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Re: JMT '14 - Day 6 - Rain, Check

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JMT '14 - Day 6 - Rain, Check
August 14, 2014 07:47PM
Day 6: July 20, 2014

The next morning started out promising, with light clouds. After breakfast and breaking camp, we were soon on the trail, lighter due to having consumed food, but heavier due to damp gear. The climb up Bear Ridge was pleasant due to the well-engineered switchbacks, and soon we reached the last switchback, just as the sky darkened and we heard the first claps of thunder. We paused briefly to decide what to do--it seemed too early to hunker down, the thunder wasn't too close, and the rain was light: we pushed on after putting on our rain gear.

Around this time C--one of the two young hikers I'd passed between Purple and Virginia Lakes--caught up with us. Now hiking alone, she asked if she could hike with us, which we agreed to. She was soon sporting her "Lady Gaga" rain gear--a while plastic garbage bag for a jacket, and a black one for a skirt.

The view up Bear Creek showed that the rain clouds were low, but occasionally we could see a hint of light, if not blue, over Selden Pass.



Even with the rain, Bear Creek was a delight as it cascaded over gentle granite slabs. Some may complain that the experience hiking up Bear Creek is more "Mid Sierra" than High Sierra, but such granite is the signature trademark of the Sierra, and it seems fitting that the JMT follows such a lovely creek.



We resisted the urge to take a detour to "Lake Fugly" at rain-swollen Hilgard Branch.



For some reason I hadn't expected our first--and only--wet creek crossing until Evolution Creek, but we got wet (or, rather, wetter) crossing Bear Creek. Eventually we reached a spot where we could see Seven Gables; past it was the promise of blue sky.



Rosemarie Meadow welcomed us back to the High Sierra proper.



In 2008 A and I had had to pitch our shelter and wait out a short thunderstorm at Marie Lake; the clouds regrouped and we had to do the same thing this time. Someday I'll have to visit this place when there's not a storm!



Fortunately, the rain lasted only a short while, so after some tea, we were lured back onto the trail by blue skies over Selden Pass.



While C had kept up with our group to Marie Lake, our pace was a bit fast for her, so she decided to camp at Marie Lake, despite some trepidation about the thunder. We needed to push on, so we said goodbye and were soon climbing above the lake. The blue skies that had coaxed us out from our shelter were nowhere to be found to the north, although Mts. Hilgard, Gabb, and Abbot were. Fortunately, blue skies were still visible across Selden Pass.



After a brief photo stop at the pass, we were soon dropping to Heart Lake.



After Heart, we descended to Sallie Keyes Lake.



While heeding to the call of nature, I noticed that the trail used to go through a nice meadow just south of Sallie Keyes Lakes instead of the comparatively view-less forest it now stays in.



The H party had decided to camp the night at the hot springs near MTR, but the rest of us stopped at a nice campsite with views overlooking Blayney Meadows that JKW had camped at in 2010.



As we set up camp and cooked dinner, the clouds continued to lift. The last forecast we had received was that the monsoonal thunderstorms would end on Sunday--today. Given what we had experienced the past few days, there were no guarantees, but we definitely would have welcomed a change in the weather. We still had many long days ahead of us without much ability to make up for time "lost" waiting out a storm.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 6 - Rain, Check
August 14, 2014 08:27PM
Ah, Day 6... Days 4 and 5 were marked as spam and are awaiting release. I'll add comments to those later.

In 2010, I had one of my best nights at Mono Creek. However, in 2014, it was wet and probably not as nice in some ways, but actually, I'd enjoyed it, and was pleased that we had a cool walk up Bear Ridge. M was a blast to chat with and we had a fun time - enjoying anything and everything around us!

Once we'd added C, she had apparently said some stuff to A and others commenting on her age compared to ours... And A finally asked C to lay off the age thing. I later took C aside and pointed out each "older" lady's qualifications -- most everyone but me has run at least one marathon. Most of us were totally fine backpacking 20 to 30 mile days. I suggested she reserve judgment for a bit before jumping to conclusions about her being able to handle anything we could. Interestingly, when we hit Rosemarie Meadow, she acknowledged that she was getting her patootie walloped a bit (rephrased here). By the time we hit Marie Lake and she realized we were going to follow through on our plans to go over Selden and beyond, she said she was done for the day and was going to sit it out. She didn't need to make the miles, and frankly, she was tired. She was young, fun and had a good attitude overall. I hope she had a good trip, as we never saw her again.

