Thursday, August 29, 2013

day 18: 9th day on the JMT, Vermillion Valley Resort

On this day we slept in a little bit because all we had planned for the morning was to break camp, walk 1.4 miles to the Edison Lake Ferry and go to Vermillion Valley Resort to relax and get our second resupply.  All went well until we arrived at the ferry landing.  We were told to be there at 9:30 a.m. because it left at 9:45 a.m.  We were there at 9:15 and waited until 10:15 when the ferry finally arrived.  It was very frustrating because no one else was waiting, we weren't sure if it had come earlier or if it was coming at all and we had no way of contacting them (no cell service, because, hello we're in the middle of nowhere).

This is the lake where the ferry picked us up.  A combination of it having been drained some last year and having a dry winter left for a seriously low lake.  Yes, those are tree stumps.

But our "patience" paid off when Jim, the owner of VVR, rode up in a little John boat (the ferry) to get us.  We were thrilled!!  (I should mention here that the ferry runs twice a day, once at 9:45 a.m. and again around 4:00 p.m.  If we had missed the morning one we would've had to walk 4 miles around the lake to get to VVR.  Since my mind was set on taking it easy on this day I was determined not to have to walk those 4 extra miles.)  Jim is a very nice man and I really enjoyed chatting with him during our ferry ride.  He and his wife own VVR and it really seems that they care about hikers.  He said that hikers, locals and a few faithful summer vacationers are their main customers.  Seeing as the way to access VVR by land is to drive 50 or so miles down a one way dirt road, they don't get much thru-traffic, which they no doubt take pride in.  They are very accommodating and we really enjoyed our time there.  Everyone was so nice, from the people who worked there to the locals who come to hang out and tell bear stories.

 Boat dock on the other side of the lake, see how low it is? Practically nonexistent.

We decided to stay the whole day and spend the night (in our tent, no room this time!) so that we could rest before the second half of our trip.  We got our resupply, ate lunch (burgers and fries!), I took a nap, we took showers, washed our clothes, hung out with other hikers, ate dinner (steak and fish tacos!  You guess who ordered which entree.), then went to bed.

 Vermillion Valley Resort, y'all.  We're talking 5 stars here.  Just kidding, I have nothing bad to say about this place, we had a great experience.

It is a really great place and has a very welcoming feel to it.  Again, we really enjoyed our time here and were thankful that we chose to take the day off (this would be the only day we took off or as other hikers call it, our only "zero day").  We met Dan, from Massachusetts, three girls that just graduated college from MA and Brian, a teacher from Los Angeles.  They were all JMT hikers.  We met a lot of PCT hikers as well.  It was nice to be in the hiking community for a night.  They were all very happy go-lucky people and it was good to be surrounded by others that you could swap trail tales with and you knew they understood.

Campsite at VVR

*No JMT miles on this day
**If you are hiking the JMT, VVR gives a free beer to all thru-hikers, heck yeah!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

day 17: 8th day on the JMT, Purple Lake to just before the Vermillion Valley Ferry pick up

We woke up to 38 degree weather which kind of set the feeling for the day.  The only time I had only a t-shirt and shorts on was when we were ascending our second mountain.  The rest of the time I had layers on.  It was incredibly windy for the majority of the day. 

So today we went up a mountain then descended a ton then climbed up Silver Pass (3.8 miles?) and descended over 2,000 feet after that.  No flat land.  Well, barely any flat land.  I hated ascending Silver, it seemed to go on forever.  But the view at the very top was gorgeous.  And we passed a lot of beautiful lakes along the way. 

 heading up Silver Pass

One of the little lakes going up Silver Pass

Panoramic shot while still going up Silver

On top of Silver, looking down at where we came from

View from the top of Silver

Us at the top of Silver Pass

Oh, before any of that happened...this morning John noticed that there were ice crystals in the lens of the camera!  And they wouldn't go away.  So after our first ascent (first thing that morning) we stopped at Lake Virginia and he took the whole camera apart and fixed it!  Such a smart engineer!  Lake Virginia was gorgeous but incredibly windy.

