Day 3: Upper Cathedral Lake to Upper Lyell (17.6 miles) 2018-05-12T08:32:25-04:00

Day 3: Upper Cathedral Lake to Upper Lyell (17.6 miles)

When I woke up, the air felt a bit cold and I was a little reluctant to get out of my cozy sleeping bag. However, a hot breakfast awaited me in Tuolumne Meadows and that was more than enough to motivate me to start packing up. I put everything in my backpack and then started working on taking down my tent. It was wet and dirty on the bottom, and my fingers went numb as I struggled to roll it up and jam it into the side pocket of my backpack. I did my best to warm up my hands as I put on my backpack and left my campsite.

I went to the shore of the lake to snap a few final pictures, and ran into the man I met yesterday who was doing a flip-flop hike with his wife. We spoke for a while, and after telling him that I live in Korea I was surprised to learn that he had been to Korea several times and knew quite a bit about the country. After saying goodbye, I checked my watch and was a bit alarmed that it was already 7:40am. I wanted to make it to Tuolumne in time to have breakfast, so I quickly made my way up the path that lead back to the JMT and began hiking.

The trail was mostly downhill, and after an hour and a half of hiking, I reached the road. I wasn’t sure if there was a trail somewhere as there weren’t any signs explaining where to go, so I just walked along the road for about twenty minutes until I reached the store in Tuolumne.

I immediately went inside the grill and ordered breakfast. I brought my food outside and although I was excited to eat it, I was finding it difficult to eat much of it. I had been experiencing a low appetite ever since starting the hike, and had been eating far less than I ought to have. I tried my best to finish everything on my plate, and then headed into the store to buy more fudge. There were only a few squares of fudge left, and I bought them all.

Before leaving the store, I filled up my water bottles and then tried to figure out how to get back on the trail. There were no signs anywhere, so I decided to use Gaia on my phone to figure out where to go (had no ability to use data… Korean phone…). I could see on my Gaia map that the trail was near the campground, so I headed there. In the campground, I found a map that showed that the JMT was near campsite #87. Sure enough, when I got to that campsite I was able to get back on the trail.

The trail was delightfully flat and it meandered pleasantly along a low, crystal-clear river. After having such a hard day yesterday, it was great to hike along such an easy and scenic stretch of the trail.  The trail seemed to go on endlessly like this, and after a couple of hours, I saw a shaded spot by the river which looked like a perfect place to stop and enjoy the scenery.

I didn’t stay at the river long though, as I wanted to camp as close to Donohue Pass as I could reasonably manage which meant I still had quite a bit more hiking to do. I got back on the trail and caught sight of something tawny, which thankfully was a deer and not a mountain lion. I knew that mountain lion sightings on the JMT were very rare, but as a solo hiker, I sincerely hoped I wouldn’t be “lucky” enough to see one (especially after reading Walking Womad’s blog post about being stalked by one!).

As I was making my way along the trail, I ran into the two guys I had met at Little Yosemite Valley who were now joined by their two other hiking companions. We chatted briefly, and it sounded like they had a solid idea of where they wanted to camp. I was still undecided about where to camp, though, as I was unsure of how I’d feel once I had to start climbing again (unfortunately, I still had blisters). I let them all go ahead and I took another trail-side break so that I could figure out my camping options.

After a little while, I got back on the trail and began going up toward Donohue Pass. There were some switchbacks, but they felt gradual and were mostly in the shade. Before long, I made it to the first major campsite on the way up. It was a pleasant spot, but it was still early and there were already a lot of people there, so I decided to keep going. My guidebook said there was a beautiful area to camp further up, so I was eager to see it.

After an hour or so, I reached a small lake surrounded by mountains which must have been the place that the guidebook was describing. It was truly beautiful, and I immediately decided to camp there. I looked around for a place to set up my tent, but it seemed like every potential campsite was already taken. It was 6pm, which was perhaps too late to expect to find a site at one of the last places to camp before the pass.

As luck would have it, the four people I ran into earlier happened to be camped in the area and they offered me a space to pitch my tent. The spot was the perfect size for my tent, and it was fairly private, too. I was very grateful that they offered it to me, and began setting up camp.

I took my tent out of my backpack and reached into the pocket to find the stakes. Strangely, they weren’t there. I unrolled my tent to see if my ziplock bag of stakes slipped in there somehow, but they weren’t there either. I always put my stakes in that pocket, so I knew something was wrong. I started taking everything out of my backpack, searching for my stakes. I even took out the padding on the back of my backpack to see if the stakes were back there somewhere, but no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find my bag of stakes.

My stakes definitely were gone, which was quite unfortunate considering I didn’t have a freestanding tent. I needed a minimum of 8 stakes to set up my tent, which meant I now had to go look for a minimum of 8 large rocks to use instead. The prospect of having to gather large, heavy rocks at the end of every day of hiking was a bit daunting, but I hoped that I could buy some new stakes once I reached Red’s Meadow.

I gathered a bunch of rocks and set up my tent, which wasn’t too difficult (luckily rocks were plentiful here!). I then filtered water, washed my clothes, and ate ramen for dinner. Overall it had been a nice day, and although I had covered over 17 miles, it felt much easier than the 12 mile hike the day before. I was very confused about how I lost my stakes, though. I must have left them back at Upper Cathedral Lake when I was packing up my tent, which was quite unlike me as I always double or triple check my campsites when I leave them. My fingers had been so freezing cold when I packed up, so perhaps I had been too focused on re-warming them to notice that I left behind my stakes. Who knows?

After putting away my bear canister, I got in my tent to take a look at my map so I could make a general plan for my next day of hiking. I was excited to see that I would pass by some of the most beautiful lakes on the JMT tomorrow, and that there wouldn’t be any huge climbs in store for me. At around 8pm I decided to go to sleep, which was now a normal bedtime for me.

July 25, 2016

JMT: Day 2
JMT: Day 4

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