JMT: Upper Cathedral Lake to Lyell Canyon

JMT: Upper Cathedral Lake to Lyell Canyon

Day 3 – 16.4 miles, 909 ft ascent.

I woke up to a tent that was drenched from condensation. I had closed my tent’s upwind storm doors, and apparently, it led to a lot of moisture in the tent. I made breakfast and waited for a while for the sun to rise high enough to hit my campsite and dry the tent.

Hiker was surprised to find mosquitoes in the Sierra, proceeded to vandalize the park.
Hiker was surprised to find mosquitoes in the Sierra, proceeded to vandalize the park.

I had a resupply to pick up at Tuolumne Meadows. I wanted to get lunch there too, so I didn’t want to get there too early. Walking down towards Tuolumne, I started meeting more and more day hikers. I also met a couple hiking the JMT that had also stayed at the same lake the previous night. They were also picking up a resupply at the post office, so we’d meet again in a while.

Tuolumne Meadows.
Tuolumne Meadows.
Looking back towards Cathedral Peak.
Looking back towards Cathedral Peak.

I took a short detour to Soda Springs, a naturally carbonated spring. The water was clear, although the ground around it was colored red-brown from all the iron in the water. The water tasted very metallic and was slightly carbonated. I decided to stick with normal water for drinking.

Carbonated water bubbling from Soda Spring.
Carbonated water bubbling from Soda Spring.

I got to the building with the store and post office before 10. I picked up my resupply box and put my devices to charge while I was sorting out my food.

The grill didn’t start serving lunch until 11:15, so I had plenty of time to hang out with other hikers and have some appetizer snacks while I waited. Both JMT and PCT hikers were resupplying, so it was an excellent chance to get intel on trail conditions.

Non-freezedried calories.
Non-freezedried calories.

The burger did not live up to expectations. Aramark, who has a monopoly on all concessions in the park, clearly has set the bar low on food. The burger was two re-heated pre-made patties on a stale bun. But it wasn’t freeze-dried hiker food, so it had that going for it.

After hanging out for a good 2+ hours at the resupply area, I decided it was time to head out. I still wanted to cover several miles and do some fishing along the way.

Lyell Fork bridge.
Lyell Fork bridge.

The trail followed the road for a while before cutting south and towards Lyell Canyon. A ranger checked my JMT and fishing permits just before the bridge over Lyell Fork.

Lyell Canyon was beautiful. The bright-blue river meandered through a meadow of tall grass and flowers. The winter had been exceptionally wet, so everything was still bright green and blooming even though it was already late July.

A blue pool in Lyell Fork.
A blue pool in Lyell Fork.

I stopped to fish a beautiful pool in the river. I could see fish swimming from the rocks above, but the clear water made it hard to approach them without scaring them. I did manage to catch a handful of small brookies and rainbow trout.

I continued up the canyon, wanting to get within a short distance of Donohue Pass, but still staying under 9,600 ft elevation so I could have a fire.

Looking up Lyell Canyon towards Donohue Pass.
Looking up Lyell Canyon towards Donohue Pass.

I ended up finding a great campsite with a fire ring – this time well above the meadow to avoid condensation. After setting up camp, I went down to the river to do some more fishing. Again, I caught several brookies, but they were all small.

A massive brook trout.
A massive brook trout.

After I was done fishing, I took a quick dip in the river to wash off the trail dust and then headed up to my camp to get a fire and dinner started.

I sat by the fire listening to podcasts until the sun went down, then headed to bed so I would be well rested for my climb up Donohue the next morning.

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