JMT Days 9 – 10, Rain and Tetris

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Day 9: 11.2 miles, 97.7 cumulative, Bear Creek to Muir Trail Ranch (8200′)

River crossings in June and early July had been crazy due to the record snow, with reports of hikers being swept away. By the time we hit the trail the rivers had calmed, but were still very high, and Bear Creek was rumored to be dangerous. NOBO hikers had told us there was a log crossing, so I crawled out of bed into the damp morning and started searching for it. I hiked downstream maybe a quarter mile and found a large downed tree. From where I was it looked like the top went underwater. There was also a small island in the middle and I couldn’t see how to cross the other side of the river. But, its the best we had. The crossing at the trail definitely looked too swift to try.

I returned to camp and we packed up wet tents, never fun. Nathan and I headed to the downed tree. Once we were up on the log we saw that a second log lay across the first so we were able to cross without getting into the water. However there was no log on the other side of the island so we crossed that half of the river wet, the current not too swift. On the JMT Nathan was using my camp sandals to cross rivers while I just took my socks off and crossed in the trail runners I was hiking in. After drying my feet and putting dry socks back on, I would hike them dry over the next few hours.

We climbed steadily over the next few miles to Selden Pass. Rosemarie Meadow was pretty and we crossed a smaller upstream Bear Creek easily on a log. Marie Lake was still and quiet in the gray of the day. We hiked along the flowered shore before heading into the snow leading up the pass.

Selden Pass (10,900) was pretty easy. Coming down we passed Heart Lake and Sallie Keyes Lakes, all of which were lovely. There were flowers to brighten the gray day, and plenty of snow to keep us busy.

Now we had a 2000′ descent to Muir Trail Ranch. The last couple miles were dry exposed switchbacks. Muir Trail Ranch is where most hikers pick up their resupply, and I couldn’t help but be glad I wasn’t going up all those switchbacks with a pack heavy with food. The clouds were intensifying and the booming of thunder was all around us. The switchbacks were exposed with no forest to take cover and we hiked as quickly as possible to avoid exposure to lightening. It started to rain heavily as we entered the forest below.

We arrived at Muir Trail Ranch soaked as the rain continued. Although we were picking up our resupply here, I didn’t want to deal with it in the rain. We huddled under an awning with other hikers, some of which were sorting their resupplys but most just staying out of the rain. At 5 we were asked to leave by the staff as they were closing the resupply office. MTR doesn’t have a restaurant or any facilities for hikers, so we all trudged wet into the rain about half a mile to where the backpacker campsite was. We were pretty miserable, but rain is a part of backpacking. It was somewhat comforting to not be miserable alone. Everyone set up and disappeared into their tents. Nathan and I retiring to play cards, listen to music and eat jellybeans…which definitely makes things better. 🙂

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Day 10: 8.2 miles, 105.9 cumulative, MTR to Evolution Creek (9190′)

Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) is the halfway point of the JMT. Yay! It is also where we picked up our last resupply that needed to last for our last 10 days. And, it was our last “civilization” until we hiked out 10 days later.

Nathan and I packed up our wet tents and headed back to MTR. We had a letter from my 14 yo daughter with little encouragement notes to read each of the next 10 days. 🙂 Just seeing her handwriting each day helped keep homesickness at bay. We picked up our resupply, found a table, and started the sorting. What had I mailed? Would it be enough food? How the heck was I going to squeeze it into our two bear canisters? It was a careful game of tetris, fitting food together as tightly as possible. We did not get it all in there and left several meals in the MTR hiker buckets (which were constantly scavenged by other hikers). But I think I did pretty dang good.

Most hikers couldn’t fit all their food into their bear canisters, and most mailed extra luxury food to be eaten there at MTR. So there was a feast as we all shared food. S & P were there and had a jar of olives. There were canned pineapple slices and tiny boxes of wine. I had sent a whole bag of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies which I donated to the pile. We had fun eating and talking and rummaging through the hiker buckets which were filled with everything imaginable. We even spotted R, the hiker we had shared the bus with out of the Fresno airport! Finally it was time to pack up. Those of us hiking SOBO now had 10 days of food in our packs, which was at least 15 pounds. There was a scale at MTR. Yep…my pack was now 40 pounds. Yikes!

Nathan and I headed out following the San Joaquin River for a couple miles. Its a major river and we crossed it’s tributary Piute Creek on a steel bridge. That bridge marked the end of the John Muir Wilderness and the entrance into the Kings Canyon National Park for us.

We followed The San Joaquin River for several miles through a canyon that was one of my favorite sections of the trail. The waters tumbled loudly, white water mixed with blues and greens.

We crossed another bridge leaving the San Joaquin and joining Evolution Creek. We now climbed up through Goddard Canyon watching Evolution Creek tumble down in spectacular waterfalls. It rained as we climbed and I didn’t get many pictures. Finally we found a good campsite next to the creek and Nathan made our first fire of the trip as the rain stopped.

 “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” -John Muir

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