Shadow Lake Peace ... next chapter

Early morning peace at Shadow Lake

August 17, 2000
Gladys Lake to Island Pass Lakes
A favorite JMT segment of spectacular lakes

0600-0700 — Gladys Lake (54°F; dry, clear & still)
          I'm awake for sunrise but the pictures are now unimpressive. For the record I do snap a photo of our bivysite. It is chilly so I jump back in the sack. I lie and watch the first flight of a fledgling stretching her wings. She perches atop a tall pine tree and flutters out into the air and then back to her safe perch. Over and over, slowly extending her range, her flight more controlled and less frantic with each new exercise. Finally, she is off. And we must get up and get going ourselves.

0800-0815 — Rosalie Lake

          Today is a tour of lakes. First stop is Rosalie Lake, beautiful and reflective. We descend a steep series of switchbacks with great views of Ritter and Banner now looming in the west."so gloriously colored, and so luminous, it seems to be not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city. ... the Range of Light."— JM

          At Shadow Lake I shoot numerous photos of the still water reflections in the rich morning light forgetting I still need to ration my film.

0915-0945 — Shadow Creek 37°41.404 / 119°08.489 - 9,614K'

          We stop for breakfast above Shadow Lake where the JMT leaves the Shadow Creek Trail. There are many campers here. A couple ignore the numerous signs that restrict camping between the path and the creek. The area has been over used because of it's beauty and easy access; and thus, the restriction to help the area recover. Again the few who break the rules will cause endless new rules to oppress the rest of us. People can and will ruin everything eventually by simply failing to accept responsibility for "being." Life is good and beautiful as long as unconscious, stupid, greedy people don't get in the way.

          It is not all rubber necking out here on the trail. There is a good deal of time to consider one's existence while you trudge along ten miles a day noting this and that. So in many ways this trail is a quest, a pilgrimage, a going up on the mountain top to reaffirm one's faith. Nature is real and pure, a perfect backdrop for self-realization. It is true and meaningful by definition. It never lets you down. Man's free will to be other than meaningful is what goofs us up. The simple secret to life is "knowing" you are true and meaningful and then"being" that way; or not "being" true and subsequently suffering through life usually blaming someone else for your misery (like unconscious, stupid, greedy people). Why are so many people suffering? Because, they don't Know they Exist in The Divine context.

Magic Mountains R&B

Magic mountains Ritter and Banner from the east end of Garnet Lake

          "Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days ... in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God." — JM

1115-1130 — pass 37°42.441 / 119°09.041 - 10,083K'

          We love this section of the JMT from here to Thousand Island Lake. We introduced ourselves to the Sierra years ago at Banner Peak (technically not part of the Sierra Nevada range but who cares, its still magnificent). It is familiar ground and still a favorite spot; like coming home. It is a popular place for a lot of people on this perfect summer day. Most are camped in the vicinity.

          One fellow we pass on the JMT and in a big hurry hopes to do the trail in fifteen days but laments he is behind schedule because he keeps getting lost. His last detour took him ten miles out of the way. I'm curious, "How is that even possible, to get lost on this trail?" He blames a bad sense of direction. "Okay ... " I don't wish to delay him any further with more stupid questions; so, I send him on his way with a "good luck!" The trail is not that ambiguous and last I checked the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. I don't know how anyone could get lost on this trail as long as they stay on the trail. There are signs at every major junction with a "JMT" and an "arrow." You really don't even need a map. So if you have a bad sense of direction, don't be afraid to take on the John Muir Trail ... you can do it ... but take a map just in case. You can leave your GPS at home.

1230-1300 — above Garnet Lake 37°42.849 / 119°09.377-9,864K' (90°F)

          We pump water at the Garnet Lake bridge and I snap a photo of Irene, Ritter and Banner. Below us a man and his ecstatic grandson experience the Garnet outlet which is running gently this time of year. A foursome warns us of bear trouble at Thousand Island Lake and suggest we not camp in the trees on the north side where the crowds are. We continue up the switchbacks north of Garnet Lake to find a "room with a view" for our lunch break. Garnet Lake is still, in my opinion, the most beautiful lake on the trail and backed up by Ritter/Banner provides an exquisite panorama for our noon repast (see above painting Magic Mountains R&B).

          After lunch we finish the climb out of Garnet Lake up and over to Ruby Lake, down to Emerald Lake and across to the Thousand Island Lake bridge. Here we depart the JMT which heads straight to Island Pass. Instead we follow the north shore trail along the lake to find a swimming and/or bathing opportunity. Thousand Island Lake is swarming with people. We pass a horse pack headed out after dumping off another group at the lake. I count close to forty folks on the trail and another forty in camps, a number of dogs and one loud obnoxious shouting fool. These are not hard core wilderness folks; they have kitchens and lounge chairs and boxed wine. All that considered, the grandeur of this place cannot be diminished. We have been here before and had this whole environment to ourselves. That experience is indelible and it carries over every time we come back. However, the chance for a private swim and bath may be remote.

1515-1630 — above Thousand Island Lake 37°43.511 / 119°11.377 - 9,920K' (76°F)

          We head for a small secluded pond we know of up in the rocks on the north side of Thousand Island Lake. It is not on the map so most people don't know it is there. Although I have previously GPSed it, I don't have the coordinates with me, and we have to find it the old fashioned way ... by memory. My memory does not fail me and we find it. Unfortunately, the pond is two feet low and less inviting for a bath. Irene indulges none the less. She spends most her time while in the water investigating the tiny red and black swimming things and the bejewelled stick-like crawly critters. The pool is not deep enough to get a good dunk or swim so it becomes more of a science project than an actual bath. I abstain; I have swum with the little red waterbugs before and I prefer to nap. But while I doze I am reminded ... "The universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge." — JM

          We decide to cross country from here directly to Island Pass whose coordinates I have interpolated from the seven-and-a-half minute map. The incline from here is no different than on the path and the trees are sparse; cross country should be no problem. The GPS gives us direction and distance as the "crow flies" which is exactly how we wish to climb. I keep us on course with periodic readings on the GPS (basically, directly north). We intersect the path below the Pass precisely as predicted. The GPS works! Hardly a justification to carry the thing on this trek but reassuring, none the less, that the GPS could come in handy in a more challenging circumstance of direction finding and also be instrumental in reaching a safe haven.

Banner View

Late day view of Banner Peak from Island Pass

1700-1900 — Island Lake 37°44.056 / 119°11.506 - 10,271K' (75°F; windy & clear)

          The Island Lakes (locally referred to as "Ham" and "Eggs" but I wouldn't dare use those names on the trail) are a pleasant surprise. We have never been up here in all our visits to Thousand Island Lake. We find some flat ground amongst the rocks and small trees for our bivies and then immediately take a plunge while the sun is still warm. The lake has a perfect rock bottom with a drop off deep enough for a complete dunk. The water temperature is relatively tolerable and we have some protection from the wind which tends to be prevalent on most passes. A couple campers on the opposite side of the lake going about their business of setting up camp don't curtail our fun. After our ten mile hike the dip is quite refreshing.

          At 1830 it is still a comfortable 75° for dinner. There is no worry of bear trouble up here and besides we can fit all our food in the bear canister now. We align our bivies so we have a view of beautiful Banner Peak. The still very bright moon will illuminate the mountain all night long. We enjoy our nightcap of coffee & rationed cookies and bid another divine day adieu.

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