Day 4 – Ruby Lake

7/24 – Lyell Canyon – Ruby Lake
11.5 miles and two passes.

Today was less miles today that I had hoped for, but we made it over two passes! Donahue Pass at 11,050 and Island pass at 10,200.  The next higher pass than Donahue isn’t until Muir Pass much later in trip.  We’ve gone a total of 43 miles or so. This is an adventure full of ups and really big downs.  I felt strong going over Donahue and really happy that we had literally walked through Yosemite National Park and into Inyo Forest.

We started the day just below Donahue pass along side Lyell Creek near where the water fall from Kuna Creek comes in.  We packed up early and opted to have breakfast after a mile or so on the trail.  We found a nice shady spot for breakfast and did some laundry. Socks and undies!  Also, I’m getting pretty good at digging cat holes.  Sorry for the TMI but it’s part of the experience!

Lyell Canyon quickly disappear behind us and the scenery changed to switchback and lodgepole pines.  On our way up the switchback we encountered two women that were hiking the JMT south to north (most go north to south). I asked them if they had seen any pikas yet and they exclaimed that they had no idea what a pika was but had seen hundreds of marmots. They also taught me the practice of naming marmots with hillbilly names like Cleetus or Billy Bob as marmots look rather hillbilly. They do! So from this point on Kevin and I began the practice of naming every marmot we saw A-Z.  We retroactively named the one we saw yesterday Abel.

The trail opened to a couple bench lakes and crossed over the creek a couple times.  The mountains were jagged teeth dotted with snow high up.  We even heard a couple rock falls.  There were a bunch of people on top of the pass so we took a quick picture and started hiking down for another hour or so to find a good lunch spot.  I’m still having a hard time putting food in my mouth.  Perhaps it’s because lunch is nothing but Clif bars and salami, but we are barely eating half of what we budgeted for each day.  The lack of food is definitely contributing to my mood.  I seem to bonk every day.  Going over Island pass I think I twisted my ankle and then my calves cramped up majorly from all the climbing so I slowed way down the last couple miles making us stop at Ruby Lake rather than going on to Garnet.  The pain and cramps really got me down and I’m starting to doubt I’ll be able to do this trail.  I think we just didn’t give ourselves enough time. 13-15 mile days are a lot. Most folks go 10-12 miles a day. We seem to be getting into camp around 6 pm every day and barely enjoying the views.  Kevin and I agreed to evaluate how my ankle feels tomorrow after a good night sleep.

Oh and in the process of cooking dinner I swatted a mosquito and managed to knocked my meal into the dirt and burst into tears.  This after the night before last where Kevin burnt dinner.  So, not the best evening but I guess it is all part of the adventure.

In positive news we saw our first official pika and a bunch of marmots.  Able, Billy Bob, Cleetus, Dale, Earl, Francine, Garth, Herman, Ignatius, Jesse, K.C., and Lyell were all spotted today.

Tomorrow Red’s Meadow!

Lyell Canyon
Early morning fog in Lyell Canyon
Lyell Canyon
Gaining some elevation. Looking back north on Lyell Canyon.
John Muir Trail
Day 4 with no shower. We look so clean.
Donahue Pass, John Muir Trail
First peak at Donahue Pass
Lyell Creek
Trail crosses over Lyell Creek to the right, then back again to the left atop that bench.
Donahue pass
Donahue pass is up and to the left.
Looking north back towards Yosemite.
On top of Donahue Pass, Yosemite
Made it! 11,056′. NBD. Not pictured: snickers bar.
Mt. Lyell
Mt. Lyell in the distance.
Thousand Island Lake and Banner Peak
Thousand Island Lake and Banner Peak


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Jessica Cross

Marketing Nerd. Lover of Star Trek. Eater of Blueberry Clif bars.

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