A Not So Extraordinary Day On The Trail!
It’s hard to say it, but Day 9 was just a ‘so-so’ day on the JMT. Well, there had to be one! There were no dramas, no wildlife spotting to add to our tally, no spectacular panoramic vistas. It was just one of those days where we kept putting one foot in front of the other with the aim of simply getting to camp.
That was until we reached Purple Lake, shortly followed by Lake Virginia, which became the highlight of our day.
Sunset reflections on Lake Virginia.
Day 9 – Red Cones to Lake Virginia (12.8 miles) – Saturday 6th September 2014 – ‘Trail Angels’
Waking up in the morning at Red Cones, we realised we’d made a mistake about choosing where to camp. What seemed a good, flat spot the previous night, as well as being close to water and having two ready made log benches next to the pitch, in fact was right in the middle of a ‘cold sink’. This meant we were at the lowest spot surrounded by mountains, and on the receiving end of winds channelled straight down the valley, which made for a really cold night. In fact, it was the coldest night we’ve experienced on the JMT so far. (Thank goodness for our 3-season down bags plus extra layers).
A glimpse of one of the ‘Red Cones’ through the trees.
Anyhow, if we hadn’t have camped there, then we wouldn’t have had our close encounter with three deer as they went to the creek to drink. And the other saving grace was that in the morning when doing our final reccy just before leaving, Wayne found himself a pair of flip flops that had been left on a nearby log. Thank you to whoever left them there (accidentally or not) they will be made good use of. (Not that Wayne’s really into using someone else’s footwear, but he was desperate for some sort of camp shoe to change into at the end of a day’s hike after choosing not to bring his sandals on the JMT just to save some grams!) Lesson learned – there’s got to be a balance between bare necessity and comfort at the end of the day!
Wayne’s newly acquired flip flops. There’s nothing wrong with a few ‘hand-me-downs’ on the trail!
Pleased with his find, we set off along the trail going over Lower and Upper Crater Meadows before reaching Deer Creek. Our hike today so far hadn’t afforded us any great views as we were walking along the side of a valley amongst a dense thicket of trees, which actually obscured any view at all.
Our view of the mountains today was mostly obscured by trees as we walked along the trail.
Today was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other!
Heading in the direction of Purple Lake, which we hoped would brighten up our day.
From the big to the small – looking closer to the trail for today’s beauty.
We stopped for a snack and a breather, closely followed by three other male hikers we’d met at Red’s Meadow who’d now joined company. We all agreed that today was a ‘little boring’ compared with everything else we had seen on the JMT so far. In fact, I think the highlight of the trail for us today had been spotting some coyote poo! (Correctly identified and confirmed by our new trail buddies). Hmm, a coyote turd is actually quite interesting as it mainly consists of fur, obviously the non-digestible part of an unlucky trail bandit. But I actually managed to discourage Wayne from taking a photo of it! (Sorry Claire!)
As we were all headed in the same direction, intending on camping at Lake Virginia that night, we inevitably found ourselves together again at different rest stops along the way and chatted about our JMT experiences so far. ‘Number One’ topic of conversation (as ever) was food! We shared tips and ideas about our favourite lightweight hiker meals and did some ‘swapsies’. One of the guys (whom we gave the trail name ‘CSI’ as he reminded me of the techy guy ‘Reid’ from ‘Criminal Minds’) delighted us by the fact he’d stocked up with a bag of our trail mix, plus a packet of biscuits that we’d put in the hiker bin back at Red’s. At least someone likes the stuff! We also helped him out by giving him our spare Sawyer Squeeze Filter 1 litre bag as he was having problems with his own.
Men and their filter bags! The daily chore of filtering safe, clean drinking water.
On the trail, people helping out or doing good deeds for others are known as ‘Trail Angels’. After all that good karma we accrued back in England from Wayne’s sheep rescuing efforts, I like the idea of being a ‘Trail Angel’ and vice versa. (Maybe it was a ‘Trail Angel’ that left Wayne a pair of flip flops just when he needed them!)
After everyone had congregated at the creek and topped up their water supplies, we headed over Duck Pass where the trail instantly improved. As we were higher up you could see much more of the scenery – basically there were less trees, more mountains.
By the afternoon, the trail becomes more interesting.
We are greeted with mountain views once more.
We pass a ‘mule train’ heading off to fetch supplies for other ‘thru-hikers’ like ourselves.
A brief stop to take in the mountainous views.
Reaching Purple Lake was our first real highlight of the day (apart from the coyote turd) and busiest section of the trail as we passed at least 8 other hikers going in different directions, doing various stages of the JMT. Purple Lake looked beautiful and is obviously a popular spot as it has its own Ranger stationed there. We took another breather and enjoyed the view before heading up another 2 miles of switchbacks to reach Lake Virginia.
Reflections on Purple Lake are the first real highlight of the day.
We still need to head around this ridge to reach Lake Virginia.
Passing a ‘rockfall’ area. Definitely a ‘Danger Spot’!
A picturesque spot, Lake Virginia really was the highlight of the day! As we’d said right at the start of the JMT that we’d swim in every lake close to where we camped, we pitched the tent and jumped straight in the water! Not the best thing to do when the water’s freezing cold and the sun is setting, we must admit. It took us ages to warm up again and it wasn’t until we got into our sleeping bags that we could finally feel our hands and feet! (Take note all you ‘Ice-Bucket’ Challengers! It’s a shame we didn’t film it!)
Reaching Lake Virginia, a perfect place to camp.
Cairns mark the spot! Clearly a lot of ‘thru-hikers’ camp at this section on the JMT.
Braving the cold waters of Lake Virginia, Wayne jumps straight in!
Taking a dive! (I’m sure my expression underwater would have been priceless – it was freezing cold!)
It also meant we have now started our plaster tally as Wayne cut his toe on a rock jumping into the water, so he has taken our zero use of plasters to one! (Still no blisters to date though, thankfully, unlike another hiker whom we donated a couple of ‘Compeed Plasters’ to – otherwise known as ‘bandaids’ here in the US). The ‘Trail Angel’ phenomena lingers on…
After Wayne’s little bit of first aid treatment, we finally got ourselves warmed through with one of our best camp dinners yet – beef jerky in a Texan smokey bean sauce poured over garlic mash. It really was both tasty and filling, even though everything came out of a packet!
Our lovely camp spot close to Lake Virginia.
What a feast! The best way to eat beef jerky is with mashed potato!
Just before bed, the best of Lake Virginia was still to come with almost a full moon shining brightly over the water. We both went down to the water’s edge to take some photos of the change in light and colour of the sky as the lake became silhouetted.
Panorama of Lake Virginia at sunset.
The serene colours as dusk descends on Lake Virginia.
The moon is out and shines over the lake.
It was a lovely end to what had started off as a mediocre day. I wonder what John Muir would think of me for saying that? Hopefully he’d be happy knowing how many hikers from all over the world are hitting the trail following in his footsteps. In our opinion, it’s certainly one of the best reasons to visit the United States of America!