JMT – Day 6 – Red’s Meadow to Purple Lake
August 8, 2014
We’re leaving Red’s Meadow at 8:00 a.m. It’s the latest start we had so far, but after hotcakes from the Cafe, our energy is soaring and for the first couple miles we keep pace with the East Coasters. Eventually they leave us to scramble a peak nearby and we continue South on the JMT. The scenery is one of a forest burned by a raging fire. There is little the matchstick like remnants of trees could do against wind and they are in no place to offer shade either. Luckily the morning is calm and pleasantly cool and a forested part of the trail awaits us before the temperature raises.
The grade is gentle and we have no problem keeping a 2 mph pace, which gets us to Deer Creek at around 11:00 a.m. It’s a very nice area, full of lush greens and abundant wildflowers. The creek beckons us to sit and dip our feet in its cold water. These breaks became a ritual of ours here on the trail and so far they are keeping our feet happy and blister free.
I really like the trail today. We’re not quite above tree line but the forest is open to allow for some views but it still has trees that are frequent enough to protect us from the sun. It’s not a sweat proof affair but it’s much more pleasant hiking than the exposed slopes we descended yesterday.
By the time we arrive at Buck Creek we don’t have to worry about the sun any longer. It’s back behind clouds. There is even some precipitation, brief and very light and afterwards the sky starts clearing. The afternoon has a potential to be a nice walk and even though I marked Buck Creek as our destination, we decide to push forward. It’s only 2:00 p.m. and Purple Lake is not that far. It will be a much more scenic place to spend the night. I already can see myself sitting on a rock by the shore, sipping on hot chocolate and watching sunset. And for a while the plan works. We are gaining elevation and distance on a long traverse. The sun occasionally peeks on us. To our right we can see the valley we hiked out of. Just as we expected it is an enjoyable walk.
Then the trail curves and once we clear the corner things are no longer looking so good. Dark clouds roll towards us pushed by wind that leaves goose bumps on our skin. Instinctively our pace fastens as we try to beat another storm. This time nature wins. We are still ways away from the lake when thunder cuts the silence and the sky releases a downpour of hail on us. It reminds me of a time when a much younger me was caught in a storm during an outing at a summer camp. It wasn’t a lightening thundering scary type of a storm, just a torrential downpour that came all of a sudden and left all of us drenched. As proper kids we took advantage of every puddle the rain created and got back so wet and muddy one could rightfully guess we were competing in a tough mudder.
Two bivis are set under trees by Purple Lake. The weather is miserable and we can’t see any other camping area nearby so we contemplate pitching on a slightly sloped spot above them. It’s not ideal and we know it. But our guidebook does not mention much in term of camping past Purple Lake so we reluctantly agree to take it.
“Hey guys, there’s one more flat spot right here.”
And surely there is a flat spot next to one of the bivis. It’s small but we can fit.
“Are you sure? We don’t want to crowd you.”
The one great thing about the hiking community is the instant willingness to adopt each other. In cities where every kid is taught to fear strangers, people often tend to shy away from situations involving interaction with unfamiliar faces. Here on the trail such barriers quickly fall and everybody seem to be ready to extend a helping hand when needed.
“Go for it,” says the guy in blue bivi. And we pitch.
The storm subsides just in time for dinner. Everything is wet, the ground is covered in large hail but there is something so peaceful about the moment when we emerge from our tent that it’s hard not to enjoy it.
Miles today: 13.7
Cumulative miles hiked: 72.4 Miles left: 138.6
More storms are in forecast for tomorrow. Are we going to be able to cross Silver Pass unharmed?