Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day 5: Expanding My Comfort Zones

Sunday, August 12, 2012.

Lyell Forks (mile 41.6) to Ediza Lake Juction (mile 56.9).

Today's miles: 15.3
Trip miles: 56.9

Last night was the best sleep I've ever had in the backcountry...EVER. Minimal tossing and turning, and waking up only twice during the night meant I experienced deep, relaxing sleep like never before. So great!

I awoke to beautiful blue skies and surprisingly mild temps.

After dragging myself out of ”bed” at 6:30, I was on the trail by 7:50 am.

About a mile south of Donahue Pass, two wonderful ladies informed me about the Perseid meteor shower that was to take place tonight, an event that occurs once every 15 years. Something to look forward to for sure.

Further up the mountain, I ran into Rick and Lonnie from Oakland, California, whom I met last night as we all tried to pitch our tents before the storm rolled in. Today Rick told me has hiked sections of the PCT and CDT, and has completed a thru-hike of the AT. He also told me he is the author of 'Dead Men Hike No Trails', a book about his AT hike. Go Rick!

Rick and Lonnie rock hopping the stream
At a rather uneventful Donahue Pass (elevation 11,073 ft.), I met Chuckles, another AT alum, and Bug Man. They are two funny characters whom I enjoyed chatting with for about 20 minutes.

Left to right: Bug Man, me, Chuckles at Donahue Pass
Before I continue, I must clarify that Donahue Pass affords a hiker spectacular views and is a challenging pass, but after hiking up and over Forester Pass last year, I expected all the mountain passes to be more climactic. Assumptions..I know, I know.

trail up to Donahue Pass

Donahue Pass - 11,073 ft.
The clouds were gathering yet again as I began my descent from Donahue Pass, and by the time I reached Island Pass - 5.3 miles and 3 hours later at 12:47 p.m. - the roaring tune of thunder consumed the mountains once more.

AMAZING where trees will grow!!

Thinking we'd get teased with just a few sprinkles again this afternoon, I simply put on my rain jacket to block the wind and kept walking.

Unfortunately for me (and the other hikers too) the rain slowly intensified to a constant downpour that lasted all day long. I was having a ball. I loved it. It sure beats the 90+ degree temps in Yosemite Valley ;)

Mind you, I have never hiked a full day in the rain before, so I was thoroughly enjoying the experience.

As the sound of thunder broke the silence of raindrops softly crashing down onto the ground, into the alpine lakes, and onto the needles of pine trees, I stopped every so often and took photos. Luckily for me there was no lightning, unlike yesterday evening.

Aa far as scenery goes, each day has been more scenic than the last. Today I passed by Thousand Island Lake and Garnet Lake, two spectacularly beautiful lakes, even in stormy conditions.

Beautiful Thousand Island Lake
"Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet." ~Roger Miller
Gorgeous Garnet Lake
After I crossed the footbridge at Garnet Lake, I took a wrong turn and headed up a steep mound of granite. I saw a few cairns in the distance so I didn't think I was headed in the wrong direction and kept going.

Footbridge at Garnet Lake outlet
The trail then seemed to go down the path parallel to a waterfall. I thought this was strange, but again, I noticed two cairns and a trail in the distance, so I started my descent.

I knew in my gut I was going the wrong way but the control tower (my brain) persisted I go on. After carefully descending over slippery, wet, and at times unstable rocks, I was at the trail.

This is what a wrong turn on the JMT looks like
But which trail do I take? There were 5 trails heading in as many directions. Once again, I knew I was going the wrong way because a) I knew stock couldn't have descended as I did, and b) there were no trail blazes or horse poop on the trail, two tell-tale signs on the JMT.

Stubbornly, I picked the trail on the left - the more used trail - and descended further into the forest for about five minutes.

Now I was sure I was going the wrong way and panic set in. I started to sweat, my breaths became more shallow, and my stomach became very upset, something that has never happened to me before. I stopped walking and just focused on my breath.

When I finally calmed down, I took out my maps and checked my route. I was flustered and not sure what I was looking at. I became nervous and anxious again. I stored my maps in plastic bags and focused on my breathing again.

Once calm, I made the decision to hike back to the footbridge and regroup. On my way back, I looked at my map once again and realized I should have gone right after crossing the foot bridge instead of left. Oh well, only twenty minutes lost, but I did see a beautiful waterfall not too many people see.

This was also the first time I ever took a wrong turn on a trail. I'm very proud of myself for how I handled it. I didn't let my mind (the false control tower), or my body (my feet in this case) get ahead of my breath for too long. I regrouped and did what I knew was best in this particular situation.

Once back on the trail, the rain intensified, the wind picked up and it got noticeably colder. I started walking faster to warm up a bit. By now my pants were completely soaked.

John Muir Trail slip n slide
Rough, wet, slippery, dangerous trail
Around 5pm, I knew I wasn't going to make it to Rosalie Lake because I was cold and it was time to find a place to camp for the evening.

At 6:15pm, I finally found a somewhat suitable, flat spot right off the trail. My fingers were frozen, and my feet slushed in my shoes. I was soaked from the waist down.

As I set my pack down to retrieve my tent, I got really cold and started shivering - so badly that I couldn't insert the tent stakes into the guy line loops.

Once more, I stopped, closed my eyes and focused on my breath. I stopped shivering after about 10 seconds, and erected my tent, took off all my wet clothes, put on my down jacket and the rain pants I had forgotten I had brought along, my second pair of socks and my down socks.

Instantly I warmed up. But I didn't stop there. I inflated my sleeping pad, and slid into my sleeping bag.

I'm thankful to be warm, and after dinner, thankful for the nourishment (and my skills) that allow me to be out here.

I'm also very thankful to have experienced this day. Many lessons learned and others affirmed.

As a delightful surprise, as I finished writing this post, the skies cleared and we (myself and others camped nearby) were treated to a meteor shower. The excitement in the children's voices from the camps above mine painted a huge smile on my face.
“Every experience is a form of exploration” ~Ansel Adams

posted from Bloggeroid

1 comment:

  1. Andy - made the same trail choice as you right after the bridge! - followed a group headed that way instead of reading the cairn.

    Enjoying your blog
    Happy Trails