JMT – Seattle to Lee Vining

August 1, 2014

The thought of another thru hike was lingering on our minds for quite a while. Ever since we completed the 93 miles Wonderland Loop in August of 2012 we had our hearts set on a longer, bigger adventure. We just love being out there exploring places where your usual weekend warrior does not have the time to set foot on and experiencing the nature in more solitude then hikes closer to civilization can offer.

John Muir Trail seems to have what we are looking for. Amazing scenery, plenty of sunshine, and its length of 211 miles (+ few extra miles to walk back to civilization from the sumit of Mt. Whitney) is a nice step up from the 9 day thru hike of Wonderland yet it was not a completely overwhelming number.

Seattle light rail station

Seattle light rail station

Dave is in charge of transportation. We briefly consider driving to Yosemite or Lone Pine and use local transportation to shuttle ourselves between the trailheads. The advantage would be that we could stop at interesting places along the way but after quick reality check we realize that we don’t have enough vacation time for any extra stops and quite frankly a 17-hours drive home after completing a three-week walking trip is not that alluring either. In the end we decide to take a flight from Seattle where we live to Reno, and from there hop on a bus operated by East Sierra Transit (ESTA) to Lee Vining, small town along Hwy 395 with a connection shuttle to the Yosemite Valley. Taking this way we arrive to Lee Vining in mid afternoon and since the Yosemite shuttle YARTS run only in the morning, we spend the night in this quite interesting little town.

Waiting for ESTA bus at Reno airport

Waiting for ESTA bus at Reno airport

Esta bus to Lee Vining

Esta bus to Lee Vining

We choose the El Mono motel mainly because the good price and positive reviews. It is a simple accommodation but the room is cozy and clean and for a thru hiker really a luxury. We are little groggy after the hours of traveling but we summon our energy and set out to check the town out.

Room at El Mono Motel

Room at El Mono Motel

Lee Vining is located close to Mono Lake, large shallow saline soda lake formed more then 760,000 years ago that is known for its beautiful tufa towers. Tufa is a variety of limestone and the tufa columns are usually associated with saline lakes. The main tufa viewing area is at the other side of the lake, 8 miles out of town but the marina, which is about 2 miles away provides just as spectacular views.

Dave walking down towards Mono Lake

Dave walking down towards Mono Lake

Sunset over Mono Lake

Sunset over Mono Lake

Sunset over Mono Lake

Sunset over Mono Lake

Tomorrow we will arrive at Yosemite Valley and have our first California bear encounter.

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