Day 2

Vogelsang to Trinity Lakes
We woke to clean smelling air, promising that the rest of the days should be smoke free.  As the sun rose we anxiously looked to the sky – they were blue!  The wind had changed direction, and would stay that way for the rest of the trip.  Five miles in we passed Terry, a guy who we met at the permit office two days before – he was just waking up.  He couldn't believe we had hiked over forty miles since we last saw him, 45 hours ago.

As we started hiking up toward Donahue Pass I was trying to keep up with Jason, who was going too fast for me.  I had to remind myself to cut the cord – I must go my own pace.  After slowing down a bit I felt better.

Atop Donahue Pass
Atop Donahue Pass
Hiking up toward Donahue Pass I noted how predictable the transitions are as the terrain evolves: meadows ringed by forest trees, which slowly grow shorter and hardier the higher you climb up, till the only green left are the shrubby plants that choke the cascading water escaping an alpine lake, giving way to pure rock and wind. 

Our legs were still fresh and lively, we practically flowed up Donahue Pass.  I loved the dark blue sky that morning, solow it seemed I could touch it, while the sun lit up the mountains behind us. 

After lunch we found a beautiful blue scarf lying on the side of the trail.  Normally we would leave anything found along the trail, but by our calculations this scarf must have fallen off a southbound hiker’s bag since we had not passed any northbound hikers yet that day.  Assuming that we would overtake the hiker I stuffed it in my backpack eager to find its master.  For the rest of the day we optimistically asked ladies if they dropped a scarf, waiting to be a hero.  But to no avail the owner could not be found.  Perhaps we were wrong.  Opportunity missed, I carried the scarf to the Muir Trail Ranch and left it in one of the clothing bins, hoping it would find its owner there. 

Around Garnet Lake we got off trail for the first and only time of the trip by following the group of hikers in front of us, and not heeding the trial that continued around the lake.  Lesson learned, blaze your own trail and don't follow the crowd.

Mount Ritter looming large over Thousand Island Lake
Banner Peak looming large over Thousand Island Lake
The area around Thousand Island Lakes was beautiful, as Banner and Mount Ritter loomed large overhead, and it also had an unexpected amount of up and down.  By the time we finished the three thousand foot descent down to Shadow Lake our feet were on fire!  I didn't know how much more my dogs could take, so we stopped at the lake to soak our feet in the cold water for a little relief.  The pain took us by surprise – we had done a lot of training for the JMT and couldn't understand how we were in so much agony so soon.  It was only day two – how on earth would my feet be able to take seven more days of this? At the end of the day, when our feet were screaming like this, Jason and I would often laugh thinking back to our original seven day plan that included a 44 mile day.  We had no idea what we were up against – no idea.

As I soaked my feetsies in the lake I remembered back to the bearded guy at the Ahwahnee and his strong words of prediction – you're going to love it.  Right now, where I was, feet on fire, hungry and tired, growing cold as the sun disappeared – I wasn't loving it.  I had no connection to him or what he was talking about.  We are having different experiences, I thought, and mine is not worth having.  If this is what hiking the John Muir Trail is like, why would anyone do it? 

We made due with a mediocre campsite by Trinity Lakes, although with the low water level that season it was more like a swamp that clogged up our water filter.  As we set up camp and the wind howled, it was getting cold, and I was in a bad mood instantly.  I felt burdened by the night, and by the unspoken promise that all nights might be like this.  We were heading for the unknown and I didn't know what to expect and felt trapped by the permanence.  I certainly know what it’s like to push myself to discomfort for a 100 mile race or for a long weekend in the Sierra, but never nine days.  It’s the first time I truly understood the saying, the illusion of permanence is the root of all suffering.

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