John Muir Trail, Day 16: Marjorie Lake to Rae Lakes

Link to our JMT page, with pre-hike posts and day-by-day action!

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As Jennifer said in the last post, we had a little side convo the day before and realized that we were both missing all of our fun little breaks while hiking, and neither of us felt that getting to camp at 2PM was worth it if we lost those moments in between. So today, we decided we’d get back to our routine, and just enjoy the whole day out on the trail. This was certainly one totally unforgettable and awesome day, that’s for sure!


Marjorie in the morning. Isn’t she a beauty?

As usual, the views would continue to be beautiful, and every morning the mountains were different shades than the day before – but equally lovely.


at Pinchot Pass, with Lake Marjorie below

We started the morning off with our typical climb up to another pass. Pinchot Pass was way better than Mather (in my opinion at least) and before long, we’d ascended the ~1,200 feet over the 2 miles or so. We tried to remember to take pictures looking in each direction, so above is the view from where we came.

J:  I don’t know if we were getting used to our routine of climbing over the passes first thing in the morning, or if we were well rested from the relaxing afternoon the day before, or if we were less stressed because there were so many more spots for private cat holes at camp today.  Whatever it was made for an “easy” climb up Pinchot Pass.


There was a little more space up here, so we stuck around for a bit and took some pictures. There were some really interesting plants (bushes?) and the bright stuff on the rocks which is probably not that exciting to many of you, but I thought it was pretty cool.


this man was straight chillin’ like he had no care in the world.


We were looking so damn fine that day that we decided to take a few glamour shots facing south.


J:  awkward pose…are my arms tired?

After our photo shoot and our regular Snickers bar we consumed at each pass, we were on our way. Our hiking group was planning to meet up at Arrowhead Lake, which after Pinchot Pass was about 12 miles away.


our walk along Woods Creek

The first major section of trail was of course quite a large amount of downhill, which seemed to go on forever (as usual). It was a really hot day, and most of this section was unshaded, especially after the Sawmill Pass Junction. Jennifer and I had planned to do lunch at the Woods Creek Junction, which was about 7.5 miles from Pinchot, and ~3,600 feet down (12,130 feet to 8,510). I was really excited about getting to the Woods Creek suspension bridge – I’d seen some pictures of it before and of course read about it in Lizzy’s book and it sounded pretty badass. The section of trail between Sawmill Pass Jct and Woods Creek was really exceptional, despite the heat, and different from a lot of the trail we’d come to know – we spent most of the time walking along Woods Creek, with great views all around us.

J:  Its funny that while we were hiking the same trail sections each day, Heather and I had very different experiences.  Day 15 was pretty tough for Heather, but I was feeling alright that day. However, this section of the trail on Day 16 was pretty tough for me.  After Pinchot Pass, there were about 8 horrible miles of downhill in some unbearably hot sun.  We stopped at the only shady spot at Sawmill Pass Junction and managed to eat an entire pack of teriyaki pork jerky.  Heather mentioned that there were great views on the hike from the junction to the bridge, but I must have been grumpy because I don’t remember any of it.  All I remember is passing these two hiker dudes heading north who told us there were “tons of great swimming holes” near the bridge. New goal:  cross the badass suspension bridge, eat lunch, and cool the hell off in the water! 


The suspension bridge was definitely pretty sweet. At first it looked a little daunting because it was high, rickety looking, and swaying. But if you follow the ‘one at a time’ rule, it’s totally fine once you’re on there.

Once we both crossed, we found a nice spot under the bridge and just chilled for a good hour. We ate our lunches, watched people cross the bridge, and stripped down some to sit in the water, letting the creek rush past us and cool us off some. I probably blinded a few people who were walking over the bridge because my white legs were fully exposed, but hey, no one fell, so I’ll toss it back as a win.

J:  BEST lunch spot ever.  Have I mentioned my love of all swimming holes yet?  My feet were heavily taped up for basically the first half of the hike, but now that I wasn’t using nearly as much bandaging it was easier to get my swollen feet out of my shoes and hop on in the water. Leaving this spot wasn’t easy, especially knowing the rest of the hike to camp was all uphill in more hot sun.


Jennifer on the suspension bridge

The worst part about all of it? Well, it eventually came to an end and we had to get on up and get moving. We’d gone down as far as we could go that day, so the next section was the start of the ascent up to the next pass (Glen Pass) that we’d tackle the following day.


not a bad spot for lunch and a dip

This section was no joke – we had about 2,000 feet of up to do over ~4 miles, at which point we’d be at our campsite for the night. By the time we left, it was well after 2PM (maybe even 3) and we were both totally dreading this section. We had realized the power of sports beans, but didn’t want to use them unless we absolutely needed to, because they were really helpful on the morning jaunts up the passes. So we finally broke out these liquid energy drops (MiO) that Jennifer had put in the resupply at VVR – we had it all this time but hadn’t used it yet. We figured, ‘why not give it a try here’? This is going to suck so bad, so let’s see if it helps…

Oh my. Gee whiz. Holy cow. I don’t know how, but they managed to squeeze a miracle in that tiny little bottle. It made my water so tasty (grape!) and I just drank and drank, and sang and sang, and climbed and climbed. Yes – since we really had no idea if this stuff would work or not, we also resorted to spacing out and turning on our respective tunes. I utilized the ‘motivational’ Spotify mix that Jennifer and I had put together, which was also magical. The combination of the energy mix, the tunes, and the again gorgeous scenery allowed both of us to absolutely and completely bust a mother fucking move. I had so much energy that I had to get rid of some, so I started dancing. Yes! Dancing. With my pack on. I even used my poles, swinging them in the air like it was my freaking job. At one point I stopped and waited for Jennifer, turned my tunes to one of my favorite motivators (ummm…Sexy Back. Clearly. thanks be to JT.), and just stood there and danced. I think it was the 52nd time Jennifer thought to herself (and out loud) that I was absolutely nuts, but she liked it. It got her moving too. There was no denying the power of the dance.

