Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day 50- Muir Pass

mile 819 to mile 843
We left camp around 6:30 when it was about 36 degrees out.  Somehow I ended up leading the way-except Nightingale left about a half hour before us.  I hadn't been going for ten minutes when I slipped on a rock while trying to step over a small stream.  I went down hard breaking my fall with my forearm and shin.  I dipped one foot in the water and once I was down I focused on not dipping anything else.  I struggled up without any grace and told Portrait and Opus that the rock was slippery.  They asked if I was okay and I told them I was, and I was, but my arm and shin smarted pretty good.

After I felt like my confidence was shaken, but I kept the lead, but went a bit slower.  There's something about being the lead person that I typically don't like.  I usually feel rushed; almost like I'm being pushed by the people behind me, but I know it's only me doing the pushing.

The trail followed a raging creek down towards the valley.  It's been some of the prettiest trail I've seen on the hike so far.  The trail hugged the canyon walls-it was the type of trail where you don't want to slip.  It also had some wonderful switchbacks that made the descent easy on the knees-at least for me.  It was also so nice not to be starting the day on a huge uphill like we've been doing the past couple days.  It was a little hard to get warm though.  We were all waiting for the sun to touch us, and it finally did after nearly three miles.

Just after that the four of us stopped for seconded breakfast.  I gave up lead spot to Portrait and fell to second-a spot I usually like.  We were expecting mostly flat trail that wouldn't require much thought.  We did get the flat, but also a tangle of downed trees.  We had to pay attention while going over, under, and around the two dozen or so downed trees in about a mile.  It made for a tiring easy section.

Near the end of the blow down section we saw our first person in over a day.  We peppered him with questions about the fords and passes to come.  He said we looked good for being nearly a third of the way done.  I don't know what it means to look good out here.  I feel dirty and hungry and I'm starting to swim in my pants-I'm not sure when they went from snug to baggy, but they did.  He probably meant we all looked happy.

We stopped near the start of our climb for another snack break.  While eating we met some more JMT hikers. It was nice to see some people again, and to get information on Muir Pass.

The climb up to Muir Pass was a long slow one at first.  Muir was supposed to have the most snow on it according to Opus and the handful of JMT southbounders.  At first it was like the other passes with alpine lakes that were as clear and as blue as a pool, and streams that turned into waterfalls.  It seemed to have more lakes than the other passes-it was truly beautiful. There was one section where the trail was going up with switchbacks near a large waterfall that was so clean the water was tinged blue.  About halfway up, before the snow, I declared Muir Pass to be my favorite pass.

At one stream crossing I was tanking up on ice cold water when the four of us spotted someone hiking towards us.  We speculated about who it was while watching him cross the creek.  It was Buster a hiker that I met around Idyllwild (but I he didn't seem familiar).  We chatted for a minute, then Buster and Portrait took the lead (and quickly went out of sight) with Opus, me, and Nightingale following.

The trail started to climb a little more steeply-even as it passed more lakes.  About an hour after we gained Buster Nightingale made camp at one of the last clumps of trees.  We left her, hoping she'd meet up with other hikers in the morning to do the pass with.  I'm hoping she'll catch up before Mammoth.

After leaving Nightingale, Opus and I caught up with the other two for snack and to plan out the rest of the day.  We'd figured we'd make the pass around 5:30, eat dinner at the top, and leave when the snow was firmer and hike to one of the lakes where Opus thought there would be camping.  There was nothing we could do about the soft snow on the way up-short of calling it a day-so we tried to ready ourselves for some postholing.

The snow wasn't that bad. It was soft, but we seemed to stay on top most of the time.  The snow patches also weren't very large and they didn't feel dangerous.   On the way up I think we got off track once, and that was only for a minute.

I had read in my guidebook that Muir had a lot of false summits so I was really surprised when I saw the little stone hut. I had prepared myself for thinking I was there and not being at the top, but I never felt that way.
The hut was adorable.  It was made of stone, perfectly round, and had a door and a window.  It looked like a hobbit would live there.  The four of us set our cameras to self timer and posed in front of the hut.  I don't think we stopped laughing for the 20 seconds we had four cameras blinking and beeping at us.

We ate dinner inside. I had a double helping of chili-I felt I earned it with the snow hiking (and more snow to come).  It was surprisingly nice weather up there.  Usually I get cold really quick, but even with wet feet I was fine with just my jacket on.  We did think about camping out in the hut-knowing all the while that it wasn't a good idea.
Just before seven we started down with the hope of finding somewhere to camp near one of the lakes in a couple miles.  It seemed like we misplaced the trail a little more often as we hiked down.  I'd say we were never lost, but we did stop to look around for the trail-it really helped having four pairs of eyes. 
The sun turned the stone peaks orange as it started to set.  I don't. Think I've seen anything like it before-it felt like a magical place.

I had stopped for a pit stop and by the time I caught up Opus and Buster where at the lake we were planning on staying at.  They still had their packs on when Portrait and I walked over-clearly a bad sign.  It was wet, rocky, and cold on the lake shore.  It looked like a miserable place to camp.  We decided, even though Opus and I were beat, to hike on.

Headlamps came out, mittens went on, and on we went.  I hiked while scanning for a flat space for four.  We had hiked over twenty miles and had no destination in mind anymore-not my favorite way to hike.  We hiked to a small wooden sign that simply said trail with an arrow pointing at stepping stones going across the lake.  There were about twenty rocks crossing the lake and they set my nerves on edge while crossing them. I felt too tired for such things, but I made it across without a problem.

We came to a rock out cropping overlooking a lake with a small grassy area.  We looked at the area, looked at each other, and decided it was the spot we were looking for.  It was windless and felt not too cold.  Opus set up his tent on the grass while everyone else decided to cowboy camp on the rock outcropping.

1 comment:

  1. Beverly AndersonJune 21, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Glad you did not get hurt too bad when you fell. Sounds like you are making good progress. Keep up the good work.