JMT 2019 Day 5: Hidden Gems

September 8, 2019
Deer Creek to Squaw Lake (15 mi)

It’s a frosty morning. Sitting in my sleeping bag poking at my oatmeal, I come up with a theory that the reason it takes me so long to get out of camp every morning is I don’t really want to eat my oatmeal. I wake up around 6 but can’t seem to get on the trail until 8. I wish I had savory breakfast, that I had packed something like cheesy grits with bacon bits. I have never had issues with oatmeal before, but I decide to experiment with eating Clif bars for breakfast the next couple of days and see if that speeds up my morning routine.

There is a 5 mile dry stretch between Deer Creek and Duck Lake, one of the longest dry stretches on the JMT, so I start the day carrying just over 2 liters of water. I see a sooty grouse as big as a chicken and then some cute California quail with their little bobbing head plumes, twittering and running about in the manzanita. Too bad Dan and Dakota aren’t here to get them for me for my dinner and I’ll have to eat a dusty looking ziplock of Mountain House instead.

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I take my lunch break at Purple Lake, then head on to impressive Virginia Lake. Virginia Lake is as clear and blue as Lake Towada (caldera lake in Japan famous for its bright blue color, which is the pride of the small town where I lived for two years after college). I would have and should have swam in Virginia Lake, except I was still relatively clean from yesterday’s shower.

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Purple Lake

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The trail skirting beautiful Virginia Lake

From Lake Virginia, the trail descends to the headwaters of Fish Creek, which was true to its name, full of small mountain trout until the river began to descend steeply in rapids and waterfalls. There were a few nice campsites along Fish Creek and I thought about how if you planned to fish along the trail you would plan a different itinerary and camp at Minaret Creek and Fish Creek, etc. instead of the high alpine lakes I have a preference for.

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Fish Creek

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Bridge across Fish Creek

After crossing Fish Creek over a nice steel bridge, it’s a slogging climb up towards Silver Pass. Squaw Lake sits hidden atop a shelf and when you finally step up there, it feels like a magical secret world.

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Squaw Lake is hidden up there!

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View from the top of the climb

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Squaw Lake from my campsite in golden afternoon light

My tent site is a gravelly patch behind some stunted pines. It is not quite flat, but I will tuck my backpack under my sleeping pad to help level the floor. 15 miles is the longest distance I have hiked in a day so far, and I am looking forward to having a short 8 mile day tomorrow where I can fully enjoy Silver Pass and its lakes.

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