Day 83: A Thousand Islands, But One Pass
Monday, June 11, 2018 6:54 pm
Location: Campsite 925.9 (925.9 miles)

Today, Quoi and I crossed Island Pass and the very scenic Thousand Island Lake, moving one pass and just shy of 15 miles towards our next resupply at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.

We got started a little after 7, beginning a long uphill hike that would eventually take us over Island Pass. After a bit of climb, Mammoth mountain was visible in the distance; the running ski lifts glinted in the sunlight.

The trail wound through lush green forest and meadow, first taking us to the Agnew Meadows trailhead. There was a (almost full) pit toilet there, as well as a trash can, and a short bathroom break turned into a longer snack break. There were also plenty of mosquitoes to make our life miserable. Quoi claims they’ll all go away after we reach Sonora Pass, just a few days ahead. We also talked with Bronco, who had started the trail last year, and stopped when he got to Crabtree Meadows (near Mount Whitney) because of the snow; he picked up from where he left off this year.

From there, the trail began a much steeper climb, rising up a short series of switchbacks before transitioning to a slow climb as it traveled up to the ridge. Once on the ridge, the trail mostly bounced along, following the mountain contours, a little like it did in the desert, but with much greener (and wetter) scenery. It was a beautiful section, with mountains in the distance to my left, and a grassy sort of meadow to my right. Along the way, there was a terrific view of an alpine lake in the far mountains, first visible at a campsite that would have made for a great place to stop, were it not still early in the day.

Shadow Lake
Shadow LakeA lake across the valley. The John Muir Trail runs just behind the lake.

Someday, I'll see that lake close-up: the John Muir Trail, in one of its few departures from the PCT, follows that side of the valley across from the PCT, splitting off (yesterday) at the Devils Postpile trail, and rejoining a little further north at Thousand Island Lake.

I stopped for a break about five miles after the trailhead, a little short of where Quoi and I planned to meet (at a trail junction), at a campsite with a nice view of the mountains to the west. While I was waiting for Quoi, Bronco caught up — I’d passed him on the uphill — and we chatted for a bit, before he left. I wound up waiting for Quoi for over an hour — the uphill was far more exhausting for her than she had thought it would be. Eventually, she showed up, and had her snack, and we continued hiking, planning to meet up again at Island Pass. (If I’d known I was going to be waiting there that long, I’d have gone back to a creek a short distance before and gotten water to cook dinner. Also, it happened that this campsite was where she had camped last year.)

We continued on, and Quoi again lagged behind on the uphill, so once I got to Thousand Island Lake, I stopped for awhile to take in the scenery. Just off the trail was an idyllic mountain creek scene: a snowy mountain in the background, a creek (seemingly) flowing from it over some small waterfalls, towards and around a small grassy island, before flowing away. It was calm, peaceful, and quiet (except for the babbling of the stream). Pictures don’t really do it justice. I probably stopped there, taking it in for ten minutes, before moving on; while I was there, a weasel scurried across the island, and then jumped into the creek and swam across to the other shore, before disappearing into the brush.

An Idyllic View
An Idyllic ViewMount Ritter and Banner Peak stand behind Thousand Island Lake, and the lake's outflow stream.

Thousand Island Lake itself was quite picturesque as well, though it likely didn’t actually have a thousand islands. Ice sheets floated in the water near the shore, with some detached icebergs floating around the lake.

Thousand Island Lake
Thousand Island Lake

I continued on, making it to Island Pass shortly before 5. Mostly covered in snow, there were no spectacular views, and it was barely recognizable as a pass, compared to the ones we crossed between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes.

Surprisingly, I was able to get cell service at the pass, though only if I stood in a certain place and held my phone just right; I waited for Quoi for 20 minutes, before deciding to move on to the next viable campsite below the snow pack. Because I had cell service, I left her a message; naturally, she came into view almost immediately after I sent it, just as I was about to head off in search of a campsite. I waited for her to catch up, and then I continued on, while she used the cell service opportunity to call her boyfriend.

From the pass, it was a slow, wet, snowy and muddy slog down the mountain, and almost immediately, I went in the wrong direction, having to backtrack a bit to avoid getting stuck on the wrong side of a creek. About an hour later, I found a campsite across a creek (with a nice log for crossing) that seemed reasonably nice. Suzie, from Australia, who had caught up with Quoi and passed us while Quoi and I were talking at the pass, was there already, and there was just enough flat space around for Quoi and I to pitch our tents.

While I was pitching my tent, one of my stakes that I needed to move got stuck in the ground pretty well, having gotten wedged between a rock and a tree root. It took some digging to get it out; I’m glad I found that out tonight, rather than tomorrow morning when I’d be trying to leave quickly.

Tomorrow, we plan to start hiking at 4:30, to make it over Donohue Pass before postholing in the afternoon on the north side. Hopefully, we’ll make it to Tuolumne Meadows to pick up our resupply, and possibly go further.