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View of Glen Pass bathed in glorious morning light.

August 5, 2000
Rae Lakes to Twin Lakes south of Pinchot Pass
A long hot haul with moments of relief ...

0630-0745 — Rae Lake (63°F; damp, clear, breezy & colder)

          We have no rain this night. In fact, it is very clear. The Milky Way is actually bright in the sky. Still we are a bit damp from dew in the wee hours of the dawn. But as we lay there procrastinating, the breeze seems to dry the bivies enough to pack up and get on the trail.

          It is chilly so we are clad in fleece, our cold weather cover. We had planned a sunrise departure so that we are sure to reach our unofficial destination at Twin Lakes south of Pinchot Pass about ten miles away. But it is too cold to get up at dawn and besides we are still wet with dew.

          The trail through here is such a beautiful stretch of the JMT. It is too bad I didn't bring a lot of film and I feel I must ration my shots, especially saving for the panoramas I like to shoot at the top of passes. We will have to return to this place with more film and the OM-1 to capture all the shots we missed. We do stop to pose with prominent Fin Dome, just for the record (see above painting Fin Dome).

          We are stopped by a lady who is looking for a couple she expected to meet at the lakes the day before and asks us to give Matt and Tracy a message when we see them on the trail north of here. I bother people for two days inquiring about Matt and Tracy without a trace. It finally dawned on me that two people of their description may have passed us while we were sorting our food two days earlier. That poor lady was probably worried out of her gourd by the time she found out Matt and Tracy had already passed her by. Coordinated rendezvous in the wilderness can be tricky.

          Another fellow races past us in a hurry to get down the trail because he is soloing this stretch as far as Vermillion Resort where he will meet up with his wife who has just left the trail at Kearsarge to drive around the Sierra range and join him for the segment of JMT from Vermillion to Tuolumne where he will solo again the final stretch to Yosemite Valley. It is amazing I got all this information from him as he was running down the path talking back over his shoulder. He thinks if he moves quickly he doesn't eat as much so he can carry a lighter load. His pack looks heavy to me; we will catch up to him later.

          We pass a few more folks. Even with all the traffic, somehow we surprise a couple juvenile marmots grazing by the edge of the path. They scurry for safety in the rocks but so typical of youngsters one takes his eye off what he is doing and "bonks". He collides head first halfway up a rock step and bounces back. His second effort is better; seemingly unfazed (also a trait of teenagers) he scampers to safety. His mate probably had a good laugh. I know I did.

'Round Every Corner

Magical trail around Rae Lakes

0830-0900 — Lower Rae Lakes 36°49.868 / 118°24.573 - 10.3K' (68°F)

          We stop for breakfast and the other morning rituals of pumping water, washing up, brushing teeth, and dowsing with sun screen. As the trip continues I apply less and less sun screen, hence my two-tone farmer tan. A couple times we have enough privacy to go for the "full monty" tan but mostly we don't really have the time to leisurely work on a tan; we have miles to go and only so much food.

          The trail down toward Woods Creek is deceptively long and dry. It seemed so last time we came this way and it is again this time. The landscape is wide open with little shade relief from a hot sun. My mind wanders but I keep a steady pace. Sometimes the trek is just about physical exertion and the resulting endorphins.

1100-1115 — Woods Creek Suspension Bridge 36°52.197 / 118°26.365 (75°F)

          The suspension bridge at Woods Creek is a great convenience and a great ride. The threesome just behind us who are hiking in from Kearsarge and out at Lamarck Col are ever so careful crossing the bridge. They miss out on all the shimmy shake which happens quite naturally when you stroll across such a construction. Oh well, some people just don't wanna have fun. As I recall, the climb out at Lamarck Col is not all that much fun either.

1200-1300 — bath 36°52.713 / 118°26.040 - 8.8K' (100°F in sun)

          It is getting really hot now and our clothes, in their fifth day, are getting a tad ripe. We look for a bathing and clothes washing opportunity. We find a perfect spot about a half mile up the Creek from the Bridge. Although it is somewhat within view of the trail, I don't recall any passersby during the hour we are there bathing and washing clothes. It is a spot where the creek has eroded a couple pools in an immense rock ledge. The Creek fishtails over the great rock and cascades in sheets down toward the bridge. It is about 100° in the sun. We and our clothes dry quickly on this sun baked, glacier polished surface.

"The grandeur of these forces and their glorious results over power me and inhabit my whole being." —JM

          Refreshed in more ways than one, we continue up Woods Creek. This is my least favorite part of the entire JMT (there is another even less favorite part of trail later on but it is not actually JMT). This is avalanche country, new avalanche country. The valley's only trees are young aspen, more bush than tree. It is open, dry, hot, with lots of dead wood; all in all rather ugly. Woods Creek is interesting at times but it is framed in what I call a "junky" landscape, lacking order. This valley has been continually annihilated by avalanches of snow and rocks. I am so uninspired by this valley, I shoot not a single picture after our bath.

1400-1545 — below Mt. Cedric Wright 36°53.331 / 118°25.274 - 9.3K' (80°F in shade)

          At the first real trees we stop to rest our feet, cool off in the shade and take a nap. Our bath is now long forgotten. We are anxious to get back up to altitude and a beautiful alpine landscape. I have seen enough aspen for the time being. Aspen sprout first on slopes cleared by avalanche. They are such a symbol of ruin; they depress me.

          Rising above the Woods Creek canyon to the plateau above Twin Lakes we look for a camp site with water. The first water we find is a trickling creek. It is unsuitable. This late in the day we are quite weary, despite the nap, but we continue higher. The heat has really slowed us down today.

          Anxiously I scan for a small lake I located on the map east of the path and about where we are. As we roll over one more rise, there right before my eyes is a big 'ole "beautiful" lake right on the path even though not on my map. Later, I realize this lake was on a lost section of map that didn't print on my ink jet copy. "All is well that ends well." In fact, I am elated that we can now stop and call it a day. (The lake is not all that "beautiful" in reality, more like a shallow pond. But at the time, considering my weariness, it was a great relief to find water and stop for the night).

Above Woods Creek

North of Woods creek on the John Muir Trail

1830-2030 — above Twin Lakes 36°54.874 / 118°23.870

          From dawn to dusk we have come ten miles in 100° heat. That includes breaks to wash clothes and nap. We are within "striking" distance of Pinchot Pass. We have water and a fine view. Besides all that, I need to take a c---. We camp here!

          The threesome we passed earlier got the prime campground at this location so we go a little off trail and find a nice spot for dinner. We choose another spot for our bivies in amongst the juniper with a view of Mt. Wynne and what I initially, mistakenly, identify as Pinchot Pass. The morrow will prove me wrong as to the whereabouts of Pinchot. Fortunately, there is a well worn path to the Pass and you can't miss it.

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