John Muir Trail – 1000 Island Lake – Almost Home

Basking in the light

7/18/2017 (day 20)

I started out this morning just north of Johnston Lake outside of the Devil’s postpile.  Many of the night sounds (bear cubs, cats, owls, critters, etc), as I slept in off trail deep in a wooded area, kept me from a restful slumber.  My goal for the day was to get to Ruby Lake. A long gradual mosquito filled grind up started my day.  Up up up to Rosalie lake.  It was beautiful, but I didn’t stop as I was in a rush to get home to see my girls.  After Rosalie Lake there was a long and steep downhill full of switch backs to Shadow Lake.  Exhausted at the bottom I collapsed for 15 minute rest letting the mosquitos have their way with me. I started the climb out of the Shadow Lake basin up towards Garnett lake.  I had no energy going up these switch backs.  After every stop and turn, there was more up.  It was here that I knew I couldn’t handle much more of this long steep up.  I decided I would not attempt Cloud’s Rest, and focused my spirit on finishing.  I asked every person I passed how much farther and each said, quite a bit.  I reached the Garnett Lake pass at 10,000 feet, and descended a 500 foot ice sheet to a frozen Garnet Lake. After an ice traverse crossing an ice sheet that extended over the lake, I had more up.  I had to stop and rest four times in the short 600 foot ascent.  I consoled myself that Ruby Lake was near.  I descended down some switchbacks to Ruby Lake to find the sole camping space occupied.  I pushed on.  I traversed an ice sheet above Emerald lake where I saw that someone’s gear slid down to a rock outcropping.  It looked like a sleeping bag or a ditty bag.  I contemplated going down to retrieve it, but then wondered what if someone came back for it, which way were they going.  I opted to leave it there.

I ran into another hiker that I had been passing a few times.  We stopped and talked on an overlook to both Emerald Lake and Thousand Island Lake.  He complained how the shrapnel lodged in his shoulder made him ache. He shared with me how much hiking had changed his life and helped him when he came back to civilian life.  The day was getting late, and I still had no campsite.  He had to wait for a friend who was hiking slowly, so he wished me luck and I was on my way.

The campsites around Emerald Lake were closed and I pushed towards Thousand Island Lake.  The wind whipped off the lake blowing into my face.  The stinging wind in conjunction with the sun low in the sky made my face burn and lips crack.  I didn’t want to go along the lakeside path to find a campsite.  I wanted to stay closer to the path as the next day I was going to try two summits in one day and I knew I needed an early start.  Key to success in summiting a pass is camping as close to pass ascent as possible.

I started to ascend out of Thousand Island Lake basin towards Island Pass.  My legs were getting tired, I felt fatigued.  I hiked farther than expected, and there was a few thousand feet of elevation changes that were just too much for me that day.  At the first switch back, I decided this was it.  Rocky, sloped, windy, cold, no water….I didn’t care I needed to make camp.  I found a semi-clear area and decided this would be good enough.  I remembered my lesson from Star Camp (“Just walk a little farther off path…”) and sure enough there was a beautiful site.  I made camp, and started dinner.  The wind’s bluster nearly whooshed my tent off the mountain, so I piled some more rocks in my tent.  I looked out over Mount Davis and Banner Peak.  The vast expanse mesmerized me.  Words cannot capture how big the Earth felt in that moment.   Even though it was only three miles as the crow files to Banner Peak, I felt so small in this large basin.  Even though I saw people during the day, I felt alone and at one with where I was at.  I had climbed back up to 10,000 feet and the fresh air blew away all the mosquitoes.   I had so few pictures that captured the majesty of what I experienced everyday.  I rushed to take this picture before the sun went down.   The white haze in the picture is not an effect, it was visible.  This was the first realization that I would accomplish my task.  I would make it.  My body was weak, but I felt strong. Marmot poop be dammed!

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