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
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
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
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
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.