Anika Mulkey, a 9-year-old fifth grader at Oakhurst Elementary School, has had pretty interesting “what-I-did-for-summer-vaction” stories when she returns to school every year. At age 5, she climbed Half Dome in Yosemite, and at age 7 she joined her family on a cross-country bicycle trip.
Her latest summer adventure, with her mother Sherri and brother Nathaniel, 14, took three weeks - hiking the entire John Muir Trail - 230 miles from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney near Lone Pine in Inyo County.
The journey started July 3 with a party of eight, and after averaging about 10 miles a day, the trip was completed on July 24, with six members of the original team. Two family friends had to end their journey a little sooner than planned due to physical limitations.
“The best thing I liked about the trip was the beautiful scenery and all the little animals I got to see like marmots and pikas, and even a big black bear,” Anika said with excitement. “I loved the waterfalls and all the colorful wildflowers we saw and at night, the shooting stars were amazing. Before I fell asleep each night, I’d lay on my back and look up and all the bright, sparkling stars.”
Not all family members made the trip. Anika’s father, Dave, an EMT with Sierra Ambulance, was forced to pass due to a bad knee, brother Aaron was at boot camp with the Coast Guard, and brother Jonathan was working.
Tagging along on the trip was family friend MJ Turner from Southern California.
“We took three days to go to Tuolumne Meadow,” Sherri said. “It was meant to be a warm-up for Anika to get her used to a pack and uphill and all day hiking. She went from a five-mile hike on day one to a 20 mile day the last day of the trip. Pretty amazing for a 9-year-old.”
Nathaniel, being a busy teenager, had two other camps to attend, so on July 5 he and Mountain Home School teacher Johm Rumohr did a one-day hike from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows to catch up with Sherri, Anika and MJ.
On day seven, husband/father David met his family at Devils Post Pile in the Mammoth area to resupply them.
“My dad treated us to delicious stream cooled watermelon and veggies,” Anika said.
Day eight brought the longest hike of the trip - about 13 miles with newly filled and heavier backpacks - on an uphill trail to Purple Lake.
At Edison Lake, another person had to head home due to knee problems via shuttle boat and van shuttle to Fresno.
“We found out about 20% of the people who start the John Muir Trail drop out,” Sherri said.
The next resupply was hiked in by Dave and three friends from church and two old family friends from Southern California.
“They carried 50-plus-pound packs 12 miles over Bishops pass loaded with our food and supplies for the last seven days,” Sherri said.
“No watermelon this time, but great grapes,” said Anika.
Patches of ice were found at Silver Pass (elevation 10,750) where Anika made herself a snow cone with powdered grape Kool-Aid.
The Mulkeys met people from 15 different countries during their adventure - some on the John Muir Trail, others on the Pacific Crest Trail which joins in for a good portion.
The highlight of the trip was the finish - a brief celebration on the top of Mount Whitney and its 14,505-foot-high elevation.
“It was a joy every morning to get up and see my children ready for another day of unknown challenges and wonders,” Sherri said. “It’s so beautiful up there. I kept wondering when the ‘beauty container’ within me would burst because it just got too full.”