We woke up in Yosemite Valley and took the time to enjoy breakfast, a last shower and to do one last check on all of our gear. Then my father-in-law drove us up to our trailhead, a couple hours away near Tioga Pass.
The biggest challenge with our trailhead choice was the elevation. We started at an elevation of 9,700 feet, meaning we were taxing our bodies right from the start. The trail started quite gradually winding through the forest and some meadows. A couple miles in we started to climb, eventually working our way up and out of the tree line and reaching our pinnacle for the day at Mile 6, in Parker Pass at 11,100 ft!
We made sure to move slow, take lots of breaks and try to enjoy the first few miles on trail.
Parker Pass was quite unlike any other passes along the JMT. It was a very wide pass with a gradual grade, and of course offered views of the awesome volcanic peaks nearby.
It was a windy and cold night and we learned our first lesson on trail - don't camp so near the pass!
Knowing what we'd be facing the next day, we decided to get an early start. The trail first dropped briefly back into the tree line and then we started our big climb up to Koip Pass at a mean 12,250 ft.
The most surprising thing while sitting in the Pass was being buzzed by a hummingbird! I accepted it as a good luck sign.
We also found a beautiful little unnamed lake just before our climb up to Gem Pass. It was a real treat to jump into the clear waters, if only for a few moments.
After Gem Pass we dropped another thousand feet all the way to Gem Lake at 9,050 ft. Gem Lake is a much more accessible spot from the Mammoth area, both for day hikers and for overnighters. Thankfully we were there on a weeknight so it wasn't too busy. It was a beautiful colour lake in a low bowl in the mountains. Unfortunately we were so worn out from our first full day on trail that we didn't take any pictures! But we did take time to relax and enjoy the sunset before tucking in.
We were pretty amazed and proud of ourselves on our first full day on trail. This section of trail can be completed as part of a 3-day, 36 mile loop that joins up to the JMT near Donohue Pass and finishes back at Tioga Rd. We highly recommend it as a great option around Yosemite and have already talked about going back just for the loop trail.
Next post: we join up with the JMT for some ups and downs through lake country!