Day 3: 11.2 miles hiked, 38.2 cumulative, Thousand Island Lake to Trinity Lakes outlet (8990′)
I crawled out of bed early into a crisp cold dawn. I snapped some more pictures of Thousand Island Lake in the morning light and drank my coffee in the quiet. I relished the beauty and the peace of the Sierras. Eventually the cold and breakfast brought me back to task. We packed up and hit the trail, getting into the routine of hiking. It was a day for lakes as we passed six gorgeous bodies of water, crystal clear mirrors of the Sierras.
Emerald and Ruby Lakes were small but pretty, Garnet was large and stunning and we took a long break next to it. Shadow lake was nice too…but I mostly remember that it was the start of the day’s 1000 foot climb. Rosalie was a lovely lake with lots of good campsites and a shady forest of hemlock trees. We took a break there as well.
Around Garnet Lake we encountered our first potentially dangerous snow bridge. Unless perfectly flat, all snow bridges are inherently slippery. And unfortunately, many of the snow bridges we encountered were steep and perched high on mountainsides, or atop raging rivers, or in this case…above a cold lake. A fall over Garnet would not have killed us, but it was unnerving.
We encountered groups of clean smelling weekend backpackers with enormous backpacks. There’s an old hiker saying, the shorter the trip the bigger the pack. Its pretty spot on. A weekender might have a 45 lb pack. We had 25 lb packs. PCTers, who hike 2600 miles, often have 10 lb packs.
We stopped for a leisurely lunch break along the raging Shadow Creek. We were feeling gross after 5 days without a shower and rinsed off in the cold crisp water.
Gladys Lake was completely overrun with mosquitoes, perhaps the worst spot on the entire trail for us. So even though we had considered camping there, we hurried past. We pushed on for another mile and settled for a mediocre site by one of the small Trinity Lakes.
Day 4: 8.3 miles hiked, 46.5 cumulative, Trinity Lakes Outlet to Crater Meadow (8650′)
This day found us hiking into Reds Meadow, a back country mountain resort. It was a fairly easy hike, downhill about 1500′. It was very dusty walking on loose pumice sand over granite. The log bridge over Minaret Creek was out and it would have been a deep wet crossing, but we found a large downed tree downstream to cross on. It still had lots of leafy branches on it that made crossing scratchy…but we stayed dry. The trails were a maze as we entered the Red’s Meadow and Devil’s Postpile National Monument areas but we found our way to Red’s Resort. They cater to thru hikers with a store, cafe, and showers available. Nathan and I were really looking forward to it. We arrived before 10, dropped our packs and sat with other backpackers waiting for the cafe to serve lunch.
Our first item of business was food. Double cheeseburgers, fruit, and milk shakes! In chairs. With napkins and forks and ice. Absolute heaven! After lunch we paid for quick showers which got us reasonably clean and felt amazing. Then we picked up our resupply. There is an area in front of the store where thru hikers sort their resupplys and hang out. Camaraderie with other hikers was quickly becoming an important part of our days. Whether is was just passing NOBO hikers and asking them about the section of trail they had just come from, or chatting at gathering spots like Red’s. Everyone craved both information and fellowship.
We commandeered a table and went to work. I had mailed the resupply buckets weeks before. They were full of food, candy and some random supplies. We even scored some extra food from another hiker. This was important because I had discovered that I didn’t pack enough food. Nathan is 17 and I think it was physically impossible to feed him too much. He was easily eating 70% of our daily calories and was still hungry all the time. We (he) had eaten all the food that we started with…even though we had had an extra day’s worth of food since we started a day early. I was sincerely hoping that the 1500 calories he had just put away at Red’s would help…
While there, we ran into our friends. Cindy had sprained her ankle and had hiked 16 miles into the night with just a bandanna around her ankle to get to Reds where she was going to rest for a day. Beast mode! We chatted like old friends.
With full bellies and five days of food (I hoped) in our bear canisters, we hiked about 4 miles climbing another 1000′ through a burned out section of forest to our next campsite. Nathan hung his hammock and stretched out. Another good day.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” -John Muir