John Muir Trail Trip Report

Day 17

September 5, 2011

Charlotte Lake
to Forester Pass

12.2 miles

Day 17 Profile
JMT Day 17
JMT Day 17
Google Maps Terrain

Wow, what a day! Up at 6:30, hiking by 8:00. The views as I was leaving Charlotte Lake in the early light were breathtaking. After the short climb to get back to the JMT, it was downhill to Vidette Meadow. I had planned on stopping at Center Basin Camp. I got there at 12:00, but since I had decided to do a few more miles today I pushed on, thinking I would stop at Wenk site 11:19. It was only about another 1.7 miles and 800 ft in elevation gain from Center Basin Camp. Well, I got there and it was 1:30 pm. I was still feeling strong and didn't feel like making camp yet. Forrester Pass is only another 3 miles and 2000 feet up! What the heck, why not. So much for a light day today! I pushed on and climbed up to the top of Forrester. Those 3 miles were long miles! The trail was in great shape however, with a nice grade. The views were simply incredible. Forrester is 13,100 feet so I could see over all the other peaks for miles and miles. So cool.

Charlotte Lake
Charlotte Lake in the morning
Bubbs Creek
Looking towards Bubbs Creek and Vidette Meadow
Kearsarge Pinnacles
Kearsarge Pinnacles

Thunder clouds had been building all afternoon and were pretty threatening by the time I hit the top of the pass. No lightening yet, but I was getting uncomfortable. I didn't dally at the top, just kept on hiking. There was some nasty snow patches on the south side, but not a big deal. As I hiked down the south face of the pass, the thunderclouds really started to worry me. I felt a bit of rain and snow start to fall. The landscape on the south side after descending the face of the pass is a flat, open plateau. The highest thing in sight was the top of my head. Not a good thing. It also was cold, in the mid 30's. I decided to find shelter as quickly as possible. If it was going to rain, I wanted to be in my tent! I saw a big rock not too far off so I boogied to it, and set up my tent next to it. There was water nearby, and the rock was about 10 feet taller than my tent, so that was good. As it was the only place anywhere close that offered anything remotely resembling shelter, I took it. It was 6pm anyway, so probably a good time to stop.
12.2 miles today.
Awesome to still feel strong after doing a 12 mile day and crossing a 13,000 foot pass!!!

East Vidette
East Vidette Peak
Vidette Meadow
Vidette Meadow

Forester Pass
Looking back as I climb Forester Pass

Of course, after it got dark, the clouds broke up and the weather turned nice. Figures. Never did thunder or lightening, but that is OK. I would rather play it safe. Bad news. I have not been able to get my SPOT device to work after leaving Charlotte Lake. I know my wife will really be worried if I stop sending my SPOT OK messages. Not sure what I am going to do. It is 30 miles to the end of the trail. After how strong I felt today, I am thinking maybe I will do two 15 mile days and finish my trip a day early. Not that I want to end my trip early, but I need to let my family know I am OK.

Forester Pass
Almost at the top of Forester Pass
You are joking, right?
This snow was scary to cross!
Forester Pass
Snow fields at Forester Pass

I am laying on top of that big rock near my tent, watching the clouds pass over a nearly full moon, journaling in the moonlight. For the first time this trip I need my jacket, hood and gloves. A special moment in time, as I near the end of my journey.

PS. Regarding the failed SPOT. Yes, it broke and stopped working while I was hiking. However, just before my trip, it had fallen off the top of my truck while I was driving, and was run over by a passing car. Long story, but I was amazed that it still worked at all after getting crushed and bounced down the road. I should have replaced it, but it seemed OK except for a few scratches. I will replace it, so obviously I don't blame the quality of the device.

Forester Pass
Top of Forester Pass, looking South
Forester Pass
Top of Forester Pass, looking North
Forester Pass
Descending the South side of Forester Pass

If I do 15 miles tomorrow I can make it to Guitar Lake. That would set me up nicely to finish the day after. It would be a long day, but if today was any indication of how my stamina has improved, I should be able to do it. My only worry is that left foot. It seems to start hurting around 6 miles. It was pretty painful the last half of today.

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