It’s a dangerous place.
Monday (Day #8)
11.9 miles – Fish Creek Trail -> Cascade Valley Trail
Tuesday (Day #9)
13.7 miles – Cascade Valley Trail -> Lake Edison Jct Bridge
Wednesday (Day #10)
15.3 miles – Lake Edison Jct Bridge -> Sallie Keyes Lakes
Thursday (Day #11)
8.1 miles – Sallie Keyes Lakes -> Piute Creek Jct
Friday (Day #12)
11.6 miles – Piute Creek Jct -> Evolution Lake
Saturday (Day #13)
9.2 miles – Evolution Lake -> below Muir Pass
Sunday (Day #14)
11.0 miles – Below Muir Pass -> Deer Meadow
Weekly total: 80.8 miles
TOTAL total: 358.7 miles
Okay, so where were we?
While we were hanging out at Red’s Meadow hiker trashin’ it up, we met a group of 3 thruhikers from Indiana. Andrew already knew them, and turns out we would have also known them the week before if we hadn’t been antisocial and camped on the wrong side of the Lyell Fork bridge. Pro tip: Don’t be scared off by naked ladies bathing in a river.
Around the same time, we also chatted with a half dozen guys who were northbound and doing a long section of the PCT. They started talking about some hot springs they had just come from, and insisted these were amazing hot springs with great views and only added on a few more miles than the equivalent JMT section.
Now, I’m not typically a last-minute plan changer. My type A personality won’t allow for it. But some sort of miracle occurred, probably something about being tipsy in the sun surrounded by other backpackers, and fucking thank goodness for that. We decided, along with the Indianans, to go for it.
We headed to the Rainbow Falls trailhead instead of back to the JMT, hiked a few miles, and camped next to a stream.
We made it to Iva Bell Hot Springs the next day. And holy fuck it was awesome. Highly recommend.
Unfortunately, because of our rather tight schedule, Joan and I had to part with the Indianans and keep moving that day. One of the shitty aspects of being on trail is meeting cool people and then parting with them prematurely. I will probably never have as many conversations about blowdowns ever again.
We started hitting some passes on this section, Silver and Selden. They must not have been that bad compared to the later ones because I barely remember them.
In between Silver and Selden, we camped at the Lake Edison junction, which is one of the turnoffs for VVR. We’d set up camp and then took our bear cans and stoves a little ways away to make dinner. We were just hanging out afterwards and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something in camp, looked over, and there was a fucking bear running through. We jumped up and went back to camp, and had an epic 30 second staredown with the bear.
Turns out the bear had grabbed my clothing stuff sack, ripped it up, and abandoned it.
We later found out our neighbors, Cass and Lauren, had had their water bottles and a trekking pole chewed up. Could have been worse. This bear apparently doesn’t know the difference between food and non-food, what a dumbass, but he regularly frequents that camping area because it’s pretty popular.
So that was our only bear encounter. I’ll take it.
Let’s talk resupplies for a hot second. Our first resupply was at Red’s Meadow, which has a little store with camping stuff. Joan actually barely had to get anything there because she’d packed way too much food before we started and, between the Red’s hiker box and Andrew’s donations, I ended up paying like $8 for food for that section. #winning
Our second resupply was at Muir Trail Ranch, which is about 100 miles into the JMT right after Selden Pass. Almost everyone resupplies at MTR because it’s the only easy place to do so in the second half of the trail. Which is shitty because it’s a super expensive resupply. You have to mail a bucket of food to the ranch, and they charge $65 per bucket.
This has to be done at least three weeks in advance because they boat the buckets across a lake and then carry them into the very remote MTR. We sent ours kind of late. Luckily both of our buckets were there though, phew.
Most people send themselves too much shit, so there are buckets full of free food, batteries, gear, etc., at MTR. Because we’d heard horror stories about people being super hungry on the JMT after MTR, we hung out for way too long eating food. And, this is important for later, we both ate food that had been repackaged by people. I don’t normally do that, but we were too tempted by bags of sketchy trail mix and an already-opened block of cheese.
Also, the hot springs at MTR are supa lame compared to Iva Bell.
We went through the Evolution Basin/Valley area, which is one of the most beautiful sections of the trail, and camped at Evolution Lake with a cool thruhiker from Santa Cruz.
Just to prove that we were still walking around with all our shit on our backs.
Shit kind of hit the fan the day after we camped at Evolution Lake.
About half an hour after we’d begun the six miles up to Muir Pass, Joan started feeling sick. Those six miles turned out to be the most slow, stressful, and scary of the trip. We were stopping every 10 or 15 minutes so that Joan could sit down and try not to throw up, and I was freaking out planning an exit strategy and hoping that Joan wasn’t going to die on the side of a mountain.
She somehow made it to the top of Muir Pass. Two extremely helpful day hikers carried Joan’s pack the last mile up to the top of the pass, which was basically a godsend. I don’t know if we would have made it otherwise.
We were sitting on top of Muir Pass, me feeling helpless and Joan curled up under her umbrella, when an angel walked up to us. His name was William, and he happened to be a nurse. He helped us figure out what she had, which was most likely food poisoning because diarrhea is usually the first symptom of Giardia and Crytosporidium, and gave her some antacids so she could eat and drink more. We think she got food poisoning from eating other peoples’ trail mix at MTR. I will never again touch food that is possibly feces-covered!
We then hashed out a plan to get off the pass. We hiked down the three miles to the first decently protected campsites, with William carrying some of Joan’s gear while I carried her pack. Even so, by the time we made it, it was getting dark and Joan looked like a zombie from eating nothing and drinking only half liter of water. She managed to keep down some food that evening, and got a good night of sleep.
I’m so so so glad that we ran into William on top of the pass. We’re so grateful for all his help and advice. I don’t what we would have done without him, and it could have been a total disaster otherwise. Thank you so much William! I hope the rest of your trip was successful.
The trail provides.
Did Joan survive? Were we able to continue on, or did we have to leave the JMT? You’ll have to read the next JMT post to find out!
This was the only picture I took on the Muir Pass day.
It’s of a patch of snow that could be seen from the top of Muir Pass. Why the fuck did I even take that picture?