Wednesday, July 29, 2015

JMT Day 8: Deer Creek to Lake Virginia

This was my worst day on the trail, by far. The problem began as blisters and then increased to a sunburn, tummy troubles, and bonking. I thought I was taking nice pictures, but when I looked at them after the fact, many of them were crap. I guess it's hard to take good pictures when your brain is not fully functioning.

The first 5.2 miles from Deer Creek to Duck Creek was a stretch without any water. It was not very pretty, although there were some nice views at points. There was a lot of sagebrush, and some flowers. You'll notice several shots of paintbrushes because this segment was supposed to have a few different species of them, and I was trying to find them all in my impaired state.

DSC_9521

Paintbrush
Paintbrush

DSC_9537

DSC_9538

DSC_9542

DSC_9544

Paintbrush
Paintbrush

DSC_9551

DSC_9555

DSC_9556

And... at last... Duck Creek.

Duck Creek

And columbines growing there...

Columbines

Columbine

Columbines

Columbines at Duck Creek

I was in bad shape by the time I got there. Purple Lake was another 2.5 miles, and Lake Virginia was another 4.5 miles. By the time I reached Duck Creek, I had reformulated my itinerary for how many miles a day I planned to do to get to MTR (skipping VVR). By the time I got to Purple Lake, I'd decided to quit the trail altogether. And maybe I would just camp at Purple Lake.

Purple Lake

Purple Lake
Purple Lake

Purple Lake

I couldn't find a good spot to camp at Purple Lake, and my friends had gone on to Lake Virginia, where they were expecting me. So I kept going. Those were not fun miles to hike.

DSC_9590

DSC_9593

Paintbrushes

Even feeling as sick as I did, I could not help but notice the beauty of Virginia Lake.

Lake Virginia

Lake Virginia

Lake Virginia

The last thing I did that night before hitting the hay was snag this pic of a white columbine. It was the only one I saw on the entire trail, and it was right after the Lake Virginia inlet crossing at mile 74.7 of the trail.

White Columbine

Day 8 miles hiked: 9.7 mi
Day 8 elevation gain: 1510 ft
Total Distance Hiked to date: 58.0 mi
Total JMT distance hiked to date: 42.3 mi

All of my JMT photos can be seen here.

Previous JMT posts:

JMT Day 7: Red's to Deer Creek

Day 7 on the trail was not one of the most exciting days of hiking. It was, however, one of the more fun and significant days socially. After leaving Red's Meadow Resort going south, you hit Deer Creek after 5.8 miles. You can camp there (and there are plenty of campsites and fire rings to make campfires) or keep going another 5.1 miles to Duck Creek. But there is no water between Deer Creek and Duck Creek, so most people don't want to camp in the middle. That means that, although you are hiking a pretty boring stretch of trail to Deer Creek, you'll find a lot of other hikers camping at Deer Creek when you get there. That makes for a fun night with campfires. I feel like that night at Deer Creek was when the people I was hiking alongside really coalesced as a group and got to know one another.

Before leaving Red's, we saw this gorgeous Western Tanager:

Western Tanager
Western Tanager at Red's Meadow Resort

Then we got going. The area immediately south of Red's was devastated by the 1992 Rainbow Fire. It's still missing all of its trees.

Damage from the Rainbow Fire

While you won't see trees, you will see a lot of plant life, including flowers, gooseberries, and shrubs. I also saw quite a few elder trees in full bloom.

DSC_9465

DSC_9467

DSC_9474

DSC_9475

Damage from the Rainbow Fire

Gooseberry
Gooseberry (not ripe yet)

At one point, I felt like I was walking in a maze of ferns.

Plant Maze

At last, you reach a place with trees again.

DSC_9486

DSC_9487

It isn't long before the landscape gets beautiful again, like this stream surrounded by wildflowers:

DSC_9491

I love this plant, Little Elephant's Head. There's also a Sierra wildflower called Elephant's Head that has a more pronounced head, ears, and trunk. This one is all trunk and ears.

Little Elephant's Head

Little Elephant Head

Before too long, we hit Deer Creek. We set up camp and met the others who were camping there with us - 15 people in total. It was a short day of hiking, and Deer Creek was a fantastic site to wash, do laundry, and socialize around a campfire. Most of the folks camped there that night planned to go on to either Purple Lake or Virginia Lake the next day, which meant we would see many of them again.

Day 7 miles hiked: 5.8 mi
Day 7 elevation gain: 1570 ft
Total Distance Hiked to date: 48.4 mi
Total JMT distance hiked to date: 37.2 mi

All of my JMT photos can be seen here.

Previous JMT posts:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

JMT Day 6: A Quick Jaunt on the PCT

I spent a few nights in Mammoth, seam-sealing my rain jacket after it failed in Lyell Canyon. Along with other hikers who skipped Donahue Pass and drove to Mammoth, I spent a day recuperating in the hotel's hot tub and eating excellent food (and drinking delicious beer) at Mammoth Brewing. But then it was time to get serious about the trail again. They were continuing south from Red's Meadow Resort. I wasn't sure what to do. Should I go north and pick up some extra miles on the JMT before heading south? Skipping the section from Tuolumne to Mammoth left me with some extra time in my itinerary. Or should I stick with these new friends? Or what about my other new friends, the ones I met near Sunrise High Sierra camp? They should be arriving in Mammoth the next day. Maybe I should hike with them?

