Day 58: mile 912.4 – mile 931.2
Elevation gain: 4,940 ft
Elevation loss: 2,637 ft
Last night I zonked out by 8pm while Link was blogging and still felt tired when we woke up to the alarm at 6:15…this should’ve been my first clue that something wasn’t quite right. I had a headache and was a little nauseous too which is weird for me since I have an iron clad stomach most of the time. All the symptoms of altitude sickness but I have never had it before plus we have been at high altitude for almost 60 days already for Pete’s sake! The nausea and headache went away by late morning but nothing sounded good to eat and I felt super lethargic the whole day. This did not help with the number of climbs we had today and I really wanted to appreciate this spectacular day filled with lake after lake!
Our first 10 miles today were still on the JMT and, man, are we glad we took this alternate! We stayed at Trinity Lakes, then we saw Gladys, Rosalee, Shadow, Garnet, Ruby, Emerald, 1,000 Island plus tons of unnamed lakes/snow melt as well…all amazingly gorgeous.
There was a price to pay for all this beauty…climb, descend, climb again. Since we were on the JMT for those 13 miles, we didn’t have Guthook’s PCT app to rely on. We have really been spoiled with that app…telling us where many tent sites are, where the water sources are, plus lots of other useful info. We have paper maps, but those don’t tell us exact elevation gains/losses, etc. So we never knew just how long or steep each climb was going to be. I was hanging in there, just slower than normal on the ascents. We stopped at 1:30 at 1,000 Island Lake for lunch and it was CRAZY windy. I lied down in the soft grass for a bit and could’ve fallen asleep so easily if we didn’t need to hustle on for the 2 Passes we wanted to still do. I literally never take naps, but I was losing steam fast.
We were walking again by 2:00 since we were trying to get in Island Pass (10,226 ft) as well as Donahue Pass (11,073 ft) before the day was done, and my pace was slowing dramatically. Island Pass was super flat and long…most of the other Passes have been about 5-15 ft wide, so seeing this Pass about a mile long with beautiful lakes on top was so different and neat!
We knew that Yosemite and a lot of other trails in Inyo became open last week and it was obvious! Tons more people on the trail, mostly coming toward us as southbound JMT-ers. Everyone wanted to chat, and we hadn’t seen many people for 900 miles so we loved stopping to talk, except time was slipping away with my energy. One guy even stopped us for 15 mins which really put us behind. So we started the ascent toward Donahue Pass at 4:00, this was the first bad decision we had made since early desert days. Link kept asking me if I was too tired to go on and offered that we stop before the approach to the Pass, but my stubborn self refused…not smart. Even though this wasn’t considered one of the “big” Passes, we should’ve known better that a Pass is never straight forward this time of year. There was still a good amount of snow, plus river crossings, which made navigating difficult and time consuming. It was certainly beautiful, though!
So we didn’t reach the Pass until 6:45 and still needed to navigate our way through the increased amount of snow on the back side, and find a sheltered place to camp since the wind hadn’t died down at all. I felt like I was literally running on fumes by then. Thank goodness my legs knew what to do after 900+ miles because the rest of me felt completely out of it. Link was also so helpful and waited for me whenever there was a big step up so he could give me a hand.
The first campsite we came to was only .4 from the Pass which would’ve been perfect except it was way too exposed with how windy it was. So our only choice was to move onto the next site, 1.3 miles away. But the sun was setting behind the mountain quickly, there was still tons of snow on the trail, plus a few technical river crossings.
I was starting to feel like I was in a trance, only focusing on Link’s feet and trying to follow them as closely as possible. This was going fine until all of a sudden we were going uphill…”why were we going uphill?!” My legs could take one switchback, but as we rounded the second one I just couldn’t do it anymore. My plan was to lean forward onto my poles to rest a minute, but then I just started sobbing uncontrollably instead. Link came rushing back toward me, hugging me and apologizing profusely, but I knew it wasn’t even close to being his fault. “It’s absolutely not your fault”, I said. “I should’ve listened to my body and known better”. Before I knew what was happening, he was taking off my pack and walking up the hill with BOTH packs on even though I protested. It was literally only one more switchback up before we were descending again so I told him to give me my pack back, “I’m fine now, I just had to melt down for a minute”. But, of course, he wouldn’t and, instead, put it in high gear. I wasn’t even carrying a pack and I couldn’t keep up with him…Link was on a mission to get us to the campsite before dark!
Finally, we could see the campsite and it was 7:45…BUT, a wet feet stream crossing was between us and the spot…SERIOUSLY?? We decided to take our shoes/socks off and put on our camp shoes to walk through so we wouldn’t have frozen shoes in the morning again. We would then only have to walk 50 feet in the camp shoes to the tent site. Link finally gave me my pack back at this point and we waded through the most freezing cold, thigh high, snow melt water. When we made it to the other side it literally felt like someone was stabbing my feet with knives until they warmed back up after a minute, but it didn’t matter. Our home for the night was just a 30 second walk away, thank goodness.
We set up camp faster than we ever have before, and only needed to boil water to put into our Backpackers Pantry meal bags…no clean up! I was actually hungry for the first time all day and was able to eat my whole dinner. So hopefully I’ll be all back to normal tomorrow! Before we hopped back into the tent, I grabbed Link, hugged him and thanked him for being my hero. Link said, “you know I would do anything for you”…which I DO know for sure. Before we went on this adventure I had many people ask me how I thought it would be, spending so much time with my husband day in and day out. I always said the same thing, that I was really looking forward to it…he is my rock, best friend, and I can’t imagine going on this journey with anyone else! Now I just hope he can lean on me one day soon 😁 Thanks for reading, guys! Double Down