John Muir Trail, Day 4: Tuolumne Meadows to Lyell Fork Bridge

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J:  I’m hijacking this blog post!  Heather and I both kept a journal on this hiking adventure and Day 4 in my journal opens with “The day started shitty again with me feeling like crap.  This altitude thing better shake so I can actually enjoy this trip.”  It was on Day 4 that I realized I wasn’t feeling crappy because of anxiety or the burger and ice cream, but instead I had a touch of the altitude sickness.  I woke up again feeling nauseous.  Neither of us seemed to have any appetite (very weird), but knew we had to eat something to be able to make our new shorter hike of 10 miles to Lyell Fork Bridge.

H: Jennifer taking over this post was her kind way of telling me to ‘hurry the fuck up and let’s get this post out because it’s been over a month’. But I’m glad she did, because I was just starting to feel a little guilty about not posting. But not guilty enough to start writing. Ha!

My journal entry for Day 4 also mentions Jennifer’s altitude issues, and as I read it before typing here, I realized that I have neglected to mention that I had my own issues, especially around this time – I managed to get a cold starting on Day 2. So while that admittedly resulted in my being slower on the trail, it worked well since we were both slow for our own reasons. The most awesome result of the cold though, was the fact that I snored exactly every single night in that tent and I’m lucky Jennifer didn’t beat the shit out of me. I’m sure Chris would like to point out here that the snoring has continued since the JMT, and I have since bought nasal strips that I am forced to wear on occasion (lavender scented!). I’m sexy at night – think nasal strip, glasses, and my retainer as well as my most seducing pair of cotton pants and an old t-shirt.


The backpackers campground at Tuolumne was crowded (even though it doesn’t look like it from this photo).  We had dropped our packs at the first campsite we found the night before which turned out to be right near the water pump.  We kept meeting people as they came to get water and ran into Sean & Cassidy again (our father/daughter hiking buddies) and met our friend Cole for the first time.


There was supposedly a shortcut to get to the JMT at the back of the campground, so we headed out bright and early.  I should mention that a little extra time was spent in the real campground bathroom with actual toilets and sinks since we both knew it would be our last chance for at least a few days.  Yes, that means pooping in the woods would soon become a reality!

So…then we got lost in the woods trying to find the little connection trail “shortcut” to the JMT.  Not a great start to the day so far. We backtracked to the campground and eventually found the unmarked trail that was apparently right in front of our faces.  So much for a shortcut, but I’m betting it probably did save us at least a few extra steps in the long run.

We finally made it to the actual JMT.  Luckily you don’t have to go far before you reach a sign in Yosemite that confirms you’re in the right spot, on the right trail, and heading in the right direction. Done. Unfortunately, we don’t have a photo of the first piece of turquoise duct tape being applied to H’s sunglasses when she knocked them loose putting her pack back on around this sign.

H: I have three ‘casualties’ written down in my journal at this juncture. The first is the fact that my ginormous backpack, recently resupplied with goodies from Tuolumne, knocked the shit out of my sunglasses, essentially breaking them and knocking out my left lens. Luckily they weren’t on my face at this time but around my neck thanks to my frat-boy croakies (although if they were, they probably wouldn’t have broken…). Stay tuned for plenty of pictures with janky shades. Also, Jennifer’s water bladder had already sprung a leak, which had started a couple of nights before. And finally, we were already down to sharing 1 Steripen because the one Jennifer’s sister had loaned her wasn’t working. It probably just needed a new battery, but when Jennifer tested it out at home, we didn’t realize that it was only going to sterilize about 10 liters, rather than 40 before needing a charge. As Jennifer said, the wonderful product that is duct tape saved the day for my glasses, and for the water bladder. And not to foreshadow too much into this amazing adventure we just started, but it wouldn’t be the last time we used that duct tape. Note to future through-hikers: PACK A LOT OF DUCT TAPE! I’d wrapped quite a few strips around my bear can – this was already proving to have been a good idea.

Tuolomne Meadow

The day through Tuolumne Meadows was actually one of the easiest, flattest hiking days we had.  It was beautiful, but HOT!

The trail followed a river through the meadow for most of the time and we were able to find a nice shady spot to eat our luxurious lunch of Ritz crackers and peanut butter. It was about the only thing that didn’t make me gag at the thought of eating with my queasy stomach.


The last mile or so of the hike was uphill, but at least it was shaded relief from the sun.  When we got to the bridge, we knew the camp site was near and were ready to dump our shit and relax for a bit.  We met two sisters who’d just set up camp (Brittany and “Kathleen” who we later realized was actually Courtney) and ran into our new friends Cole, Sean, and Cassidy again.  We didn’t know it at the time, but we ended up camping with this crew at the same spots most nights from here on out….our trail family was starting.  It’s a good thing we liked them!

H: Yeah, it’s really funny looking back at this day now that we know how much time we later spent with the people we were camping near at this site. Sean & Cassidy, Brittany & Courtney, and Cole were all camping here, although we probably exchanged no more than a few sentences of conversation with them each.


I got my damn pole stuck in the bridge.  Graceful, even on the trail.

Since we had decided to only hike 10 miles and it was relatively flat most of the day, we ended up getting to camp a little early.  Heather went down by the river to take some photos while I tried to get my shit together and figure out how to get over my altitude sickness….maybe whiskey?

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H: After we got settled in at camp, it was nice to sit back and relax a little. I remember having a little bit of time to read my Bon Appetit magazine (sorta dumb to bring a magazine full of all sorts of tasty food while we’re eating dehydrated meals and sterilizing water, but oh well!) and I think Jennifer and I actually had a little more of the whiskey (with powdered cider mix!) we’d been carrying but hadn’t touched since the first night. We were quickly realizing that, at least in the beginning, we rarely felt the urge to consume booze at the end of the day. This was totally unexpected, given that Chris and I would typically toss back boxed wine quite often after hiking prior to this trip. 

All in all, it felt nice to know we’d be crossing the first official pass of the JMT, Donahue, only 1 day behind our (very tentative) schedule. We were both hoping that following that accomplishment, we’d both be feeling more upbeat, with less sniffles and less altitude-related problems, and bigger appetites!

Day 4 Details (July 28, 2015):

Start-Finish: Tuolumne Meadows to Lyell Fork Bridge
Daily Miles: 10
Total mileage tally: 42
Total JMT miles: 33.5
Camp elevation: 9,650 ft
Hiking Elevation: 1,339 ft gain, 377 ft loss

Hey! Here’s a link to all JMT posts for your reading pleasure 😉. You’re welcome.

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