Lake Ediza or bust! We caught the Red's Meadow Shuttle at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. We had hoped to be on the 7am shuttle but you know how things go... We just missed the 8:30 and stood in line with a bunch of day trippers and excited backpackers to wait for the 9:00.
The shuttle dropped us at Agnew Meadows at around 9:15am we were off. Well…not in a cloud of smoke….because you see... we had these backpacks. We really paired down and took the bare minimum. But the reality was that we could barely lift the things! We hoisted them on to our backs with all our might and off we galumphed. It was pretty flat through the meadow and along the River Trail. We were pushed to move quickly by the presence of mosquitoes. After a little break to put on some repellent we saw the beautiful river. The trail then crossed and began to climb up.
Oh wow. This is going to be an effort. As we climbed up we began to see the valley that we had come from and after a while arrived at the beautiful Shadow Lake. It was pure Sierras; with snow covered rocky peaks as a backdrop. We gladly dropped our packs and pulled out our lunch. We had bagel sandwiches with mustard, ham, cheese, and lettuce that we had made the day before. We were living large! We knew this might be the most delicious meal of the trip. (It probably was) After lunch we pushed on. We met some nice hikers that had experienced camping at Lake Ediza who told us that we should camp on the west side of the Lake. We were thrilled when we got our first view of the lake! We made it.
Now just another ½ hour walk more than ½ way around the lake to find our campsite. You know that feeling of the first day of backpacking. Excitement. Unrealistic expectations. Heavy Pack. Legs that… well, let's just say it isn't the easiest. Ediza was beautiful. The meadows were green, the lake and sky so blue. The backdrop of Ritter and Banner Peaks majestic. Only one slight negative…..there were lots of annoying bugs… mosquitoes, specifically. We had been warned of them, and had hoped that they were be less prevalent at other destinations along our route. Other than that slight disadvantage, the views were amazing, and the water was refreshingly cold. Not too cold, though, to stop us from soaking our feet and wading around for a while.
We woke up… and jumped out of the tent quickly to see sunrise colors wash over Ritter and Banner with a FULL MOON centered between the two! It was EPIC! Certainly the defining image of the trip! Noah and I did our usually morning photo walk each taking lots of photos. Garnet was the most beautiful place on our trip. Definitely recommended. It was a glorious morning in God’s creation! What a show!
After a leisurely morning enjoying the reflections, colors, shadows, sun bursts, rock patterns and breeze we packed up and took the short hike over to Thousand Island Lake. On the way we walked by Ruby and Emerald Lakes. We passed (and were passed by) so many John Muir Trail (JMT) hikers on the trip. Perhaps 60% of the hikers we encountered were JMT through hikers! We admired them for their endurance and motivation. Most were attempting the 220 mile journey in 16-22 days…averaging 11-15 miles a day. While we were impressed with their condition, we were also glad that we had time to relax, to contemplate, to soak in the views, to stop along the trail and to just soak up the beauty.
We found a good campsite at Thousand Island (but it was certainly not as great as Garnet). There were lots of people around and the setting was just not Garnet lake. We spent the afternoon wading in the water and relaxing.
It was a great hiking day! We loved all the big views as we climbed over Island Pass. We were warned about the bugs down in Rush Creek but they were not too bad. We encountered a ranger there and were so glad we had proper permits! A fellow on High Sierra Topix (wildhiker) had given us information about a off-trail, secluded, camping spot at some tarns (which are pretty much snow ponds) east of the trail at around 10,500 feet. We followed wildhiker’s advice and hiked about a mile across the meadow and around the beautiful dry and wet streams and found that 4 of the ponds still had some water left. It was a beautiful spot with great views of Ritter, Banner, Mammoth Mountain and Donahue Pass. The meadow had lots of flowers. We loved the high country feel. We soaked our feet in the pond and waded in - the water was only three feet deep and was pretty warm. We enjoyed this campsite a lot although the bugs at dusk were pretty fierce.
In the morning, we made a new friend. He was very cute and quite small. He had big front teeth. He had very short arms. You might have guessed he was a marmot. We watched him from close range for a long time, eating flowers, peeking out from his whole, scurrying away, then coming back curious about us.
We slept in a bit since sunrise was not as spectacular in the plateau as other locations. Then loaded up our packs…and said to each other…can you believe we have to put these things on again?!? We headed over Donahue Pass. It really was not difficult since we camped just 500 feet below the peak elevation of Donahue Pass.
As we ascended my left shoe didn't feel right. My toes were cramped as if suddenly my almost completely new boots had shrunk. They had been comfortable the other days. At the top of the pass I took my boot off, only to find some wadded up trash that I had placed in my boot so it would not blow away the previous night. Note to self….do not hike up Sierra passes with trash in your boot. It is not comfortable!
At the top we saw this sign. To us it was symbolic of the condition of our National Park System and its funding. The National Park Service doesn’t have an adequate budget; they are trying to manage our parks on a “shoe-string” budget. There is basically no budget for maintenance, restoration, or refurbishment. Perhaps you have heard the horror stories of deferred maintenance, inadequate facilities, and pushing the ball of problems into the future? We need to make our National Parks, monuments and sites a bigger budget priority. Would we adequately be able to care for our parks if we moved .01% of the budget for war to the National Park Service?
We came down the pass and stopped for lunch at a beautiful glacial lake. We dipped our feet in the cold water and it was refreshing. It was here that we saw the guy attempting the 220 mile JMT carrying a bear container under one arm and a car camping tent by the other. - The ranger we met later, who had also encountered him, told us that he said his backpack was full. Here he is resting from carrying his load!
We descended into Lyell Canyon. It was a long decent. We felt sorry for the people who were coming up Donahue Pass from Toulumne. Wow. We continued down the peaceful canyon with the winding clear calm river for miles. After a long time on the trail, we found a campsite about 5.5 miles from Toulumne that met the 100 feet from water and trail criteria. While we were setting up our tent we saw a man carrying a full size American flag on a large pole up the trail. God Bless America! Here he is….