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Re: JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven

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JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven
September 08, 2014 08:20PM
Day 11: July 25, 2014

We woke up, ate breakfast, packed, and were on the trail at our usual time. Just as we re-joined the JMT, the H party joined us.



A, JKW, and I were surprised at how long the hike to the Woods Creek bridge was--we had hiked all the way from Palisade Lake to the bridge in 2010, and the final push from the Sawmill junction hadn't seemed too long... Of course, it had been one of those "this campsite could work, but let's see if there's something better further down" kinds of affairs, in which we never did find a better campsite. Woods Creek has several nice cascades along this stretch, but the rough rock makes for less-than-ideal camping. We had ended up setting up our camp in the dark that night.



There isn't really any smooth, open granite until just above the bridge, known informally as the Golden Gate Bridge of the Sierra, which took a while to cross due to the one-person-at-a-time rule and short lines on both sides.



Once across the bridge, we started the long climb to the Rae Lakes basin, looking back occasionally to gauge our progress.



We eventually reached Dollar Lake, and not far past it, we could see Fin Dome; from here the climb would ease until the final haul up Glen Pass.



We saw only a few people as we strolled around the various camping areas near the lakes.



As we neared the largest of the Rae Lakes, we heard on the radio that the others were swimming right where the trail crosses the outlet of the highest lake.



We had stopped at other places in this basin to swim the past few times, but this location had the best swimming--the water was deep and there wasn't nearly as much mud or algae to kick up from the bottom. The cool water was welcome relief from the hot sun, especially since we were somewhat sheltered from the wind.

After the swim, we were back on the trail, slowly working our way up to Glen Pass.



We encountered a few more people than we had on other passes, undoubtedly due to this pass being on the popular Rae Lakes Loop as well as the JMT.



Although we'd seen others at the top of the pass, when we arrived we were the only ones there. As in 2010, A had ran ahead to meet up with E (aka "Sweetie" ), who was hiking in from Kearsarge Pass. The wind was very strong so we didn't spend much time on its knife-edge-like summit.



We looked back on the Rae Lakes basin one more time before dropping down into the Bubbs Creek drainage.



Just before we could see Charlotte Lake, we heard on the radio that "Sweetie" was near Bullfrog Lake and would meet us at the third trail junction.



We quickly dropped to the flat sandy area where the first of the junctions was, and soon joined the others at the third junction.



E had brought in some wonderful treats, including fresh berries and potato chips, which we enjoyed while resting a bit. We still had a few miles to go, so we were once more on the trail, dropping down to Vidette Meadow while looking up-canyon at East Vidette and Center Peak.



We had been planning on camping at the site near the bear locker at the old Center Basin junction, and JKW and M had flown down the trail down to and past Vidette to try to stay ahead of other hikers also looking for a "home" for the night. But after a bit of uphill asked that I rush ahead to secure the site. I pushed hard for awhile, but a note left on the "no fires above 10,000'" sign indicated that another group was already at this site. Fortunately, there was a nice, large, flat--and unoccupied--expanse of granite not far past this sign that made for an even better campsite. Its water access was much better than that of the site near the bear locker and was perfect for soaking weary (or, in the case of L, blistered) feet.



Deep in the canyon, we lost direct sunlight all too soon, but the mild temperatures were still with us and we enjoyed a comfortable evening at our site, watching the clouds turn pink as the sun slowly crept up the tall peaks surrounding us.



Unfortunately, I found out that one of the socks I had been hanging on my pack to dry had gone missing; I could still repurpose my sleep socks for hiking if my other pair didn't hold out.



I'm not sure any of us appreciated the slight increase in cloud cover, which cleared by nightfall.



Tomorrow we'd be facing Forester Pass, which given its height probably would have been more intimidating if we didn't already have several high passes behind us.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven
September 08, 2014 09:14PM
Another day where this trip was much nicer than the one in 2010. In 2010, we had finished a long day scurrying down Woods creek and over the bridge, camping late. This time, we went slower and I got to see and enjoy the drop more. And it's a heck of a drop. Jeez. And since I hadn't soaked my foot properly the night before, I felt the drop... Anyway, though we hit the bridge later in the morning, seeing so many people at the camping area there confirmed in my mind we made the right call again on sites. We had been all to ourselves on granite, my favorite! smiling smiley

So, we moseyed up to the Rae Lakes basin. We played leapfrog early on with groups that were hauling out of the Woods creek camping area, but after a bit, we didn't see many people.. I truly enjoyed walking around the lakes this time and was super happy that the others had chosen to swim at the last lake before going up to Glen Pass. I had been terribly disappointed with the warm, algae-ridden water we'd used in 2010 - which is where Basilbop and A had stopped back in 2008. This time I was after cold, clear water, and I got it in spades - probably the coldest swimming hole on the trip, especially with the breeze that had kicked up. But I loved it! And then we were heading up Glen!

So nice this time, just kept it slow and steady and what had been my least favorite pass in the past turned into an enjoyable one! The scenery is splendid, of course, but being able to enjoy it made it that much better. We got lucky during our rest time on the pass - no people and no wind. The others had all gone on ahead... But just as we started moving again - we had not yet traversed across - the wind became vicious and we heeded its warning to get off NOW. I had to crouch and brace during the gusts, but we got across pretty quickly, all said. And then the cruise downhill. The wind was gone and it was gorgeous. But time was slipping away and I was wondering if we'd make it to our desired site that day... I was sure we'd make our "planned" spot, but we had been thinking of getting a bit further, if possible...

