After my long day yesterday, I resolve to finally take that dip in a lake and have a leisurely lunch. I figured out that I was ok schedule-wise and that today could be a shorter milage day. I took my time with breakfast and cooked a real meal. Couscous and tuna fish and 2 cups of tea for breakfast along the roaring river. What a treat. The salt and real food provided much needed sustenance. Even packing up my still wet tent went quickly. Just as I was leaving a couple spotted me, delighted with my beautiful spot in the woods and set up their breakfast nook there. I love this shared space and the respect and care all of us took to keep it without a trace as much as possible.
Another day of steep steep mountains. At this point it is just another day, nothing to worry or get anxious about. I will be going up and down every day, often several times and am starting to like the focus of a mountain pass. It sharpens my attention, it's a beautiful spot above that I can be excited and curious about, and I prefer uphill to downhill. Today is a hot day, finally no rain. As I pass a few lakes, there are hikers pausing on most of them and so I continue. I finally find my lake, only one other solo woman on the shores. I hike around the like to the outlet and put down my pack. I find my rock, get down to my make shift bikini of sports bra and undies and dip into the cool lake. I wash my clothes, wash myself, have a snack, drink lots of water with yummy EmergenC in it, take a nap, watch the clouds. Wonderful.
It's great to have the comfort of knowing that I can afford this break, I know the milage, know I will get where I want to get to, it's not likely that there will be a storm. And then the sky does darken increasingly. It's the smoke from the forest fire that has continued. It gets smoky to quickly that I get concerned. There is some ash on my backpack and no other hikers are around. I start having scenarios in my mind that the fire is racing towards me and everybody else knows and is gone and I am still here. That the forest service has closed the trail and is not aware of my being here. I think I smell burning rubber and I am starting to cough. I don't know how to assess this situation and how to know how close the fire is. When I asked a ranger a few days ago, he couldn't say anything beyond - if you see flames, go the other way. Dah!
I get dressed and start walking very very fast down the hill towards Johnston Meadow. The entire forest looks like a war zone from a previous 200 mile/hour storm that moved through a few years ago. It looks like a giant's sandbox with trees and boulders scattered around by them and left behind without cleaning up before dinner. Obviously not discipline in this household:) The smoke enhances the post-war like atmosphere and there is no water in the creek anymore. The curby downward switchback stretch endlessly. Finally I run into 2 women who can give me an update. There are indeed 2 fires now, one behind me near Yosemite and one ahead of me near Duck Lake, however, it doesn't impact the John Muir Trail at this point. The trail is not closed but the wind is blowing our way. What a relief. I soon find a marshy lake and get more water. We chat for a long time and then I keep running into other groups of women who are out for a few days. Lovely to chat with them and hear their inspiration for being out here. Some are also turning 50 this or next year and are being inspired to do the entire trail. I hope they will!
I play with the idea of going all the way to the Red's Meadow. Honestly though, the idea of showers, a meal and lots of other people does not appeal to me. I want another night out here by myself before I enter, however briefly, civilization to resupply. I end up camping away from everybody else on Johnston meadow. It's early so I get to cook dinner, eat it by the lake as I watch the sunset, go for a slow walk all around the lake and chat with another woman nearby who is also sol, 74 years old and a master at lightweight packing. In fact, she teaches it for the AMC in New England. She has hurt her back and is hiking out to take care of it. It brings back with force how easy it is for something to go wrong or for our bodies to get out of synch with all this demanding exercise. I feel lucky to be so healthy and alive.