John Muir Trail Day 19: Thanks Ranger Sam…

Friday 9/10  6:20 PM  DAY 19  12.59 miles  📍 Lake Marjorie

Journal entry: Today I met Ranger Sam. Right before calling a NERO and backtracking about .5 miles from Mather Pass, I ran into Ranger Sam. Because of Ranger Sam, I hiked 12-miles today! Because of Ranger Sam, I am .6 miles from my goal for today, but since he is stationed there, and being dead ass tired- I’m camped above a lake below Lake Marjorie. I met no hikers today, BUT I saw 1 NOBO right after getting to camp. Because of Ranger Sam, I’m going to cancel my resupply ride at Williamson cause he says Charlotte Lake Ranger station should have extra food. So I’m doing that. The climb up Mather Pass wasn’t too bad, it was the conditions we were in that scared me from going solo. I tried to keep up with his pace to make sure I was up and over before the storm hit, but once we got to the top, little clouds, but pretty clear on the other side. I have never looked up and watched the clouds as much as I have in the past 24 hrs. From where I’m camped tonight, I can see Mather Pass. Crazy how far I’ve come!

Story: It was 6:30 AM when I woke up this morning and still raining. Last night was tough, hard to fall and actually stay asleep. I pondered back and forth whether or not I should pack up and head closer to the pass. Still unsure of the weather, I packed up camp around 9:45 AM and prayed that the rain would hold off until I made it up and over Mather Pass. Dark skies, but it hadn’t rained in a good 45 minutes to an hour.

I just wanted to get a glimpse of Mather Pass, and what lies ahead. By the time I reached Upper Palisade Lake, I was less than a mile away from the top. Heather suggests being off any pass between 12 PM and 2 PM because that’s when the weather can take a turn for the worst. Even with bad weather in the forecast, I didn’t feel safe being on any pass, especially being alone and not prepared. Thoughts of taking a Nero (near zero miles for the day) seemed like the best idea at least until the storm passed, but I wanted to make it closer to the base before making that call.

When I reached the base and realized the climb up Mather Pass, I knew there would be no way I could make it up in an hour, my window before bad weather. It was really hard to turn around and call a Nero day, but I didn’t feel safe attempting that climb with bad weather in the forecast. Maybe if I was hiking with a partner I would have been more motivated to go for it, but I was alone, and self-motivation is especially hard out there.

I turned around and started backtracking to find a site safe enough in case the storm came back, and that’s when I saw him. He said his name is Sam and he is a ranger in Kings Canyon National Park. I couldn’t have been happier to see a ranger, of all people- a ranger would know exactly what to do in any backcountry situation. He was headed up Mather Pass as I was turning around, and he asked: “Where are you headed?” I couldn’t help but cry. “I have no idea. I need to make it up here (pointing towards Mather Pass), but it’s supposed to rain this afternoon, and…I don’t know- WHERE WERE YOU LAST NIGHT?! Did you see that storm?!” I was a mess, and clearly, he saw that.

He agreed that it was some sort of freak storm that came out of nowhere. He wasn’t planning on setting up camp, but the storm stopped him from continuing on. Turns out he wasn’t exactly too far from where I camped the previous night, so we kind of experienced the same storm. I asked him where he was headed and if he didn’t mind me following along behind him. We made it up and over Mather Pass in like 30 minutes…and it never rained. I would have been perfectly fine to go alone, but I just didn’t feel safe. We chatted a bit, and from the top of the pass, he showed me where he was headed. Lake Marjorie. My destination for the day, but after that climb and seeing how far it really was, there would be no way I could make it to Lake Marjorie.

The hike down felt amazing. I was happy to feel normal again, and not like I’m going to lose my life at any moment. It was nice chatting with Ranger Sam for a while; that communication between others is just energizing sometimes. I must’ve been on a complete and total high coming down from Mather Pass. I felt great knocking it out and not having to Nero that day. I wasn’t sure where I was planning to camp that evening, but let’s just say I ended up making it all the way to Lake Marjorie.

There is a big climb before reaching Lake Marjorie and after all the downhill past Mather Pass, I wasn’t up for the climb. I hadn’t seen Ranger Sam all day since Mather Pass, but I did run into him right before climbing to Lake Marjorie. Yes, I ended up climbing anyways- but that’s only because Ranger Sam mentioned an active bear in the area. He even went on to tell me how to scare a bear away if I did run into one. Thankfully he did too. I’m so glad I made it this far. Because of Ranger Sam, I reached my miles for today and this campsite that I found is pretty amazing.

After 12.5 miles I’m done. I’m pretty sure I can see Mather Pass from where I’m camping tonight, and that’s pretty cool. Lots of clouds are still in the sky, making for a really pretty sunset.

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