Mountain Memories

September 16, 2019
Silver Pass Lake to Lake Thomas Edison—Day 9 on the JMT
Total distance walked: 7.5 miles

Our last night on the trail was a cold one.  Inside the sleeping bag I swaddled myself in a thermal Mylar emergency blanket that crackled with each tiny movement. I woke in a tangled mess of blanket and sleeping bag.  Tired from a restless night, I emerged from the tent ready to tackle the trail. Today’s trek was all downhill, a descent of 2,800 feet.

The mountain we camped below.

Badly in need of water, we left our arid campsite and headed back to the trail. We quickly came upon a creek. After a long drink, we filled our empty containers and moved on.


The valley dropped steeply in front of us as we negotiated the rocky switchbacks.


I don’t know what’s harder, walking on a steep downhill grade atop loose granite, or heaving a 40-pound backpack uphill. We accomplished both on this trip.

Looking back at the descent.

I kept my eyes on the trail in front of me as we made our way down the side of the mountain. Partway downhill we traversed Silver Pass Creek. Before leaving home, I watched videos of people at this point on the trail.  The videos showed a crossing that was treacherous.  Gushing cascades drenched hikers with icy cold water.  I had been dreading this moment; however, our feet didn’t even get wet.  Once across, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Early in the hiking season, this was a cascading waterfall.

Continuing downhill, we came to another so-called turbulent water crossing, the North Fork of Mono Creek.


I was expecting this crossing and the one prior to be wretched—as the guidebook called them.  Yet again, it was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, a benefit of hiking late in the season.

Michael, crossing Mono Creek and wondering why I urged him to bring water shoes.

We switchbacked through slabs of granite and Western junipers.


All day long the wind whipped wildly through the canyon.  Swelling rain clouds moved quickly across the sky.


At Pocket Meadow—a long, narrow meadow filled with yellow Bigelow’s sneezeweed (a bright sight to see in September)—we stopped for a rest.

Bigelow’s sneezeweed.

Quaking aspen grew among giant boulders that had been part of an avalanche at one time. Aspens are the first tree species to regrow following such disturbances.

Aspens amid an avalanche.

Continuing, we walked under towering Jeffrey pines and white fir trees.

Jeffrey Pine

Soon we came to the junction to Lake Edison, our destination. Just like that, our hike of the John Muir Trail had come to a bittersweet end.

Leaving the John Muir Wilderness.

We left the JMT and walked another couple of miles on the Mono Creek Trail to Lake Edison ferry landing.

A boardwalk on the Mono Creek Trail towards the ferry landing.

Upon reaching the ferry landing at upper Lake Edison, we had a choice to make. Wait three hours for the ferry to take us to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) where my car was parked or hike another five miles on the Mono Creek Trail to reach VVR by foot.


Footsore and tired, we hunkered against a large boulder slightly protected from the wind and waited.

Upper Lake Edison near the ferry landing.

As the hours passed, a surprising amount of hikers joined us at the ferry landing, a small wooden platform. Right on time we boarded the water taxi for a 45-minute ride to VVR. By 5:30 p.m. Michael and I were driving down the intimidating, narrow, one-lane, winding Kaiser Pass Road towards home.


For a few days, the JMT was our home. It was our super-highway and our social network. Reflecting back on the journey, Michael was a good hiking partner. He kept pace with me, always letting me lead and never complained that we walked only one mile per hour. He kept calm when I freaked out at the sight of snow on the trail, and helped me climb up boulders when my pack bogged me down. He did almost all of the water filtering and found all of our campsites. He regaled me with stories from his teenage years making me laugh. Not to mention, he took 500 photos (quadruple what I did) leaving us with a great photo journal of our time together.

What a blessing and honor it was to create these mountain memories with my 31-year old son. Will we do it again? I hope so, there’s so much more to see.

Here’s a photo Michael took at the end of our trip, a thumbs up to the trail and hiking it again.