Soaking Up The Scenery…
We survived our first night sleeping out in the wild – the real wild – without any disturbance from bears! Hopefully we’ll now feel much more at ease with being ‘alone’ out here. And instead of worrying about bears, we can get on with enjoying the view!
We’ve read that with each passing day on the JMT, the scenery just gets better and better and Day 2 did not disappoint.
The sun sets on Cathedral Peak.
Day 2 – Sunrise Creek to Upper Cathedral Lake (9.3 miles) – Saturday 30th August 2014 – ‘Cathedral Peak Steals The Show’
We woke naturally at 6:00am just as the sun was beginning to rise. Our body clocks are already adjusting to nature’s calls – or was it that we just couldn’t wait to set foot on the trail again, eager to discover what beauty John Muir had picked for us today.
It was a quick cup of tea and bowl of granola for breakfast (with minimal washing up using wet wipes) as Sunrise Creek was bone dry. We were already seeing the affects of a summer of drought in California and hoped this would not be a regular occurrence throughout the JMT as we are reliant on rivers, streams and lakes for our water supply.
Leaving our first wild camp and setting off on the trail again.
After packing up and leaving no trace at our camp spot, we set off along the trail, first through a dense woodland of gigantic lodgepole pine trees, which then gave way to a panorama of immense granite mountains. The scenery made for some great photographs – we just didn’t know which way to look trying to capture it all on camera!
The trees give way to huge granite peaks.
Walking on, we found the perfect lunch spot just before reaching the ‘High Sierra Camp’. Surrounded by granite peaks, we sat on a rock overlooking a grassy meadow and simply enjoyed the view.
A great place to stop for lunch.
Enjoying the view!
Although the High Sierra Camp is privately operated, hikers can get fresh drinking water from the spigot located just inside the camp. I was also grateful that they allowed me to use their toilet facilities. (I am now very familiar with a ‘bush wee’ but avoiding digging a hole for as long as I can!)
We continued on, not really noticing we were going over Cathedral Pass as it is such a gradual incline and we were just far too busy soaking up the scenery.
The effects of the Californian drought are really noticeable as we continue along the trail.
The alpine environment here contrasts greatly with the English landscapes we have recently experienced during our hikes along the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast paths. As with most things in the USA that we’ve experienced (from the size of their coffee cups to the size of their motorhomes), everything is on a much grander scale. Just today, the mountains in view are three times higher than Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England!
Super tall lodgepole pine trees.
At just over 9 miles, today’s walk was not particularly long, nor was it strenuous in terms of what we’ve become used to. Having now reached 3,000 metres in elevation though, we were starting to feel the effects of altitude. Only in so far as we were finding it harder to catch our breath and had a slight head rush if we stood up too quickly! The weight of our packs was also slowing our pace a little. (I don’t yet know how we’ll manage to carry our final re-supply which is 10 days worth of food! I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it).
Taking it slow as our packs are still weighing heavy.
We were in no rush to reach our destination – Upper Cathedral Lake. With so many photo opportunities, we just took our time, had plenty of rest stops and drank lots of water. When the lake came into view it looked beautiful in the afternoon sun.
Cathedral Lake comes into view.
Time for a dip!
We had agreed before starting the JMT that we’d make it a ‘must-do’ to swim in every lake close to our camp – so it was time to get our kit off and brave the cold water! And it really was cold! But it felt good to rinse the dust off, not having showered for a couple of days. We’ll have to get used to rinsing off in rivers and lakes and having a strip wash with soap back at camp as this will be our bathing routine throughout the JMT!
Braving the cold water.
After drying off and trying to warm up, our next job was to wander around the lake looking for somewhere to pitch our tent (bearing in mind the 100 feet rule – camp 100 feet away from water and 100 feet away from the trail, preferably on a previously used site). Instead of camping on grass on the south shore of the lake like many other hikers, for minimal impact, we found a relatively private spot on fine gravel, in amongst some rocks and trees, that looked straight onto Cathedral Peak.
Setting off around the lake to find a spot to camp.
A great camp spot with a prime view of Cathedral Peak.
Dinner tonight was another of our hiker originals using packet food. ‘Spag bol’ made with instant noodles, beef crumbles, tomato soup and a packet of Parmesan cheese (another accompaniment courtesy of our visit to Pizza Hut!) Not bad as trail food goes!
Our quick cook ingredients for a homemade ‘Spag Bol’!
Voila! Not bad – ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ – Hiker style!
Soon after, Wayne was in his element setting up his tripod and camera for a time lapse sequence of sunset, during which Cathedral Peak was beautifully lit with orange-sorbet coloured wispy clouds floating by.
Cathedral Peak dominates the view.
The sun begins to set over Cathedral Peak.
Dramatic skies and orange colours at sunset.
Wayne was also thrilled at the prospect of seeing the Milky Way because of us being in a ‘dark sky’ area and set to work trying to capture star trails as soon as the moon had set. A perfect end to our second day!
The moon is up. (My favourite tent shot from the entire JMT!)
Wayne’s first attempt at star photography with his new camera.
The Milky Way!
So far on the JMT, the views we have seen have been simply stunning. Yosemite certainly upholds the USA Wilderness Act’s mandate of providing “outstanding opportunities for solitude”. With ‘wild camping’ technically illegal at home, it feels quite alien to us that you’re allowed to camp right there in the best of it. (Subject to acquiring a permit and 100 feet being the ‘magic number’).
We tried to imagine how John Muir must have felt discovering the pristine beauty of it all for the first time. It really does capture your heart and soul. It’s only the end of Day 2 and I never thought I’d ever say this – but I think we’re becoming ‘wilderness’ junkies!