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JMT Journal-Day 5

I had figured it would be 14.9 miles if I wanted to make Red's Meadow today, and I really knew I wouldn't make it. So I had spent a good deal of time with the guide book and map figuring out potential campsites without significant bear problems. The series of high alpine lakes I was about to travel through had a reputation of being popular with both humans and bears. I was still somewhat naive regarding the Sierra Nevada, but soon learned that the proximity to campgrounds and trail heads around Mammoth led to huge numbers of people, and the other megafauna associated with people—horses, bears, etc..

Anyway, I didn't see anybody on the trail for the first few hours, but when I began to approach Thousand Island Lake, I began to run into people. But to be perfectly honest with you, I'm not sure I recall correctly the stretch of the trail around Thousand Island Lake. I don't recollect properly (even with photographic assistance) details of that stretch of the trail. I do recall a couple camping near there, illegally close to the trail, with a dog, a barking dog. He lunges, but I survive.

Next, I'm winding my way down toward Garnet Lake. I wend around the north side, then get to the bridge. I stop there to refill my water, amongst the deadwood, and as I'm doing so some chattering hikers (looked like an extended family) come up and insist on my taking a picture of them, so I insist on them taking a picture of me.

Ascending from Garnet Lake, I felt a bit of stomach distress; I worried it might be the start of something more sinister, but it would never bother me again on the trip.

The trail ascends to an unnamed pass, then descends fairly steeply into the Shadow Creek drainage. It seems pretty steep to me, and especially full of loose and unstable rock. It seems as though this descent goes on and on forever, passing through timberline, then into a dry and dusty trail in the woods. It also seems to get pretty warm, and I'm working up a sweat. The lower I go, the dustier the trail gets, and I began to run into more and more people, including a pack train or two. I realize I'm getting close to Agnew Meadows, a popular summertime camping area complete with horse corrals, and it is in fact a weekend, so the crowds should not be unexpected. Still, I get a bit concerned over the number of folks on the trail (for no good reason, as it turns out).

I reach a bridge and trail junction over Shadow Creek, above Shadow Lake, sometime in the afternoon. I'm hot and sweaty, and covered with dust, which is made worse by the pack train also taking a break at the same spot. I take my pack off and rewater myself and the pack train leaves, but people continue to stream by the area. I'm told by a group of three college students that Agnew Meadows is indeed the source of most of the traffic. One of the students asks my destination and is immediately envious of me and my trip.

After an extended pause, I check my map and plan the rest of the day's route. I'll continue on down toward Shadow Lake, which is off limits to camping due to overuse (mostly because of proximity to Agnew Meadows, I presume). Then I'll take a right turn straight up the side of a mountain, to another pass, and then camp at either Rosalie or Gladys Lake on the other side of the pass. The guide book warns of the steep climb out of the Shadow valley (about 600 feet in one mile). I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of the ascent. But I shouldn't have been, I suppose. After all, I'd been carrying my 60lbs. or so up and down hill for fifty miles over five days, and I was beginning to get pretty strong.

Somewhere along the climb up, I ran across two Koreans who were lost. After some discussion, I determined they were supposed to have met someone at Garnet Lake; they weren't even headed in the right direction. They seemed woefully under supplied for an overnight, but apparently the person they were to meet had some of the equipment. They didn't even have much water. One of them was polite enough, although I could hardly understand his English. The other seemed to be some sort of superior, and wouldn't even make eye contact. Anyway, they set off toward Garnet, even though I told them it was likely much too late to make it before sunset.

A little while later (about 4:00 p.m.), I reached Rosalie Lake. It took me about half an hour to find a camping spot—testament to the fact I had yet to get the campsite finding thing down. There were actually plenty of previously used spots around the lake, I just couldn't decide which one had the most amenities; location, places for sleeping and cooking, access to water, and so on. I finally picked one, then went to the lake, walked out on a little natural rock "pier" and began filtering water. Right at that time, my two Korean friends walked up and saw me. The one with whom I'd spoken earlier politely said hello, said they were heading back to the Devil's Postpile parking lot, and asked about my water filter. I realized what he was getting at, and told him I would fill his water bottles with filtered water. "We miscalculated," he allowed. He was very appreciative and was about to give me his water bottles when a third member of their party showed up. Obviously, he was the smart one who had the camping know-how and equipment. They all immediately left the lake shore and went to scout out a camping site, without so much as a "thanks, anyway."

I went back to my campsite, boiled water for my very satisfying freeze-dried dinner in a "kitchen" that was actually quite well appointed. Shelves, fire pits, seats—fairly typical of lakeside campsites. Now by "shelves" etc., I don't mean actual furniture, but rather granite boulders and some well placed lumber which makes up the creature comforts one needs. In nearly every place along the JMT someone has camped before, so you end up camping where folks previously have, and they have usually placed some amenities there. I enjoyed the scenery around the lake for a while after dinner. As I reflected on the day, I thought about my feet being a bit chewed up, but also realized I was getting much, much stronger.

After dinner, as I sat making notes in my notepad, I now note that I made one that said "20:06—the Koreans have a *huge* fire going."

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