JMT 2019 Day 14: Highs and Lows on the John Muir Trail

September 17, 2019
Small tarn at 11,000 ft south of Pinchot Pass to Middle Rae Lake
Day Miles: 11.1 mi
Cumulative Miles: 155 mi

I wake up to my wristwatch alarm at 6 am and discover my campsite is beautiful, perched above a little pond reflecting the mountains above in its glasslike surface now that things are calm. I make my dinner for breakfast. The good thing about making Mountain House meals for breakfast is I get to sit with a little hot water bottle in my sleeping bag while I wait for my food to rehydrate.

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We are back to beautiful blue skies with nary a wisp of cloud. Last night my wrist was still itchy and swollen from the bee sting at VVR. To sleep through the storm, I took some Benadryl. As a side effect, the swelling in my wrist is gone. Highs and lows on the John Muir Trail.

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The so-called “Golden Gate of the Sierra”, a very bouncy suspension bridge over Woods Creek

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I liked this sign at the large campsite at Woods Creek Junction, just across the bridge.

In Kings Canyon NP, the JMT’s MO is to climb a hanging valley up to another hanging valley, go over a pass connecting two glacial basins, follow the headwaters of a creek down until the creek turns into cascades, descend into a valley until the creek meanders in great wide S-curves through a meadow, junction with another creek, follow that creek up, up, up… and so on. Just when you think, “Whose idea was it to build this insufferable trail that goes incessantly up one canyon and down another!” you reach Dollar Lake and discover another high alpine paradise — the Rae Lakes. Such is the JMT, like an emotionally abusive romantic partner that is just so beautiful and talented, you endure being jerked up and down.

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Dollar Lake and Fin Dome, which looks like one of the Tetons came over to the Sierras for a vacation.

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Rae Lakes Basin

I set up camp at Middle Rae Lake pretty early, taking it easy after yesterday’s harrowing day, and spend quite a bit of time wiping black dust from everything with my bandana. Even after that effort my hands still turn black from touching any of my gear. Once upon a time, my tent was impregnated with red dust from Southern Utah, now it’s black dust from under Pinchot Pass!

I soak my feet in the lake, wash some laundry, hang it to dry on a rocky perch by the lakeside, leisurely heat up and eat my dinner, journal… And then, when I go to wipe out my cook pot, I cannot find my bandana! It’s green, plant-based hand-tied tie-dye and made of hemp that dries quickly. I bought it over 15 years ago in Okinawa, while on the 55th Japan-America Student Conference. I’d been giving it quite a work out on this hike, and it was starting to develop holes from all the wear, but I love it and it is my everything towel! What am I going to wipe my nose with? By now, the campsite is full of other people and I make the rounds asking everyone if they have seen a green bandana fly by. When I have given up and return to the spot I was sitting and pick up everything to bring back to my tent, I find my bandana! (Smushed under my electronics bag to prevent escape.) Yay! It’s funny how losing anything on the trail incites panic, because you’ve stripped down everything you packed as much as possible and if you can’t find something, you need that thing! That one particular thing, much more than you would in normal life, where you can easily get a replacement.

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The Painted Lady at dusk

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