July 30, 2015
14 miles today, 59 miles total
Garnet Lake to Red’s Meadow
Courtney and I knew we had a long day today since we skimped on our mileage yesterday, so we were awake by 5:00am to tackle the miles. We were trying to get to Red’s Meadow today, which was our next resupply stop, and it was 14 miles away.
We tried to stay quiet packing up, but we woke up Cole, so the three of us watched the beautiful sunrise over Garnet Lake. Feeling refreshed by the beauty, Courtney and I hiked out of camp, passing by Heather and Jennifer’s tent on our way out. They were still sleeping, so we did our best to tip toe by.
We climbed out of the lake valley, passing by Shadow Lake, Rosalie Lake, and Gladys Lake along the way. They were all beautiful, though unfortunately the trek from Rosalie Lake to Gladys involved quite a bit of elevation change, so we huffed up switchbacks all morning. When we reached the top we took a break at Gladys Lake and dug through our bear vaults for snacks. The air was still cool, so pretty soon we were refreshed again and continued onward.
The final five miles of trail was all downhill, so we powered down it while blasting music from our phones. We still hadn’t run into any other hikers today, so we didn’t worry about bothering them with the music. I was reflecting again on my PCT hike through this area; I remembered it being a long, slow slog uphill and the mosquitoes were so terrible that I was half jogging, half crying through the swarm, desperate to get away from them.
This year, the mosquitoes were barely noticeable, and knowing how awful they could be, I was beyond thankful that they weren’t ruining our trip.
The last stretch before Red’s Meadow was hot and dusty, and soon we were covered in the dirt that swirled around our feet. We reached a natural wonder called Devil’s Post Pile first; it was a wall of columnar basalt that attracted quite a few tourists from the area. Once again Courtney and I found ourselves surrounded by people reeking of perfume, and felt quite out of place in our stinky hiker clothes and dusty backpacks. Courtney said she felt like an animal in a zoo the way the tourists gaped at us. But we were exhausted and our feet hurt, so we tried to ignore them as we stumbled our way around the area. The JMT near Devil’s Post Pile was confusing, so we got a little lost as we tried to find our way to Red’s Meadow. I was growing cranky and there was more uphill climbing to get to our destination, which didn’t help my mood. But despite having hiked for seven hours and fourteen miles, we arrived at Red’s Meadow at the early hour of noon – finished for the day!
Red’s Meadow was a packing station with mules and horses, secluded in the backcountry for those who were traveling the trail by stock animal. They also had a few cabins, a laundry facility, and a restaurant – which I remembered quite well sold amazing milkshakes. Courtney and I found the backpacker’s campground (a bit of a hike from the facilities) and set up our tent before returning to enjoy a burger and shake at the restaurant. Cole caught up with us in time for lunch, and we talked a lot about our home lives. We learned that Cole worked as a special effects technician, and his latest work had been on the new Marvel movie AntMan! He was a movie connoisseur and we spent a lot of time discussing our favorite movies and tv shows.
Fully sated by food and dessert, and our phones almost fully charged by now, Courtney and I debated about the best way to get a shower. Red’s Meadow had paid showers in the laundry room, so we decided to pay the $8 to get clean before attempting to do our laundry. After our showers, however, we discovered that Cole had secured one of the cabins at the resort and invited us to stay with him. We jumped at the chance to sleep in a real bed for the night – and promptly collected our things from the backpacker’s campground to bring back to the resort.
By then Sean and Cassidy had arrived and made the sad announcement that they had decided to leave the trail. They weren’t making the miles they needed to, and Cassidy’s knees had started hurting her. Instead, they decided to road trip their way home, and they had already gotten tickets to a bus to take them out of Red’s Meadow in the morning. It was a shame to say goodbye to new friends so soon, but we understood it was their best choice.
Heather, Jennifer, and a new friend named Andrew showed up in time to say goodbye as they boarded the bus to Mammoth. Cole extended the invite for his cabin to the three of them, so the six of us piled into the little A-frame and spent the evening divvying up our food resupplies and laughing with new friends. I discovered that Heather and Jennifer were also alumni from NC State – they had grown up in Raleigh, too – but now lived in San Francisco and Seattle, respectively, with their husbands.
Courtney and I took the creaky bed in the upstairs loft, and we fell asleep listening to rain start pounding on the roof outside.