JMT 2019 Day 18: The End is Nigh

September 21, 2019
Center Basin Junction to Tyndall Frog Ponds
Day miles: 10.5 mi
Cumulative miles: 189 mi

When I started hiking in the morning, my glove liners were wet from stuffing my frosty tent into its stuff sack. This made my hands painfully cold for the first 15 minutes of hiking, even after I took off my wet gloves and put my spare hiking socks on my hands instead.

I climbed out of another U-shaped glacial valley, left the last of the trees and began the steady climb up to Forester Pass. According to the Wenk book, after you leave the last tree, you are still 2000 vertical feet below the top of the pass. I was leapfrogging with familiar faces I had camped with or met coming over Kearsarge Pass the day before. When the sun finally came up over the ridge, I took a yoga break and stretched on some granite slabs. Across the trail, another hiker cooked herself breakfast. Then, I continued on. I felt like I was moving slower and slower.

Finally, I reached the top of Forester Pass. It was a veritable party at the top. After the cold morning, it was warm and not windy at the top! Usually it’s too windy at the top of a pass to linger for long. But this time, it was so nice that everyone was hanging out. I enjoyed my lunch.

Following a 40 minute break, I started my descent, passing a steep couloir. After a few long, rocky switchbacks, the trail mellowed out at the headwaters of Tyndall Creek. Of course, every time I come over a pass like this, I have to poop, which is a problem because tree cover always begins a ways down. This valley lacked the little islands of white bark pines I usually rely on and there were no trees until lodgepole pine habitat starts.Thankfully, I made it. Then I was only a couple miles from my planned campsite at Tyndall Frog Ponds. I scout out a beautiful lakeside camping spot and camp with a friend from Mt. Williamson Motel.

Tomorrow, there are no more big passes, just the set up for Whitney and the following day is the grand finale. It has come to the time where I wish I could stay on the trail forever. At the same time, I am ready to be finished. Shoulder season is full upon us. Nights and mornings are cold. I have hiked 16 days, but I don’t feel like I have gotten any faster or stronger. Sometimes I feel like I have been spoiled for amazing scenery and am not easily impressed anymore, but there are still small moments of indescribable beauty — a butterfly flitting downstream — that I would never notice if I weren’t out here moving so slowly, for so long.

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