Lake Virginia

We had to cross some pretty scary creeks today, I started crying crossing one because I was so scared I wouldn't make it across.  I hate those creeks and I think they should put more large rocks in them or build little bridges.  I know it sounds silly to want those things out here in the wilderness but they are dangerous!  And of course we hiked across snow.  It wouldn't be an early June day on the JMT without hiking across snow.  I'm getting more used to it but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared every time I saw snow ahead on the trail. 

Creek crossing


I'm learning that every day on the JMT is tough in a different way and I just hope I'm tough enough to keep up.  The descents really killed my feet and knees today.  And of course I slid a lot.  Thank goodness for my trekking poles!

Today I sang a lot of Avett Brothers' songs in my head as well as "One, two, buckle my shoe"--where that came from, I do not know.  I did some praying and some self-talk--"You are brave, strong, courageous and a fighter."  Every little bit of motivation helps up those ascents.

So we left Purple Lake this morning and now we are about 1.4 miles away from the Vermillion Valley Resort Ferry pick up area.  We will get our second resupply tomorrow!  We didn't plan that too well but we'll deal with it (the days between Red's and VVR were shorter than we expected, therefore we had more food than we expected).

What hurts: knees, calves intermittently and feet.  My feet are sore and I have a huge blister under my left big toe.  Other little blisters are forming.  John is feeling good, his feet aren't really hurting him anymore.

 Campsite close to VVR ferry pick up

*We climbed about 2400 feet and descended 4500 feet, we hiked 15.4 miles.

Total JMT miles: 88

Saturday, August 24, 2013

day 16: 7th day on the JMT, Red's Meadow Resort to Purple Lake

It was very hard to get out of bed at Red's this morning.  It's amazing how much better you sleep in a bed rather than in a sleeping bag on the ground.  But we did get up, we got ready and packed all of our things up.  We left Red's around 9:30 a.m., a very late start for us but at least we were well rested.

Since we had our resupply we were weighted down with packs full of food and we had to hike 1,400 ft up and out of Red's Meadow.  Way to start the day.  We walked through a forest that clearly had caught on fire at some point, it looked very sad.  We are now reconnected with the Pacific Crest Trail and saw many PCT hikers throughout the day.  John helped a lot of them figure out where they were going with his maps.

burned out section

Today we moved from Ansel Adams Wilderness to the John Muir Wilderness.  The weather was nice; sunny, warmish and breezy.  Perfect for hiking.  We went up a lot ascents, down a few descents and through lots of rolling terrain.  I was very tired of the ascents and was about to lose it at some points but kept it together.  Oh John, he sure did choose a diva to join him on the trail.

The trail starting to get a little sandier

beautiful mountains

look at all of those trees

John on the trail

To pass the time today I prayed, thought about people in my life, sang hymns, Christmas carols and Wagon Wheel (all in my head, of course).  I also sang 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, I hate that song but I was desperate to occupy my thoughts with something other than pain or exhaustion.  And I did the count to 20 over and over thing again on an extremely long ascent. 

lots of rocks along the way

more beautiful mountains and trees

We are currently camping at Purple Lake and it is very cold.  We hiked 13.8 miles today, yippee!  I do feel like I'm getting stronger although I'm still getting pretty winded on some of those ascents. 

Purple Lake

What hurts: my feet, more blisters are showing up and my shoulders.  John's feet are feeling better.

our campsite at Purple Lake

Total JMT miles: 73

Friday, August 23, 2013

day 15: 6th day on the JMT, Ruby Lake to Red's Meadow Resort

 Sunrise at Ruby Lake

We broke camp and hit the trail by 7:40 a.m., our earliest yet because we needed to go 15.8 miles to Red's Meadow Resort to get our first resupply.  There were tons of ups and downs and plenty of snow covering the trail.  Thank goodness John could figure out the general vicinity of the trail each time. 

 Ruby Lake in the morning

Anyway, we were on a mission so we were booking it.  We passed Garnet Lake which was beautiful and continued to pass many more little lakes.  Then came Shadow Lake, also beautiful, and our last major ascent until Red's.  Oh my goodness, it seemed it would never end and it was so steep.  We got to the top (what we thought was the top) and were greeted with a hail and thunderstorm. 

