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February 13, 2018 Comments Off on Backpackers go the distance Latest

Backpackers go the distance

Mountain splendor, back-country lakes and camping under dazzling stars were highlights of a 210-mile backpack trip for five area hikers on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

Their trek took 23 days, hiking up to 14 miles each day with a couple of rest days tossed in. Jim Warnock of Alma, Bob Cable of Fayetteville, Nick Spencer of Alma and Spencer’s two sons, Cade and Cole made up the group.

After the adventure, Warnock wrote a detailed essay about the trip on his hiking blog,, that we’ve published today, with photos from the hike.

They took the trip during the summer of 2016, hiking from north to south. The trip started in Yosemite National Park and ended at the summit of Mount Whitney, elevation 14,500 feet.

John Muir Trail is part of the longer Pacific Crest Trail, which runs 2.650 miles from Canada to Mexico. The John Muir stretch goes through stunning mountain scenery, speckled with glacial lakes.

“The best part is when you’re just totally immersed,” Warnock, 62, said, recalling the journey. “Like you’re surrounded by an Imax theater, only it’s all real.”

Weather was good most of the trip. John Muir Trail is well worn so it was easy for the group to find their way. Snow occasionally covered the trail.

Warnock said his pack weighed anywhere from 28 to 36 pounds depending on how much food he carried.

“It was heaviest during a nine-day stretch without any re-supply,” he said.

Cable’s wife, Dana, was their support crew. She traveled in a van, camping here and there and meeting the group at certain points so they could re-supply food and other needs.

Long-distance hikers get nicknames, or trail names, on their journeys. Cable’s trail name is ZZ, as in ZZ Top, because of his long beard.

Cable gave Warnock the trail name Tater.

“The reason he did that is when we’d backpack I’d throw a handful of red potatoes in my pack and boil them and eat them the first night. Boy are they good,” Warnock said.

He eats food on the trail that he dehydrates at home. Warnock never ate freeze-dried food during the 23-day John Muir trip.

Warnock is principal at Alma Intermediate School and runs the school’s outdoor adventure club. He’s able to pass his hiking knowledge and inspiration on to students, grades three through five, at the school.

His friend, Nick Spencer, is assistant principal at Alma High School. Spencer and and his sons covered about 100 miles of the John Muir Trail before Spencer got sick, as you’ll read in Warnock’s story.

All five hikers are familiar with western trails and most of the Ozarks hiking trails in Arkansas and Missouri.

Warnock and Cable did a through-hike of the Ozark Highlands Trai in 2014, covering about 200 miles. The two are currently hiking the entire Ouachita Trail in sections. The trail starts at Talimena State Park in east-central Oklahoma and runs east to Pinnacle Mountain near Little Rock.

They have one more section to go to complete the 223-mile distance.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at or Twitter @NWAFlip to

Sports on 02/13/2018