Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

ARE WE THERE  YET: The final push to Glen Pass (Jennie is on the left, arriving at the top). (Click arrows for additional photos.)LOVELY LAKES: Looking back toward Rae Lakes on the ascent to Glen Pass.Looking down on Charlotte Lake.STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Appreciating trail crews everywhere.Why it's called Sandy Junction.Room with a view at Vidette Meadow.

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Day 22

By: 
Sarah Elliott
Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than separate from. (Terry Tempest Williams)

 

This is a continuing series about a mother-and-daughter thru-hike on the John Muir Trail (north to south) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains from July 19 to August 13, 2015. 
Previous installments and more photos are here.
 
Day 22: Sunday, August 9
Rae Lakes to Vidette Meadow via  Glen Pass
6 miles
 
The hardest climb of the day was out of our sleeping bags. It had been a windy night; our tent was sheltered so we didn’t feel the wind as much as we heard it, which meant Sleep interruptus. It was also a chilly 39 degrees.
 
But we were out of the tent at 6 a.m., knowing we had another major pass to conquer. This would be number seven of nine passes that are 10,000 feet or higher along our JMT route.
 
Glen Pass is almost 12,000 feet, and the final two — Forester Pass and Trail Crest — are over 13,000 feet. Ascending to Glen Pass offers beautiful vistas of the Rae Lakes area. 
 
The route to Glen Pass in the backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park is one of those cruel jokes that mountains like to play. You know, the one where a hiker thinks they are at the top but they aren’t. 
 
Subconsciously, I knew it was too quick and too easy, but I was still fooled by the false summit. Then I heard voices in the sky above me and looked up to see people lining the ridgeline where the pass really is. I had another 700 feet and dozens of switchbacks still to go.
 
I was working my way through those switchbacks when I watched Jennie make her way onto the pass. When I arrived on top of the narrow ledge, we took the obligatory photos while enjoying the cloudless, windless, warm day and the view of Middle and Upper Rae Lakes below with the Palisades, Mt. Clarence King, and other prominent peaks in the distance.
 
This was going to be a short hiking day with only a few miles left to go to Vidette Meadow. And it was all downhill from here. 
 
We found a sunny slab perched high above Charlotte Lake for lunch. Satiated somewhat, we continued our descent to a sandy plateau dotted with stunted foxtail pines to the Charlotte Lake junction but declined without any hesitation to walk the extra mile to visit the lake and its ranger station. This area, appropriately called Sandy Junction, is also where the Kearsarge Pass trail meets the JMT. This trail originates from Onion Valley on the Sierra’s east side and is a well-traveled route and resupply stop.
 
We were now in the vicinity of where the “Wild Hermit” had been reported. (Read Day 21 for a recap; www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/hiking.) In summary, there was reportedly a man who was, for unexplained reasons, harassing trail travelers in the Bullfrog Lake and Kearsarge Pass areas. 
 
The man was described on a trail sign notice posted by the Charlotte Lake ranger as “mentally unstable, unkempt with shaggy hair and a beard, in pants and a shirt that didn’t appear to be hiking clothes, sandals or slippers as footwear, and carrying two plastic grocery bags of items, no backpack.” 
 
Jennie and I were definitely on alert, and it made for good trail conversation. 
 
The route now begins a series of rolling ups and downs. We passed by another junction to Kearsarge Pass.
 
Then the trail gets serious about its descent into the Bubbs Creek drainage. We crossed the creek a couple times, not a problem in this drought year.
 
We were now below 10,000 feet and walking along a forest floor. We arrived at Vidette Meadow and had our pick of large, shady campsites as it was early afternoon and no hikers had yet stopped for the night.
 
We selected a comfortable site with a fire ring we wouldn’t use and a large log for seating and propping up packs. We set up the tent then put effort into hiding our bear-proof food-storage canisters before heading to Bubbs Creek.
 
We weren’t hiding the canisters from bears — we hadn’t seen any sign of a bear the entire trip — but from the Wild Hermit because what we had deduced during the day when discussing him and his activities was that if he was going to steal something in the backcountry it would be food. 
 
Edibles safely stashed, we headed to the creek, where we lounged at a peaceful pool — enjoying the warmest day of the trip — until the sunbeams turned to shadows. As we were eating dinner, the backpackers started rolling in. We were in the tent by 6:30 p.m., where we played Rummy, read, and journaled.
 
“Currently, we’ve been very hungry at night,”  I wrote. “Jennie is pretty much hungry all the time.”
 
After three weeks on the trail,  it was becoming impossible to make up the daily calorie deficit, a valuable thru-hiking lesson that we learned the hard way.
 
To  be  continued...
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