Hiking the John Muir Trail: Day 23


This is a continuing series about a mother-and-daughter thru-hike on the John Muir Trail (north to south) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains from July 19 to August 13, 2015. 
Previous installments and more photos are here.
Day 23: Monday, August 10
Vidette Meadow to
Shepherd’s Pass trail junction
12 miles
It was a chilly morning in this meadow. The temperature was in the 30s but there were no clouds in the sky; always good news when living without a roof.
We had no violent visitor in the night, and our food canisters were in their hiding places untouched. Goodbye, Wild Hermit excitement. 
Our plan for the day was to hike to Lake 12,250 just under Forester Pass, camp there, then tackle the final 1,000 feet and two miles the next day. It would be cold and exposed but we would be set up to tackle the 13,160-foot pass early the next day.
We had about seven miles and 3,500 feet of elevation gain to the pass from our Vidette Meadow campsite. I woke up that morning with the notion that we ought to knock off the pass on this day in lieu of a cold night in the lakeside talus at over 12,000 feet. 
I didn’t say anything to Jennie though about possibly changing our plans. I decided to wait to see how we felt when we arrived at the lake. 
Interestingly, she had the same idea and brought it up at lunch. So we were Forester Pass bound.
This was the highest pass by far of the trip but the elevation didn’t bother us. We left camp about 8:45 a.m., had lunch from  11:15 to 11:45  a.m., and were on the pass at 2:30 p.m.
The route ascending and descending Forester Pass is an incredible feat of trail-building. We left the shade of the trees and entered the exposed alpine  zone. 
This mountain on the Kings-Kern Divide is so steep that some stretches of trail above us seemed to just end at a cliff. But sure enough, as we arrived at what had looked to be a certain drop-off continued instead around a sharp bend and ascended even more. 
The final push to the top is on short, steep switchbacks through talus fields. Although there was a tornado of winds at the top, we stayed put as long as we could.
We felt like we were coming home. Forester Pass marks the boundary between Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park. We had spent the last 10 days traversing Kings Canyon from the  northwest corner to the southeast corner.
That required some reflection as did the fact that we would now spend the final days of the trip in Sequoia, where we had spent many years and miles working up to this epic adventure. But that’s enough contemplation; if we didn’t descend the pass on our own, the wind would take care of that task for us.
Heading south from the top, the first section of trail is steep.  Crazy steep. One misstep could prove deadly.
We headed down, down, down to a barren plateau. We had intended to camp here at the first site we saw,but it was  so windy — a cold, up-canyon, biting wind — that we kept walking. And walking. And walking.
We descended two of these high-country steppes before finally entering a wooded area that  offered respite from the relentless gale. There were nice campsites in this area but the seasonal creeks were dry. So onward we went.
We passed a trail junction and the sign read 3.2 miles to the Kern River. We had never been on the JMT in Sequoia but we still felt at home being so close to these familiar places.
We finally settled in for the night at a secluded site near the Shepherd Pass Trail Junction. Well, the site wasn’t that secluded because the Tyndall Creek ranger found us during her evening rounds.
We had a pleasant conversation while our dinner was heating. And on this day at some point, we crossed the 200-mile mark of the trip.
To be continued…

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