It’s been a while since my last entry from my JMT journey, but I appreciate you following along! Waking up on Day 6, the morning after losing my boot, the guys I camped with were already up, breaking down camp to be on their way. Bummer! I was sad to lose my companions, but they needed to continue and my agenda for the day was set. Ask everyone along the trail if they saw my boot!
I also had to “use the facilities” very badly that morning, and the soil was so shallow, that my ice axe wouldn’t dig. Crap! So I got more frustrated (as anyone would get who needed to go, but wanted to follow the rules at the same time) and my axe went straight into my knee. Yay! Blood and injuries! This trip was cooking along great!
I handled my business, tended to the wound (thank God for wilderness first aid), and continued with my morning. The scab over the gouge from that incident didn’t fall off and heal until I was done with the JMT. Crazy!
After breakfast and saying goodbye to my camp buddies, I filtered some water and found a nice rock to sit on by the trail. My goal for that day was to ask every person going southbound if they saw my boot, and every person going northbound if they could send my boot downtrail if they or anyone else saw it.
I got many shocked responses, no one had seen my boot. Damn! I kept moseying around the area for the rest of the day, feeling like I was pestering the passers-by. At one point, a ranger came up to me and I asked her if she had seen my boot. She said no, but that she’d love to see my permit. Wow! I’m out on trail without a boot, and all you care about is my permit? I guess it’s her job, so I obliged, originally thinking my permit was in my pocket.
She told me how stoked she was that I had my permit on my person. Turns out I didn’t, though. Woops. So I ran up to my tent sheepishly, to grab it. Upon verification that I was hiking legally, she wished me well and told me that I should be able to get over Donohue pass in the TEVA sandals I had. At least she was reassuring!
Later in the afternoon, a storm started brewing. I quickly set up my rainfly, and hunkered down in the tent. The thunder sounded so close and I was slightly alarmed. Eventually, the storm eased off, and I went back to hunting for my boot.
Throughout the day, I kept having feelings of boredom and overwhelming sadness and frustration. I was alone, without a boot, left to comfort myself. It’s a pretty scary place to be for someone who spent most of his life living off of other’s validation.
This dad and his two boys passed me on the trail while it was raining, and I blurted out “Have you seen a boot?” I stopped them dead in their tracks. “A boot?” the dad responded. I explained my story and acquainted myself with them. The Dad’s name was Bobby, and he told me they were gonna push on, but maybe we’d see each other at Reds Meadow. So we bid farewell, and I continued with my evening.
After dinner and more reflection, I knew I would continue on the next morning with my journey. There was too much invested not to! So I went to sleep, and prepared to be up extra early the next morning.
That following morning, I packed everything up, skipped breakfast and set off. The air was frigid, and the water in the muddy canyon was cold as well. Luckily, I was wearing wool socks with my sandals and the cold water helped my feet keep cool on the ascent. So far so good!
I looked for Bobby’s camp, but couldn’t find it, so I pressed on, up the switchbacks. I wasn’t sure which pass was Donohue, but I never gave my mind enough time to think about being tired. I kept charging, up and up. Eventually, after passing some amazing camp sites, I came to a wide stream crossing. There was Greg! And some attractive women! Right on!
After crossing, I checked in with Greg. He was stoked to see me, and I told him the story about losing my boot. The group awkwardly laughed in shock, and I was awkward, too, being in the presence of women and not firing on all cylinders without breakfast.
Greg saved me from my awkwardness by saying he was taking off soon, so I charged in front of him. The beauty of the snowscape resounded with my soul and a fire was ignited that couldn’t be quenched by the loss of a boot.
The trail wound around pinnacles and streams. The stream crossings grew more frequent, and snow traverses were plentiful. I was handling it all though! This reminds me of when I pushed myself to do Angel’s Landing in Zion. Great mental training!
Finally, I saw the last push. Greg went ahead of me and all I could see were people walking up the snowy bowl. Crap! This was why I brought my crampons that I can’t use! I saw some craggy rocks to the right of the snow bowl trail, and started ascending that way.
