back then 8) announced that it would be her turn in 2012. Hannah immediately said that she would go again. So we kept going with the every other weekend backpacking schedule. Milage has never been a goal for us (at least not above the 10 miles/per day that is needed to finish in three weeks). It is the experience out there that is important to us. It just happened this year that we were done in two weeks rather than three weeks. In my opinion that is due to two factors: 1) We didn't have a teenager with us. The young girls are up early in the morning and ready to go, while the teenagers in 2010 and 2011 didn't want to get out of their sleeping bag before the sun would shine directly into their face (which is down in the valley around 10 am) 2) It rained a lot and thus there were not as many opportunities to stop and swim, fish, take photos, rock climb, etc. The girls just kept moving, because that kept them warm.
Both factors contributed to some higher milage.
Beyond our bi-weekly training hikes, all our kids and my wife and I bike to school/work. That is the only regular workout, we get.
I will share our gear lists later. What is the best format for that? Would a Google Doc (Excel) do?
ManfredAug 21, 2012 at 11:40 am #1904570
I forgot to answer your question about blisters or other foot issues. In 2010 we went in water proof hiking boots. That caused a lot of issues and required a tight management of socks and liner socks which would constantly be wet – simply from sweat. In 2011 we went with trail runners and thin merino wool socks. We would just walk through the creeks in them – instead of taking off the boots like we did in 2010. Thus we had constantly damp feet in 2011, but amazingly enough no issues. We would just change into dry socks at the end of the day and that was it.
This year we did the same with the same result. Despite the rain our feet were actually less wet than in 2011, because there were no wet creek crossings (with the exception of Evolution Creek and crossing the San Joaquin River to get to Blaney Hot Springs).
Natalie got towards the end blisters under her feet, because she would leave the fine grime in her socks that acted like sandpaper under her feet. We had just assumed that she would follow our instructions and when we saw both girls wash their socks daily, we assumed she would turn them inside-out. Obviously we put too much responsibility on her – treating her like her older sister. Once we discovered it, two pieces of duct tape and supervision in sock washing solved that problem and she walked 19 miles on the second to last day on those feet.
ManfredAug 21, 2012 at 11:41 am #1904571
I'm in awe, jealous, and motivated at the same time. Just your training routine sounds to me like an ideal way to get some family time and the JMT was simply the icing on the cake!
Thank you again for posting this and I'm looking forward to reading about your future trips.Aug 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm #1904768
Terry & Kevin,
here is the link to our gear lists. I uploaded only mine and Hannah's. The gear list for Natalie is very similar to her sister's (but with less weight, for example she was using a shorter ground pad). My wife's list is similar to mine. She didn't carry any of the gadgets, like GPS and inReach, but used a warmer sleeping bag and warmer sleeping pad than me).
The spreadsheet has still many lines from our 2010 JMT when we brought things like bear bells, camp shoes, foldable water bucket, clothes line, etc. We have dialed it pretty much in during the last three JMTs and feel very comfortable with this list.
ManfredAug 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm #1904786
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
Awesome trip report! How many 9 years old kids can say they hiked the JMT!
Just out of curiosity how did the Z-Packs Exo work for you?Aug 22, 2012 at 3:14 am #1904864
@funnymoLocale: Sunshine State
Man I gotta say: what a great trip and what a great looking family!
You and your wife are exposing your kids to so much (in a good way) and WOW – are they tough!
ToddAug 22, 2012 at 7:07 am #1904881
the pack worked great for me. Last year I used the Osprey Exos 58 which is a great pack — and the rest of my family used the Osprey again this year.
Here is a short list of things that made the ZPacks Exo work well:
– The Bearikade Expedition fits in the backpack. At first I was skeptical, because I couldn't center the bear can, but had to push it to the side in order to put tent and sleeping pad next to it. That never proved to be a problem
– The pack is almost waterproof. With seam sealing you could make it completely waterproof. That was a nice feature in all the rain.