Garnet Lake

 Garnet Lake

We waited 10 minutes until the hail turned to rain and we thought it was clearing up so we booked it out of there.  It rained for 2 hours straight and then on and off for another hour.  There was hail mixed into the 3 hours and thunder the entire time.  Not only did we hike through the storm but we had to pass through creeks of snow melt, hike over snow and through plenty of mud.  We were over it.

 Scenery along the way

Scenery (trail to the left)

We descended a lot (around 2500 feet throughout the day) and I slipped quite a few times.  Again, thank goodness for my trekking poles.  I love them!  Anyway, we continued to go as fast as possible to get to Red's because we'd heard they had great milkshakes and I was craving a cheeseburger (hello, appetite!).  Also, we weren't sure what time they closed up shop and wanted to make sure we got some food while they were still open.

 Shadow Lake

A storm's a brewing


 This section of trail had a ton of trees knocked down, very weird

Burned out section of forest

We arrived at Red's around 4:20 p.m. and saw they stayed open until 7:00 p.m. Because of the rain, the long/tough day and our stinkiness I urged John to get a room as opposed to us camping.  What a great choice!  It was a little expensive but we'll be sleeping in a bed (yay!), we got to wash and dry our clothes (yay!) and we both got showers (double yay!).  We also both had bacon cheeseburgers with chips and milkshakes. 

Devil's Postpile National Monument

We are clean, warm, dry, full and happy.  The day got off to a tough start but we are super happy now!  Also, we walked past Devil's Postpile National Monument and while it was cool we didn't see what the big deal was.

What hurts: both of us have aching feet.  Blisters.  My leg muscles are getting a little sore.

Our room at Red's Meadow.  We set up all of our stuff so that it could dry out.

Total JMT miles: 59

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

day 14: 5th day on JMT, Donahue Pass to Ruby Lake

 Donahue Pass

A year ago today I was in my best friend, Ginny's, wedding!  Happy anniversary Ginny and Riley!  If you had told me a year ago that I would be on the JMT next year I would've laughed at you.  Funny how things change.  Today was rough, really, really rough.  We started the morning (after breakfast and breaking camp) by crossing a swift creek (just above 32 degrees F)  Barefoot because we didn't want to start the day out with super wet boots.  It was definitely scary (as the river rocks were very slick and the creek was very swift) but John was helpful and we did it!  The water came half way up my calf.

The view from the top of Donahue Pass

Then we hiked up Donahue Pass (11, 200 ft, around a 2 mile climb).  Whew!  We had to cross over many creeks that were sheer snow melt and then we had to hike partially up the pass on pure packed snow!  I only allowed myself to look at John's footprints right in front of mine because I was scared out of my mind.  Today I am super thankful for my trekking poles (thanks, Bev!)!  They saved my butt so many times today.

Me hiking up Donahue

Anyway, we finally got to the top of Donahue Pass and Keith was up on a higher peak telling us there was a great view.  We hiked across more snow (a plateau) then up some rocks and joined him for a rest.  Gorgeous!!  You could see so far and the view was incredible, I'm so glad we did that. 

View at the top of Donahue

Another view at the top 

Later, we parted ways with Keith and we continued on through the pass and over the other side.  There was tons of snow, mud and little creeks of snow melt.  Yuck!  I fell through the snow thigh deep, twice.  We lost the trail at one point because it was covered in snow.  But John is amazing and found the trail again.  We continued on descents, flats, ascents and rolling terrain mixed with plenty of snow, mud, little creeks and big rolling creeks. 

Starting to go down the other side of Donahue

The upsides of the day were seeing Thousand Island Lake (gorgeous!!), Emerald Lake (beautiful but a pain to get around because of the snow) and Ruby Lake, where we decided to camp.  We camped early because Ruby was so beautiful and there was a perfect space for a campsite.

On the way to Thousand Island Lake

Getting closer...

Thousand Island Lake

My appetite seems to be back to normal, although I thought I would be ravenous because of all the exercise but I'm not.  Both of our feet hurt pretty bad but everything else seems to be fine.  Except that we have 1,000 mosquito bites and we hate the snow.  We got to see some really incredible sights though and that makes the negative things fade away.

Thousand Island Lakes (See all of the little islands out there? Hence the name.)

Ruby Lake

Sunset at Ruby Lake
Total JMT miles: 44

campsite at Ruby Lake