“I’m the meanest, roughest, toughest, hombre that’s ever crossed the Rio Grande – and I ain’t no namby-bamby.” Yosemite Sam
Yosemite. That word has captured my imagination ever since I could say the word. It spoke of an iconic place, a special place, a beautiful place and it was a long way away. Yosemite Sam only added to it’s wild and untamed allure. It took me 65 years to finally get there. The picture above is Doris and I crossing Donohue Pass into the Yosemite Wilderness.
This is the itinerary of our final leg of our JMT hike in Sept 2019. See previous posts for the first 2 sections.
Section 3: Muir Trail Ranch to Tuolumme Meadows.
Day 14 (Sept 20, 2019): Muir Trail Ranch via Seldon Pass (10,910 feet) to Bear Creek Junction. 14.0 miles.
The 3200 foot elevation climb began immediately from the Ranch to Seldon Pass. We stopped at Heart Lake for lunch and watched horses ferry supplies to hikers over the Pass to Marie Lake … that’s like taking a helicopter to Berg Lake in Jasper National Park … as long as we can walk, never for us. After lunch we quickly reached Seldon Pass and as we crested the top the view of Marie Lake and the valley below appeared before us. There have only been a few moments in my life when I have been struck with such raw beauty that it would make me literally stop in my tracks … this was one. Doris called it a “Hallelujah Chorus moment”, when you cannot help but stand up in reverence.
Marie Lake would have been the preferred stopping point but we had miles to go yet and so carried on till Bear Creek Junction.
Day 15 (Sept 21, 2019): Bear Creek Junction to Unnamed Meadow. 10.0 miles.
Today’s plan was to get close to Silver Pass. Just a nice walk with a few ups and downs until we camped at some unnamed meadow.
Day 16 (Sept 22, 2019): Unnamed Meadow via Silver Pass (10,745 feet) to Duck Lake Junction. 15.0 miles.
Today seemed like we climbed 3 passes instead of just one. We crossed Silver Pass fairly quickly and made our way down to Tully Hole and enjoyed a lovely stroll and lunch along Fish Creek before being surprised with another big climb to get us to Virginia Lake. Virginia Lake sparkled like millions of diamonds surrounded by red vegetation … awesome.
We descended from Virginia Lake to Purple Lake … another beautiful lake that deserved our presence … and carried on up again until we reached Duck Lake Junction where we shared the area with hunters and their horses who were there for the start of deer hunting season.
It was windy and cool, but we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset with lovely changing colors and cloud formations.
Day 17 (Sept 23, 2019): Duck Lake Junction to Red’s Meadow. 11.1 Miles.
Today we were more destination bound as opposed to enjoying the journey …. Red’s Meadow and the appeal of a hamburger spurred me on. I did enjoy the hike through the burned out area with the burnt tree stumps standing at attention saluting us as we passed by them.
We decided to stay in one of the hiker cabins and were glad to get a shower, wash some clothes and … have a hamburger for supper … bacon and eggs in the morning … ahhhh.
Day 18 (Sept 24, 2019): Red’s Meadow to Island Pass (10,225 feet). 18.8 miles.
We decided that we would try to compress the planned next three days into two and finish our hike one day early. To do so meant two 18 mile days … so we were all business with our hiking. It was another cloudless, beautiful day for hiking … we’ve been so fortunate with our weather. We passed Shadow Lake, Garnet Lake, Thousand Island Lakes and stopped at a tarn at the top of Island Pass … we didn’t actually didn’t realize until later that we were at the pass.
Passes are usually windy and cold, but we were treated to a perfectly calm evening, night and morning the next day. If only I had the ability to photograph the stars reflecting off of the tarn with the images of the mountains already transposed onto it …. it was a highlight of our trip and on our last night to boot. Awesome!
Day 19 (Sept 25, 2019): Island Pass via Donohue Pass (11,056 feet) to Tuolumme Meadows. 17.5 miles. .
Final day. After enjoying the sunrise and breakfast we headed off to make it to Tuolumme Meadows in time to catch the bus into Mammoth Lakes. We climbed Donohue Pass, our final Pass and entered into the iconic Yosemite wilderness. We endured a long punishing descent to Lyell Canyon. The last 8 miles were flat and easy walking. We made it to the General Store in plenty of time to make our final supper, catch up with our friends from the trail and catch the bus to Mammoth Lakes.
Final Thoughts on Section 3.
We hiked our longest miles in this section, with the last two days covering 36 miles. While we were able to hike that distance for two days in a row that pace would not have worked for us for the entire journey. The scenery in this section was amazing and it would have been nice to have been able to amble a bit and take an extra day or two, but we were ready to get home.
Final Thoughts on the Whole Trip.
I liked our pace and it worked well for us. We were blessed with incredible weather. As we look at our pictures we realize again and again how much beauty we got to see and experience. It doesn’t seem quite real anymore and the effort and aches are long forgotten.
I hope this itinerary will be helpful. The elevations and distances are close but not exact. I relied mostly on the Tom Harrison printed maps with the backup of the GAIA app in the event we weren’t sure where we were. I found both of these to be lacking and wished we had a more accurate app or maps to help us locate camping spots at the end of long days when short for time. Nevertheless, in some ways apps make it too easy so having to search a bit and invent your own solutions is more satisfying.
I liked going South to North and would probably like to go North to South on the next one because I’m pretty sure we would see it differently for sure. Who knows? I’ve got a few years left in me yet.