September 5, 2018
Shadow Creek to Trinity Lakes
Total distance walked: 5.4 miles
It was a crisp, cold dawn. I hadn’t left the tent yet when I heard Broncho pass by on the trail above, his distinctive cough gave him away. That was the last we heard from him.
Each night I kept my hiking clothes rolled up at the bottom of my sleeping bag to take up the extra space. Instead of air filling the space, which could get cold, my clothes were there. In spite of the cold, I slept well and wrote in my journal, “Sleep is #1 to my attitude.” But it was so hard to get dressed in the morning, and each morning seemed to be getting colder. No wonder we were living up to our name, The Late Starters.
At 9:15 AM I was ready to leave when a northbound solo hiker walked into camp. She was around my age, from British Columbia, and was looking for water. She wasn’t very complimentary of the JMT, or at least the section from Reds Meadow (where we were headed) to Shadow Creek (where we stood). She warned us that there was no running water at all for about eight miles. Though we all preferred to gather running water from creeks and rivers, we weren’t adverse to taking it from lakes. Nevertheless, we filled up in Shadow Creek before getting back on-trail.
After our brief conversation, I left camp at the usual 9:30 AM. The trail descended through a lodgepole forest and across open, slabby knobs. My trail family passed me when I pulled into the forest for a nature call.
After crossing a footbridge over Shadow Creek, the trail skirted the edge of pine-wrapped Shadow Lake where I caught up with the group. The lake was quiet and gave off a peaceful vibe. We stopped for photos then walked until we hit a mountain.
Another climb. The switchbacks on the mountainside were well-graded and the dense hemlock forest provided long stretches of shade; however, it was a lengthy hike up. Again we were scattered on different rows of the switchbacks, my trail family above me.
About midway through, a downhill hiker asked me if we were traversing a pass or anything important. I didn’t think so, and upon looking at the map, it was just another one of the uphill climbs (or downhill in his case) that the JMT is well-known for. Later, we agreed that the climb up the side of the mountain was much harder than the climb over Island Pass the day before.
The switchbacks ended at a small saddle and I emerged from the forest. A view of shady Rosalie Lake peeked through the trees, but there was still a long descent to reach its shore.
“Hi, Janet!” I heard Slip Knot’s voice echo through the woods confirming that my trail family was nearby. When I finally reached the shore I saw Aqua Man fishing and Slip Knot sunning on a rock.
I unhitched my bag and made my way to the water where Blazing Saddle was cleaning two freshly caught trout for lunch.
Rosalie Lake was a pleasant place to stop. I relaxed in our comfortable little cove eating lunch and talking with my trail family. The fish were jumping and Aqua Man handed the pole to Slip Knot. Eventually Blazing Saddle hit the trail saying he’d leave his bag at the trail junction near our next camping spot.
After a good rest, I left Aqua Man and Slip Knot. The trail climbed slightly through wooded country. As I approached another lake, a hiker bowed to me. He smiled and said that he didn’t speak English when I asked what lake it was. We both bowed good-bye to each other as I headed down to the lake’s sandy beach.
Before heading back to the trail, I watched a handful of ducks splash and dive in the peaceful waters of Gladys Lake.
Blazing Saddle’s bag was sitting off-trail, like he said, but he was nowhere to be seen. It didn’t seem to me that this was the area where we would camp. He arrived momentarily saying that there was a beautiful view off-trail he wanted his kids to see. He said I should walk out there too, to look. I headed a few hundred feet off-trail to a ledge.
In front of me stood a mountain view, and below was a valley of trees. What I found most spectacular was the strong wind blowing down the mountain. It buffeted my hair. It whipped to my right and around the valley in a circular motion approaching me again from the left. Round and round it went, the trees swayed and my hair flew. It was fascinating to not only hear, but to watch and feel the power of the wind.
I left Blazing Saddle waiting for his kids and continued on the gradual descent under mountain hemlocks, western white pines and lodgepole pines. There were many downed trees in the forest.
This was the area that was decimated by the November 30, 2011, Devils Windstorm—northerly winds between 125-150 mph. On that day approximately 10,000 trees were toppled between Yosemite Valley (north of me) and Tully Hole (south of me). The trees were well-buttressed to withstand southerly winds, but not winds from the north.
My trail family caught up to me at the marshy Trinity Lakes, a series of shallow ponds strung out along the trail. We stopped at the first pond and contemplated camping there, but decided to continue on. The second pond was obscure so we made the third pond (the last water source for miles) our campsite. Immediately, Aqua Man walked into the mucky water with a fishing line. I picked a grassy area to pitch my tent, then brought my bear cannister—which doubled as a suitable seat—near the shore to sit and assess the water situation.
The pond was clear enough that I could see it was filled with all kinds of floating material and topped with a layer of pollen or maybe even ash from the recent fires. I was out of water and needed to purify more for dinner, for coffee, for brushing my teeth, and for drinking. My hydration system consisted of a SteriPEN, not a filter. The way a SteriPEN works is by ultraviolet light. You swirl it around a 32 oz. container of water to sterilize it. It removes protozoa, bacteria and viruses, but it doesn’t remove floaters.
Hesitantly, I walked out on a log that extended into the pond and hopped onto another log—wanting to get as far away from the scummy shore as possible—and collected a bottle of water. It was brown and filled with all kinds of floaters including tiny crablike bugs and who knows what else that I couldn’t see. The only filter I could think of that I had with me, was the bandana that I had been drying my feet with. Yes, gross!
I draped the bandana over my cooking pot and slowly poured the water in. It took awhile, but it worked. The bandana caught the floaters. Next I purified the water with the SteriPEN then boiled it just to be sure that everything was killed. I had to go through that process twice to get enough water for everything. It tasted different from the creek and river water we had been drinking, earthy not fresh.
At 6:24 PM I snuggled into the tent. It was still light outside and a soothing rain fell rendering a tranquil ambiance inside and outside. Even though I loved everything about the outdoors, my favorite part of each day was tent time. No matter how tired I was, I had a nightly ritual that I performed. It started with a sponge bath. Then I’d slip into my fleece bed clothes and wool socks. This night my feet were so cold I covered them with an extra layer—wool gloves. Next I read inspirational notes from friends that I brought along, sang one of my favorite hymns, and read from the tiny bible I brought. Sometimes I didn’t comprehend what I was reading due to a combination of exhaustion and dehydration, but it still gave me comfort.
I must have fallen asleep early on this night because I woke at 1 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. The rain had stopped and the night was soundless, not like prior nights when camped near running water. I was about to leave the tent when a coyote’s howl startled me. How cool was that, I thought. He howled again then barked like a dog. The loud, high-pitched barks resounded through the area waking many a camper, I’m sure. He went on yapping for 30 minutes making me wonder if he was chastising us for being in his home.
TO BE CONTINUED…