Reds Meadow ... next chapter

Reds Meadow river crossing west of Devil's Postpile

August 16, 2000
Reds Meadow to Gladys Lake through Devil's Postpile Monument
Happy to leave civilization and return to the wilderness


0630-0715 — Reds Meadow (dry, calm & clear)
          There is much to do this morning so we get up and get going early. Dropping down into the campground, we head straight for the laundry facilities. A fellow also headed north on the JMT who had arrived in Reds Meadow about the same time we did the day before has noticed us. He inquires about the laundry. We clue him in and tell him we are headed there as we speak; we will be done by the time he finishes his breakfast if he wants to use them. He says something about maybe just drying his clothes that he washed in the shower the night before. We continue down the path to the facilities. Halfway there, this guy comes running up behind Irene, almost knocks her off the trail and rushes ahead of us to the machines. You see, he is in a big hurry to get back on the trail. Actually, he is in a big hurry with everything except his talk. Fortunately, he doesn't decide to cut in front of us at the washing machine and instead throws his still quite dirty clothes into the dryer and goes off for breakfast.

          Irene starts our laundry while I rendezvous with our second food resupply. I pass through the stables where dozens of ranch hands are saddling up probably a hundred head of stock for the day's business. No wonder the trails around Reds Meadow are so chopped up. This is a really BIG operation.

          I am back with our food within a half hour. While Irene gives our filthy clothes a second washing we sort our food and chow down on Danish from the Store. Restaurant coffee saves Irene the effort of cooking. Assessing the food situation and better estimating the days we have ahead of us, we buy a few more items like apples, caramel peanuts, extra Ramen and white gas. After a few technical difficulties with the laundry machines (you must use a stick lever to retract the coin dispenser on the washer and the dryer occasionally requires a cord "jiggle" to operate correctly) our clothes are clean and fresh except for the fleece we have on. Now we are ready to "hit the showers" again.

          Before we head back to the showers we try to reach Sheilina one more time. Again we bump into the "crazy" guy who is in such a hurry to get back on the trail; we wonder when he is actually going to head north since we don't want to be anywhere near him on the trail. He tells everybody within ear shot where he is going, what he is doing, what he ate for dinner, where he camped, how much it cost, what he ate for breakfast, what he didn't eat and drink; you name it ... the world revolves around him. No wonder he is traveling alone.

          While waiting to call Sheilina, Irene overhears this guy on the phone leave a message instructing his "buddy" to meet him in Tuolumne Meadows in two days and bring his light pack so he can run from there down to Happy Isles in one day completing his conquest of the JMT. He needs his light pack because his Dana pack (like mine) is too heavy, his shoulders are sore and he is suffering from really bad blisters. (I wonder, why has this clown come to the Sierra?)

          Sympathetically, Irene decides to share her super bandages with the suffering soul; but before she has a chance, he is off to bend someone else's ear. When he returns to the Store where we are waiting, Irene offers him some bandages with directions on how to best use them. He accepts the gift and goes on complaining about his pack, his feet and the fine pumice dust and dirt which he still wears proudly on his clothes despite his best efforts to launder them. To prove his point he lifts his boot and kicks the stump-table where our packs are balanced. This sends a cloud of dust up into my face and knocks Irene's pack off the stump into the dirt. Needless to say, I have had my fill of this jerk!

          Finally the dope departs headed south so that he can pick up the JMT right where he left off and so not miss a single step of the trail (I had to direct him to where the trail continues). Never mind, he will have to hike half the night in the dark in order to make Tuolumne Meadows by tomorrow to meet his buddy.

          Our business done we head for the showers to wash this "man right out of our hair." Fewer folks are taking showers in the middle of the day so we have a nice long, refreshing, second scrubbing. While we shower, I chill a Dos Equis in the cold creek so that we have a change-of-pace lunch of chips & beer before we return to the wilderness. Showers and lunch finished, we are ready to depart Reds Meadow. On the way out of the campground I find a garlic bulb abandoned in a bear box. Irene is thrilled. She has run out of the spices she brought. I suspect we will now have a subtle variety of garlic dinners from here on out.

          We don't bother picking up the JMT where we left off because we weren't on it coming into Reds Meadow anyway. Instead we traverse through Devil's Postpile Monument. We stop and get our picture taken at the famous site and then wind our way through the hordes and across the bridge (see above painting Reds Meadow) to pick up the JMT headed north.

1415-1500 — crossing by Johnston Lake 37°38.458 / 119°05.749 (104°F in sun)

          We don't get too far in the hundred degree heat before we need a foot break and a snack. The trail is packed with many day hikers from the Meadow and a few trekkers who lust over our apple as they pass by headed down into "civilization."

          After the break, I charge up the trail possibly because I am anxious to put space between us and the population or possibly because of the caloric boost we got in Reds Meadow (chips & beer are great carbohydrates). I feel good despite the "unrelenting up", the still dusty trail and abundance of horse residue. Irene complains I am missing views and photos. I aim to reach Gladys Lake today which is far enough and high enough away to feel like we are back in the wilderness. It is about six miles, a climb of seventeen hundred feet.

1615-1630 — nameless lake 37°39.820 / 119°06.163 - 8,711K' (76°F)

          We break oh so briefly. There is no water up here other than that in the very still but beautiful Trinity Lakes. The late afternoon light adds to the pastoral scenery along this easy section of trail.

1800-1900 — Gladys Lake 37°41.001 / 119°07.075 - 9,630K' (63°F; clouds in desert)

          We are getting low on water when Gladys Lake pops up right where expected. We begin the search for a suitable bivy site. We smell smoke and notice a fire smoldering outside a fire ring in an established campsite. Some idiot has built a fire ring on dry forest peat. The peat is burning underground beyond the rock circle. We smother the smolder and satisfied the fire is out, move on to better digs.

          A single gal is making dinner by the northwest shore of Gladys. We go off trail and head for the ridge on the east shore with views of the San Joaquin River Valley below. There are several horse camps on the north side of the lake but all we need is a patch of flat ground. We find a perfect little spot with time to wash up, make dinner, shoot some sunset pics and relax before nightfall.

          Big puffy cumulus nimbus out over the desert never threaten us up here in the mountains. However, they do linger most the night. A slight breeze blows them our way but only manages to shred the clouds into interesting patterns. Now quite bright, the full moon shines like a dull sun through perforated clouds producing an eerie and awesome night sky. Periodically, I wake up to catch another glimpse of the natural light show. I wish I could have taken a time exposure photo of this fabulous sky; alas, I didn't bring the proper equipment this trip.

Mammoth Moon

Full moon and clouds over Mammoth Mountain

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