Sunday, December 7, 2014

JMT Hiking Day #15: Charlotte Lake to Unnamed Lake Below Forester Pass. Aug. 25, 2014

***About 8 miles with approximately 1350 feet net elevation gain (800 feet down and around 2150 feet up).

We awoke to condensation again.  However, we had four hours or so before our resupply from Sequoia Kings Pack Trains would arrive, so there was plenty of time to dry our sleeping bags and tent in the hot Sierra sun.  We packed our things, walked past the lake and up the small hill, and sat by the intersection where we were to meet the mules and driver.  There, we took our the tent and sleeping bags and lay them on rocks in the sun.  The girls played cards and wrote in their journals while I paced back and forth.  The mules and driver weren't late, but it felt strange not to be walking.

The intersection by Charlotte Lake
where we met our pack mules and driver.

A few hikers passed while we waited.  One, a woman named Lisa we'd meet again the next day, was especially friendly.  She and I spoke for a while before she continued onward.

Here they come!
Our mules and driver arrived at 11:20am, which was well within our agreed-upon time frame.

The driver was kind.  He got down from his mules and initially gave us the wrong bucket.  This wouldn't have been a big deal, except that we were paying for an unshared resupply...meaning, I had given Dee Berner of Sequoia Kings Pack Trains $550 because she had said there was no one else resupplying on our scheduled day.  If someone else has a bucket brought up on the same day, then the price is supposed to go down substantially.  When the driver gave me the wrong bucket, I thought someone else had booked services for the same resupply date after all, and that I would therefore be refunded a portion of my payment when I returned home.  I was wrong, which gives me mixed feelings about using Sequoia Kings Pack Trains.  Yes, the driver was sweet and on time, and yes, our resupply buckets arrived undamaged...BUT -- the pricing structure is a) not written down anywhere and b) unclear.  After returning from the JMT, I called Dee Berner to ask if I would receive a partial refund.  Since someone else used the mule service on the same day as I had, then that someone and I should split the costs of the resupply trip.  At least, that had been my understanding of the unwritten policy.  Dee said that someone had asked for emergency resupply services, and that person had originally booked their resupply trip for another day, so this meant I would not get a refund even though the mules had been used for two parties instead of just one.  It's confusing, I know.  I don't understand it, and I said so to Dee.  She offered to refund half my payment, and I told her I didn't mind paying full price if there was a valid reason and if her explanation made sense to me...I just wanted to know why I was still charged full price when someone else had also used the mules for the same day (and the same drop-off location).  Dee told me she would call me again later to explain further after she looked into the matter more....but she never did...and my checks were cashed.  There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this -- Sequoia Kings Pack Trains has been around for a long time, and they are indeed reliable when it comes to getting your food to you on time way out in the wilderness, but right now I feel as though I spent too much for the service.

Again, the driver was great -- he was on time, cordial, and pleasant to speak with.  He and the other drivers apparently get to keep all the extra food the hikers don't want from their buckets, so he appreciated the excess half-bucket of goodies I was able to leave behind.

My advice to other hikers is to either fully resupply at MTR, hike out over Kearsarge Pass into Onion Valley and resupply there (Mt. Williamson Hotel is one thru-hiker option), or use Sequoia Kings Pack Trains BUT get a firm, written pricing policy before you do so there is no room for confusion.

Once we had our resupply, we indulged ourselves in treats I had specifically packed with the intention of eating as soon as we opened the buckets.  Zebra cakes and oatmeal pies went down our hatches in a flash.  A huge bag of Fritos, miraculously unsmushed, was consumed with gusto.

Photo by Alex Herr
The extra sugar and fat went straight to our legs in the best way possible.  The girls flew - and I do mean flew -- down into Vidette Meadows.  We then decided to hike up as far as we could toward Forester Pass before setting up camp for the evening.  Though we'd had a late start, we made excellent time (thanks to all the sugar in our resupply goodies).  We zoomed past the campsites by the larger trees and took our chances on finding some spots up near the "stunted pines."  There are indeed a few such spots, just before the lake at 12,250 feet.  Just off the trail, to the right, we found three small, close-together spots with just enough cover to make me feel fairly safe from potential storms (the clouds looked calm, but still -- I don't like to be completely exposed).

Here's the view from our site, looking down into the valley.

The girls and I set up camp, ate a ton of ranch-flavored sesame seeds (YUM!), and discussed our plans for the next day.  Guitar Lake was 20 miles away.  If we could make that in one day, then we'd summit Whitney a day earlier than we'd expected and therefore be able to get Sprite and vanilla milkshakes that much faster.

We were having a fantastic time, but being so close to the end made us yearn for some specific comforts.  None of those comforts included a shower, however.  The three of us had not showered, bathed, or even properly cleaned ourselves since we'd left Muir Trail Ranch seven days beforehand.  I hadn't even changed my socks.  Seriously, all I did, every single night, was beat the socks against a rock to get out the dust and dirt.  In the morning, I'd slather my feet with Vaseline and put the socks right back on again.  As for bathing...both girls always had a layer of dirt on their faces and we had worn the exact same clothes for seven days.

Anyway, the thought of Guitar Lake being only twenty miles away made us antsy.  We decided we would try to make it there the very next day.  If the mileage become too much, then we could always stop and camp before reaching our intended destination.

We went to sleep excited at the prospect of ascending Whitney a whole day earlier than planned.

The next entry, "Forester Pass to Guitar Lake," will be posted by late Thursday evening.


  1. The trend of condensation for a single wall tent is pretty common. You need to give it a lot of ventilation, especially with 3 inside to counteract it. You've said before that you didn't like having the edges up, but that is what would be needed.

    When I had my TT contrail i'd keep a small piece of pack towel inside to wipe the walls before trying to move around. Then I sold it and got a Lightheart gear Solo which is a hybrid single/double wall tent with much more ventilation.

    always enjoy the pictures and stories.. JMT is high on my list. T25 list trails are the short term goals though, maybe i'll catch you guys on one of them.


  2. Hi Jake,

    Thanks -- I love our tent since it is SO light and there is so much room on the inside -- the condensation, which was common in all the tents around us, is a small price to pay. When the girls aren't with me, I might try that Lightheart Solo you suggest.

    The girls and I will be all over the T25 next spring/summer/fall, so I do hope we meet on the trails sometime!