JMT – Day 19 – Meadow at mile 184 to Wallace Creek

On the way towards Forester Pass

On the way towards Forester Pass

August 21, 2014

The pines above our tent insulated us from the cold of the night. While those camping at the edge of the meadow experienced night chill and morning frost, our site remained as dry and cozy as a site at altitude of 11,200 ft can be. When we found all the sites with a view taken last night, I thought it was a bummer. Now it seemed like a string of luck woven into our journey. Normally cold wouldn’t be a problem; however last night both of our pads leaked again and it would not be much fun spending the night on a frozen ground.

A mix of excitement and sadness fills me when we set off for today’s hike. At over 13,000 feet Forester Pass is one of the highest in the USA and I am excited for the opportunity to climb it. At the same time I realize that once climbed there will be no more passes left, and that realization plants sorrow into my heart. Soon we’ll be leaving the Sierras behind. Our relationship did not start on a happy note but along the way I learned to appreciate them and I know I will miss them deeply.

Nearly atop the pass

Nearly atop the pass

I look across the vast area leading towards Forester Pass. The scenery is so different above the tree line. And it never cease to amaze me. There are several people already ahead of us. From their position we can guess the course of the trail but the location of the actual pass remain unclear until we reach the final switchbacks. There are more of them then I remember on any of the other passes. I’m on a mission to finish the last pass strong and once I make the first step I am on a mission and don’t stop until the very last switchback is gained.

Forester Pass is narrow with sheer drop off to the south. I can see the tight trail hugging the cliff couple hundred of feet below us. From our vantage point it is not completely clear how we’ll even get down to it, and once again my imagination takes me places far worse than reality. I shake the wild imaginary off. For the time being I want to savor the moment, so I turn my back to the cliff and look north to where we came from and immediately so many great memories comes to my mind.

Success

Pass successfully gained

Celebrating our last pass

Celebrating our last pass

Forester Pass is the entrance to  Sequoia National Park. We’re hoping the new territory will bring good luck as we stop at a tarn below the pass and blow our pads and submerge them under water just like we did yesterday. There is no visible leak in my pad. I know it leaked. I felt it when I woke up feeling ground, but whatever we do  we can’t find where the air is escaping.  Dave’s pad somehow acquired 4 more small holes. We think the fabric was weakened at those spots and once we patched the leaks yesterday the pressure became too much and these areas started to leak also.

The next section of the trail is bone dry. It is hot and after the initial descend we are climbing again. It appears like management of Sequoia NP does not fancy switchbacks. Most of the incline leads straight up. It takes us to another highlight of the day, the Bighorn Plateau. Unlike anything we’ve seen on the trail yet, the plateau is a vast expanse of dry flat desert like terrain with an occasional foxtail pine to be admired along the way and incredible views of the Great Western Divide. It also affords us the first good view of Mt. Whitney. It’s unique. It’s magical. I wish we had planned more time in this area.

Trail South of Forester Pass

Trail South of Forester Pass

After the Bighorn Plateau the trail drops into the Wright Creek drainage. The forested terrain is somewhat anticlimactic but it has a potential to be much warmer during the night and since my sleeping pad will likely leak again, it suits us well. We find Sarah and Michelle camped at Wallace Creek and pitch next to them. It is the last evening we spend together on the trail.

 

Beautiful Foxtail pine

Beautiful Foxtail pine

Foxtail in detail

Foxtail in detail

Bighorn Plateau

Bighorn Plateau

Miles today: 12.3

Cumulative miles hiked: 196.4   Miles left: 14.6

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