I really did not know what to do.

Studying the Map
Me, studying the map

The next morning, we drove to the shuttle, and then took the shuttle to Red's. As we passed Agnew Meadows, I noticed an awful lot of wildflowers. Once we reached Red's, I saw very few flowers. (There are flowers at Red's, at the campground... I just did not see them until later). We dropped our packs outside the restaurant, and then went in for lunch. I still had not made up my mind what to do.

Our Packs

Lunch

The food was not my cup of tea. I got apple pie a la mode since they said they were known for their pie. The filling was out of a can. I don't recommend it.

After lunch, I made up my mind. I'd hike from Agnew Meadows to Thousand Island Lake on the PCT, and then hike from there back to Red's on the JMT. It would take 3 days, doing about 8 miles per day. The shuttle arrived, and so I left my new friends (the Vegas group) rather abruptly to hike my 8 miles to Thousand Island Lake. This would put me back on my original itinerary.

The JMT is mostly one and the same as the PCT's Section H, with a few exceptions. The beginning and end of the JMT are not on the PCT. Then, at Thousand Island Lake, they split again. The JMT goes past Garnet Lake, Shadow Lake, and Devil's Postpile, whereas the PCT goes to Agnew Meadows. They rejoin one another at Red's Meadow.

Agnew Meadows was a great choice for me. I went nuts photographing flowers even before I reached the trailhead:

Lily
Lily

Lilies

Meadow of Flowers

Meadow of Flowers

Monkshood
Western Monkshood. Aconitum columbianum.

Meadow of Flowers

Larkspur
Larkspur

Meadow of Flowers
Larkspur

DSC_9210

Then the actual trail began. It was not quite so pretty at first, but before long, it surpassed anything else I'd seen on the JMT in beauty.

Lily

Horse Mint
Horsemint. Agastache urticifolia.

Pennyroyal
Pennyroyal

Lupine
Lupine

Scarlet Gilia
Scarlet Gilia

Larkspur
Larkspur

DSC_9326

Paintbrush
Paintbrush

Paintbrush
Paintbrush

DSC_9332

DSC_9256

DSC_9259

DSC_9268

DSC_9269

DSC_9276
Grand Collomia. Collomia grandiflora.

DSC_9279

DSC_9281

DSC_9285
Penstemon

DSC_9286

DSC_9288

DSC_9295

DSC_9296

DSC_9303

DSC_9304

DSC_9305

DSC_9341
Yarrow

DSC_9342
Lilies

DSC_9346
Mountain Prettyfaces

DSC_9354
Mushrooms. They look like puffballs, which are edible... but I wasn't about to risk it.

DSC_9369

DSC_9372
Mariposa Lily

DSC_9374

DSC_9376

DSC_9377

After a few miles, I changed my mind again. I was lonely. I wanted to hike with my new friends. I set out to hike the entire JMT, but now that I was there, I would have more fun if I stayed with the people I'd grown close to over the past few days. So, I turned around and hiked back down to the shuttle stop. Here are a few more photos from the walk back to the shuttle.

Corn Lilies
Corn Lilies

I missed a shuttle by a few minutes, so I decided to kill time by heading across the street to the Agnew Meadows Wildflower Walk. Almost immediately, I spotted some new species - including some orchids. I later found that white rein orchids are pretty common on the trail, but in that moment, I was over the moon about finding orchids in the wild for the first time ever.

Monkshood
Western Monkshood

Monkshood
Western Monkshood

White Rein Orchid
White Rein Orchid. Platanthera leucostachys.

White Rein Orchid
White Rein Orchid. Platanthera leucostachys.

DSC_9416

DSC_9423

Back at Red's, I ran into some familiar faces. One of my Vegas friends had stayed behind because she was not feeling well. She had to revise her plans and figure out whether to stay on the trail or give it up. I camped with her that night. I also ran into the friends I'd left behind in Tuolumne Meadows. They were spending the night in Mammoth with their husbands, and they had to shop for warmer gear and consider whether or not to keep hiking. They had spent a cold, horrible night at the Lyell Forks Bridge and then hiked back to Tuolumne Meadows and took a bus to Mammoth, just as I feared I would have done if I had not bailed when I did. The night at the bridge was so bad that it cast doubt over their entire hike. We agreed to meet up at Red's in the morning, and they told me that if they did not arrive by 9:20, then I should assume they had stopped their hike and I should go on without them.

I had a lovely night at Red's, enjoying the flush toilets, running (potable) water, and fire pit.

Day 6 miles hiked: 3-ish
Day 6 elevation gain: No idea
Total Distance Hiked to date: 42.6 mi
Total JMT distance hiked to date: 26.9 mi

All of my JMT photos can be seen here.

Previous JMT posts: