Segment Five: Red’s Meadow to Cascade Valley Jct.
Mileage: 18.3 mi
We left Red’s Meadow without eating eggs and toast for breakfast, which in retrospect was probably a bad call. It took several hours of warming in the pockets of our down jackets before our breakfast of energy bars was soft enough to eat. The climb that morning was gradual, and partway through it we stopped to chat with some guys who had also just resupplied. Sarah got some trailside assistance with a blister from one of them – they were carrying a hospital-grade first aid kit! We ate lunch at a small stream near a trail junction to Mammoth Lakes and continued the never ending task of filtering water. From here we climbed up passing Purple Lake and Lake Virginia (gorgeous!) before a descent along Fish Creek. At the time, this descent felt taxing. At about 800 feet, but it was nothing compared to some of the days to come! Our campsite this night was the first time without a permanent bear box, and despite some close camps of fellow hikers, it felt a bit more like the remote backpacking experience we had been expecting.
Segment Six: Cascade Valley Jct. to Lake Italy Trail Jct.
Mileage: 18.5 mi
We got up early (yep, 5:30am) because we knew that this was going to be a long day. The climb to Silver Pass (10,740’) was cold, and truly stunning once we got out of the trees. Looking northward from where we had come, Yosemite seemed a long ways off. We continued on a gradual and then steep descent, eventually stopping for lunch near the junction with the trail to Vermillion Valley Resort. We took the opportunity for a short break near a fast-moving river spilling over a rock outcrop: at this point, soaking our feet and dunking our hats and bandanas in the water felt like a necessity. The hike after lunch was a push up another 2000+ feet through a steep wooded slope. From there, we continued for another several miles that felt like an eternity, eventually deciding to camp a couple of miles short of our planned end point.
Segment Seven: Lake Italy Trail Jct. to Goddard Canyon Jct.
Mileage: 19.4 mi
Today was our second resupply. We climbed fairly fast to reach Lake Marie – Sarah’s favorite lake thus far! After Selden Pass (10,900’), we began a fairly long descent to Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), where our second bucket of food was waiting for us. MTR is a big exchange center for JMT and Pacific Crest Trail hikers. Buckets of all kinds of unneeded stuff – food, clothing, batteries, first aid supplies – are organized to be sorted through and pilfered as you wish. We snagged some ramen noodles. After reloading the packs, now the heaviest they’d ever be at about 32 lbs, we headed out and crossed into Kings Canyon National Park. After a gradual climb that followed the beautiful San Joaquin River, we camped near the river at Goddard Canyon Junction.