As much as I was enjoying our morning conversation, once we got over the hump of the lakes, I took some time to myself. It wasn't long before I started passing all these people with small little day packs. It had been days since I saw day-hikers. Many of these hikers were also older, in their 50s or 60s maybe. Soon I struck up a conversation with a group studying a large boulder covered in the California stone, Serpentine. Many people base camp at Shadow Lake, and then day hike to Thousand Island and Garnet lakes. How exciting! I had thought that to return to these lakes, I would have to re-do this hike. Not a horrible idea, but I thought that there must be another way, and sure enough. I later found that there are many ways to get back to this area, and still using public transportation to get to trail heads!
The day was just an un-ending day of glorious views and changing landscapes. For a moment I was on the East side of the Sierras, so it was dryer and arid. The changing plants, trees, and animals is fascinating. The back to the West side where the water tends to be greater. I love watching the subtle shifts in the environment. It is part of what keeps me moving, slows my pace, and keeps me in the moment. It can be so easy to think about the next section, what to prepare for, where to camp, when to eat... but what I am able to stay present, I can hear my body and mind tell me what I need, when to take a break, when to stop and listen to the wind or water or birds.
Eventually I make it to the big up of the day. About half way up the long switchbacks, I meet back up with Tony and Levi and we get one another up and over the pass. Tony is still being motivated by the BBQ, Levi is 19 and just excited to be on his first backpacking trip (both are doing the JMT). As we move through the day, we leap frog with a couple guys from Israel. They had lost the third person in their group. They kept talking about the food that he had in his pack (mostly the tahini) and how well it would go with the food in their packs. As we got closer to Devil's Postpile and Red's Meadow, our 2 groups merged and became one fun crowd. Tony is a great conversationalist and got both guys talking about their families and where their families are from prior to moving to Israel. Tony had his own story of the diaspora from India when he was young. The sharing of stories and relatedness was fascinating.
When we finally stumbled away from the tourists of Devil's Postpile and into the welcoming arms of Red's, we found the third member of the other party and everyone celebrated the reunion. I dropped my pack and went in to get a cold beer to join in the cheer. I was afraid I was just going to have limited options of Bud or Coors, but hell no! I had an amazing selection, and coming from a Portland beer snob, that is saying something! I picked out a Red IPA and a bag of salty potato chips. Our friends from Israel jumped on the last shuttle to Mammoth Mountain to get some supplies, and the rest of us shared a cabin, showered, and went to the grill for dinner.
Years ago, when I had finally made the decision to move to Portland, I ran into Portland people everywhere I went. In fact, when I went to Peru, I ran into Portland folks several times. And here at Red's I met some people that I knew from the Co-op. There were 2 women hiking the JMT together, and as we were chatting about food together (all of us finally talking to people eating somewhat similarly to each other), we realized our connection. We swapped ideas and passed on some treats.
Some fun things that happen at Red's is the kind of gathering of folks that have met on the trail since starting all the way back in Yosemite. People check in with how things are going, what is working, what's not, adjusted plans, and lots and lots of smiles. At most all the resupply spots, there are backpacker barrels where people can drop of supplies they don't need, and pick up what others are leaving behind. You can find things ranging from fuel canister, sun screen, and lots and lots of food. Sometimes you can tell who dropped off what, by what languages are on the packages.
I took a layover day here. I tried to go into Mammoth Village with the others, but just getting to Mammoth Mt. was too much, so I ate some fries, stocked up on energy bars, and purchased a warmer jacket, before returning to Red's to write some postcards. I met a couple from Taos that night in the grill, and we all hung out in the backpackers campgrounds sharing stories and plans.
In the morning we all said our good-byes, exchanged info, and headed our separate ways. As much as I enjoyed the company of one and all, I was ready for quiet as I headed toward Fish Creek trail. The plan was to get to Iva Bell Hot Springs for 3 days of meditation and soaking. It's a 13. 3 mile hike off the busy path of the JMT and PCT and thought it might not be too hard to get some quiet time. It took getting past all the day hikers going to Rainbow Falls first before I got some solitude.
A little note to people who are day-hikers who rarely get out... take lots of water and know where you are going! I passed so many people who were going the wrong way from the falls to return to the shuttle. Some had gone as far as 40 minutes in the wrong direction! Once I got passed all that, I was just in wonder of the barren landscape. A fire had raged through the area a few years before, so all the trees kind of looked like match sticks. Then there was just walking on bare granite before returning back into the woods. It was a long day and pretty dry. I only passed a couple groups of people. One group was a large collection of young people moving really slow. One of them had gotten injured and they were all doing a great job at keeping their pace and moving slow. They all seemed in good spirits and just fine with taking their time making sure they all got out together.
Once I got settled, I was content with not moving for 3 nights!
looking forward to meeting this water later
finally the water i saw fall... snack time
little trails of rocks mark the trail
there they are
down yonder is where i am headed
crossing the stream
view as the sun changes position
stream nearest the campsite
a soaking spot