Back On Top Form!
After a good night’s rest, we were back at peak fitness and found Mather Pass a breeze this morning. Whether it was because it was a lot cooler today, or simply the fact we had lightened our load by 1 day’s food rations, we had made it to the top of the pass well before midday. Seven passes down, just three more to go!
Happy to have reached the top of Mather Pass.
Day 20 – Lower Palisade Lake to South Fork Kings River (9.5 miles) – Wednesday 17th September 2014 – ‘Is It Dinner Time Yet?’
It took us a while to get going this morning as we sat and enjoyed a cuppa and waited for the sun to rise over the valley. There aren’t many moments in life like this, so we thought why rush it away. When we did finally set off, it was a steady uphill walk from Lower Palisade Lake to Upper Palisade Lake, which just looked like glass as the water was so calm and still.
Reflections on Lower Palisade Lake early morning.
After yesterday’s tiresome Golden Staircase (not considered a pass, even though it felt like one), we wondered what Mather Pass would entail. Wayne assured me that it was nothing compared to some of the days we had endured on the Pennine Way with cumulative height gains of 6,000 feet going up and down various hills. Today going over Mather Pass we would only be gaining 1,500 feet. (Tell that to your back when you’re carrying a 16kg rucksack going up!)
Setting off from Lower Palisade Lake to Upper Palisade Lake.
Today’s trail took us steadily uphill.
Slowly but surely we made our way to Mather Pass at 12,100 feet.
Are we there yet?
After two miles or so, we knew the switchbacks were coming, but from lower down we couldn’t actually see in which direction the pass would go. We saw a little rock at the side of the trail on which someone had written ‘You are strong’, which served as a nice, little motivator to keep us going.
Some might consider it graffiti, but the message on this rock was very motivational for us!
Really – switchbacks are our friends!
Looking down onto Upper Palisade Lake.
Aiming for the ‘V’ section which we didn’t realise is the top of the pass.
But we have to admit that partway up we stopped for a snack break (needing all the energy we could get), only then to find shortly after that we had made it to the top! (Along with 3 other hiking couples also doing the JMT! Since hiking over Muir Pass, we really can’t believe how busy this section of the trail is!)
Wayne takes ‘five’ to enjoy the view on the other side of the pass.
‘Selfie’ shot from the top of Mather Pass – we made it!
‘Trail bandit’ alert! Where there are hikers there’s food!
We stayed around 45 minutes at the top whilst Wayne set up his tripod and got a time lapse looking down the valley towards the South Fork Kings River.
Fantastic cloudy skies – perfect for a time lapse.
Then it was all downhill from there – 6 miles downhill to be exact – as we headed to a campsite right at the end of the valley. After successfully completing one pass today, we thought we’d save Pinchot Pass for tomorrow!
Our trail going down, with a tiny speck of a hiker if you look closely!
Looking more desolate as we are above 12,000 feet.
A harsh environment.
A clearly marked trail leads us downhill to the end of the valley.
We reach the South Fork Kings River.
Downhill all the way. A few signs of life as we reach lower elevations.
Checking our position to determine where our next camp spot will be.
Be careful where you sit down to rest. Just in case you ever wondered what marmot ‘scat’ looks like. Most rocks are covered in the stuff!
We arrived at the trailhead junction around 3pm and picked a camp spot close to the river that happened to have a male deer grazing in it. (It’s the second ‘buck’ on the JMT that we’ve seen!) He hung around while we took some photos and was not shy at all.
The friendly stag that was grazing in our campsite.
After our exciting wildlife watching, we pitched the tent and set to work rinsing some clothes out in the river. Not that it did much good as without a proper machine wash, our body odour seems to be ingrained in them. Luckily, everyone on the trail seems to smell the same! Although I have to say that we look a whole lot cleaner than some others!
Camping close to water means we can attempt to wash ourselves and rinse out our clothing. (No matter how cold the water is!)
The domestic goddess at work. Just a few bits of laundry!
Our camp spot by the South Fork Kings River. (Wayne is eager to get cracking with dinner).
Hunger strikes! We were so hungry today that Wayne started boiling water for dinner before 5pm, which is a record, especially as we usually eat after 7pm at home. But we couldn’t wait any longer. Wayne actually said that he’d been waiting for his dinner since breakfast! Seriously bad times!
On the menu tonight – Chicken & vegetable cuppa soup starter, followed by Raman noodles flavoured with a creamy Thai sauce, complete with pink salmon and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Plus a hot chocolate for dessert!
We’ve now decided that when we finish the JMT and get to Lone Pine, we’re going to have a ‘family’ size pizza – each! We’ve still got a week to go and Wayne is definitely wasting away on our meagre food rations! I don’t seem to be losing weight as quickly, but no doubt about it, I’m just as famished at the end of the day.
It’s time for dinner, hurrah!
We’ll definitely be engaging in a food feast extravaganza when we return from 26 days in the wilderness. (How Jesus managed 40 days and 40 nights I do not know!)
But enough about food, my tummy’s rumbling now at the thought of it! 7 days to go… Not that we want to wish it away – but boy are we looking forward to a super large portion of whatever’s going!!! (It is America after all!)