By the way, in one of the first bigger crossings, I was leading and was hopping over the stones just fine, thank you, until the last hop, where my left stick got stuck under water, and pulled me off-balance, so I fell forward and whacked into the granite bank. Slow mo for me. And I swear it felt like I whacked my front into the bank and just slid into the creek, getting my feet totally submerged. Two things happened at that point:
  1. Not again! Thoughts of my previous trip/fall in 2010 heading into Evo Meadow came to mind and I worried I would have another knee injury that would slow me down. And even earlier in the trip this time! UGH!
  2. My feet felt a LOT better. The cold water was refreshing and the hot nerve in my toe was soothed. I just kept wandering in the creek, cooling my feet and dipping my knee in to cool it off as others crossed.

Luckily, it turned out I would have a whopper of a bruise and tenderness to surface pressure on my knee for the remainder of the trip, the joint itself was fine and I wasn't hindered in my walking ability at all. Huge relief immediately, and over the course of the following hours/days! Again, similar to 2010, but completely different - and better! That was definitely the theme for this trip.

Having learned from sitting out the storm on Day 1 in Lyell Basin, knowing we were going to continue to add more elevation and miles, I ate while we waited out the storm at Marie Lake, so when it was time to get moving again, I wasn't in trouble.

The H group had been behind us before we hunkered down during the storm and had opted to continue hiking during our break. We leapfrogged them after Sallie Keyes, before our campsite. They had been colder and wetter than we had been, and I wished them a good time at the "hot springs"... and the rest of us enjoyed a really pleasant night together - quite welcome after the previous wet one!



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 08/14/2014 08:31PM by JustKeepWalking.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 6 - Rain, Check
August 15, 2014 10:26AM
Forgot to mention that at Hilgard Branch crossing, since I was already wet (and had been cooling my feet in every little streamlet we'd crossed since sliding in), I walked without stopping by a group who were putting their shoes back on near the bank. I found the deepest spot I could and waited for my little ducklings (as I'd started calling them) to cross on the rocks. Unfortunately for them, the rocks were just barely enough to keep feet dry, and frankly weren't. Some took their shoes off, one had waterproof boots and made it across, one just got a foot wet. But boy, did I get a bunch of looks from the strangers! I think they wanted to ask me "why/how/are you nuts?" But didn't.

Though I'd been trying to avoid wetting my feet on previous days, once they were wet, I really wasn't that worried, since I'm used to hiking in wet shoes/feet. I was just concerned with the weight and duration of hiking in wet feet, but figured one day wasn't going to be an issue. Thankfully, I was correct. If you are uncertain about the status of your feet when wet, this far into a 200+mile backpacking trip is probably not the place to find out...
avatar Re: JMT '14 - Day 6 - Rain, Check
August 18, 2014 10:22AM
hehehehe!

LOVE IT!!!!



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: JMT '14 - Day 6 - Rain, Check
August 14, 2014 08:44PM
I've hiked Bear Ridge twice (once just down, next time up-and-down) and had good weather both times. However, the second time there were bits of what had been a large tree blasted across a few hundred feet of trail mid-way up the north side - I found out it was the remains of a lightning-hit tree from about two weeks prior. There is just no relative shelter other than the trees themselves along much of that north side.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/14/2014 08:47PM by ttilley.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 6 - Rain, Check
August 14, 2014 09:05PM
Yup, the "trees themselves". We have been taught that a forest of uniform-sized trees is probably your safest shelter in a lightning storm. There is no completely safe place, but some are better than others. The lightning wasn't really close, the trees were dense enough, and well, you play the odds. I recall a couple of decades ago, we were in Merced Lake HSC when Danger Rave (the nickname for a beloved interpretive ranger who led HSC Loop tours, among other duties) captivated us with a story of leading his crew over Vogelsang Pass and down Lewis Creek earlier in the day. And a tree on the trail not far in front of them got whacked by lightning! I recall him saying how he ran ahead and picked up smoldering bits and sniffed them. A different smell, or some such. I think I recall what he said, but I don't want to misstate. In any case, always a good idea to keep wits about you! And have a little luck on your side.

And though trees offer shelter on one hand, they can also be tricky on the other. We were hiking back from North Dome one year, and it wasn't even that windy, but at the saddle junction, we heard a lot of creaking, cracking, popping noises. We stopped and scanned and finally saw the tree that was falling over. It actually fell within 100 feet of us, but luckily, it fell away from us. No warning, no real wind, it was just its time, I guess... What I remember being amazed at was how long it took before we could see which tree was making all the noise! I recall I did not expect that to be so difficult!

Also, this past weekend, we were warned in SEKI that many trees have been falling over. The drought has done enough damage trees are falling over apparently without much provocation.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/14/2014 09:07PM by JustKeepWalking.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 6 - Rain, Check
August 18, 2014 11:56AM
Thank you for continuing to post the story of your hike. I look forward to day 7, 8 , & 9. I suspect the weather gets better. I believe I got hailed on coming down Lyell Canyon July 20, then the weather changed.
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