Of course at this point we were near a campsite and I turned around and saw people just staring. I didn’t even care. It was possibly one of my most happiest afternoons on the trail, and I was having a blast. And bringing sexy back… because duh. I mean, not that I left it anywhere..

J:  Heather IS crazy, but not because she was dancing on the trail.  We were both listening to the same Spotify mix (it’s all I had downloaded on my phone), but I had headphones in and Heather (saving weight like a super ultralight hiker) did not have any.  So when I caught up to her and saw her dancing, it wasn’t to the same beat as “Push It” so I was a little confused.  I mean, I thought she had more rhythm than that…

Those electrolytes were pretty fucking amazing though.  I can’t believe we hadn’t used them earlier!


looking south to our next pass with Fin Dome in the back right

It wasn’t long at this level of energy that we made it to Arrowhead Lake and found our friends, who’d already eaten dinner and were pretty settled in. Jennifer and I bounced up to their site like drunken teenagers, and I’m sure they thought we’d stumbled upon some trail crack. Which I guess we did….

We originally were going to stop here, but Jennifer and I looked at each other, both thinking the same thing and each said, “wanna keep going?”, and the answer was yes! We both really wanted to scope out Rae Lakes, and we knew we wouldn’t want to spend time there in the morning, so we waved goodbye to our friends (who continued to look at us like we were crazy) and trucked along, knocking back one more mile. We soon made it to Rae Lakes, and snagged one of the most amazing campsites ever.


After we got our tent set up and all that basic stuff, we walked over to the lake and cleaned up some, doing our regular water filling and sterilizing, and taking a ton of pictures. I mean damn, this was so entirely worth that extra mile – it was completely and totally breathtaking. And for some reason, it wasn’t even crowded at all.

J:  Rae Lakes was probably one of my favorite campsites on the trail (I know I say that a lot, but it was pretty spectacular).  There were a lot of little tucked away campsites to give you some sense of privacy and hiking up and around the lake was absolutely gorgeous.  When I eventually go back to the Sierras for a shorter hike, I’d want to do the Rae Lakes Loop and spend a little more time there.

We met two girls who were hiking together and talked to them some. They were in need of some batteries (they thought) for their water sterilizer, but the batteries I’d offered up (and bartered for chap stick) didn’t work, so the deal never happened. Boo. That was becoming our biggest problem at this point – both of us were getting some really dry lips with the elevation, the wind, the sun, and the fact that we both just ran out of chapstick – one thing neither of us resupplied. Fingers crossed that Chris brought some!

Note, if you hike the JMT: 1) camp at Rae Lakes and 2) resupply chapstick!


The other big event weighing on our minds? This was the day before we’d meet up with Chris! The closer and closer we got to that point, the more and more I thought about all the things that had to fall into place for this meet-up to work. We had the luxury of sending a couple of text messages to Chris a couple of nights ago (thanks to Courtney’s InReach), but we didn’t get to really check in with him – they were all about what supplies we needed (duct tape! wine!) and were extremely limited. And even though I knew he was going to be fine – it was still a little nerve-wracking. At the same time, we were both excited to see him the next day and both a little giddy the night before, realizing how cool it would be to see a familiar face after all of these days in the wilderness.

J:  One of the hardest parts of hiking the JMT for me (other than the damn blisters) was not having any contact with my husband or my family.  I didn’t go into this hike thinking that would even be a problem, but for whatever reason, it was driving me crazy.  Heather was obviously excited about getting to see her husband, Chris.  I was excited he was coming too, but also knew it was going to be a little bittersweet not having my husband, Jon show up right along with him.


north view, the Painted Lady; Glen Pass out of sight to the right (I think)

Our original plan was to already be about 3 miles on the other side of the pass – near the Bullfrog Lake Junction. We were going to stay at Bullfrog on this night, then have a chill, almost ‘zero day’ there, other than walking without our packs to meet up with Chris around noon or so. But as we mentioned a couple of days ago, we preferred spreading out the miles and hiking/camping with friends, so as a result we had a few miles to go the next day. Since we didn’t camp with them tonight, we made sure we had a solid meet-up plan tomorrow in case we didn’t run into each other in the morning – which was to camp shortly after Vidette Meadow at upper Bubbs Creek.


So after all the pictures and a lovely dehydrated dinner, one of our very favorite days on the JMT came to an end.

Next up? Glen Pass in the morning, and the much anticipated meet-up with Chris! It was going to be hard to sleep with all that excitement ahead ;).

Day 16 details (August 9, 2015):

Start-finish: Marjorie Lake to Rae Lakes
Daily miles: 15.6
Mileage tally: 190.4
Camp elevation: 10,590 ft
Hiking elevation: 2,684 ft gain; 3,388 ft loss

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