Monday, August 27, 2012

John Muir Trail: Twin Lakes area to Mount Whitney

Pond above Twin Lakes to 2nd Creek above Wood's Crossing
Approximately 6 miles

Bad Day.  Couldn't make our planned camping destination.  I woke up very tired and never improved.  Hiking down along rocky, but  beautiful Wood's creek (with marble swimming holes) was doable, but after we crossed the suspension bridge and headed up it was another story.  I began staggering and then my stomach started cramping.  Tears soon followed and I wondered how I got so weak.  We stopped at 2nd small stream that crossed the trail, and Mark threw up the tent.   I slept most of the afternoon, while Mark tended a small fire under a steady drizzle of rain.  I woke up to small offerings outside our tent from concerned trail friends that had passed by, probably won't see them again.

The Pond we camped at.

Wood's Creek Waterfall

Pack String

Suspension bridge over Wood's Creek
Creek to Upper Rae Lake
Approximately 4 miles

Beautiful, bright sunny morning hike to Upper Rae Lake. Got there around 11 am and visited with Ben and Jessica that we had met in Mammoth.  They were running short on fuel for their jet boil, so we gave them our spare.  His sister was meeting them at nearby Kearsage pass with a resupply, so they are going to leave us some electrolytes and coffee at a bear box in Vidette Meadow.  Yay.  We lost our electrolytes somewhere after Mather and we drank more coffee than I had rationed for.  Gotta have my coffee.  About noon the thunder began and then rain.  Made the decision to stay on this side of pass.  We popped our tent up and spent a long, long, long afternoon sleeping, playing gin rummy and reading on the kindle.  Rain, sleet and thunder stopped at 6:30 and we had tea and dinner.  Rae Lakes are spectacular.  Painted mountains all around, deep blue crystal clear water and many fish jumping.    We hope I am completely back to speed tomorrow.  Oh,  yea, cut my thumb today and got to use steri strips.  Some people just shouldn't handle knives

All of the following photos are Rae Lakes:
Looking south at lunch 

Looking north at lunch

Weird light during storm


About 10 miles
Rae Lake to Center Basin Creek

Wonderful day.  Up and over Glen Pass in an hour and a half including time spent scanning for big horn sheep.  Didn't see any, but it sure did help our breathing.  Had our tent up by 2:30, right before the afternoon thunderstorm.  Much smaller storm today.  The canyon we hiked today is lovely.  Nice change.  Creek's gurgled, bird's sang, flower's smiled and the pine tree's waved.  Mid-day we stopped in Vidette Meadow area and got the coffee and electrolytes that Ben and Jessica left us and dried all of our gear that was still a bit damp from yesterday.  Had a dip in the creek.  Nervous about Forester Pass tomorrow.

Glen Pass

Smiling Flower

Only saw these flowers this one time

View up the canyon towards Forester Pass

About 18 miles
Center Basin Creek to Crab Tree Ranger Station

Exhilarating day.  Forester may be tall at over 13,000 feet, but the trail from the north is so evenly graded that it was a walk in the park.  Sang praise songs to our maker as we hiked.  Glorious.  We got our photo snapped on top by a Latino young man from LA who is part of some Society of Outdoorsmen.  He had a crazy twirling mustache.  The switchbacks on the other side were steep and we flew down them like we had wings.  The open plain below is dotted with tarns and all at 12,000 feet.  Weird to be so high and yet everything was basically flat.  The Outdoorsmen passed us as it started to lightly rain and we put on our rain jackets and pack covers and then it hailed like crazy!  We should have put on our rain pants too as we were soaked and freezing in what seemed like seconds.  Took off walking fast as possible to stay warm and I kept shoving trail mix in my mouth to heat up from the inside.  Eventually, found some tree and rock cover and pulled off wet bottoms and put on rain pants.  Rained and misted all day and we kept hiking to stay warm.  Big horn plateau is striking, we would have loved to have had time to enjoy it, but as it was, we raced across due to lightening.  Met Lonnie and her dad by Wallace Creek.  Lonnie has hiked over 180 miles in her flip flops as she got blisters from her shoes.  She is one tough 16 year old.  We thought of   making Guitar Lakes today and meet up with trail friends, but I pooped out at Crabtree.  We are almost done.  Top of Whitney is only about 7 miles away and 4000 feet up.  Tomorrow we will dry our gear, rest and make short move to Guitar Lake.  

