On the JMT with JiffyPop


A couple years ago my ex sister-in-law, now just sister convinced me to go on a day hike with her. I knew she was plotting to entrap me in her web of hiking gear, and exaggerated tales of beauty and wonder at the great outdoors.

She said, this is a great hike, but we’re likely to get wet. Oh I get it! That’s why they call it the Mist Trail. I knew deep in my heart, in a way that a mother knows what her child is thinking and a sister knows what her sibling is thinking, that she was testing me. I knew then and there that if I complained, even in the least, I might never be invited again.

For a moment I was tempted to start whining as soon as I strapped the backpack onto my already sweaty back. All I wanted to say was, there I did it, happy now?

Well I was good and didn’t complain. I loved that hike and have completed it about 8 times since; twice, alone.

Ever since, each hike I go on has been approached with the same mentality…if I complain I won’t be invited again. Since I’m still a novice at the planning of these multi-day hikes, I didn’t want to take the risk of making her mad at me.

Eventually, I started hearing horror stories about a fellow hiker chick, my cousin, Celi. Her uncontrollable bad judgement in fits of passionate fury have made her somewhat a legend among the group and their spouses. I hadn’t hiked with them yet, so I used to think, how bad can she be?

I read the book “Wild” and read a section wherein the main character lost her boot and in a fit, tossed the other one over the cliff. Well, from what I’m told, my cousin has a right to sue on the basis of plagiarism. From what I’m told, she herself has flung a perfectly good pair of boots into the woods. This was confirmed on this trip when she admitted that she didn’t have inserts in her current pair of boots. When questioned by my sister, “Where are the ones I bought for you?” She replied, “Yeah, they were in the boots I chucked.”

The last trip of about 40 miles resulted in an unexpected “jaunt” around a dry lake bed at the foot of a basin of mountains. The final walk was indeed torturous, hot and most importantly for Celi, not planned. You see, she does fairly well if she knows what to expect. Now that she has learned to manage hot spots in her boots, she tapes her feet to prevent blisters. Now don’t get me wrong, even though she knows that she should tape her feet, she will will ask, “I didn’t get blisters last time, should I tape this time?” As if that ounce of prevention was in fact a permanent cure.

Chorus: YES!

To her credit, this trip was a little different. Apparently, our questioning the benefits of hiking for her (since she is always unhappy while doing it) caused her to reconsider which voice to use when complaining: her outside voice or her inside voice. To our surprise, and joy, she chose to use her inside voice to chew on the various discomforts of this trip.

Feet? Taped!

Food? She ate what she wanted and not a vegetable touched her lips.

Tent? She chose the spots to set up, the side to sleep on, where to lay her pack, and what the clothes to wear to bed.

Speed? My sister made sure we had an extra day to kick about.

Attitude? She chose to be brave and happy.

All was well until you guessed it, it began to rain. OK, I have to admit, it was only by luck that I was prepared for the rain…after all, we are in the middle of a drought. But so it started…

“Celi! Where’s your poncho?”

“I don’t have one.”

Eyes rolled.

“I have an emergency blanket, but its made of metal and I will draw lightening.”

“No, you won’t. It’s foil colored, not metal and it won’t do anything of the sort. Its like the stuff they make balloons out of.”

Celi in fog

She fussed for a minute longer and we managed to cover her up quickly and we continued to walk. We were so sure that it would end quickly. We gave up on staying dry and started to plan for making camp as fast as possible, even while it was raining. Meanwhile, Celi’s favorite thing to hate started up. Rolling thunder passed over head.

We assured her that in fact the storm was passing us and it would be over soon. Meanwhile that thunder grew louder. We were all soaked and our patience was wearing thin. Then it happened. She saw a lightening bolt.

In a moment of silent, single file, head down marching forward all hell broke loose. She turned and faced me (Who does that on a trail? I practically ran her over.)

“CARO! I’m taking this thing off!”

“NOOO!! Lennie and I yelled in chorus. After several minutes standing in the rain, Celi uncovered, we convinced her to keep it on and we moved forward. All was well until it dawned on me that she looked like ET ( a shadowy shape in the woods) or even better, a baked potato.

Celi ET

She mentioned that she kept seeing flashes of lightening, then realized it was the foil around her head she saw out of the corner or her eye.  To our relief, should couldn’t hear anything for all the crackling of the foil around her ears.

Celi and Lennie looking me

I couldn’t stop laughing. Then Lennie couldn’t stop laughing. Eventually, Celi said, “If you’re going to name me, I’m naming myself. I look like a JiffyPop Popcorn container.” Blahahahaaa we died laughing. Then Martha said, “Hold up your poles, and those can be the handle!”

More laughter and we marched on.

Celi in stream

Finally at Marie Lakes, after 7 ½ hours of rain, we made camp. Our tents went up in record fashion and the wettest of us all, Celi was ordered into the tent to keep warm. We brought her hot chocolate just like room service would and ordered her not to get any thing else wet. She obeyed. Meanwhile we ate the most delicious chicken soup, standing up in the rain (still pouring down). A young man from North Carolina walked by, looking miserable. We shared a bowl of soup with him and he declared it, “Trail Magic”.

Early to bed, early to rise and the morning was glorious. 20140805-145938-53978727.jpg

We took pictures, ate breakfast and headed out over Seldon Pass to lunch at Heart Lake.

We climbed higher and found another set of clouds to play in. It rained, but now we knew what to do. We wrapped Celi in foil and marched on.

She didn’t complain, and she didn’t tug at it at all. She was quiet Coyote (yes Jill, a reference to you’re hand signal) and all in the world was good. Till we saw an old man’s naked butt, and I fell in the South Fork of the San Joaquin River….but in the mountains you just don’t complain because if you do, someone will laugh at you.  We picked up some supplies at Muir Ranch Trail Ranch, at a wonderful dinner a la Lennie, and sat by a warm fire.

The rest of the trip was glorious, uneventful and perfectly wonderful.

And for the record, metal doesn’t draw lightening, and if anything it might have conducted it away from her. In fact we were probably more at risk than Celi. I say, now you know why I call her Sparky.

Thanks for being my friends.


About Caro

I am a social worker by training and a peace officer by profession having worked with California’s delinquent youth and young adults for 28 years. I firmly believe that our development as humans depends on our environment and that sometimes we get stuck. As such, I write about those things we sometimes ignore or fail to see until we are forced to pay attention.
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