Day Five on the JMT, Indecision

Day Five

September 6, 2018
Trinity Lakes to Reds Meadow Resort
Total distance walked: 5.2 miles

I awoke to another cool, clear and quiet morning.  While laying in the tent, I thought back to late yesterday afternoon before the rain began.  Four campers joined our campsite.  Two large, lanky men who totally ignored us and set up smack dab in the middle of camp, only to pick up their belongings (including their fully raised tent) and move to somewhere in the bushes.  Then two girls with jumbo-sized backpacks bigger than themselves waved hello and set up camp adjacent to us.  Most often what I saw on the trail were people like these hikers, traveling in pairs.

Bundled in every warm garment I had, I left the tent and waved good morning to the girls who were up and about.  With each exhale of air, I could see my breath.  The sky was clear and the water still.  It beautifully reflected the stately pines on the opposite shore.

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Trinity Lakes, pond #3, southbound.

Although the sunlit grasses exuded cheer around the lake, my senses were dulled by a minor headache.  I’m sure it was due to dehydration since I didn’t want to drink the pond water.

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A beautiful morning scene.

As the campers started to rouse, my thoughts turned to the future.  Today was our last day hiking together.  Once we hit Reds Meadow, Chris would come and bring our resupplies.  My plan was to venture out on my own from there.  My trail family would continue at a faster pace walking more miles than I could do in one day.

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Real family members: Dan, Erin, Adam.

Although going solo is what I had planned for the past six months, I began to question if I was really the type of person to do that.  The thought was daunting.   After traveling with a close-knit family and seeing people who hiked with a partner—like the ones who camped in our site—it made me long for my own partner with whom to share the experience.

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Ladies of the JMT: Tenacious J and Slip Knot.

The girls with the jumbo backpacks waved goodbye as they and the unfriendly men hit the trail towards Reds Meadow.  We Late Starters gathered near the pond’s shore and talked about the bothersome barking we heard the night before.  Thereupon, the coyote howled and barked again!  Perhaps this time he was saying good riddance to us all.

Packed and ready to go, we started off together, excited to get to Reds Meadow for many reasons: to take a shower, to eat a burger, to have a beer—or water, in my case.  I still carried a bottle of purified pond water but was loath to drink it.

The angle of our descent increased as we walked through the forest.  Besides the western white pines and lodgepole pines, we began encountering red fir trees.  Blazing Saddle was astonished by the myriad of downed trees and slowed his gait to take it all in.

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And they all came tumbling down.

On the other hand, I had no problem keeping up with speedy Slip Knot and Aqua Man.  On this fifth day of hiking, I was stronger.  What weighed heavy on me was not the pack, but the indecision of continuing solo or quitting altogether.

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Slip Knot and Aqua Man rounding a bend in the trail.

We crossed many dry creek beds that earlier in the year would have been good spots to gather water.  While walking, we played a game: try to come up with a song for every letter of the alphabet, then sing a portion of it.  I imagined that this is what my trail family, who always hiked together, were doing the whole of the trip.

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Trying to figure out if this was a recent fallen tree or one from 2011.

Slip Knot and Aqua Man pulled off the trail.  Passing them, I reached a junction and stood by for them to catch up.  Together we all awaited Blazing Saddle.

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Which way? Towards Johnston Lake.

We passed boggy Johnston Meadow and little Johnston Lake as the trail continued to descend.  We walked down a granite slope overlaid by pumice sand where the steep steps, again, were knee-high.  Someone told me they were made that way for horses.

Aqua Man walked off trail very close to the edge of the mountain.  I heard both Blazing Saddle and Slip Knot yell for him to get away from the edge.  One wrong move and…..just thinking about it made my hands sweat.
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I don’t know how Blazing Saddle disconnected from the group, but he was no longer with us.  At another trail junction where the PCT and JMT met, we stopped and waited.  We spoke with a couple of hikers who walked through but Blazing Saddle never came.  Finally we made the decision to continue towards Devils Postpile.

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From Yosemite National Park, through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, into the Inyo National Forest. Happy to be here.

I mentioned to Slip Knot that I didn’t know if I was going to continue with the thru-hike.  My trail family carried a Garmin InReach that allowed them to text back and forth.  I carried a SPOT Gen 3 Personal Tracker that did not have two-way communication.  I was concerned about having no contact with anyone for the remaining 18 days.

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Crystal clear middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.

To reach Devils Postpile, we took a fork down to the riverbank and crossed and bridge.  For the whole of the trip we had been encountering only backpackers.  Once we reached the National Monument, there were only day hikers: nicely coiffed women with make up and perfume, men wearing collared shirts.  And many dogs on leash.  I thought maybe Chris and I could walk back with Ginger the following day.
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Devils Postpile is one of the world’s tallest and most nearly perfect examples of columnar basalt.

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Approaching Devils Postpile.

It would have been more amazing to me if I wasn’t parched, hungry, dirty, and if my mind wasn’t inflicted with indecision.  Several tourists stopped and spoke with Slip Knot as we strolled through the park.  They were fascinated with her story of hiking the JMT and had all kinds of questions about it.

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A man with whom I spoke was shocked that we did not walk on any roads to get from Yosemite to Devils Postpile.  How ironic was it that just a few moments after speaking with him, we ended up walking half a mile along a paved road to Reds Meadow.

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Proof that I was here.

We climbed the steps to Reds Meadow Resort hoping to find Blazing Saddle there.  It was a hub of activity.  Surrounding a dirt courtyard was a general store, the Mule Café, rustic cabins, a bathroom with flushing toilets, a bathhouse and a laundry.  Inside the café were the Aussies from a few days ago, Nathan and PK.  Nathan came out to say hello and I stuck my head in to say hi to PK.  The girls with the jumbo backpacks were eating ice cream bars.  Their hair was wet hair from a shower and they wore clean clothes.  They waved goodbye and continued on their JMT journey.  Chatty Cathy, a young man who hiked the JMT three times, made eyes at Slip Knot and couldn’t wait to talk with her.  A photographer we spoke with on top of Donahue Pass was there along with many others.  Moments later Blazing Saddle walked up.  We were complete.

It wasn’t long before we were seated in the café woofing down burgers and drinking beer—water for me (a pitcher).  Hot showers were next: $5 for five minutes plus $2 for a towel and soap.

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A delicious burger at the Mule Café.

Satiated, quenched and clean, we walked a quarter mile downhill to the campsite ready to continue roughing it in the woods.  We pitched our simple tents under the stars next to glampers (people camped in a trailer) whose muffler-less generator was an assault on our senses.  That night I tossed and turned, not because of the annoying generator, but because I was unsure of what to do.  My heart wanted to continue on and see more of the amazing sights I had only read about.  I was excited to see Chris and hoped that he would help me decide.

TO BE CONTINUED…