Hey! Here’s a link to all JMT posts for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome.
Leaving VVR on Day 10 was a little bit like leaving summer camp, except that you leave with people rather than leaving them behind (ok, except Cole – we left him behind forever! such sadness). Oh, and you actually like those people as opposed to the camp crew. Ok, fine. Maybe my one experience at summer camp was worse than most people’s – I just remember a lot of cattiness and way too many water sports, which I don’t prefer. That’s why I hike…
Okay, so maybe it’s not like summer camp. Nonetheless, two things were true – 1) it was both exciting and scary to start the last half of this trip, knowing this was the last little bit of “luxury” we’d get for 10 days and 2) when we paid our “tab” at the register that morning (read Day 9 for background), I had this feeling akin to paying a bar tab in college after a night of heavy drinking – “wait, it’s how much?? I swear I didn’t drink that much”… I’m sure Chris had a hissy fit back home when that charge hit our account – I mean how do you spend hundreds of dollars in the freaking woods? Go to VVR, that’s how.
J: That bill was a bit shocking, but then again, I did buy 12 individual band-aids for like $50. Ok, so maybe that was an exaggeration, but it was a little ridiculous. Even though it was a little pricey, I would still recommend stopping at VVR to anyone hiking the JMT. Friendly staff/volunteers, good food, BEER, comfy yurt (or nice, close backpacker tent area), clean bathrooms/showers, laundry, and stocked supply store. Just keep better tabs on the cost of everything than we did!
So before we hit the road, we took another group picture. Our family was shrinking! We were leaving Cole behind, and now it would just be the 5 of us until Chris arrived. I should mention here that there was another girl we met at VVR (can’t remember her name…Valerie? Vanessa? Why do I keep thinking it started with V? I guess it doesn’t matter..). She was doing the JMT in something like 10 days, so we didn’t see her again.
J: It was Alyssa! We also met Zane and Tamara, the couple from NC who make chocolate (so good). We hung out on the stoop all day while we were all doing laundry. Those three were super fast, ultralight backpackers so we knew we wouldn’t see them again. That part might be like summer camp…meeting cool people for a short time and then knowing we’ll never see them again?
Also, I have to call out a sexy new addition to the hike – Jennifer’s new ‘gaiters’ (leg socks). She really splurged on these at VVR – since she wears shorts most of the time, these were supposed to keep the dirt and rocks away, which, even though it might not sound like a big deal, can really be a big deal. I had a dirt tan and rashes for days after this trip because of the dirt, and I wore pants every day – so wearing shorts clearly makes that even worse. We saw quite a few people sporting them on the trail, but no ones were as bad ass as Jennifer’s. I mean – they’re camo – you can’t even see them…
Also, though I never saw the footage, Andrew took an amazing video of Cole when we were leaving. Since the trail head was a ways away from VVR, you get a ride in a truck that takes you to the starting point at Bear Creek Junction, and Cole made a totally cheesy dramatic run for the truck when we pulled out. I imagine it being one of the funnier things in life if I had the chance to watch it in slow motion, and with a perfect 80’s power ballad playing in the background.
Alright, enough with the rambling. We’ve got to get this thing started. So we got to the trail head as early as we possibly could have. And of course our young whippersnapper friends hauled ass like they were in a race to the finish line as soon as we got out of the truck. Jennifer and I basically waived a “see ya later” and kept our regular pace. Of course, Jennifer will talk more about this in the days ahead, but while the resting at VVR did us both some good, there never would have been enough days to heal the blisters she was getting, so it wasn’t long before that pain kicked in again. Also, our packs were the heaviest this day than they’d ever be on this trip – so that was a major impact especially after a day of laziness. We all weighed our packs upon leaving VVR that day, and we were all terrified. My pack was normally in the mid-30s, but this day it was closer to 40 pounds. And we felt every ounce.
J: I feel the need to fill in a little bit more background on the debate over the trail options out of VVR. There were two trails heading out of VVR to connect back to the JMT. Bear Ridge was shorter but steeper, versus Bear Creek which was about 3 miles longer and less steep. All day at the “stoop” and later over whiskey, we had been debating as a group which trail to take. I had gone to sleep that night thinking the group had reached a consensus to take the Bear Ridge trail, which was my preference. The massive blisters forming on my feet were excited about a shorter hike, even if it was steeper.
I didn’t find out until we were in the truck heading to the trail head that the group had made a last minute change and we were headed to the Bear Creek trail head. I was not excited, but just had to roll with it since we were committed at that point. What’s another 3 miles on popping blisters? Well, I was about to find out. The locals at VVR did say it was the prettier of the two choices, so at least there would be distractions.
