August 18, 2014 / Comments (0)

Day 5: Smoke and Water

squaw lake
*This post is from my 2014 JMT thru hike. I began 7/25/14 and finished 8/8/14. Missed the beginning? Read it here!*  
It’s quite the feeling waking up on the trail on a Tuesday. I have my morning routine down and it does not involve dress pants or making coffee. All I intend to do is hike until I’m tired. So far, it’s worked wonders.
Our tents are wet from dew as our punishment for sleeping in a meadow the night before. I had been warned not to and know better, but it was so welcoming after just under 21 miles of hiking. Our tents were too wet to really dry off and we wanted to get going. A “yard sale” (laying out all your belongings on the trail to dry) was in order during lunch.
John quickly packs and is off. I’m shortly behind him. This morning I gain over 1000 feet of elevation to our predetermined lunch spot: Purple Lake. It’s cool outside but I vow to jump in the lake. It’s been a few days since my last swim.

Purple Lake is just under 10,000 feet high and is the perfect lunch spot. The four of us remove our tents and other wet gear from our packs and cover some downed trees, decorating them with bright reds and hunter greens.

We decide on a hot lunch today. Kayla makes her way down to the water and begins the process of pumping it out of the lake with their MSR filter. I decide to add another liter to my bladder to have during lunch.

Before we know it the clouds appear and play tag with the sun. We were hoping for some typical California weather, but did appreciate the fact it wasn’t raining on us. John decides now is a good enough time to jump in.

“Is it cold?” I ask, already knowing his response.

We watch as John dunks himself underwater. He doesn’t make it look warm.

After lunch we munch on m&ms and curried cashews. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon. I finally decide to jump in. Andy goes in as well.

The rocks are covered in slime and it’s hard to get my footing. Plus it’s absolutely freezing. I go up to my waist.

“Just go in!” John yells.

I need to give myself a quick scrub and anticipate when I’m going to slip on the next slime covered rock. I look over and Andy is even more uncertain about the water temperature. I wade over and give him a quick shove. Both of us end up underwater. As I emerge, I quickly scrub myself and begin making my way to the shore, shivering as I go. Kayla and John are laughing at Andy’s reaction as he went underwater. He’s a good sport about it.

After a couple hours at Purple Lake we are cleaner and have dry gear. As John peeled his tent off the tree, it snagged and he got a small tear in it. Duct tape would surely fix it.

The fire in Yosemite did not seem to get better. In fact, I was starting to see smoke after I had hiked over 70 miles away from Happy Isles.

As each hiker passes I am asked about the fire. I know almost nothing about it except it’s located in Yosemite Valley and they had closed down Tioga Pass. I know I’m hiking away from it and the smoke isn’t affecting my breathing so I feel safe to carry on.

“As long as you don’t see helicopters above you’ll be fine!” A fellow hiker tells me.

Being from New England, I don’t have experience with forest fires. We have them, but they’re rare. It’s not scary hiking knowing there was one in the vicinity as they often happen. I know word of mouth on the trail travels quick and if there was a bigger issue, I would of heard about it by now.

As I approach Virginia Lake, the smoke seems to settle in that area, making it difficult to see the mountains in the distance.

We’re rewarded with cooler afternoon temperatures, interesting views, and a more gradual climb to our camping spot. The stream crossings are always interesting and a nice way to break up the trail.

Tiger Lily

After a beautiful afternoon of hiking, we reach what ends up being one of our favorite campsites on the trail: Squaw Lake. Squaw Lake has the perfect sandy gravel for staking tents and is surrounded by Alpine Meadows. As I look up at the steep cliffs on the other side of the lake, I see glaciers. This site is absolutely perfect. We set up camp and spend time realizing how lucky we are to be out here.

Kayla takes a vote on dinner. ‘Asian Surprise’ it is. Andy and Kayla spent weeks cooking and dehydrating their own food, even using some ingredients from their garden. We enjoyed sharing food on the trail often eating double dinners!

My sleep set up:
Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis shaped tarp
Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag (32 degree rating)
Sea to Summit silk liner
Gossamer Gear Trekking pole
Klymit Inertia X-Lite
Polycryo ground cloth (size medium)

I loved the airflow I could get when the weather was nice and protection I could get from the elements from a simple tarp. Some nights it was difficult getting the tarp set up just right, but it worked every night!

After dinner the cards came out. We play ‘Bullshit’ for a couple rounds. The loser has to do pushups.

“Guys have to do 30 pushups if they lose. Girls have to do 15… or whatever they feel like doing,” Kayla explains.

Doing pushups at 10,000 feet is hard. Especially when you can’t stop laughing!

That night we’re rewarded by a gorgeous sunset. Many nights our view is blocked by the surrounding mountains. Tonight we have full view of the sun and thoroughly enjoy it.

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Last modified: December 6, 2014

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