JMT Day 4: My First Real Pass. Can’t Turn Back Now!



7/28/2018 Lyell Canyon –> Rush Creek

I woke up a bit early, I had some weird dreams that left me feeling pretty uncomfortable and homesick so I tried to go back to sleep and reset the beginning of my day. Apparently it worked, because I didn’t wake up again until eight. I felt a bit better but now I was stressed because I had taken up a good portion of my morning to sleep and I let my mind take over until I was feeling super sad again. I simmered in my bad mood and thought about quitting. In my mind, I said, “You know what, maybe this just isn’t for me. That’s okay. I did good enough. Now I can go back home and have an extra two weeks of vacation in a place with working toilets and real food and….no. I can’t I’ve planned and dreamed of this trip for too long. I need to finish it now.”

Donahue in the distance…would I really be there in just a few hours?

I finally started around 10 am, having decided to take a shorter half-day. When you’re doing a thru-hike and you take a break, hiking zero miles, it is known as a zero-day. When you do less miles than normal but not zero, it is called a “near-o”. I decided to take a near-o day.

I made some breakfast (oatmeal) and remembered that I had packed some caffeinated fruit juice mixes. I mixed one up with some boiled water and made a hot fruit tea kinda thing. It wasn’t great but I wanted a caffeine kick. I then got the idea to mix another packet into my oatmeal! It was….interesting. It turned pink. Watermelon-lime oatmeal is more interesting than the boring regular oatmeal I had been having so it worked for me.


I let my devices charge and let my tent dry out a little bit (it had some ground moisture) then I was ready to go! I packed up all my stuff and surveyed my campsite to make sure I hadn’t left anything and sure enough, I saw that I had left my tent footprint (the sheet that goes underneath the tent) drying on a rock. *Facepalm* This is not what they mean in the leave no trace principles when they say leave nothing but footprints. I re-packed everything and soon was on my way, still not in a great mood but caffeinated and somewhat more ready than I had been several hours earlier.


As soon as I started walking, I wished I had started earlier in the day. The past few days the smoke really shielded a lot of the sun, but today I was pretty far from the smoke and man was it HOT out. It was too hot for the hiking pants I’d been wearing so I stopped and changed into my shorts for the first time on this trip.


I listened to an e-book by Mel Robbins and really started to mentally unpack a lot of things that I don’t normally think about. I stopped the e-book and opened my voice memo app and recorded about an hour of myself talking and getting some mental clarity as if I were my own therapist. I ended up sitting on a rock on the side of a mountain sobbing and still recording my impromptu therapy session. I guess being outdoors alone will do that to you, one way or another.


Sitting there on the mountain side, feeling a lot better and not caring about the other hikers walking by and seeing me crying (okay, I cared a little) I realized that I needed this trip and that I was out here for a reason. I am here to learn about myself and to really get to know myself. I knew it wasn’t time for me to quit just yet, I still had a lot of thinking to do before I was done here.

I walked in silence for a little while longer then I put on some music. I was in my own world when I realized I was being waved down by two hikers under a shady tree. One of the men, who I would later find out was named Jeff, explained to me that he was part of a group of three and their friend (also named Jeff, but his trail name was Lucky) had gone ahead of them, but the guy under the tree (I didn’t get his name) wasn’t feeling well and they had decided to stay the night down here, or at least until he felt better. Jeff #1 told me that the other Jeff would most likely be waiting for them on top of Donahue Pass, and asked if I could relay the message to him if I saw him. I said of course and that I hoped the other guy felt better soon and I kept going, now with a mission.


Before long, I came to a valley, with huge towering rocks all around it and a lake in the middle. I looked up at the sides of the valley and couldn’t see any trail or any way out. The more I looked at it however, I could pick out a tiny trail curving its way up the gigantic mountain. This was it, I told myself. Donahue Pass. My first of the major passes on the trail. And, as I looked out across the river leading out to the lake, my first major river crossing as well.

There were a few other ladies on the other side of the river, putting their boots back on after a successful crossing. I gulped and started to take off my own boots, acting nonchalant but really pretty freaked out about the whole thing. The river wasn’t deep, didn’t look to be moving very fast at all, and there weren’t any steep drop offs nearby or anything but still. If you’ve read my blog post about Mt. Sizer, you’ll know that I haven’t had great experiences with water crossings in the past. I switched into my Tevas and walked across the river. I DID IT! Nobody cheered my accomplishment once I got to the other side, so I cheered for myself and put my boots back on.

