I’m Heading Back to the Trail – Day 9 on the JMT
Heading Back To The Trail!
The next morning my alarm goes off at six-thirty am. Ugh! It’s too early! But breakfast is at seven, the shuttle to the trailhead leaves at eight, and today I’m heading back to the trail! It’s time to get up. I get dressed, freshen up, brush my hair, brush my teeth, apply sunscreen, and then head out to breakfast. I’m the first one out there again. What can I say? I just like to be on time. Soon the two men heading to the trailhead with me arrive and so does Natalie. Jammin brings up the rear and still looks tired. She’s staying another night though, so she’ll get lots of rest.
Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast is amazing! Coffee, fruit, orange juice, bacon, eggs, and an English muffin. The owners chat with us all and we have a great time. Did I mention how much I love this place? It’s perfect! I definitely want to come again one day. Eight o’clock creeps upon us and it’s time to go. Jammin might catch up before Whitney, but if not, at least we have Instagram. I weigh my pack on the tree scale before heading out. Twenty-seven pounds with food and water for four days. Not bad! With that, I load up into the shuttle car. Let’s do this thing!
The Long and Winding Road
It’s a thirty-minute drive to the trailhead and the driver is so sweet. He tells us about the history of the area, discusses the predicted bad weather, and encourages us on our upcoming hikes. Everyone here is so nice. It must be something in the fresh mountain water because I haven’t met one cranky person in this tiny little town. When we arrive, we take a few obligatory pre-trail photos at the Onion Valley trailhead, then set out to conquer Kearsarge Pass.
OMG! I hate uphill climbs, and the first few miles were all uphill. For some reason, when I planned out my hike, I imagined this area as flat, shaded, and relaxing. My FarOut maps don’t show elevation for side routes, and boy was I wrong! I huffed, puffed, rested, drank water, and anything else I could do to keep going. It was a busy climb too. Lots of hikers were on the trail. While hiking up I met two sisters doing a day hike and leapfrogged the two men I drove here with a few times. There was also a large group of men, a fast-hiking couple, a group of three, and a solo male. I think this is the most people I’ve seen on this whole trip so far in the same place. Besides the two women, I kept my head down and pushed forward. I hate talking during uphills. In my world, misery does not love company.
Sweet Victory on the Pass
As I approach the mountain pass, I pause, breathe, and compose myself before making the final summit. I don’t want to look like I haven’t exercised a single day this summer… although in reality, I have not. At the top of the pass are the two men from the motel and another man who is solo hiking. We all eat our snacks and chat about the upcoming storm. I hope it won’t be bad. The solo male isn’t taking any chances. He’s going to pull out before the storm. The rest of us are pushing on though. I guess we’ll test our luck. Hopefully, we don’t roll snake eyes. The next to summit are the two sisters, then a group of about 20 men who all go to the same church. I talk with them about my Durston Kakwa backpack and hammock camping before I snap a huge group photo for them by the Kearsarge Pass elevation sign and they do the same for me. With that, my break is over and I begin my descent down the other side.
Back to the JMT
It’s all downhill from here and I’m loving life. Why can’t all trails be downhill? That would be so relaxing. I know it’s harder on your joints, but it’s definitely easier on my lungs, heart, and thighs. These are the moments that I can appreciate the scenery and when hikers pass by, I don’t mind chatting them up for a while… yet I see not another hiker from this point on today. Halfway down the descent is a fork where you can go left to cruise by the lakes or go right to take the high road along the edge of the mountain. I go left towards Bullfrog Lake because Jammin said it was beautiful, although I’m not sure which way would have been easier. Looking at my surroundings, they both seemed to be about the same. I reach all the way to the JMT without really any incline to note. These are the moments that I love. Peace, quiet, and downhill bliss.
Once I reach the JMT, the trail is still headed in a downhill descent, and I’m excited knowing that I hiked this section last year. Most of the trail I can’t recognize, but I definitely remember the junction where the JMT and Rae Lakes Loop come together. Oh, the memories! This is where I met up with four men hiking to Bullfrog Lake and we talked for a good portion of the hike. The eldest hiker was a paster I think, and the youngest hiker was helping him to carry his pack periodically. On that day I was struggling to get over Glen Pass and the man was not sure I would make it before sunset… but I did. I always accomplish my goals when I set my mind toward them. Quitting is not in my nature.
Soon the good days are over. Uphill is now my life and I’m tired from the day, but I can’t quit. Instead, I push and push and check my maps. Am I almost there? Nope! I push and push and take a break… and check my maps again. There are still two more miles. I watch a woodpecker, keep going, take another break, then another, and then magically I am there! I camp at the Golden Bear Lake junction and see that the two men from the motel are already here. They walk over and ask a question that I don’t want to hear…. “Did you see the momma bear and her cub?” No! I’m so mad. I could tell that the area was good for bears. There were currant berries all over the trail. All I could think was that I was exhausted and not looking hard enough. One day this will happen! One day I will see a bear.
Golden Bear Lake Junction
I set up my bivy for the first time and filtered water for my dinner. Unfortunately, I just missed the sunset, but it’s still pretty as the light casts its last rays on the mountaintops just beyond the river. For dinner, I have chili mac, a Tweenkie, and a Snickers bar for dessert. More hikers pile into the camp; Another JMT hiker and three PCT hikers. We all talk a bit, pile our food into the bear box, and then head to bed. Just as I’m about to crawl into my bivy, I see two deer crossing the river. I want to tell the others, but for fear that I’ll scare them away, I just stand there, watching in awe. Nature will never lose my interest. Every deer, marmot, squirrel, lake, tree, heart-shaped leaf, and bubbling stream will always capture my attention. What a perfect end to the day! Now let’s see how this bivy sleep session goes.
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