July 17, 2015 was the best day so far. We woke up at a good time and packed up. As we headed out I saw the mist evaporating off of the meadow grass. It created a sparkling cloud above the field and it was just pure beauty. Day 3 held a mountain pass and so we began to head up the mountain. We encountered the dreaded stone steps yet again as the trail switch backed up towards the pass. It wasn't brutal, it was actually quite enjoyable. Through the trees we went, occasionally stopping to eat a gel or take a break.
As the trail flattened out and we came upon a beautiful bridge. That is one thing I do have to compliment, all the bridges we encountered were absolutely beautiful and immaculately created. Once we crossed the bridge we headed up again and soon we came upon a large stream/lake. We were confused here because we didn't know where the trail went. Thankfully a couple of guys came up after us and we worked it out together. We determined the trail was on the other side, so we crossed and headed on while the two guys stayed behind to filter. The trail switch backed its way up a steep valley side. This is where it got really fun. Since we were out of the trees, which are boring for us going at that speed, now the whole valley spread out below us and it was a true alpine climb. Little streams from higher up the mountain ran over the trail which just added to the beauty. We crossed streams as we crossed another part of the high altitude valley. One was rushing, yet another was a peaceful, beautiful turquoise. We headed into rock fields and met this really awesome New Yorker and took pictures on a break. As we made our way through the field the vistas were stunning.
As the top of Donahue pass came closer and closer I got even more excited. Cresting the pass at 11,000 feet was awesome! We took pictures, made lunch with avocados, and relaxed. As we headed down we ran and that was amazing. We got down from the pass in 40 minutes while others took hours. Passing ponds, lakes and streams we were jovial. Filtering water as always is a bore, but we did it and had fun. As we closed in on our camp for the night we talked and laughed, a stark difference from the past few days. Once we reached our campsite we endeavored to find a spot and as always there were quite a few people. We found a perfect, or so we thought, secluded spot in a basin. We relaxed, dried out our clothes, and set up camp. While I was washing my dirty clothes I felt something on the bottom of my thigh, I assumed a piece of grass was tickling my leg. Soon after though, I felt a sharp pain right between my butt cheeks (TMI I know)! I reached down and pulled off, with some resistance I might add, a dead ant! I freaked and booked it back to camp, but I laughed about it soon after.
We began to set up our tarp and because of our fatigue we just couldn't get it right. It always seemed to come out lopsided or sagging. Annoyance and headaches soon set in. Our solution, to each take a break and eat the sweet thing we got at Tuolumne. A dark chocolate bar for me and a PayDay bar for my dad. We soon bounced back and set up camp and made dinner.
Side Note: Our dinners on that trip were Mary Jane's Farm vegan backpacking meals. They're awesome! Especially if you add a packet of coconut butter or oil like we did.
As we readied for sleep the wind picked up big time and by the time we bedded down sand was everywhere. Ironically the "perfect" spot we had picked was a channel for wind into a sandy dustbowl and we were right in the middle of it. It was the worst night, ever, in my life. Wind, like the sound of a freeway and sand, like a dust storm. In my eyes, ears, mouth, hair, toes even! It was everywhere and if you turned you head towards the open part of the tarp the wind was so fierce you began to gasp for air. By morning I was miserable, tired, sandy, and stiff. I think this picture accurately captures my feelings:
And that was the conclusion to July 17, 2015. The most fun day of our John Muir Trail experience, but still extremely difficult. I learned something there, however. That if your doing something difficult, something you wonder about how you're going to get to the end, there is a light. Through the darkness there's a light, no matter how small, where you can find enjoyment, peace, and presence. Thank you.
Be grateful. Be better.