31 July 2020
JMT Lower Cathedral Lake to Clouds Rest Trail (11.7 miles, +1,200/-3,300 feet).
We originally planned to camp below Clouds Rest today, but I was worried about trying to do 6,000 feet of descent to the valley floor on our last day. So we decided to stick to the JMT and split the descent between today and tomorrow.
We got to start the day at the still-amazing Lower Cathedral Lake. It was hard to stop taking pictures.
Soon enough we were on our way to upper Cathedral Lake and Cathedral Pass.
The pass is one of those fake-out passes where you have to keep going up on the other side. And then down and up and down and up again! I was not expecting the roller coaster. But eventually we started a sustained descent towards the valley.
When we finished the first set of switchbacks down Sunrise Creek we hit a massive burn zone that I was not expecting. It was stark and beautiful, but very hard to appreciate under the blazing sun.
We had to keep hiking a bit past our preferred campsite because it was gone. In fact the burn zone spared trees on just a single ridge, where a fully nude man stood tall in the distance, as though his nudity was a shield against invaders
It worked. We pressed on.
Right where the Clouds Rest trail joins the JMT we finally returned to living forest and we found a nice site on our own ridge free of other humans.
But we DID discover we had neighbors. Just 10 minutes after we started to set up camp, a mother bear and her cub ambled into camp.
At first they went around us, but when Finder and I went down to the creek they came right through the middle of our camp! They also wanted to descend to the creek, but on seeing us below, the mom seemed to audibly sigh. Dumb humans always getting in the way…. She veered off course and they picked their way down a different part of the ridge.
So exciting! I was sad to miss Clouds Rest and the burn zone was exhausting, but I am so happy we finally got to see some bears on this trip.