I planned this trip to complete section of John Muir Trail (JMT) between Le Conte Canyon and Charlotte Lake junction in 6 to 7 days. To access JMT, I have to hike 13 miles from South Lake of Bishop over Bishop pass (11970 ft.) and climb Mather, Pinchot and Glen passes and exit from Kearsarge Pass. Inyo national forest issues permit for back country hikes. I got permit for Sunday (9/4/2016). There is quota for each day to enter the wilderness. Once you start the hike, you can stay in the wild as many days as you want. Permit quota is only for entry.
Here are notes from my journal.
Sept 4th 2016 (Sunday):
I realized last evening that I forgot to bring quick release plate for my tripod. I had to drive 12 hours straight to home and back for it. Penalty for not being diligent in packing. I reached back to Independence at 5:30AM. Took shower, finished other errands and reached South Lake trailhead at 10AM. I have been on Bishop pass for 4 times now. South lake is a familiar place, but this is the first time I ever the lake without bathtub rings. Bathtub rings are ridge lines form/visible around lake bank during drought years.
My progress on trail was slow. I started to feel the pack weight with in few miles. This is the heaviest pack (55+ lbs.) I ever carried. Since this is late in the season with dropping temperatures, I had to pack some extra layers. I also changed food this time. I packed mostly “ready to eat” Indian foods instead of dehydrated food. I took about 8 hrs to climb Bishop pass. I was tired to last bone. Sitting at camp now, I still don’t know, which factor mostly caused the disappointing progress; pack weight, acclimatization (or lack of sleep) or bad knees ?
I realized immediately that if I struggled for Bishop pass itself, Mather and Glen passes on JMT does not forgive me. Those two are known among JMT hikers to be notorious. I climbed down about 800 ft. to Upper Dusy basin to camp for the day. It may be good to stay couple of days at Dusy basin and return. No JMT this year.
Sept 5th 2016 (Monday):
Nice day. I slept well last night. Lack of sleep previous night or physical strain of the day helped me sleep like a baby. Generally, first night at high elevation is difficult to sleep. I was still on cusp between continue on trail or return. Physical exhaustion is common even for a strong experienced hiker while climbing up these mountain passes. But exhaustion to an extend that makes it impossible for you to appreciate nature around, beats the objective of hiking. I could not allow myself of such moral infringement by continuing on hike for the sake of reaching the end. As I always remind myself, it’s about journey, not just the destination. So decided to spend a quiet day here and return tomorrow back to South lake.
I realized that I never spent a complete day at one location during my hikes before…What place is better than this for that experience. Placid lake at foothills of Palisades group that stood over 14000ft elevation. Palisades group has 4 peaks that are over 14000ft. Grey granite with white streaks. I always wonder about these streaks. They start on one mountain and continue as straight line on adjacent one at same angle. You can see them on Mt. Winchell in my pictures below. They are like mountain graffiti. The only graffiti, well, second best graffiti that I like. First graffiti artists (that I like) of course are my kids; as toddlers decorated walls with their master pieces. Later artist were punished by mom for scribbling…who understand art these days, isn’t it? Anyways, graffiti artist on these mountains, nature, does not do anything without purpose and reason.
I sat before lake with coffee and Kachori (Indian spicy snack, not backpacking weight, but what the heck). A swarm of very small white bugs busy flying in and out from water. I don’t know what those are. They did not bother me, so I did not move from that place. Then I observed there are lot of brown trout also near the bank. They are coming from bottom and catching bugs as they jump occasionally out of water. Some just poke their heads and go down quickly. It’s fun to watch these fish. As lakes start to freeze, their survival is really a struggle and miracle. They stay at deepest point and slow down the metabolism dramatically. Lack of oxygen sometimes kill many fish during prolonged winters. Temperatures are already going low at this elevations. Last night, 1/2cm ice formed on top of water bucket. I could able to took it out of bucket without breaking ( See the picture below).
Sept 6th 2016 (Tuesday):
I hiked back to south lake. I climbed back to bishop pass with normal speed and ease. My knees are still strained, but did not bother. My pack weight reduced with less food and acclimatization for two nights that may be what caused my misery other day. But good lesson. I saw a bear, unfortunately it was pretty far (see picture below)
Here are some pictures from this trip
Window with a view