Same, Same, But Different…
It was only a ‘half day’ of hiking today as we headed from Woods Creek to Lower Rae Lake. The unfortunate thing about it however was that it was all uphill!
While Wayne (camera in hand as always) was busy snapping away, I struggled to get motivated. I was thinking that maybe 26 days is too long. It was the first day on the trail that I had felt apathy creeping in and I was really missing ‘civilisation’!
Another cool early morning start that required a few extra layers.
Day 22 – Woods Creek to Lower Rae Lake (6 miles) – Friday 19th September 2014 – ‘Counting The Days’
These last ten days on the trail have really been taking their toll on us both physically and mentally. We’ve discussed our itinerary closely and both agree that 21 days doing the JMT, hiking around 12 miles a day, with a ‘zero day’ at either MTR or VVR, is probably a better plan.
We opted for 26 days so we could take our time and enjoy a slower pace. But in fact, we’ve had plenty of time, so much spare time in fact that sometimes we just feel like we’re kicking our heels. (Maybe because we’re used to a harder pace from the Pennine Way where we hiked up to 18 miles a day, so 6 miles just isn’t enough. Especially when you haven’t got much else with you to keep you occupied when you get to camp). There’s only so many photographs you can take after all. But we live and learn.
Our next number one purchase will definitely be a Kindle to take with us on any future hiking trips! (I’m sure even John Muir wouldn’t frown upon us having a book to read!) Most other hikers we’ve come across are doing the JMT at a much faster pace, some having to complete it in 2 weeks due to work commitments. That would definitely be too much for us, but you learn to know your own pace and what is enjoyable for you.
Thru-hikes are definitely a learning curve and we already know things we would do slightly differently next time – albeit clothing, gear, food – we can still make some tweaks here and there! (But that’s for a future post).
Still in shadow, setting off from Woods Creek.
As the sun crests over the mountains we are afforded more beautiful views of the valley.
Now getting back to today! It was another lakeside walk as we passed Dollar Lake and Arrowhead Lake on our way to Lower Rae Lake where we were going to camp. As this is such a popular spot with weekend hikers doing a loop from Cedar Grove, there are designated camp sites here at particular sections of the lake that come complete with bear lockers. We’re actually over the whole ‘bear thing’ now having resigned ourselves to the fact that in all probability we won’t see one. But I got excited, as with bear lockers, also comes the prospect of someone having left some food inside! (Even though they should be left empty because of the ‘pack it in, pack it out’ rule).
When we got to the first bear locker I looked inside in the vain hope that someone may have taken pity on us JMT thru-hikers and left some snacks in there. I’ve been longing for a tube of Pringles or just something savoury to eat as I’m so fed up of peanut butter and chocolate (can you believe it!) I would die for some crisps, peanuts or pretzels right now! But no such luck with the bear locker, although there was a part-used gas canister inside. We left that there for someone else in need as we’re well stocked up with gas. We just need MORE food!
Looking down on the colourful valley floor.
The first lake we passed was Dollar Lake.
‘Fin Dome’ in the distance is reflected in South Fork Woods Creek.
The second lake we reached was Arrowhead Lake. It did kind of look like an arrowhead!
We continue along the trail – our destination today is Lower Rae Lake.
When we got to the lakeside, Wayne chose a pre-used camp spot directly opposite ‘Fin Dome’. He was hoping for some reflection shots of the ‘Fin’ in the lake, but the breeze was causing too many ripples.
‘Fin Dome’. Yes, it definitely looks like a fin!
We reached Lower Rae Lake in the early afternoon.
Setting the tent up today was a mission and a half as it was on rock as opposed to gravel. Wayne tried using the walking pole method to secure each end but because the ground was uneven, the tent was just too high and he couldn’t get a taut pitch. It was also catching the wind like a sail. After about an hour of tinkering he was finally happy, having pegged it out using piles of rocks in each corner to hold it in place.
Proud of his tent set-up using rocks to secure the guy lines.
The breeze across the lake prevented any good reflection shots during the afternoon.
The good thing about the tent taking longer was that it meant we ate lunch later. Spacing out food is getting more difficult as we could both eat the entire day’s rations all at once! And dinner tonight was tuna and cous cous, tasty but never a great filler!
Looking in the direction of Glen Pass and wondering where it will take us over the mountains in a couple of days time.
(Something to do!) Getting on with filtering drinking water, one of our daily camp tasks.
So after a couple of hours sunbathing (well there was nothing much else to do), we had an early dinner and then it was early to bed. Being camped at over 10,500 feet it was one of the coldest nights we’ve experienced so far. I was fully wrapped up in Merino wool pyjamas, complete with buff, down jacket, silk liner, down sleeping bag and two pairs of socks. But I still struggled to keep warm with a biting wind blowing through the tent all night long. Wayne on the other hand, always sleeps warm, so the cold didn’t seem to bother him that much. I wondered if these winds are typical of Rae Lakes or if we were just unlucky that night.
I guess we’ll find out tomorrow as we’re only moving a mile down the trail to Middle Rae Lake – a kind of ‘zero day’ to use up our extra day gained at the start of the JMT. (In case anyone is wondering why we don’t just hike on and exit early, we have a motel booked for the 24th of September at Lone Pine, so we’re confined by dates).
But we’re almost there! We have 35 miles to go to reach the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, and the end point of the JMT. We’re on the count down now… Just 4 days to go!