August 8, 2014
John Muir Trail (JMT)
Day 5 – second Lyell Fork crossing (10,190ft) to Emerald Lake (9,900ft) via Donohue Pass (11,060ft).
Camped at Emerald Lake.
Once again we are trapped in our tent waiting for the rain to stop. The morning started out beautiful – clear sunny skies for the climb over Donohue Pass (11,060ft) along a rocky yet well graded trail with frequent stone stairs past a couple of small lakes surround by boulders. Mountain peaks including Mt Lyell tower above.
At the pass which marks the boundary between Yosemite and Ansel Adams Wilderness a marmot waits on the rocks for hikers willing to share their summit snack.
Too many must because the critters have become quite brazen. One in particular gets within a foot of our packs before I shoo him away.
Down the other side we enter a boulder filled valley with streams meandering between alpine lakes and imposing peaks above. Just beautiful in the morning light.
Past the valley the trail descends through a rocky forest passing several charming streams. We stop at one that turns out to have a twin on the other side of a sort of rock island. I watch the water tumble down the rugged granite slabs as I rest my tired feet in the cold water. Thunderheads are already starting to form and will continue to accumulate for the rest of the afternoon.
The trail continues its descent through the forest down to the low point of the day at Rush Creek junction (9,640ft) before starting the climb back up to Island Pass (10,200ft). The climb is through the same kind of open forest along a well graded track with spectacular peak views at our back.
At the top of Island Pass the turbulent dark skies make a stunning backdrop to the small boulder studded lakes. Don hurries us along fearful of getting caught in the impending storm; I lag behind mesmerized by the dramatic vistas.
A short way down from the pass we get the first views of 1000 Island Lake with Banner Peak behind it – best photographed in the morning light. The first glimpses are through the trees but as the trail descends toward the inlet the trees open up to unobstructed vistas. Emerald Lake is also visible just beyond.
Although 1000 Island Lake is the more popular camping site, we hike the short distance to Emerald Lake in hopes of finding a quiet spot at its bank. We’re in luck and find no one at the lake.
Although threatening clouds continue to pass overhead it doesn’t rain, at least not yet. We take advantage of the solitude and wash up at the rocks above the lake taking care not to let any soap contaminate the water below.
At 5:30PM while resting in the tent before dinner it starts to rain. A first just a fine drizzle that after of few minutes turns into steady rain. It’s now 6:20 and we’re back to the fine drizzle. Hopefully this marks the end.
In any case, we brave the still turbulent skies and head to our cooking rock for sun downers and dinner.
Finally around 8PM the menacing clouds quickly dissipate leaving a stunning sunset towards the peaks above 1000 Island Lake. A full moon just adds to the magic.