Take a Trek

Day 2: Mosquitos and Horse Pee

Clouds Rest Camp to Lower Cathedral Lake
Day: 11.8 Miles
Trip: 22.9 Miles

Breaking camp, while under siege from seven thousand hungry mosquitoes, is no easy task. A high aptitude of patience is required, as well as the understanding that you’ll be eating breakfast while walking and repeatedly slapping yourself in the face. I’m pretty psyched when my morning commute delivers me from the trees onto a breezy ridgeline.


Somewhere out There, Yosemite National Park

I follow the ridgeline for quite some time, blissfully free from insect bombardment. I gawk at the valleys and mountains to my right and I ponder the walls of granite to my left. I seem to look around at everything, except for the trail that I’m actually walking on. I’m content, I’m comfortable, and I’m not the only one out here that feels this way right now. Ahead of me, to the right, is a rather large man lying down next to a rock with his hat pulled over his eyes. When I say large man, I don’t mean overweight, I mean Jolly Green Giant, tall as a horse, and fit as an ox large.  The mild-mannered fellow introduces himself as John, which my mind immediately translates to Big John. Big John began his JMT hike a couple days ago and is also relieved to be walking away from his campsite at Cloud’s Rest. “Those mosquitoes were God-awful, weren’t they?” Yes, Big John. Yes, they were. My new acquaintance proceeds to explain that this is his second JMT hike. “It’s definitely worth doing more than once, and it’s a great way to get in shape for summer.” Sure, Big John. Your need to get in shape. I find Big John’s company amusing and hike a couple miles with him, before he and his impossibly large pack disappear down the trail behind me. I wonder if I’ll see him again.

Big John

BIg John

When I arrive at the intersection for Sunrise Lakes Trail, I decide to have a short siesta in a small patch of shade and enjoy my current state of stimulation overload. At mile thirteen, it’s hard to believe that the aesthetic appeal of this trail will continue to grow as I travel south. It would be easy to sit here and stare at this meadow for hours, but my inclination to get up and walk is irresistible. The trail ignites my sense of adventure, drowns me in curiosity, and begs me to see what’s around the next corner.

Sunrise Mountains

Sunrise Mountains

What happens to be around the next corner is a much needed water source. As I set down my pack and begin rummaging for my filtration device, I am surprised to be greeted by a group of six enormous guests. Like myself, the horse and mule party has stopped to take a break and quench their thirst. Initially intrigued by their sudden arrival, I watch in disarray as these beautiful creatures first drink from then piss into my water source. “You might want to get your water a little farther upstream,” the woman leading the party giddily yells to me. If you’ve never seen a creature of this magnitude urinate in a shallow stream, I can assure you that it’s quite a spectacle. Imagine a fire hose full of lemonade being shot into a kiddie pool.


The Horse and Mule Pee Parade

Farther down the trail, I catch my first glimpse of Cathedral Peak. When John Muir made the first recorded accent of this mountain he stated: “This I may say is the first time I have been to church in California.” The JMT doesn’t actually cross the top of Cathedral Peak, but it does circumvent the magnificent tower of granite.


FIrst glimpse of Cathedral Peak

As advised by Big John and other hikers that I’ve met so far, I take a short half-mile detour off the JMT and find a place to camp at Lower Cathedral Lake for the evening.

Lower Cathedral Lake

Lower Cathedral Lake

While soaking my feet in the cold lake and preparing my dinner for the evening, I’m startled by the sound of a familiar voice. “Rob!” Who on earth could I possibly know out here, buried in the remote crevasses of these mountains. I crank my head in the direction of my campsite and see a lanky young man and his friend peering through the side of my tent. “Ladd and Derek,” I shout back at them. Without delay, they run to greet me and, as giddy as schoolgirls at a high school dance, we begin to babble about everything we’ve experienced on the trail over the past few days. We embellish the intensity of half dome, we exaggerate the insane mosquito infestation of clouds rest, and we glorify the magnificence of the Sierra Mountains. When our bellies are tired from laughter, and our faces are stretched to their limits from smiling, my two trail-friends invite me to their campsite for a bourbon nightcap. Life is good.

Bourbon Buddies, Ladd and Derek

Bourbon Buddies, Ladd and Derek