Day 23: Thousand Island Lake

Before sunset at Thousand Island Lake

8.5 mile day, 200 total. I feel guilty about being so done with the trail.  This has been my dream for such a long time and here I am, ON THE TRAIL – being all grouchy. I just want to be home!  I miss Capone (my dog). I miss my bed. I miss hot water. I miss heat and running water. And I miss not aching all the time.

I’m not disappointed that the trail is hard. I knew it would be.  My disappointment is in myself for not loving every second of it, despite how hard it is. I know, it’s ridiculous to expect to be jumping for joy when my whole body screams for it to be over. I’m just tired….

My finger tips split open on the JMT

Even with the trail exhaustion taking over my body, mind and soul, I had a pretty nice afternoon hike from Garnet Lake to Thousand Island Lake.  At one point I even considered hiking past Thousand Island Lake and doing Donahue Pass today. The part of me that just wants to be done is so over the scenery and the trail and the “let’s live in nature for thirty whole days” spirit I had 23 days ago.   It screams in my head: JUST GO! Be done with this!  

I just want to give Capone a hug. Is he ok? How’s he doing at Camp Four Paws? I’ve been forcing myself not to think about him; I miss him and worry about him too much.

Trail Frustrations Getting to Me

I forced myself to stop early and enjoy a relaxing late afternoon at Thousand Island Lake.  I was afraid that if I continued, I most certainly would have bludgeoned a SHP (Shiny Happy Person) with my trekking poles. I know I’m taking all my exhaustion and frustration out on the poor smell-good weekend hikers.  But their clean clothes and chipper attitudes are more than my weary eyes and ears can handle today.  I envy their freshness of clothes and body, the bounce in their step and their naïve exhilaration of being on the trail. Oh how I long for that naivete again!

Their complete and utter lack of trail etiquette is another peeve. They consistently break the cardinal rule: the right of way goes to the person carrying the backpack going UP hill.  I came close to running a few off the trail as I forced my legs to climb and push past them.  Yep, it was time for me to do the world a favor and get off the trail for the day.  the poor Shiny Happy People.

JMT Day 22 Camp on Thousand Island Lake

I’m loving my camp, resting on an oasis of sand tucked between the granite boulders above the lake.  I’ve been here a couple hours enjoying some R&R.  I don’t see or hear anyone, though a handful of groups passed by on the trail below, heading further away from the trail. I’ve done my stretches and laid out on the warm rocks to soothe my achy muscles, stared at the sky and out onto the lake wondering where the other 900 islands are. There is no way there are 1000 islands in this little lake.  What am I missing?

I also took some time to study the maps and realized I did 2280’ in elevation gain today.   With the little ups and downs in between, I think it would be fair to call it a 2500’ day.  And my pack is full of my Red’s resupply. I’m at about forty pounds.  That’s a pretty rough day. No wonder I’m crabby!

Geez, so much for the ‘easy’ Northern Sierras.

I Don’t Want it to End!

Tomorrow, I tackle Donahue Pass; another tough 6.6-mile climb. But then the infamous Lyell Canyon!!! As soon as I cross Donahue, I’ll be in Yosemite. OMG-OMG0-OMG!!! Tomorrow I’ll be in Yosemite.  That thought melts away all the pain and exhaustion leaving a thousand islands of sadness. I don’t want it to be over.

Camp on Thousand Island Lakes on the JMT

I know, for the rest of my life, when I reflect upon this trip I’ll remember the awesome vistas, the peaceful lakeside breaks, the deafening silence of a moonscape camp after dark. I’ll look back with warm feelings of having lived in the wilderness for xx number of days. I’ll forget how much the tips of 5 fingers throbbed. I’ll forget the constant aching hips.  I’ll forget the leaden thighs and the cold nights on the ground.  I’ll even forget the annoyingly chipper Shiny Happy People.  I’ll only remember the bliss of being one with nature for a short time.

Today I felt like I was at my end. My body ached with each stop. I even cried a little as I trudged up hill after hill (crying for me is about 3 ½ tears!). Getting to Thousand Island Lake took every ounce of will I had. Sheer will and determination got me here. I cursed every hill, every rock, every lake I passed that wasn’t Thousand Island Lake.  I cursed Mother Nature and told her if I hiked all this way and there weren’t really weren’t 1000 Islands in this lake I’d be pissed. And guess what. There aren’t! 

But it’s not Mother Nature’s fault. It’s the damn fault of the math challenged person who named it!

Day 22 Camp above Thousand Island Lake

As the sun sets over the smoke-hazed peaks I lay on the granite, exhausted, exhilarated, happy and sad all at once.  I look at my phone and read one tiny little text from my friend. It must have come through somewhere on the trail today: “I’m thinking about you”.   I’m flooded with gratitude for this simple gesture and the four little words that wrap me in a hug letting me know that I’m not alone.

The dam broke. Salty tears stain my face.  I cry and cry and cry. It’s as if I’ve been saving my tears all my life, so I could set them free at this very moment, on the granite rocks above Thousand Island Lake on the John Muir Trail.  

The gentle sound of tiny waves lap against the not-one -thousand islands of the lake, bringing me back to the trail. I am at peace. 

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9 comments on “Day 23: Thousand Island Lake”

  1. So happy to get the notification in my e-mail saying you wrote another blog post! I love your writing style and how you don’t sugar coat the trail. It’s so hard to read all these blogs from 20 something year olds writing about how “easy” the trail is – you’re recount of the trail (and the fact that you made it through!) keep people like me, who are way past their 20’s, motivated and encouraged to go out and try something new – maybe even the JMT! Can’t wait for the next post!

  2. What an incredible challenge you accomplished. Not for the faint of heart. Those moments let you know you can overcome.any hardship and come out stronger for it. Keep up your incredible journey. Thank you for letting the us follow you..

  3. Just stepped into your blog. An enjoyable read. Egads! 40 lbs! So, I’m trying to get inspired to do the PCT next year. #1 on my retirement bucket list. Maybe I’ll go back & start with your T-2 days. Thanks for sharing all your journeys, Carolyn.

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