Up Forester

Forester Pass

Big Horn Plateau

Cold and wet, but still smiling

Lonnie's feet

Meet and Greet Mules

Sunset at Crabtree

Crabtree to little pond above Guitar Lake
Approximately 2.7 miles

Leisurly morning drying all our gear.  Discovered this toilet near our tent.  Weird sight.  Visited with Ranger and he suggested we plan on summitting Whitney early to avoid thunderstorm activity.  Hiked to small, pretty lake about Guitar in freezing rain.  Had the place to ourselves until 4 guys arrived.  They had come in from the south to climb Whitney.   I was a little bummed with neighbors until they brought out all their food and drink!  Wow.  Wonderful stuff they shared and discovered they were super sweet too.  Later John, an older gentleman from the UK, arrived and Mark chatted with him all afternoon until sunset while I stayed in tent eating to warm myself up, as I am having some problems keeping feet and hands from freezing, even with 2 pairs of gloves and 2 pairs of socks. Tomorrow is the big day.  Blessed with a gorgeous sunset tonight.

Do bears poop in the woods? 

Clothes tree

Guitar Lake

Our tent and a gorgeous sunset
Approximately 16 miles
Pond above Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal

Felt like God woke me at around 1:30, urging me to wake Mark up and leave.   Hiking by the light of our head torches was a new experience.  It almost felt easier because only a few steps ahead were lit.  ( object lesson: Maybe it is good we don't know the future either).  About an hour or so into the  hike   we saw a long Congo line of lights chasing us up the switch-backed trail.  Kind of surreal.  At one point we thought we had lost the trail and we stopped.    Luckily, a couple from the Whitney Portal side soon arrived and led the way, as they had been on it before.  About 20 minutes before sunrise we arrived at the summit.  There were only 6 of us for the first glow and then the kid with the crazy mustache showed up.  It was good to see him and he took our photo again.  Watching the sun rise  felt the beginning of creation from the top of the world. 

 We were all bundled up and still in awe when this young couple arrived wearing only  Lycra running gear. They announced that they were going for the JMT record and would be in Yosemite Valley in 72 hours;  crazy, and impressive. 

 It was a long, long hike down through a maze of  people attempting Whitney from the Portal side.  It didn't look like the altitude was agreeing with them.  We were glad we were so acclimatized. Did meet Steve and Kathy from Muir Ranch.  Apparently they had been slightly behind us the whole way and the day we were stuck in the tent at Rae Lake they were just across the lake from us enjoying hot cocoa under a big tarp that the Sierra Club put up.  If only we'd know.  

 About 1:00 a light shower fell, but it only made the canyon lovelier.  By 2:00 we were having burgers at the Portal and by 3:30 we got a ride by the couple who had guided us in the dark.  Arriving in Lone Pine 13 miles later we were shocked by the 100 plus degree heat and quickly got a room at the hostel.  Hard to believe that we had been so cold earlier that day. 

Pre-dawn glow
Nearing the hut on top

The marker

Sunrise on top of highest point in contiguous U.S.!

View to the northwest ( I think)

View to the southwest (I think)

Along the way

The trail looked narrower by day

Approaching Trails Crest and our backpacks that we left there

Along the way

Lovely water fall near Whitney Portal


  1. More great pictures. I love that you went out early in the dark - "thy word is a lamp unto my feet" - lamps in Biblical times were small oil lamps that provided only a small glow around your feet. It shed just enough light to take the next step, but the following steps were still in the dark. Kind of like our relationship with God?



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