Day 7: 7.3 miles hiked, 74 cumulative, Silver Pass Lake to VVR (7600′)
This day would take us to Vermillion Valley Resort. It is a remote back country resort that is super friendly to thru hikers. A ferry picks up hikers on the east side of Edison Lake twice a day and ferries them across, so we had until 4pm to get to the pick up spot.
We had our daily routine down, but we were never fast movers in the morning. It was light by 5:30 am and I was awake by 6:00 every day. By 6:30 I was usually up to relieve myself and would start boiling water. I had coffee and Nathan had hot chocolate, if only to warm up and get us going. It was always cold in the mornings, our down puffy jackets and wool beanies a must for exiting the tent. We studied the map while we ate breakfast, deciding how far we would go and where we would try and camp that night. Mentally preparing for hard climbs or rivers crossings. Then we would pack up and be on our way by 8-ish.
We had no climbs this day (yay!), descending ~2400 feet to Lake Edison. There were at least two wet crossings to look forward to however. As we descended we followed Silver Pass Creek which rushed down the mountain cascading over granite in waterfall after waterfall. Eventually we had to cross it…in what was another waterfall! The trail was covered by a foot of water with the waterfall pounded the rocks spraying us with water. There were large boulders that Nathan decided to rock hop on. Right at the end he slipped and emerged with blood running down both shins. I decided to just walk through the water…
About half a mile after the waterfall was the N. Fork Mono Creek crossing. Another raging creek and another wet crossing. It was really our last “easy” day with low mileage and no climb, so afterwards we found a nice spot to lay out our wet stuff to dry. We listened to the white water churn by and played cards for a bit.
We found the trail to the Edison ferry and hiked the extra 1.5 miles to the lake. Arriving early we stretched out and ate, making some new friends. A couple girls from Louisiana and C, an experienced solo hiker. The Japanese group was there as well, and a few others. The sky was overcast and a few drops fell, but nothing to worry us. And luckily, the group had prearranged to be picked up early so the ferry showed up around 2. Yay!
It was a 30 minute ride across the choppy and cold waters. Our ferry driver Jim is the owner at VVR and a nice guy. The last couple years there had been a drought, so he was loving all the snow and water. At VVR there was free beer for all thru hikers, a free campground to pitch our tents, toilets, showers, a store with everything a hiker might need, a restaurant, tables and games, a fire pit, and just general hanging out with other thru hikers. 🙂 I loved VVR…
With the threat of rain we pitched out tents. There were already a few PCT’ers there taking zero days. The Silicone Valley group were finished with their hike; they were exiting back to real life the next day. Nathan chatted with a fellow hiker for a while and played a couple games of cribbage with him. With our tents up we checked out the store. Nathan had left his sandals at home and had no camp shoes. I found a pair of flip flops covered in happy faces for him, and picked up some more DEET as we were nearly out. I grabbed my free beer, Nathan grabbed his free soda, and we sat outside marveling at how good cold drinks tasted. Then we took our showers. At VVR the private shower rooms actually had soap and shampoo (yay!) and they gave you a clean, fluffy, towel that smelled of detergent and was absolute heaven. (double yay!!) The shower was 7 glorious minutes long and hot. And…there was mirror in the room. Yikes! And a toilet. And a sink. I wanted to stay forever…
Finally clean for the first time in 9 days (the shower at Red’s had been meh) I went back to the tables. We sat outside and ordered dinner. Nathan asked for whatever had the most calories, which was an enormous platter of fettuccine alfredo, and I had a huge salad. There was a group of four friends next to us that hike together every year. They were just doing four days and were in awe of the 200+ miles we were doing. We were in constant awe of the PCT’ers 2600 miles so I guess it’s all relative. We talked to them for awhile. Nathan finally got an update as to how the Houston Astros were doing…which is the only news we had craved. It is really nice not knowing or caring about the news for 3 weeks, being unplugged is a wonderful thing! They left and then we saw our friends! I hugged C. We hadn’t seen them for 3 days and I had wondered how she was doing on her sprained ankle. We ordered more drinks and talked for hours.
Exhausted but full of food and fellowship, we went to bed while other hikers hung out well into the dark.
Day 8: 11.5 miles hiked, 85.5 cumulative, VVR to Bear Creek (9580′)
Nathan and I woke and headed to the cafe for breakfast. We ordered large plates of food, juice and coffee. We shared our table with a young couple, S and P. They had attempted to hike the JMT the previous year but S had sliced her foot open in a creek just a few days in. So…here they were again. They were geologists in Alaska and S and I were both members of a jmt online group. We had good conversation over our mountains of food. We headed out to pack up as the ferry left at 8:45. After the final luxury of brushing my teeth in a sink!
There were 17 thru hikers gathered together, a flurry of activity as hikers tightened boots, rummaged through packs, and applied sunscreen. We chatted and met some new people. Soon we filed onto the ferry for a smooth morning ride back to the trail. We hopped off and one by one disappeared back into the forest.
After the 1.5 miles back to the JMT, we had before us the infamous Bear Ridge. Known to be a hard climb, Bear Ridge climbs 2000′ in just a couple of miles. There were 57 switchbacks climbing through forest. I’m thankful it was shaded, because it lived up to its reputation. I really didn’t like the climb. The trees blocked the great vistas we enjoyed at the higher elevations, so it was just a three hour slog up.
We ate lunch and then hiked down about a 1000′ before climbing a bit more to our next campsite. Bear creek was to be crossed the next morning, and was rumored to be a dangerous one. So we wanted to cross first thing in the morning when the water levels were the lowest. We camped by a large granite slab just next to the creek. The last couple miles had been along side the raging Bear Creek which was beautiful as well as powerful. It rained lightly on us as we hiked that afternoon and again that night. As I lay in my tent that night, listening to the rain I could only wonder if the river would rise.
“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” -John Muir