|DAY EIGHT||Previous John Muir Trail Posts|
|Miles Hiked: 10.5||- Planning and Preparation||- Day Seven: Vermillion Valley Resort|
|Total Miles: 81.5||- Day One: Getting There||- Day Eight: Bear Creek|
|Elevation Climbed: 2500′||- Day Two: Donohue Pass||- Day Nine: Piute Creek|
|Total Elevation Climbed: 13,000′||- Day Three: Thousand Island Lake||- Day Ten: Evolution Lake|
|.||- Day Four: Red’s Meadow||- Day Eleven: Bishop Pass|
|- Day Five: Crater Creek||- Day Twelve: Bishop|
|- Day Six: Virginia Lake||- Final Thoughts|
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” — John Muir
I woke bright and early after a cold night – eager for a big hot breakfast! Ham and cheese omlet with hash browns, sourdough toast and three cups of coffee. I had a nice visit with another new friend, Steve, a Bread Truck driver from San Diego. I paid my bill for the stay: $108 – which included the ferry ride, the resupply service, dinner, breakfast, satellite phone and a hot shower ($6!). I quickly packed my gear and filled my water bottle and dromedary, and boarded the ferry at 9am for a ride back to the trail.
So long, Vermillion Valley Resort! My next real meal and shower would be another six days away.
The weather today was overcast and cold and threatening to rain. I talked to a couple cowboys on the trail who said it was going to snow later today – and they were right!
After a short walk from the ferry landing, I’m back on the trail and heading uphill for the start of a 2000 foot climb up Bear Ridge. Switchback after switchback after switchback! I was told there are 54 switchbacks total, but I think there were even more.
California Wild Grape
The forest is fairly dense and shady and the trail is well graded, but my belly and pack is full and it’s all uphill. It’s a bit of a grueling walk through a nice variety of tree communities – pines, junipers, firs, hemlock.
Some people find that walking through these dense areas for hours at a time is incredibly boring, since the scenery rarely changes, but it’s in these monotonous stretches that I find myself exploring my inner world – a complex world of colors, lights, shadows, thoughts, concerns, joys… my cathedral of consciousness! I find myself working in three directions: creative visualization, where I’m dreaming of new art projects or adventures; reflecting back on great memories; and problem solving – what do I want to do with the rest of my life?
Yeah… heavy stuff!
The trail opens up from time to time to provide nice views of Mount Hooper and fords the creek many times. It’s wet and lush and I see a black Slender Salamander scurry across the trail in front of me – first time I’ve seen one of those ever!.
Eventually the trail levels out and meanders through a really nice canyon, parallel to Bear Creek.
I noticed this rock along the trail and thought it looked like an angry man.
Arrow Leaved Groundsel
The weather is really starting to become a concern to me and it’s getting very dark in the early afternoon. I stop for a water break and discover that I didn’t screw the cap on my dromedary tight enough, emptying about two liters of water into my pack - and now all of my clothing and sleeping bag are soaking wet! NOOOO! With the temperature dropping rapidly and rain threatening, this is a potentially dangerous situation, as I really have no way to get warm.
I immediately set up camp right where I’m at and build a good size fire to help dry things out as fast as possible. Now it’s a race against the weather… and if the rain came before my stuff dries, it will be a very looooong night.
Shortly after I have things set up and drying, two more solo hikers that I met at VVR walk by and see my red sleeping bag hanging in the tree – Amy (a conservationist from Lake Tahoe) had been trying to catch up with me for the past few miles because she had found a camp towel on the trail that she thought must be mine – it was! (Thanks Amy!)
And Rick, a computer programmer from Washington DC. Amy was there for some fishing for a few days and Rick was attempting the entire JMT trail. They saw my fire and wondered if they could share it for the night. Of course!
So we had a nice night getting to know each other, sharing stories and huddling around the warmth of the fire. My clothing and sleeping bag dried out just fine… and then it started to snow! It was an awesome sunset but the trees were too dense for me to get anything good – why couldn’t I have had this sunset at Thousand Island Lake!
It was getting colder and colder by the minute, so we all decided to retire early. I emptied my Bear Vault and filled it with creek water to completely douse the fire for the night – yet another use of the bear vault!
Amy and Rick – I hope you guys made it back okay and you’re reading this – it was a pleasure to meet both of you!