|Walking by Thousand island Lake, Day 8|
For us, the answer on the JMT was an emphatic no. It really couldn't have been any better, there wasn't a single boring day, and although on many occasions it was hard to heave backpacks onto aching shoulders and lace up our walking boots over sore feet, there was never a time when we wished to be anywhere else.
|On the cables up Half Dome|
|Half Dome and Yosemite valley viewed from Clouds Rest|
|Alpine meadow below Cathedral Peak|
|A ground squirrel watches us pass|
|Cooking by the campfire|
|Cold water jacuzzi|
The next few days we travelled into a high mountain country of peaks, lakes and meadows. Here were some of the best wild swimming spots I've ever experienced, and day after day we found ourselves compelled to stop and swim in another beautiful lake, tarn, river, or waterfall. This became one of the unexpected highlights of the JMT- it could be marketed as the ultimate wild swimming trail. At one spot we camped beside a small canyon where each waterfall plunge pool tried to beat the next as they cascaded down the mountainside. We spent a fantastic 'rest day' scrambling up over waterfalls from pool to pool, sliding down slippery rocks and getting power showers and jacuzzis in the powerful flow. It was freezing, but we'd soon warm up and dry off lying on the smooth, hot rocks in the sun. This was close to Mammoth Lakes, our second resupply point, so we'd been into town to collect our food parcel, but also took the opportunity to pick up some beer and fresh food so we could feast for our day by the river, including kebabs cooked over the camp fire. It was hard to leave this spot and start walking in the heat the next day- every step was a challenge after a day's rest.
|Marie Lake, one of our most beautiful swimming spots|
|Flaked out after a hard morning's walk|
|One of the highest camps of the trail at 3500 metres|
|A stunning view of Evolution Lake|
For a high mountain range the climate was incredibly kind to us, although it wasn't always sunny. Our first high pass was climbed in persistent rain on a day when our waterproofs hardly came off, but that was an exception. Every day we'd wake to blue skies, then sometimes in the afternoon clouds would start to roll in, occasionally turning to an evening thunderstorm. One was pretty dramatic, with hail battering the tent. Safe and dry playing cards inside and even able to cook in our porch, we didn't envy the ultra-lightweight trekkers we'd met who were carrying only a small tarp or sleeping out with no shelter at all.
|Improvised birthday cake complete with 'candle'|
It was a steep climb up to the highest point in the Lower 48, and we were racing the clouds as we traversed an exciting ridge path for the final couple of miles. The rocky plateau of the summit was a dramatic end to the trail. Eating our final lunch and posing for summit pictures, we could hardly believe it was all over. As we feared, even after 28 days walking the end had come around too fast and we weren't quite ready for the long descent to civilization. The conversations quickly turned from what we wanted to eat to where we want to go trekking next!
|On the trail just below Mount Whitney|
A final note on bears. We had two fantastic sightings of bears in Yosemite valley before we set off. One ran across the river where we were wading, before climbing a tree to eat berries. We were awe struck, although I'm glad to say he didn't grace us with a second look. Although bears were never far from our minds as we packed and unpacked our bear-proof food canisters, the only one we actually saw on our trek was our little mascot 'Bear Grylls'. He came along to remind us of our fundraising quest for Animals Asia. We're very grateful to friends and family who have kindly helped us to raise money for this charity.