Thursday, October 30, 2014

JMT, from Muir Trail Ranch to McClure Meadow...

...will be posted Saturday.  Had a last-minute deadline that needed to be taken care of last night, so I couldn't get the JMT entry out on time.  Will try to get two entries taken care of this week...hope to have the entire blog finished, including the gear review, by the end of November.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

JMT Rest Day #6 (Trail Day #14). Muir Trail Ranch. Aug. 18, 2014

This was our scheduled rest day at Muir Trail Ranch.  We had arrived early the day before, therefore the descriptions and many photos of our cabin and one of the hot springs can be found here, in this previous entry.

Our rest day was spent lounging in the other private hot spring and hanging about the lounge.  The lounge housed Honey, the Ranch's cat.  The girls loved Honey and took a thousand photos of her...they even loved her when she brought in a chipmunk and ate it behind the fireplace.  This feline is sweet (to humans, anyway), so give her a gentle pet on the head when you visit.

Honey, the cat of Muir Trail Ranch

Private hot spring

Our bodies felt fine and ready to roll by the end of our stay.  Sage's cough was almost completely gone, and we looked forward to the nine days ahead of us.  No more rest stops, no more "zero days."  From here, we would travel over the wildest, roughest, most isolated section of the John Muir Trail before climbing up and over the highest mountain in the continental United States.  We had planned to do this section in ten days, but we were easily able to make it in nine.  The scenery was gorgeous and the weather couldn't have been better...but you'll see the photos in the posts to come.

The next entry, detailing our journey from Muir Trail Ranch to McClure Meadow, will be posted by Wednesday, October 29.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

JMT Hiking Day #8 (Trip Day #13). Sallie Keyes Lakes to Muir Trail Ranch. Aug. 17, 2014

EDIT 12/23/2014 - In an earlier post, I stated that our room at VVR was cleaner and more spacious than what we had at Muir Trail Ranch.  THIS WAS A MISTAKE.  I meant to write that our room at VVF cost about the same, yet was more spacious and cleaner, than our room at Reds Meadow Resort.  I just now -- more than a month later -- caught that mistake.  I am so sorry -- we LOVED our time at MMR, as this post, and the one that follows, should abundantly show. --Trish

As usual, I awoke before the kids.

After they roused themselves, we broke camp and walked the six miles of easy downhill trail toward Muir Trail Ranch.

We arrived around 10am and let ourselves in at the gate.


Muir Trail Ranch feels like two separate businesses.  First, it's an excellent resupply stop.  You mail your resupply bucket from home, pay them $65 for each bucket they hold for you, then, when you arrive, your bucket is there on the date you specify, and there's a shaded area for you to go through it and ditch what you don't need.  All those buckets in a row below, plus more you can't see, are filled with food and supplies other hikers have left behind.  You can take whatever you like from those buckets and leave whatever you don't want from your own.  Everything is neatly organized.  There's also a long power strip for folks to charge their gadgets, and there's a faucet with fresh drinking water.  It's a nice operation.  The only thing you can't do, unless you're staying the night as a paid guest, is use their toilets.  That shouldn't be a big deal for anyone who's been backpacking in the woods for days/weeks.

The second business is the resort itself.  There are beautiful cabins, private hot springs, and a to-die-for dining service.  It's a lovely place to stay; the usual clientele hike or ride horses into the ranch from the Florence Lake area.

We were too early to check in, so I took my time going through the two buckets I had mailed.  Alex and Sage looked through what other hikers had left behind and scored some Rice Krispie squares, beef jerky, and a few other enticing tidbits.  They ate their finds while I stuffed everything back in my pack and weighed my Gossamer Gear Gorilla.  42 pounds, plus another eight lbs I was carrying by hand in my Ursack (I'll review that excellent piece of gear this weekend).

Not long after we arrived, a couple we recognized from Vermilion Valley Resort walked into the resupply area.  The man's name was Don and the woman's name was Debbie; they were from Washington DC.  We introduced ourselves (we hadn't spoken at VVR, I just remember seeing their faces) and chatted until the MMR folks told us we could check in.  Don and Debbie were staying two nights, as we were, so we took the tour together and then went into our respective cabins.

The cabins are rustic, individual buildings that dot the banks of a lovely stream.

