I’m so thrilled to officially be hiking the trail, and I’m taking my unconventional entry point in stride. It’s an opportunity to soak up some bold new scenery, which may not measure up to Yosemite Valley and Tuloumne but has the added thrill of being completely unfamiliar. Armed with Tom Harrison maps and a GPS, I shouldn’t have trouble navigating the terra incognita. In fact, it’ll be refreshing to avoid the Happy Isles/Half Dome tourist crowds—though who knows how much more foot traffic the Mono Pass area will get now that Donohue exits are at a premium.
I’ll probably camp the first night at Alger Lakes, which look beautiful, but I may stop sooner if I’m too wiped out from the epic climbs up Parker and Koip Passes. Then, after skirting Gem and Waugh Lakes and wrapping back around to the east, I’ll finish up Day 2 on the north side of my beloved Thousand Island Lake—and back on the Muir Trail for good.
After that, it’s a day and a half of familiar territory: a camp near the Ediza Lake junction or so, and then hitting Reds Meadow for lunch and resupply on Day 4 before moving on towards the Duck Lake junction and Purple Lake. Save for a long ago Whitney day hike, I’ve never been east of Red’s on the JMT, so everything should pose a fresh challenge from there on out.
In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of walking to do. The four-mile jaunts around Hancock Park are all well and good, but I’ve got to step up my game now that this is really happening!