Bear Creek Trail was chock full of waterfalls and beautiful little vistas, so we stopped a little here and there to take some pictures, and during one of the stops we officially met our second set of JMT buddies – a group we called the “Tallahassee Lassies” because we’re cheesy like that. And unoriginal. They were a group of four men (age range probably 50s-60s?) from…..wait for it…. Tallahassee. They told us they do trips like this every year together, maybe not as big as the JMT, but something fun, boys only. I immediately decided to make it a life goal to procure close girlfriends I could do this with again in 30 years.
J: I’m in! Those guys were awesome. I hope we’re in as good a shape and as adventurous as they are in 30 years (probably more like 20…we’re older than you think).
I guess we eventually decided we’d seen enough waterfalls, because when we decided we wanted lunch all of them were gone, and we ended up just dumping our stuff down in a nondescript section of the trail and eating right along the trail. We also needed to fill up our water at this point, so it was also here that we chose the hardest spot to get to for water – a teeny creek behind a bunch of briars. You know – starting off from a free day was too easy otherwise – we needed some challenges. Plus, every lunch and water hole can’t be exciting – what ever would we look forward to otherwise??!
I’m pretty sure we made the wiser choice by going the longer, less steep Bear Creek Trail that day as opposed to the shorter, steeper Bear Ridge Trail, but the mileage caught up to us, even if it was only a couple of miles longer. After about 10 miles on the side trail, we finally reached the junction to the JMT and took that opportunity to have a good snack and break. At the junction, we met a solo hiker who wasn’t hiking the JMT, but had been hiking the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail. I didn’t write much about him in my journal (worse historian ever = me), but I remember him having some issue with one of his legs, and we were both pretty impressed that he’d made it as far as he had. He was good people – we chatted for 10 minutes or so, and then made our way south, happy to be back on the JMT and closer to camp.
Once we were back on the actual JMT, we had about 6 miles to go before getting to our final stop for the night, Marie Lakes. That part of the trail was really gorgeous – lots of hiking right along Bear Creek, and we took quite a few breaks which made the day long, but really peaceful too, in a way.
One of our favorite stops that day was along Bear Creek where there were a few nice waterfalls and a good place to sit. We filled up our water and just took advantage of a bright sunny spot, sitting to relax in the sun before the final jaunt.
Given that we’d be hiking about 15 miles on our first day back on the trail, we thought about stopping a little earlier, around the Rose Lake Junction. We ultimately decided against it, since the following day we’d be going over Selden Pass and a decent ways further after that point. It was only a mile or so different, but we’d heard how beautiful Marie Lakes was, so we didn’t want to rush past it in the morning if we didn’t have to.
We were not disappointed. I think we rolled into camp around 7 that night, certainly later than most days, but we were ok with it given how many times we stopped to enjoy the scenery. Trail life is really odd – even though it was still daylight, there were almost no hikers out at camp – everyone was already in their tents and probably going to sleep for the night. Our pattern wasn’t too far from that, especially on this half of the trip. We thought we saw Brittany and Courtney’s tent a ways away, so we figured we’d see them in the morning before we all took off. We did our normal routine of setting up the tent, cleaning up, and making dinner, but I allowed some time to take some pictures while the sun was setting, too. This section of trail was part of the John Muir Wilderness, and the scenery was definitely noticeably different from Ansel Adams Wilderness – fewer trees, more massive mountains, and more gorgeous expansive alpine lakes.
J: I know we say this a lot, but this day was one of the prettiest days of hiking so far. Horizontal rainbows, hiking along a creek all day, and topping it off at Marie Lakes for a gorgeous sunset.
All in all, it was a beautiful day, even though we were both already sore and tired and even more sore from the heavy packs we were now carrying. I was definitely starting to become used to taking 2 ibuprofens at night and 2 each morning as a result of the pain in my feet and mainly ankles each day and was happy that I had a fresh resupply from my VVR package. Jennifer’s blisters were also not better, and there was a lot of talk of exiting the trail during today’s hike, although we both truly hoped that wasn’t going to happen.
J: I did have a little breakdown when we finally stopped for the night and I took my shoes off to reveal the damage from the long day of hiking on my blistered feet. I wasn’t sure how much more my feet could take, but I was hoping for the best and really was just too stubborn to quit.
The next day, we decided we’d stop off at the Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), the final true resupply spot on the JMT. We hadn’t originally intended to go, but Jennifer wanted to play it safe and stock up again on blister supplies, and to see if there was anything more hardcore than what was available at VVR. We’d also go over Selden Pass and start to set ourselves up for the more difficult passes along the trail, but also some really notable spots, higher elevation, and amazing scenery.
Day 10 Details (August 3, 2015):
Start-Finish: VVR to Marie Lake Outlet
Daily Miles: 15.2
Mileage Tally: 114.9
Camp elevation: 10,550 ft
Hiking Elevation: 5,070 ft gain; 1,030 ft loss (approximate)
Hey! Here’s a link to all JMT posts for your reading pleasure . You’re welcome.