Day 6 on the JMT, August 12, 2016
Breaking camp was becoming routine, packing all the bits in all the right places after breakfast chores got us moving up onto a contour that would wind around to Duck Pass Junction, then down to Purple Lake and up and over Virginia Lake, and maybe farther. Our ambitions were always farther, of course.
Just before noon we hit the stream crossing below the junction, stopped to cool off, filter water and eat a snack. By now we had been running into other hikers that we'd been encountering along the way. A couple of young women had started from Deer Creek as we went buy, we passed each other a couple of times, and as we settled into our break they joined us at the creek.
A short but steep ascent took us onto a higher contour for many miles, with spectacular views into Cascade Valley. We'd walk the length of it and then cross it to get to Silver Pass, but I'm getting ahead of the story.
By about 1:30 pm we were making the descent into Purple Lake. We had past a party of three, son, father and grand father who had hiked a loop from Red's Meadow, down Fish Creek and up the Purple Lake trail. It seemed like a great idea. The son was very concerned about the "bug situation" at Deer Creek, I don't think we had an opinion, sometimes the bugs annoy and sometimes they don't... the yellow jackets were a slight annoyance at dinner times, but so far the bugs didn't seem too bad.
Just as we were coming into Purple Lake a hiker with a British accent passes us, very excited:
"I kid you not! There are people down at the lake serving tacos and beer!"
and was by us just as quick to collect his kit and enjoy the feast.
Indeed, as we came along the lake edge we encountered a group of about 6, the delicious smell of fresh food wafting up from their station and various banners and matching t-shirts: Senior Muir's Taco Hut "Serving hungry hikers since 2014" #MuirTaco.
The wonderful people had had their supplies packed in and were serving hikers on the trail this wonderful food. This is an activity the was started by the people who run the socalhiker.net website. We didn't have time to stop as we still had to hike up to 10,500' but they insisted that I take a beer for later. I couldn't refuse.
On our way up the two packers on horses where leading a mule
"She doesn't like backpackers," the lead cowboy warned, "but she won't do anything to you" as the mule made a big path around me on the side of the trail. Stephanie said the mule didn't really react to her, so maybe it was just me?
Stephanie was pretty quiet on this part of the hike, and of course I snapped a picture that got a reaction every father gets from his daughter at some point.
At that point we went over the pass and into the glorious Virginia Lake. As we descended to the lake shore I hinted, broadly, that it would be a great place to stop for a rest. Stephanie was not very interested, she wanted to continue on, our goal for the day was in the distance and we had plenty of time to make a go at it.
But as we rounded onto the other side of the lake she decided that she had to stop and eat. "Hangry" a term I sort of heard, but now was experiencing it in my hiking partner, which made a very vivid definition. Later Stephanie explained that she hadn't wanted to stop for long because her ankle would get sore, so she had neglected eating much that day and was paying the price. I couldn't be counted on to stop to eat, I didn't eat after noon.
So we stopped and Stephanie refueled. The lake was beautiful and inviting, some fellow travelers were enjoying a swim nearby.
Sitting for a while, the packers somehow arrived, apparently they had diverted off the trail and then back on, after we had passed. The mule was still very suspicious of me, and my pack which was sitting near the path, she diverted around once again.
Trips that are supported by packers seem quite common in these parts of the Sierra, at least as evidenced by the number of "road apples" encountered. My sinus seemed always congested by the dust on the trails, I tried to convince myself that the biotic infusion would be good somehow.
We decided to camp at Virginia Lake, it was cooler up high, and the site was picturesque. We back tracked around to the other side and set up camp. While a number of hikers arrived for the night, they seemed to congregate around the trail, we weren't that far off it but apparently farther than most of them wanted to go.
We had time to get washed up a bit, the water was pretty warm, I drank the beer, and we watched the sunset.
This day we hiked 11 miles gaining 2,700' and loosing 1,600'. The high point was just before reaching Virginia Lake. The day's kml file.
It was a good day for me, I think maybe the best one so far.
Virginia Lake looks perfect. Why leave?
I've heard such good things about this trail above deer creek - to the point where I want to experience it all myself too. I hope to be able to do so.
Leave a Reply.
Ed Hartouni is a physicist and a climber who lives in Livermore, California.
Please respect the ©2016 Ed Hartouni for all the material on this website. If you are interested in using any of this material please contact me.