JMT Day 6 – North Fork Mono Creek to Sallie Keyes Lakes

⇽ day 5  •  JMT home  •  day 7 ⇾

Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.

-John Muir

North Fork Mono Creek to Sallie Keyes Lakes
august 1

Miles: 18.6                    Elevation Gain: 4049′
Trip Miles: 87.4            Elevation Loss: 2797′

Selden Pass, 10,900′

Total distance: 18.66 mi
Max elevation: 10902 ft
Min elevation: 8031 ft
Total climbing: 4226 ft

After breaking camp, we crossed the creek again and hopped back on the trail. Just south of our campsite, the creek spilled over a giant granite slab. We stopped to take some pictures when Lauren and Masha strolled up. Turns out they had camped just a bit north of us after getting caught in the rain on the way down the cliff. They said they’d been rating all the food they’d had on the trail and the jolly ranchers were and easy 10 out of 10. We chatted for a bit more before taking off ahead of them, never to see them again. “I wonder where the girls are” became a common refrain throughout the rest of the trip.

jmt06 - 2

mono creek

The gradual downhill of the morning ended when we got to the Lake Edison trail. The trail up Bear Ridge doesn’t look steep on the map, but nothing looks too steep on the map, after all. It turned out to be a never-ending switchback-ridden slog up the side of the ridge in a dense pine forest. The trees didn’t afford much of a view, so there wasn’t even a vista to keep us entertained. It wasn’t that long, or really that steep, but it came to be our least favorite part of the trail.

Finally over the hump, there was a little bit of flat before the steep descent on the other side. Carlos, as always, was way ahead. I saw a hiker stopped on the trail ahead of me. As I approached, he gestured to be quiet and then pointed off to the right. There was a deer about 10 feet away from us. We admired her for a moment before she took off, and we did too.

The way down was fairly steep, but upon reaching a stream crossing the trail and a nice, flat area, we decided we’d stop for lunch. Another JMTer, Robert, the deer pointer, joined us there. He was visiting from Germany with the express intent of hiking the JMT. We had a nice chat with him about his plans for the day (to camp at Marie Lake, before the pass) and his preparations (a service that prepares and sends resupply buckets…for $300). Lunch over, we all took off down to the bottom of the hill. Then we started on the long ascent toward Marie Lake and eventually Selden Pass. “I wonder where Robert is” joined the question about the girls’ whereabouts for the rest of the trip, too. Only, he finally cropped up when we least expected it: he boarded the bus we took from Lone Pine back to Reno days after we last saw him on this hillside.

As we neared Marie Lake, we encountered a woman asking if we’d seen her father. Apparently she was hiking 3 hours ahead of her 65-year old father and he hadn’t caught up. Unfortunately, we hadn’t seen anyone fitting his description. She and her group set off this way and that way on the trail in search of him. I hope they found him. And I hope they don’t go 3 hours without checking in with their group’s members again.

Finally we made it to the top of the climb to Marie Lake. The sky had slowly been greying with thicker and thicker clouds and we knew rain was coming. As we skirted the side of the lake, with Selden Pass clearly in sight, the rain began. At first it was light, but that didn’t last. We threw on our rain jackets and huddled as best we could under a small bush.

Seeing that the rain wasn’t going to let up, and that our shelter wasn’t providing much protection, I suggested we run up the hill away from the lake toward a copse of pine trees and set up a tarp. We scrambled to our new shelter through the pouring rain and booming thunder. I secured an end of my ground cloth to my trekking poles, and we draped the other end in the boughs of the trees above us. We huddled, dry, under the tarp and sipped lemonade while the rain came down and the lighting lit the sky.

Eventually the storm passed, though the sky didn’t clear. There was one blue patch of sky, however, just on the other side of Selden Pass! We weighed our options: forgo doing the pass today (we’d already put a fair number of miles in, after all) and make camp at Marie Lake or make a break for the pass and try to get over it and to Sallie Keyes.

We opted for the latter. We quickly filtered some water, since we both were out. Then, we hauled ourselves up the pass toward the one patch of blue sky. From the top of the pass, looking back over the lake and the peaks beyond, the rain was clearly falling in the direction we’d come from, as well as in several other spots. Above us, the sky was still dark grey, but a little south, it was clear.

The grey clouds won out. Just as we started descending the south side of the pass toward Heart Lake, the rain came back. By the time we got to Heart Lake, I had to stop to step into my rain kilt to help keep my legs dry. The rain turned to hail as we passed Heart. It was large enough to sting a little, but not big enough to stop us. We’d caught sight of Sallie Keyes Lakes and the strip of land between them with a pine forest.

Laser focused on getting back into the trees and finding a spot to put up our tent, we fought our way downhill through the hail storm. Inexplicably, we passed two people going the opposite direction with no gear, no packs, but rushing up toward the pass. With no time to stop and talk, we could only speculate what they were up to.

Finally, we made it to the lakes and the strip of forest between them. We dove into the forest and split up, looking for a good spot, preferably under some lower trees, as there were still flashes of lighting with thunder quick on their heals.

We found a spot that someone must have used the night prior; it had a rain trench already dug around it. Perfect. We threw down packs and put the tent up in record time. We climbed inside and lay on the bare floor and waited as the rain and hail pelted the tent. We were wet, but at least we weren’t getting wetter.

Time passed and the storm moved on. We emerged and finished setting up camp, filtered water, and made some dinner. With the rain done and dinner down, we called it a night.

⇽ day 5  •  JMT home  •  day 7 ⇾