JMT Day 13: Marmots, path-finding, and the stone whale
JMT Day 13, August 16, 2013 Friday
In the morning, we slept in a bit, then got moving rather slowly. I washed my hands with soap, washing my face with the bandana, and brushed my teeth. The whole morning felt hard. There were some brutal switchbacks out of the gate, climbing out of Evolution Valley. We had breakfast just before them, which restored my energy but made me feel queasy on the climb.
Evolution & Sapphire Lakes were pretty; the landscape started to get more barren as we crossed
10k 11k feet on the way to Wanda Lake. The mountains were spectacular in an alien way — stark, jagged. Today there were clouds in the bright blue sky, which heightened the drama of the scenery.
The climb up to Muir Pass felt long. We saw a marmot eating near the pass, and a few pikas lower. At the pass we paused to check out the stone hut, then headed down down down. The trail was difficult to follow across the broken rocks at times. We descended from 12k feet following the
South Fork Kings Creek (I think) thru several small lakes. We had PM snack by Medium Lake, where a National Park ranger with a taser checked our pass (1st time on the JMT) and showed us some endangered yellow-legged frogs.
Shortly thereafter, we saw three bucks, two quite large, in a willow patch, eating. One big one had 4 points on his left antler and only 2 on the right! Shortly after that, I had to poop so bad I almost crapped myself. I hurried down the stone switchbacks until I found some dirt-ground. I could barely dig a hole, so ended up covering my deposit with a rock. It was not 10 feet from the trail. Oh well.
We continued down until we found a sweet campsite right by the creek. There’s a large split boulder that someone has put a row of “teeth” rocks in, and eyes, so it looks like a whale. Super cool.
Feet: the burn bandage came off the R pinkie, and it’s all white & wrinkly. I wouldn’t be surprised if I lose that nail
Body: good. achey after the long day. no puking today!
- JMT miles: 15.3 today, 135.4 total
- Total miles: 15.3 today, 164.4 total
Colby Meadow ~9720′ → near Big Pete Meadow ~9360′
Each of the big passes after MTR has its own character and challenges. Muir’s was: feels like the approach never ends. We could see the stone hut at the top of the pass for what felt like miles. Like puberty or a spare tire ’round the gut, it never seemed to get closer, until BAM, it was there.
After chilling at the stone hut, we picked our way down the rocky descent. Though it still resembled a moonscape, the odd willow or pine tree was living up there. It’s incredible to me what can survive in such a harsh environment. I particularly enjoy the wildlife that thrives up there, like the resident marmot.
Russell & I lost the trail a few times and had to double back. With a dirt path, it’s easy enough to follow man-made marks — sneaker treads, scuffs, trekking pole holes — but with nothing but stone about us, we had to rely on cairns and intuition to path-find.
A family with two young kids was also getting lost at the same time, so at least we had company in our slow progress.
I was so excited to see a ranger that I practically shoved my pass at him. It had been a nerve-wracking endeavor for me to get the permits (had to pick the dates 6 months in advance, then find a place to fax the signed forms at a particular time, then wait more for confirmation) and I wanted to feel like there was a point to that effort. Turns out, many of our fellow hikers had just waited in line in Yosemite a night or two before they wanted to leave, and had no issue getting permits. Shrug.
The scenery as we passed through Le Conte Canyon was some of the prettiest of the trip, IMO. It didn’t hurt that we traversed it during the Golden Hour. Mountains, light, waterfalls, trees — what more could a heart want?
If you’ve been following my feet updates, you may have noticed my preoccupation with losing a toenail. A part of me wanted that to happen; that way I could have something more “hardcore” to report than “my toe got super gross and I kept having to trim off more skin.”
I clearly have no clue what a toenail looks like shortly before jumping ship (or nailbed, as it were), and I’m sure the thrill of having something gory to record would have been rapidly eclipsed by the unpleasantness of the actual experience.
The urgent crap I had to take in the middle of the exposed stony switchbacks was likely the last symptom of my mystery GI poisoning of the night before. I feel real bad for whatever ranger or hiker may have moved that rock later on.
The upside of my personal brushes with emergency bowel movements is that I’m far less offended when I encounter others’ now. As Abraham Lincoln didn’t say, “Be kind to your fellow hiker, for who knows what personal tragedy was afflicting their gut.”