Previous: Day 1
Day’s Mileage: 5 Miles Total: 12 Miles
We woke up on Sunday around 8 and revised our plan. None of us wanted to get up as we watched the sun begin to drench the canyon around us from our tent. We slept fly off because we were all alone, the weather was great, and if we were going to have to change things around, we wanted to still have fun.
Even with the Diamox, it would be incredibly difficult for me to make the altitude change up to Charlotte Lake. Based on the pace from the day before, we’d also be pulling into Charlotte Lake after 10 or so hours of hiking. We’d padded our trip to spend more time at the Rae Lakes, but in the interest of being able to complete the trip, we decided to give up a lazy day at Rae Lakes. Instead of gaining 3,500 feet of elevation over 9 miles, we would stop at Vidette Meadow for the evening. This would still put us gaining 2,000 feet over the course of 5 miles, but it would give me a bit more time to acclimate. This was still going to be a hard day for me – with every step we took I was reaching a point higher than I’d ever been.
We got off to another late start after breakfast, breaking up camp around 10:30. I’m not sure what Mindy and Evyn had to eat, but I forced down a Clif bar with my Diamox, which I immediately regretted. It was important for me to eat, don’t get me wrong – I just got very nauseated and felt junky for the first mile of our day. We were moving slowly, once again, but this day was all about taking it slow and making sure that we were (okay, I was) feeling okay. Mindy and Evyn were each hauling 40 pound packs, and even though I’d off loaded a lot of stuff I still had about 18 or 20 pounds on my back. I was taking advantage of my inhaler fairly regularly too – I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without it.
By this point, we were using my InReach pretty regularly to check our altitude. Even though I’m sure it was annoying to my hiking partners, every 250 feet or so that we rose, I felt a renewed sense of accomplishment. We were doing it! It might have been the hardest two days of hiking in my life, but we were really doing it! We made it the three miles or so to Junction Meadow in a little under 3 hours, so, while better than the previous day’s pace, we were still sluggish. We took the opportunity to take off our sweaty boots, filter some water, and relax for an hour or so before pushing through the remaining two miles and change to Lower Vidette Meadow.
By this point, I’d also gotten a song stuck in my head. And not just any song – The Room Where it Happens from Hamilton. I love Hamilton. I think it’s both one of the best and most important musicals of the 21st century. I like this song – but not for six days straight! I tried everything – humming something else, finding another song from Hamilton, actually singing it out loud when I wasn’t out of breath, making up Rae Lakes themed lyrics to go with it. No dice. Let’s just say click boom and it happened – and nothing could stop my brain once it happened.
One thing about the signs in King’s Canyon National Park is they lie. Constantly! We knew by my Tom Harrison Map that we’d gone almost 10 miles, but the trail sign at Junction Meadow said Road’s End was 12 miles away! While that was a nice little ego boost, it was clearly wrong and made me not trust any signs for the rest of the trip.
There were a lot more switchbacks on the second part of our day, so the pace slowed again. I don’t have a lot of happy memories of this day, but we did make it up to Vidette Meadow around 5:30. Another long day at a slow pace had exhausted me, but we’d made it to 9,500 feet above sea level! We chatted and planned to leave early the next morning to avoid the switchbacks during the full sun.
Both Vidette and Junction meadows were beautiful sites. Bubb Creek, which roars at lower elevations, is a meandering creek at this elevation. As we sat down to eat some dinner (pesto filled pastas with olive oil), we started chatting with the others at our site. They were two older guys who were going to be branching towards Mount Whitney the next day, the opposite direction on the John Muir trail as us. One of them had just finished the Rae Lakes Loop, had picked up his friend at Road’s End and continued on! They felt pity for me and gave us some dried mango and beef sticks to eat as well. They seemed like an adventurous duo and talked about how they trained for hikes like this, including lots of trail running.
We really hadn’t seen too many people yet, but our campmates warned us we would be seeing a lot more once we hit the John Muir Trail. I offered them the bourbon I packed, since it was obvious to me that I wouldn’t be drinking it on the trip, but they declined. If it hadn’t been against LNT, I would have dumped it right then and there, but I didn’t want to attract any bears or muck up the ground in the area. I wound up carrying the equivalent of a full bottle of bourbon the entire trip! Lesson learned – strenuous hiking at altitude means no drinking. Car camping and short hikes are for that instead!