PCT 2019: Day 129, Red’s Meadow to Fish Creek

Nothing but blue skies do I see

Blue sky over Purple Lake

Although the term "bluebird day" has been in use since at least 1860, no one seems to know where it came from.

If you've never heard of a day described this way, it's when the sky is crystal clear and bright blue. It's a day that's perfect for being outdoors.

Today was such a day.

DateFriday, September 13, 2019
WeatherClear sky with a high temperature in the upper 60s
Trail ConditionsA climb of nearly 2,600 feet, then several ups and downs, mostly above 10,000 feet
Today's Miles17.3
Trip Miles1934.5

No matter where I was or what direction I looked, there wasn't a cloud to be seen. The temperature was ideal as well. The weather could not have been better.

On top of this, the scenery was outstanding and the trail was enjoyable to walk.

Red's Meadow General Store

Admittedly, I might have thought this was a perfect day because it began with an extra hour of sleep. Because the restaurant at Red's Meadow Resort didn't open until 7 a.m., I set my alarm for 6:00. I was packed and walking to the restaurant in time to get there soon after it opened.

As Bluejay and I were leaving Red's Meadow at 8:30 a.m., we saw Buffy, a nice woman who was helping a couple of hikers named Say It Again and Poptop. Buffy had also offered to let us camp at her site in the campground last night, but we didn't. We apologized and told her the night sky was too dark to find our way around. We couldn't find her camper.

Mileage signs at Red's Meadow

On the side trail leading back to the PCT, directional signs pointed the distance of many landmarks.

From there, the trail climbed for the next three miles to Crater Creek. The creek served as a boundary between Ansel Adams Wilderness and John Muir Wilderness.

Within John Muir Wilderness is the largest contiguous area above 10,000 feet in the lower 48 states.

A view of Iron Mountain

Red's Meadow had been at 7,705 feet in elevation. For most of the morning, the PCT was a continuous climb, going up to above 10,000 feet. The ascent stretched for more than 9 miles, so it didn't feel steep at all.

The terrain here was covered in small trees and stumps of larger trees. The stumps showed signs of being burned.

A ridge called The Buttress stood to the west. This was a cliff above the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, the same river the trail followed yesterday.

Beyond The Buttress and about 5.5 miles away from me was Iron Mountain. It was the southernmost mountain in the range of peaks that started near Donohue Pass.

Sierra gooseberries

On the climb, I saw unusual berries growing near the trail. They were Sierra gooseberries. These are in the same family as currants and other gooseberries, but sharp spines protrude from each berry.

Their appearance makes them look unappetizing, but bears, mule deer, and bighorn sheep like to eat them.

An easy climb

Continuing on the easy climb, I saw many NOBO JMT hikers. Most hikers who are attempting to thru-hike the whole trail prefer to go south and end their hike at Mt. Whitney, but the permit system doesn't always give them that opportunity.

Silver Peak, Sharktooth Peak, and Double Peaks

Though I was leaving sight of The Minarets and other mountains in the 15-mile-long Ritter Range, there were plenty more ahead. I could see Silver Peak among several peaks. Despite its name and location in mining country, Silver Peak was not named for the precious ore. It was given the same name as a nearby creek, which was said to have a silvery appearance.

A view of mountains ahead

I stopped for lunch at 12:30 p.m. at a spot near a small stream that offered a pleasant view. I may have stayed there longer than necessary, but it was an enjoyable spot to sit and relax.

By now, the trail was above 10,000 feet for most of the remainder of the day.

One of many creeks

Water was no problem in this section. There were several creeks and small streams, and soon I would be passing a couple of lakes.

Climbing trail

The long climb of about 2,600 feet wasn't the only climbing of the day. The other climbs were shorter, steeper, and combined with short descents. None posed any difficulty for me and I was glad I wasn't having much difficulty with the thinner air.

Purple Lake

Two much-younger hikers leapfrogged with me for several miles. They would hike ahead of me when I stopped, then I would pass them when they stopped.

I realize weekend hikers and most JMT hikers are not used to hiking up and down mountains every day. Still, I confess to feeling a little smug when the hikers I was leapfrogging with quit hours before me. They told me they were worn out when they stopped for the day at Purple Lake. The time was 4:15 p.m. and too early for me to stop after my late start this morning.

A late afternoon climb

In the next 2.2 miles after Purple Lake, the trail climbed 663 feet, then dropped about a third of that to Lake Virginia.

As I was making the climb, two hikers coming down stopped to give me a message from Bluejay. They told me she intended to stop at Fish Creek, not Virginia Lake as we originally thought.

This was agreeable to me because I wasn't tired yet and knew I could get to Fish Creek well before dark.

Approaching Virginia Lake

When I arrived at the lake, the campsite looked so nice I hoped Fish Creek wouldn't be a letdown.

Leaving Virginia Lake

A feeder stream of Fish Creek flowed from Virginia Lake, but the outlet was at the other end of this large lake. Instead of going that way, the trail made a short climb before beginning a long descent.

Descending to Fish Creek

Fish Creek was at the bottom of a wide valley, and after making a series of switchbacks. Bluejay was set up in a campsite near where the trail reached the creek.

I was glad to see the campsite was nicer than the one I saw at Lake Virginia. I was there by 6:30 p.m. Say It Again and Poptop arrived soon after.

The sky wasn't the only thing that had been perfect today. It was a good day all the way around.

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Singing a song
Nothing but bluebirds
All day long


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.