– The shoulder belt pockets fit exactly a 1 l Snapple bottle. Treating water with the SteriPen and drinking happened in a snap.
– The hip pockets are very voluminous and almost waterproof. We all had our cameras in our hip pockets. I left mine in there when it rained. The rest of my family needed to get a ziplock and stow their camera away whenever it started to rain, because the Osprey has a mesh hip pocket.
– I used 4 panels of a Thermarest z-lite as a backpanel. That came often handy during breaks. It is nice to have a warm, dry seating area :)
Here is the one thing that was an issue:
– Abrasion. I carried a Delorme inReach and hung it with a carabiner from the top of the pack for best antenna reception. One day I had packed the pack in a way that the inReach would swing slightly back and forth right along the edge of the bear can. At the end of the day the cuben was rubbed through. I was shocked when I took the backpack off and saw the long "rip". At closer inspection it turned out to not be a problem. One piece of tape addressed the problem and the backpack was completely fine.
The pack carries comfortable for me. With the direct contact to the backpanel my back sweats more than it did with the mesh panel of the Osprey Exos 58, but that didn't pose a real problem. After our re-supply I took some weight off my wife – mainly by putting all the heavy food items in my bear can and all the light ones into her bear can. The scale at MTR showed 39 lbs instead of the 31 lbs I had planed for. With close to 40 lbs the Exo still performed fine, but I clearly wished for a better hipbelt during the next two passes. But amazingly enough I had no shoulder issues. The frame tranfers the weight well to the hips.
ManfredAug 22, 2012 at 7:46 am #1904886
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
Thank you very much for the detail report on the pack Manfred. Sounds like a good pack for thru-hikers who only carry heavy loads occasionally. What I think would really improve the carry would be a separate hip belt that attached directly to the frame the way hipbelts attach to traditional external frame packs.Aug 22, 2012 at 9:39 am #1904919
@anthonywestonLocale: Southern CA
I also have an zpacks EXO and it can easily carry the weight.
I had a small abrasion problem at the bottom of my hipbelt from sitting down on rocks
so now I take the pack off if I sit but it's very comfortable pack.Aug 22, 2012 at 10:35 am #1904935
@delvxeLocale: Pacific Northwest
Thanks for the gear list. it is a nice combination of tried and true as well as more interesting items.
Can you tell us a bit about how you did food? Did you have a hot meal for both evening and morning? I see you used the caldera keg. Did you use two of these? If you used only one, how did you manage to boil water for four people?
Also, did you have to deal with bugs while sleeping? looks like maybe not from your list and at least one of the photos.
Thanks again.Aug 22, 2012 at 10:36 am #1904936
"This "gentleman" was feeding marmots from a bag of chips. My wife asked him to please not do that because it would create a problem for the marmots and all future visitors to this place. When he told her "that is non of your f..ing business", she asked him politely to please watch his language a little around these little girls. He then went into a rampage with many f-words…"
A good deal of the people tend to react really bad when their ignorance is pointed out to them, especially when it makes them look like a dufus in front of their friends. To stop myself from reliving the heated encounter over the next few days, I try and have sympathy for their situation. Like there they are, out with their buddies playing the role of the wilderness guide and getting a lot of pride from it. Then I come along and poke holes in that persona by explaining that they really shouldn't be doing something. Helps to, when before saying something, I anticipate the bad reaction I'm going to likely get when injuring somebodies ego.
Kudos to your wife for bothering, as the guy probably just wasn't thinking about what he was doing and the moment she said something he realized it was extremely irresponsible, but just couldn't take looking stupid with others around to witness it.
I feel really bad for the people that try and tell others to stay out of the water above falls, and then have to watch them get swept over and die, all because it is "none of their f..ing business".Aug 22, 2012 at 11:05 am #1904944
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Manfred, that was a fantastic trip report! Congrats to your family for having such a great adventure. It saddens me to hear of people that are so rude and insensitive like the two guys you encountered on Donahue. Awful. Glad you turned the other cheek and continued onwards.
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