The river I was about to cross
I did it! The moleskin protecting my blisters got soaked but I did it! Yay! 
Now to dry off my feet and put my boots back on…

I continued on up, stopping every older looking man with a blue shirt on if he was Jeff (that was how he was described to me). There were only three or four potential Jeffs, but so far none of them ended up being the Jeff I was looking for. (You may be surprised at the amount of ‘middle aged male hiker with glasses, a hat, and a blue shirt on’ there were on this trail. I mean it’s a pretty popular trail, but still) I trudged on. The trail up the side of the mountain was beautiful, with small streams of water crossing the trail and cascading down to the lake every few meters. I was totally overwhelmed with how beautiful it was and started to feel even better about not deciding to quit this morning.


Pretty soon, I realized I hadn’t eaten lunch and it was already around 3pm. Even though I didn’t feel particularly hungry, I found a nice rock with a good view and ate a tuna burrito and some energy bars. They really hit the spot and I found out that I had been hungrier than I thought I was. It gave me the energy I needed to make the final push up to the top and before I knew it I was standing at the top of Donahue Pass and exiting the Yosemite wilderness. I took a picture with the sign that said “entering Ansel Adams wilderness” and got excited about the journey ahead as I looked down into the valley below.


I noticed a man sitting by himself a little ways off and wondered if it was Jeff. He wasn’t wearing a blue shirt like his friend said, but he fit the rest of the description. I asked him and sure enough, it was Jeff! I told him about his friends’ situation and he thanked me and said that he wasn’t about to walk all the way back down there and would figure out what to do. I wished him good luck and continued down the other side of the pass, thankful that I didn’t have anyone to wait on and could keep on going without feeling guilty about abandoning my friends.


Top of Donahue selfie

I experienced a kind of hikers high going down from Donahue, maybe it was the elevation, maybe it was the emotionally draining morning that I had, maybe it was the fact that I had fulfilled my “find Jeff” mission, or maybe it was just my awesome playlist but I sang along to my playlist out loud (and I mean LOUD) as I half-skipped, half-ran down the other side of the pass to the valley below. I stopped momentarily when I saw a ranger, who smirked at my singing and checked my permit then wished me a nice day.

A log across a pretty fast moving river
Me, taking a selfie while standing on that log (probably not the smartest idea but the log was pretty sturdy and the water wasn’t deep)

I kept on going, even when I noticed the sun starting to get lower. I hiked past groups that were setting up their tents for the night and kept on walking through this beautiful valley that actually reminded me a little bit of the place where the Teletubbies live. I mentioned this to someone later on in the trail and he agreed, so it’s pretty much confirmed.

I finally reached my destination, the place where I was supposed to be for the night. Back on track, finally. Rush Creek was actually rushing, and it was nice to set up camp with the sound of running water close by. I was almost finishing setting up camp when another hiker came into the clearing. It was Jeff! He explained that he didn’t feel like camping at Donahue pass because of the elevation, so he would set up camp here to wait for his friends tomorrow morning. He set up camp on the ridge above my tent and I have to say, it made me feel a little bit uneasy. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but I still didn’t like the idea of a stranger being camped so close to me. I resolved to wake up early, which ended up being easy because I didn’t sleep very well that night. More about that tomorrow.

IMG_2650 2

I went down to the creek and got some water ready for tomorrow morning and ate dinner. Jeff came over and asked me how far I had been keeping my bear can, he was afraid of bears but thought he had probably been leaving his too far. I pointed him to where I had left mine and reassured him that the bears here really weren’t aggressive, they were just really interested in food and as long as he had a bear can and didn’t have food or smellables in his tent, he should be fine. He seemed reassured and I wished him a goodnight, then crawled into my tent, putting my knife and pepper spray in my hat near the front door of my tent for easy access just in case, then settled into bed. I laughed to myself for how I was probably being a little silly with these extra precautions, but then thought of horror stories that I’ve heard, started getting angry at the society that we live in that this is even something I needed to actively think about and plan for, and pulled my safety gear a little bit closer before nodding off to sleep.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Karen Jensen says:

    The dark side of reality.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s