JMT Day 13: Is the Storm Coming or Going?

Date: 8/30/17 | Miles Hiked: 14 | Passes: Glen

I needed today to be good. I was coming into the home stretch of this hike, and my body was feeling it.

My knee continued to get worse, with a sharp pain during the day morphing into a debilitating stiffness in the evenings and early mornings. My energy level started dipping quickly; at this point on the trail I felt like I needed to eat constantly.

And to make things even worse (**squeamish alert to males who can’t handle the thought of basic female biology**) my birth control pills had started dissolving in their packaging. My body was starting to feel like the frantic licking up of what had become birth control powder was useless.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Forester Pass and whether or not I’d summit Whitney. Staying in the present proved impossible. I needed to have a good day.

I woke up to the sound of steady rainfall and decided to stay nestled in my sleeping bag, hoping the system would pass before I needed to start hiking. I ended up packing a wet tent during a window of light rain. It rained on and off throughout the day. Dark clouds over Glenn Pass looked ominous, and I wondered if I’d be able to summit safely.

I ran into a couple on a few separate occasions in the morning. They were giving each other the space to take breaks for small adjustments without both of them needing to stop. I finally asked the female if she had a tampon on what must have been my third time running into her while she was distanced from her partner. The last thing I needed was an unexpected period in the backcountry. She didn’t have anything useful to me in that department, but this question proved to be the perfect icebreaker. We began talking and I ended up hiking the pass with her and her hiking partner.

John Muir Trail

Starting that conversation saved my day. I had forgotten how nice it was to talk to people during a hike rather than in passing. The couple, Rachael and Mike, were recently engaged and interesting to talk to. I asked if they were alright with me tagging along for the day and they welcomed it, saying they were running out of conversations to have with each other.

We talked about where we were from, our families, their upcoming wedding, the trail. I desperately needed a distraction from my body and my own thoughts, which had been spiraling into negativity. Immersing myself in conversation with new friends reminded me of how enjoyable backpacking could be.

John Muir Trail

It was especially nice being with others on a day that went from sunny to stormy within five minutes. We had to take cover from hail for about 15 minutes under a makeshift rock cave at one point, but the weather cleared up after that.

After summitting Glenn Pass we parted ways. I chose to camp a mile south from their planned campsite so I could be a bit closer to Forester. As luck would have it, a hand-written note on a trail sign warns the area is popular with bears. It was signed by park rangers, making it legit. But I physically couldn’t hike any farther.

John Muir Trail

The sun started coming out just as I reached camp, so I laid my tent out to dry and walked a ways downwind to cook and eat dinner. It started raining as soon as I got situated, so I walked back toward camp to pitch my tent. Then the sun came out and it started to thunder. Sunny skies and storm clouds swirled at the bottom of these passes, constantly leaving me in suspense over which would succeed. The turmoil in the sky matched my own uncertainty at my ability to finish this hike.

John Muir Trail

While I ate and got ready for bed, I played loud music and shouted conversations with myself meant to scare off any bears in the area. While I understand the bear benefits of being loud, sometimes I wonder what good storing canisters away from the tent does. I know I need to store anything scented in the canister. But… I’m scented. With bug spray, sunscreen Chapstick, body odor — the list goes on. And I sat in peanut butter the other day. I wiped it off the best I could, but still! What’s keeping a bear from sniffing me out?

Fingers crossed for an uneventful evening. If only I could fit in the bear canister.

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