JMT - Day Seventeen

August 9, 2015
14 miles today, 173 miles total
Marjorie Lake to Arrowhead Lake

Today was long. Courtney and I left camp before everyone else to get a head start on our next pass: Pinchot. We summited in an hour, but my legs felt like jello and I sat for a while at the top, eating the energy chews that Courtney pulled out of her pack. We waited for the rest of our crew to catch us, but they didn’t, so we continued down without them.

I remembered Pinchot Pass from the PCT: the south side was long, long, long and it had seemed like it took all day to reach the top. This year we were descending the south side, but even so, it was a long, seven mile haul. Fortunately the red rocks were stunning to look at, and the beauty of Woods Creek followed our path as we walked.

Andrew soon caught up with us, and together we reached the bottom of the valley, back down to 8,500 feet where the Woods Creek Suspension Bridge spanned the river.

 Photo courtesy of Andrew

Photo courtesy of Andrew

 Photo courtesy of Andrew

Photo courtesy of Andrew

We were all exhausted and didn’t want to keep going, for we knew the trail immediately climbed back out of the valley and up to the next pass. So we sat for a long time beside the bridge having lunch. I went down to the water and took a “bath”, soaking my clothes and scrubbing my skin of the dirt it had accumulated.

Once we had put off the inevitable long enough, we shouldered our packs and started up the five mile climb. As expected, it was brutally steep and incredibly hot in the afternoon sun. I lagged behind, my feet hurting and my body exhausted. Just when I thought I couldn’t go any further, we reached Dollar Lake. Andrew, Courtney and I jumped in and went for a long swim, then lay in the warm sun drying off. We still had another mile to go to reach our camp for the night, but the swim was refreshing and gave me a second wind.

The last mile was beautiful, as we had finally reached the Rae Lakes area, a popular loop along the John Muir Trail. It consisted of a series of linked lakes that were excellent for fishing and camping, and the views with the mountains surrounding us were unparalleled.

We reached Arrowhead Lake, our destination for the evening, and found a good camp spot to pitch our tents. We were quickly joined by quite a few other hikers – it seemed like the “tent city” from the other night had finally caught up to us. We waited for Heather and Jennifer to join us, discussing how exhausted they must be after that long climb out of the valley. But it was just then that we heard the loud sounds of singing – and Heather and Jennifer suddenly appeared, dancing and skipping up the trail! We gaped at them, asking how they were so energized after such a brutal climb? Usually they were the last two to show up into camp, tired after a long day of hiking. Jennifer said they had taken quite a bit of caffeine and were feeling great. So great, in fact, that they declined to camp with us and said they had the energy to keep going another few miles! Andrew, Courtney and I were so beat that we didn’t even consider trying to join them. Instead, we said goodnight and that we would see them tomorrow. Heather and Jennifer took off, leaving Andrew, Courtney and I to make dinner and watch the sun set over Finn Dome. We played a few games of farkle and went to bed listening to the coyotes howl in the distance.