The ascent over rocks was tough with TEVAs on, but I kept pushing, looking for the trail and cross over point. Eventually, I realized I would have to cross the snow at the top to get back to the trail. It was sketchy and I was worried about postholing and slipping, but I slowly made it across.
As I came over the top, I saw a wilderness sign, Greg, and the two women. Awesome! I made it! Donohue pass was mine!!
I continued the conversation with the women while Greg waited for Kendall. They were able to get cell service and were kind enough to let me use their phone to call REI about my boot situation. I know, I know, it sounds like a scene out of Wild 😃
REI wondered why I was calling their San Francisco location and were shocked to hear my story, but after explaining myself, they became helpful. They said they couldn’t offer me a full replacement since it was not a warranty issue, but to help my cause, they would give me 50% off the same boots with super feet insoles. Sweet! They would be shipping it to Mammoth Lakes, 25 or so miles away. I was stoked!
I went back to the crew, apologizing for taking so long, and explaining the awesomeness that just happened. They were stoked for me and started making their way down the trail. “But wait! I want to chat with you guys more! We love hiking and you just made an awesome gesture by letting me use your phone!” I thought to myself. They were taking a zero at Reds meadow, so hopefully I could catch up.
After having breakfast and chatting with fellow hikers, I continued down the south side of Donohue Pass. There were a few sketchy snow areas, including snow bridges, but I took my time and made it down safely. Eventually, the snowy, wet terrain gave way to the dry, rocky valley with intermittent stream crossings.
I ran into this trail runner who had left from Reds Meadow that morning. Damn! He already ran 20 miles or so, he’s a badass! I told him my story, and we bid each other farewell. As I continued through the valley, the peaks surrounding me were beautiful. I kept drawing from that inspiration to hike further.
Eventually, I caught up with the women I had met earlier, which made me happy. We made it over some log crossings and then I quickly slowed down because I was tired and didn’t want to be that awkward guy hanging around. Soon after, I caught up with Greg and Kendall to charge up Island Pass.
My energy was fading and I still had to make it to Thousand Island Lake! Island Pass dragged on and on, making me grow more frustrated that we weren’t going downhill again. Then, I saw it. The beauty of Thousand Island Lake! I was almost there! Wait, why is the trail going away from the lake?!?! This is bullshit!
Frustration took over, I needed to use the restroom, and I was exhausted, so I stopped short of the lake for lunch. Eventually, the anger subsided as I ate my lunch, and despite being exhausted, I knew I would continue on. The allure of the lake was too inviting!
After lunch, I strapped on my pack and hauled along. The lake was below us in the southwest direction, yet I was still hiking uphill and eastward! What the hell?!?! Frustration grew as I trudged. I was sore, my feet were feeling it in the sandals and the day needed to end.
The emotions carried on, but eventually, I saw rock islands below me, an isthmus that the trail followed, and Greg and Kendall!! I made it! I can camp! Hallelujah!
Not so fast, the Forest service declared, as there was a sign declaring required camping distance from the isthmus and there wasn’t much room near Greg.
There was an ideal, illegal spot, that I waffled on for thirty minutes, asking everyone and there mother if they thought I would be in the clear. The PCT hikers told me not to camp there, some JMT hikers were doing it anyway, and eventually I decided to walk the perimeter of the lake to find a decent, legal spot.
After walking for a while, I saw some people up in the rocks. Yay! I didn’t want to impose, but I was desperate, so I asked them if there was room. There was a perfect spot for me! Double yay! It was quite a technical trek up the rocks, but I made it and set my tent up with rocks instead of stakes.
When I was finally able to relax, the view from camp was beautiful! Banner and Ritter peaks were off in the distance and the mosquitoes weren’t as bad as down by the water. I went to grab water and these two guys were joking around. They were obviously hiking partners and I grew lonely. It would have been nice to have a partner, but the solo experience had its own perks.
Eventually, I introduced myself. They were another group doing a small loop. We exchanged pleasantries, talked about the beauty, I told them my boot story, and we went our separate ways. To end the night, I made dinner, wrote in my journal and relaxed before falling asleep. The day had been long, around 15 miles, but I did it!
Thanks for following along with my journey! Hopefully the next entry won’t take so long for me to write up! Remember, take a hike and spice up your life!