The interior of our cabin was spacious and charming.

After we settled in, we tackled our laundry.  The girls and I had fun using the old-fashioned washing machine.

Sage using the old-fashioned wringer.
Once the chores were complete, we headed for the private hot springs.  There's an outdoor area in which you must bathe and wash hair before entering the clean water.  We were more than happy to wash the trail dust and body grime off ourselves.

Private hot spring!

Cleaning ourselves before entering the water.

Good times.

Clothes cleaned and bodies rejuvenated, we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging about and waiting for dinner.  We saw the Dartmouth guys come through and pick up their resupply buckets -- we hadn't seen them since that first night at Little Yosemite Valley.  They now numbered four instead of six -- two of the fellas had left the trail.  We exchanged pleasantries with the four that remained, and then they left...they said they planned on ascending Whitney on the 26th.  We didn't see them again, so they were probably a day or two ahead of us from that point forward.

I'll describe more features of Muir Trail Ranch in my next entry, which will be posted late Saturday evening, Aug. 25.

Friday, October 17, 2014

JMT Hiking Day #7 (Trip Day #12 ): VVR to Sallie Keyes Lakes. Aug. 16, 2014

Around 18 miles with about 3300 feet of elevation gain.

VVR runs a shuttle to Bear Creek Cut-Off Trail.  Taking this trail, plus Bear Creek Trail, puts you back on the JMT.  You end up just past the switchbacks of Bear Ridge.  Some elevation gain is saved using this route, and many JMT hikers do it, so the girls and I didn't mind not hiking the exact JMT for those few miles.

Here's the trailhead for Bear Creek Cut-Off Trail.  We were there nice and early, around 7:15.

This trail is fairly flat...

These pine cones were HUGE -- and heavy!  If one were to fall on your head, you'd get quite the concussion!

The Cut-Off Trail ends at an intersection...we took a sharp left and continued our hike on the Bear Creek Trail.  This trail gently ascends toward the JMT...the views were, as usual, gorgeous.

After 10.2 miles of easy to moderate trekking, we reached the intersection with the JMT.  Sage looked at the map while Alex and I had a snack.

Shortly after our break, a trail crew passed.  They'd been working at Marie Lake for a few days, and they seemed jovial and polite.  There was a ranger with the crew -- after a few minutes of happy conversation, he asked to see my permit.  He seemed almost apologetic about asking me...I told him, truthfully, that I really didn't mind.  If I have to carry the permit during my entire trip, then I'm more than happy to show it to people.

We continued onward, passing over streams...

...and through Rosemarie Meadow...

Sage and Alex in Rosemarie Meadow
...up toward Marie Lake.

Marie Lake was beautiful, but there were no obvious campsites.  Perhaps this was what the trail crew had been doing...returning everything back to nature, and erasing all signs of obvious camping?  The girls and I had planned on stopping here for the night, but given the 100% pristine state of the area, we decided to continue up and over nearby Selden Pass.  Both girls felt strong, and we had plenty of time before nightfall.

Sage at Marie Lake, near Selden Pass
We continued onward...

Looking back at Marie Lake

The climb to Selden Pass felt mellow and short.  It was nowhere near as strenuous as Donohue Pass had been, and it was nothing like the passes we had yet to climb.

The view from the top was gorgeous!  The lake down below is Heart Lake, which does look like a heart from one specific angle (I didn't get a decent picture of it).

We met a fellow named Phil on top of the pass.  He was a kind fellow and we exchanged pleasantries.  We'd see him off and on for the next five or six days.

The girls spent a lot of time taking photos.  When they were ready, we headed down...

Sallie Keyes Lakes looked lovely and inviting.  The girls and I decided we would definitely sleep there.

Excellent campsites abound in the forested bit of land between the two lakes (you can see the strip of trees in the image above, between the two bodies of water...lots of good camping in there).

At least seven other sets of hikers had arrived before us.  We pitched our tent as far away from others as we could in an attempt to respect personal space.

The sun went down soon after we finished our evening chores...

A coyote howled on one side of the lake.  Its friend answered from the other side.  The girls and I listened happily to the canine conversation until we fell asleep.

JMT Hiking Day #8 (Trip Day #13): Sallie Keyes Lakes to Muir Trail Ranch. Aug. 17, 2014