Day 70 - June 14
Mile: 902.5 to 909 plus 7.9 miles on the JMT alternate
We still had 4 miles to go for Reds Meadow and a chance to do the short alternate through Devils Postpile. Who wouldn't want to see this columnar basalt wonder a week before the bus loads of tourists start coming. It was awesome to have it all to ourselves as we sat and ate granola and milk. On the way there we passed through the 1992 Rainbow Fire remnant. It's been 25 years and the tallest trees are just 10 to 15 feet high. It gives you appreciation for Mother Nature's timescale.
Beyond the Postpile we had a decision to make. For 14 miles the John Muir Trail (JMT) and PCT split. The distance is the same either way, just different routes. We had hiked the PCT trail (High Route above Middle Fork San Joaquin River) to Thousand Island Lake many times. But there were pieces of the JMT section we had never done. We went JMT. When we get to Tuolumne Meadows in a couple days we will have completed all of the JMT except for parts of a 20 mile section down to Yosemite Valley. Maybe we'll bag that on a day hike this fall.
Moving up toward Trinity Lakes we came upon a wildlife spectacle beyond anything either of us had seen. A Pine Marten was trying to make a Chicory (Douglas Squirrel) into a meal. They were both on the trunk of a fir tree, perhaps three feet in diameter and maybe 15 feet above the ground when we first saw them. The dance was amazing, the marten would chase the squirrel horizontally around the trunk, then stop and switch direction. The squirrel responded to each change in direction with equal skill. Sometimes the chase would spiral up and then back down, always returning to the same spot on the tree. We were close enough to see the show with binoculars but too far for photos or video. This dance of life went on for minutes, both Susan and I amazed that neither animal tired. Finally the squirrel tried something new, he went up the tree toward the 80 foot top. The marten followed. When cornered at the top the squirrel made a giant leap to the next tree falling at least 40 vertical feet before grabbing a branch and securing his position. The marten wasn't fooled. With deliberate ease he walked down to the ground in the first tree and quickly made his way up the second. Up he went, all the way to the top again. The squirrel made the ultimate leap of faith at this point, from 80 feet in the air he leaped - and plummeted all the way to the ground. We heard the sickening thump behind a fallen tree not far from us. We were afraid to move wanting this to play out to the end. The marten descended the tree and went to the spot the squirrel landed. We were sure he would have his hard earned meal. But there was nothing there and the marten walked away empty handed. Prey - 1, Predator - 0.
We continued on past the uninspiring Trinity Lakes, past Gladys Lake (better), and on to Rosalie Lake where we found a jewel. Needing a few more miles we pushed on to Shadow Lake, a spot we've day hiked to many times. We decided to make camp at the inlet end under the watchful gaze of my two favorite mountains: Banner Peak and Mount Ritter. The light was wrong for photos of those two tonight so you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see these beauties.
Tomorrow we will head to the base of Donohue Pass setting up for a Thursday morning traverse of the last big High Sierra pass. By Thursday afternoon we'll be in Tuolumne Meadows ready to be whisked away from the trail for a couple of rest days by trail mom Terri.