|DAY NINE||Previous John Muir Trail Posts|
|Miles Hiked: 13.5||- Planning and Preparation||- Day Seven: Vermillion Valley Resort|
|Total Miles: 95||- Day One: Getting There||- Day Eight: Bear Creek|
|Elevation Climbed: 2400′||- Day Two: Donohue Pass||- Day Nine: Piute Creek|
|Total Elevation Climbed: 15,400′||- Day Three: Thousand Island Lake||- Day Ten: Evolution Lake|
|.||- Day Four: Red’s Meadow||- Day Eleven: Bishop Pass|
|- Day Five: Crater Creek||- Day Twelve: Bishop|
|- Day Six: Virginia Lake||- Final Thoughts|
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” — John Muir
Today is August 28th and I’m awake at 6am. It’s 40 degrees with gray skies and a little bit of snow falling. I break camp as fast as possible, hoping to get everything stashed inside the pack before freezing rain starts falling. Amy reluctantly emerged out of her tent to see Rick and I off, but only after I shook her tent and sang stupid songs about “little birds waking up in their nests as the dew starts to fall”.
We walked together for a short distance and then Rick decided to stop for breakfast. I would not see him again until two days later.
I hiked through an old dense lodgepole forest along Bear Creek and then started the climb up toward Seldon Pass. I see two huge elk leaping through the woods – stunning in their ability to effortlessly hurdle giant logs with blazing speed!
The trail then emerges at the very picturesque Rosemarie Meadow, with nice views of Mt. Hooper to the south, and then continues upward through whitebark pines and hemlock.
I hike for hours and hours without seeing another person and I’m talking to myself a LOT more than I’ve ever done before. The trail is uphill all the way, but I’m relaxed and enjoying every step. The landscape turns to more alpine and is the most scenic part of the trail I have encountered on the trip so far – how can it possibly get better than this?!
When I reach Marie Lake (10,540′), I literally gasp out loud from the breathtaking beauty of it. I stop walking and just stand there, soaking it all in – the expansive views, the little islands dotting the lake, the breeze on my face, the tiny plants at my feet… once again I say “Thank You” to the universe and become just a bit overcome by the emotion of being so privileged to be here.
Marum Leaved Buckwheat
With the dramatic cloudy skies and expansive vistas, anchored by the shallow Marie Lake, it’s impossible to take a bad photograph here and I shoot image after image after image. I hop from boulder to boulder for the perfect angle, smiling broadly as I work my way up toward the pass.
I reach Seldon Pass (10,890′) and take this photo – probably my favorite shot of the trip. I’m really enjoying my Zipshot tripod and it comes in handy again here.
Now it’s a loooong downhill run to my destination for the night – Piute Creek. The rocky descent takes me past Heart Lake and then Sallie Keyes Lake.
Giant lodgepole pines frame the lake perfectly, as though they had been planted there, and I decided to spend about an hour there, soaking my feet and eating lunch. (Jerky and Trail Mix!)
From there it’s a long dry drop in the canyon below. The clouds are really getting dark and I’m heading directly into them – I’m certain to get wet today. The open slope is extremely exposed and I worry a bit about caught there in a lightning storm, I pick up the pace and power downward.
Just as I reach the cover of the Jeffery Pine forest, it starts to rain. I stash the camera inside my pack and put on rain gear. The rain picks up in earnest, sometimes turning to hail and sleet, and sometimes just droplets of rain. For the first time in almost a hundred miles, I’m walking without a camera in my hand, and it feels very different. I realize that I’ve been walking this entire time with “composition eyes” – without realizing it, I had been looking at my surroundings in a 16 X 9 frame in my mind. Now, without the camera, I have to force myself to “see” differently, and not constrain my vision.
The combination of the dark clouds, the rain and the dense forest has created an ethereal world that I’m now walking through – silent from the moisture and very dark, even though it’s early in the afternoon. Something catches my eye – it’s a doe – less than twenty feet from me and separated only by short grass, and she’s standing statue-still, staring at me. In this light and surroundings, it’s incredibly surreal and part of me was really wishing I had the camera. Then I realized this was an opportunity and so I stopped walking, now almost close enough to touch her, and we stood staring at each other, motionless. It sounds cliche’, but time really seemed to stop at that moment. I had finally reached a level of connectivity with nature and mindfulness that is impossible to attain in the urban world. She soon decided that this was getting too weird and bolted off.
I reach Piute Creek and find a lovely campsite on the other side of the bridge, surrounded by chapperal and mountain vistas on all sides.
The rain/sleet stops for the first time all afternoon and I quickly setup my tent – fifteen minutes later, a hail storms starts up!
That was soooo nice of the weather to cooperate! I grab a couple quick photos of this dramatic campsite and then crawl inside.
It’s been cold and wet all day, but I’ve managed to stay warm and dry. I cook dinner and tea from inside my tent and fall asleep as the hail turns to sprinkling rain.