John Muir Trail- Bubbs Creek to Tyndall Creek
Mileage- 12.7 miles
Elevation Gain- 4246 feet
Our sixth day on the John Muir Trail in California took us from Bubbs Creek over the monster Forester Pass to Tyndall Creek. On this day we would travel 12.6 miles and conquer over 4200 feet of elevation. And our ascent would be 7.5 miles to Forester Pass. That is a long, long ascent. It feels as if it never ends. But more on that later. The morning sun brought out the glowing, northeastern face of the East Vidette peak and the southwestern facing Kearsarge Pinnacles.
Our trek from Bubbs Creek toward Forester led us through the lodgepole pines and whitebark pines in the sub-alpine region and into areas with decreasing vegetation and significant and increasing piles of talus. At about the five mile mark it actually looks as if you have made significant progress, as you have now left the trees behind and you now only see a trail amidst the broken and fragmented rocks. But, the final two and a half miles to Forester Pass climbs an aggressive 2000 feet. The map at the top of this post indicates my pace slowed significantly, as the red line represents a slower pace. This was definitely my slowest pace throughout the entire trip. It is hard to believe that the low oxygen level has such a profound effect. While I will discuss this again on our Whitney summit day, the percent oxygen level going up to Forester was a little more than 65%.
The benefit of stopping frequently to catch my breath was the opportunity to take pictures and savor the views, which were nothing short of astounding. Maybe I should have said breath-taking, literally (haha). The sloping talus piles of small, crumbly rock turned into massive broken boulders. The trail skillfully navigated through it all. And then there was a pristine lake just above 12,000 feet with the triangular Junction Peak towering in the background. The epic views lead to a series of seemingly unending switchbacks amidst the scree with Forester at the top. If you look closely you will see one of our guys at Forester Pass with the rest of our group scattered throughout the scree field heading up. As a side note, if you happen to use the National Geographic Topographic Map for the John Muir Trail there is an error on the trail profile on page 16. It shows a significant dip at the 12,200 mark and looks as if you have to go down a couple of hundred feet before going back up. Well, the dip does not exist. The trail goes up the entire way without any dip. Anyway, just thought you may want to know that.
The view at the top of Forester was the best yet. It was expansive and massive with beautiful blue skies holding the billows of white clouds. This is the point at which one exits Kings Canyon National Park and enters Sequoia National Park. This is also the highest elevation of the trail before summiting Mt. Whitney. We took a much needed break at the top and posed for a few pics.
The descent from Forester Pass has an aggressive descent down through a series of switchbacks down to an unnamed lake (as far as I know). Patrick was the first one down to it, so I will refer to it as Patrick Lake. Patrick Lake is a real stunner. After taking close to an hour break at the pass, we were FORCED to take another break at the lake because it was just that beautiful. We washed up, lied down on the grass, and just stared at the gorgeousness. Our numbers are probably off, but we tried to figure out how many people actually see this lake each year. We estimated a little over 300 people. Even if we are a bit off, the percentage of the U.S. population that gets to see this lake each year is a infinitesimally minuscule .000086% of the population. I don’t take any of this for granted. With close to two hours of breaks, we still had between four to five miles before Tyndall Creek. The trail opens up into this wide expanse that we spied from Forester. No matter which direction we looked, it was special. As we pressed on throughout the afternoon, the cloud cover enveloped us. A few times we even felt a sprinkle of rain, but we knew the chances of rain were extraordinarily slim, even though the parks were praying for rain to slow down Rough Fire. Once we settled into our campsite near Tyndall Frog Ponds, the haze of Rough Fire greeted us. The next day we would leave Tyndall and trek all the way to Guitar Lake, where we would camp, in preparation for our Whitney Summit.