Up The Golden Staircase…
After 19 days on the trail, I’ve got to admit that we’re starting to feel a little bit drained, a little bit dirty and more than a little bit hungry!
And today was our toughest yet as we pushed on to tackle the ‘Golden Staircase’. Not even considered a ‘pass’, we found the switchbacks really demanding, so it became one of those days where we just couldn’t wait to get to camp!
Long exposure shot of a waterfall along Middle Fork Kings River.
Day 19 – Le Conte Canyon to Lower Palisade Lake (12.6 miles) – Tuesday 16th September 2014 – ‘Are We There Yet?’
It started off as an ordinary day on the trail. The first highlight was spotting 4 deer in the bushes at the next camp site along from us. (That now makes our tally 31!) Wayne also found a good spot along the Middle Fork Kings River to set up the tripod and capture some long exposure shots of the water cascading down the valley.
Resuming the trail after camping near Middle Fork Kings River.
Our mule deer tally is increasing day by day. Sadly, spotting a bear still remains at zero.
Long exposure shot of Middle Fork Kings River.
A unique perspective from the flowing river.
We paused for a while in Big Pete Meadow to watch the sky. With Wayne’s fascination with clouds in overdrive, the tripod was out again in seconds, his camera poised and ready. Cotton wool clouds were moving swiftly over the mountains, whilst grasses swayed gently in the breeze in the foreground. It was just like a scene in a nature documentary and magically atmospheric!
Mountains and clouds – a perfect time lapse combination to start the day.
Our stunning surroundings.
The beauty of Big Pete Meadow.
Autumnal colours draw the eye.
Le Conte Canyon was a beautiful canyon walk with stunning scenery on both sides. We found ourselves looking up to towering evergreen trees that contrasted against the immense slate grey mountains all around. It just reminded me of the famous picture of John Muir looking out across the valley.
Like most days on the JMT, it was a beautiful morning for a walk!
Evergreens contrast with the slate grey mountains.
John Muir loved the ‘majestic mountains’ of the Sierras. And so do we.
Looking back along Le Conte Canyon. You can’t get much better than this.
The ‘Golden Staircase’ took us up and over here.
Then it was time for lunch. We stopped near Deer Meadow to eat our peanut butter wraps and to psyche ourselves up for the 2 miles of switchbacks going up the ‘Golden Staircase’. In our opinion, everything on the JMT so far has been manageable, including the six passes we’ve already hiked over. But today was tough. Really tough.
Rocking the ‘hiker look’ in shorts and leggings, Wayne was more than ready to tackle the ‘Golden Staircase’.
It was tough going hiking during the hottest part of the day, doh!
Seriously, it’s not too much further!
Whether it be from the intense heat, or the fact our backpacks are still weighing heavy with 7 days of food rations, we found the switchbacks up the ‘Golden Staircase’ really hard going. But we had to grin and bear it, despite Wayne having achy shoulders and me having shaky legs. (I wasn’t sure if it was too much sun or whether I just needed a sugar boost!)
Posing for a photo, glad of the opportunity to down the pack for a few minutes.
We stopped for a breather partway, sitting down and taking off our packs, which definitely helped. A couple of times today I literally thought to myself ‘why am I doing this?’ But then when you stop, lift your head up from the trail and take a minute to look around – it’s completely worth it. I think the problem sometimes is that because you are seeing lots of amazing things day after day, you start to take it for granted and you forget to appreciate everything around you.
Just having five minutes, while Wayne was busy taking photos.
We finally got moving again, determined to get up and over that never-ending staircase. Getting past this hurdle would make for a much easier day tomorrow. Tomorrow we face the next ‘biggie’ – Mather Pass. We were also motivated by the thought of cooling off in the lake where we were going to camp.
At the top of the ‘Golden Staircase’ we were rewarded with Lower Palisade Lake.
We finally reached Lower Palisade Lake around 5pm and after pitching the tent, we headed straight for the water! I think we had the most dramatic views yet whilst washing ‘au natural’!
The next best thing to a shower!
Wayne braves the icy cold water!
The most scenic ‘bath’ in the great outdoors!
It was a busy spot on the trail, with lots of groups of hikers camping there, but we still managed to find a relatively private spot, opposite the lake, up on some rocks. As we were out of the trees and had clear skies, Wayne was also pleased that he could try for some more star photography.
Our relatively secluded camp spot.
Wayne is still experimenting with night-time photography.
Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll find Mather Pass less stressful, (especially having had a more filling meal tonight for dinner, combined with a good night’s rest). With our bear canisters getting that little bit lighter day by day, we aim to be up and over the pass before lunchtime to avoid the hottest part of the day.
We’re not going to let tiredness or hunger beat us. Day 20 – we’re ready for you!