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JMT Journal-Day 4

August 23, 2002 Lyell Canyon to Twin Lakes near Island Pass 27º—63º @TUM

Well, I awoke having not been eaten by a bear, or a marmot. After breakfast I had a bit of a time finding the trail again; had to bushwhack a bit and find a good fallen tree on which to cross the stream. It was about 8:00 before I finally reached the trail proper. Today would be my first substantial climb since day one, as I would be achieving Donahue Pass (11,056'). Since I had camped at the very end of the meadow, the trail immediately began to climb. I noticed along the way a few good campsites, and half-wished I had gone further the previous day. At one spot there was a very nice area by a stream crossing, and I filtered water and took a break. I was passed by a few people along the trail, including the young man I had seen camping near me. We chatted a bit; he said he was only up for the weekend and was hiking through to Red's Meadow. We both chuckled at the scarcity of the famous Lyell Canyon marauding bears.

As I drew nearer the pass, I crossed above timberline. Suddenly I was out of the trees, and was hiking along a few unnamed alpine lakes—scenery of a type I had not yet come across. I loved it. This was the terrain I had been expecting. The trail began to switchback and ascend steeply. I was getting really, really tired and winded. I began pulling out my gps at every turn to mark my progress. Finally at a little past noon I reached the pass. I was pretty gassed; I attributed my lack of wind in large part to the altitude, but despite that, I was for the first time beginning to feel like I was starting to get into shape. I felt a lot stronger than I had that first day.
As I was resting, munching on lunch and airing my dogs out at the pass Red (from the break on day 2) came by. We talked awhile, took each other's pictures, and I envied his printed spreadsheet of mileages and elevations. Red also mentioned that he had camped the night before in Lyell Canyon near a couple of guys who had too much food for their bear canisters. So, they had hung the excess food in the time-honored Yosemite way. And they had also spent the entire night defending their hung food from a couple of bears, who were intent on stealing their food in the time-honored Yosemite way.
Also while there, a couple of guys came up. They would turn out to be Fisherdad and Fisherson—I never could remember their names, and our paths would cross several times before the end of the trip (including the absolute end of the trip). Fisherson, in his twenties, wore red and black shorts (which always made me think Texas Tech) and Fisherdad was at least fifty. They were through-hiking the JMT with the intent of fishing every lake along the way. And they nearly did. They packed fly rods, and were always moving quickly, because they had to hike and leave time for fishing as well.
Anyway, after socializing, we all went on our separate schedules. After descending the other side of Donahue Pass, I passed through a valley and trail junction at Rush Creek, which was a possible campsite. I paused there to get water, and saw Red on the other side of the creek. He was going to stay there that night. I bade him farewell (as it turned out I wouldn't see him again) and continued on. Somewhere around here I refilled my water at a spot where the trail crossed a meandering stream. This low spot was around 9,600'. From there on it was uphill to Island Pass (10,203') and my destination, the pair of lakes just beyond.
I reached the pass, and the lakes beyond. They seemed somewhat hidden; I wasn't sure I was in the right place. And then when I searched around the right-hand lake, I was concerned it wasn't the “right place”. I only bring this up to contrast it with the attitude I'd eventually adopt. Early in the trip, I would be concerned with finding the exactly right, best possible campsite. Later in the trip, I would pick one out almost immediately. It's just the nature of backpacking. One of the skills that is honed by time in the backcountry is that of picking a campsite.

Anyway, I choose a site among huge granite boulders bordering the lake. It is so spectacular that I search around, assuming there must be someone else at that lake. There is not. I am stunned, because I'm at a beautiful alpine lake, about 10,200', with absolutely stunning views of Banner Peak and the Ritter range, and nobody else is here. (Sunset was particularly beautiful.) This was the first night that I truly realized this hike was something else than a hike through Yosemite backcountry. Again, the full moon kept me awake for much of the night. When I woke in the morning, my bivy sack was completely covered with ice; the coldest night I had had so far. As I dried my stuff out in the morning sun, I realized again how spectacular the views of Banner and Ritter were. After breakfast, I packed and hit the trail; on the other side of the lake I snapped a few pix of the mountains.



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