The H party and A and E were all hanging at the Frog Creek junction, but I was on a mission - I was low on water and needed my protein fix badly... so I tossed a quick greeting to E and said I had to get to water and would be back. I just sat at the bank and made my protein drink on my own. I had waited a tad too long, and was feeling a bit drained... but perked up when C came by to get water herself. P and C had caught up to us, though I'd thought they were ahead of us.. weird how leap-frogging happens on the trail. Basilbop was a gentleman and came down to the bank to carry my pack back up to the group at the junction... where everyone was obviously taking a leisurely break with snacks - fresh fruit (I skipped since I was allergic to it), but E had brought in big bag of Ruffles Sour Cream and Onion potato chips for me, which I immediately opened and shared with L, who was another potato chip fan! Some others sampled, but L and I definitely have the salt-tooth thing going... smiling smiley

I'd been in the back the entire day... I left the junction last, but I am good at gliding downhill on trails and that particular stretch was mostly a perfect grade for downhill scoots, and I reeled in my group and others I did not recognize. I was getting worried about finding an open spot to camp that would fit our group of 7! I kept moving quickly, and probably stopped a bit too long at the junction at the bottom deciding if I should go on ahead on my own or not... Not knowing where others would want to crash, but over the radio, we all agreed it was too early, and we could push on... so I scooted the best I could. I reeled in a few people, but there was one group that was starting to reel me back in, (I'm not great at the uphill), and that's when I asked Basilbop to get his wings flapping... And like a champ, he did. He caught and passed me, and while I was taking a snack break, so did the ones who had been gaining on me... I'd heard enough that I realized they had a reasonable sized party and were trying to find home too... A few minutes later, I passed them sitting in a big forested campsite, one of them was sitting on a stump and bent over his knees breathing hard.. I figured they'd pushed a bit hard... But I still had a ways to go. Why do I never seem to remember that there's a 1000' climb from the Vidette Meadow junction to Center Basin? Pushing uphill on that trail - I remembered doing the same in 2010.. I wondered if we'd make it, time was slipping by. But, amazingly, Aaron found a lovely spot and when I met him and checked my watch, it was 6:30! We'd done it again! The others, all strong climbers, came into camp only minutes behind...

And that pool where I was soaking my feet was perfect for me, and for L. And that's where I realized how bad L's feet were... She showed me her blisters. What a trooper! I remembered hiking with blisters like that early on. No fun. And to do the JMT? Wow, she had heart. We had a lovely time chatting there, it was the most "L-time" I'd had. J, her sister, came and spent time with us, so I finally had some lovely time with the H gang! It was getting late, and the sun had already "set", so as warm as it seemed, I didn't go for a complete dunk, though it would have been a perfect place! Oh, it was there that I asked J, who is a doctor, about the front of my thighs, which were incredibly raw. I wear long pants... it wasn't a sun thing. Best she could figure, salt crystals had built up in my pants and were grinding my skin. I actually had little droplets of blood. A had had this happen to her before.. I never had... J suggested putting moisturizer on immediately, and L said if I had enough BodyGlide, that would be a good idea before hiking again. And they were both right! I healed up some that night and never got worse. It did take a couple of weeks for the rough skin to go away after I got home, though. Now I know.

And we slept on granite again. Perfect. I was looking forward to the next day, and my favorite pass of the trip.
avatar Re: JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven
September 09, 2014 09:31AM
Good stuff! We were supposed to get to Rae Lakes this summer, but in the end it didn't happen for a variety of reasons. Perhaps next year. Thanks for sharing!
Re: JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven
September 22, 2014 03:24PM
Will there be a day 14 trip report? Top of Whitney to the Portal?

Thanks for the great series of trip report. I have been away, but have now caught up. Beautiful journey.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven
September 24, 2014 08:29AM
Yes. Just have to edit it today!
Re: JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven
September 24, 2014 07:42AM
Is there any special equipment you need for your camera to take those beautiful pictures of the milky way at night - I tried with my camera but do not know how to do it
Re: JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven
September 24, 2014 08:46AM
Depending on your lens opening and "film" speed, use a shutter speed somewhere around 15-30 sec. This means you have to keep your camera reeeaaal still. I use a tripod but have propped it upon a rock in a pinch.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 11 - And Sweetie Makes Seven
September 24, 2014 09:22AM
I used a very small pocket-sized tripod (something like this) and settings generally in the range of ISO 3200-6400, shutter 15-30 seconds, and the lens wide open (f2.8). In some cases where shooting straight up I just laid the camera on its back. It usually took multiple shots to get the framing close--you can't really see anything on the camera's LCD. There is a rule-of-thumb I've read that you want the focal length x shutter speed to be less than 400 to avoid trails.

The hardest thing with my setup (Sony NEX 5N, 16mm lens) is focusing--the stars are too dim for auto-focus, but fortunately a few bright ones can be seen on the camera screen and the manual focus peaking feature of the camera works well enough.
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