Day 1: 12.4 miles hiked, 17.4 cumulative, Tuolumne to below Donohue (10,190′)
My son and I woke in the Tuolumne backpackers camp and packed up. As we were drinking our morning coffee/hot chocolate a ranger showed up. Donned with a grey beard and the standard wide brimmed hat, he didn’t care that the campground was closed. He just wanted to check our permits and verify that we all had the required bear canisters. Armed with the current bear activity warnings…we were off.
The first 10 miles wind through Lyell Canyon and are actually the only flat miles on the JMT. A perfect warm up to the weeks ahead. Unfortunately there were a billion mosquitoes at our intended campsite of Lyell Fork Bridge so we decided to hike another mile and climbed another 600 feet. I really struggled with this last mile. I was shaky and dizzy and extremely nauseous. I realized it was altitude sickness but I could only continue slowly, drinking often. Nathan and I made it to a beautiful campsite and I lay down for a while not eating dinner. I was glad we weren’t going higher that first night. We had spent the one night in Tuolumne at 8600 feet but it really wasn’t enough to acclimate. We camped near hiker friends we had met earlier that day, James who had hiked the JMT the previous year with his daughter Sarah. They had returned with the mother Cindy to hike it again. We spent the evening chatting with them gleaning both information and community.
Day 2: 9.6 miles, 27 cumulative, Below Donohue to Thousand Island Lake (9,847′)
I woke feeling fine. We ate and packed up as deer meandered through our campsite. We had our first pass to climb this morning, after wading across our first creek. The water had been snow only hours before and was freaking cold. So painful in fact that I wondered how the hell I was going to do that multiple times in the days to come. I’m happy to say that no creek was as cold as that first one was! Nathan and I learned that day that with record snow there is record melt. There weren’t just a few creeks/rivers to cross each day. There were dozens of unnamed snow melt streams running down the mountainside that were often wet and troublesome. I’m sure we crossed a hundred. On the other hand…we were never in need of water!
We climbed up Donohue Pass (11,060′). Our first pass, it wasn’t too hard. At the top we stretched out with our friends and other hikers, chatting. I charged my phone with my solar panel and we ate lunch.
On the south side of the pass the terrain was beautiful. With all the snow melt there were numerous streams, green fields, and flowers. While the north side of the mountains tended to be barren, the south sides were usually beautiful. We hiked down and ended up at Thousand Island Lake which was a exquisite.
It was a great campsite. We had our own little stream to wash in. Banner Peak mirrored perfectly in the crystal clear water. The night was cold dusting our packs with frost. And we began our nightly tradition of playing cards in my tent before turning in by 8 for bed. 🙂
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. -John Muir