8/27/09; Distance Traveled = 18.4 miles
I slept soundly last night, not surprising, after 3-4 days out I usually start sleeping well, waking to hushed voices and clinking tent poles. The group of four is packing, getting ready to head out.
I brake camp, shove everything into the bear box, and then make my way to the “resort.” There is a use trail that exits across from the bath house. It takes 5 minutes or so to get there. The door to the Mule House Cafe makes a loud noise when I pull on it, it is chained, but someone comes straight away and lets me in. I have no idea of the time; fortunately it is 7:00am and time for them to open. The breakfast, bacon and eggs, pancakes, and real coffee, taste great. What a nice change from muesli, but too much food. I can’t finish it.
Following breakfast I walk to the General Store, look around for few minutes for nothing in particular, then pay for and pick up my resupply. Returning to the campsite I load the bear canister, top off the stove fuel, and add the next 3 sheets of the map pack. I decide to day hike Rainbow Falls before continuing on the JMT, so again stash the pack and start down the wide dusty trail with a water bottle and camera.
There are already a large number of people and stock on the trail, kicking up enough dust that I can grind it in my teeth. I pass them and am fortunate to have the falls to myself for a few minutes. I take about 20 pictures, trying various aperture and exposure settings; only one turns out. Rainbow Falls is nice, but not spectacular like those in Yosemite. Returning from Rainbow Falls I meet Dale heading to the falls. He camped last night at Johnston Meadow. I probably won’t see him again. He plans to take it more slowly the next couple days and reach VVR on Saturday. I wish him a good hike.
Leaving Reds Meadow the JMT climbs moderately for about 2 miles through an old burn area, the 1992 Rainbow Fire. The trail through this area, thankfully short, lacks shade and is quite warm in the mid-morning sun. Once it enters forest cover the trail crosses and starts a switchbacking climb alongside Boundary Creek ending at Crater Meadow.
About half way up I meet a northbound hiker on his 3rd JMT thru-hike. Says he likes northbound better. I ask where he resupplied and if he had a food drop near Kearsarge or Bishop Pass. He resupplied at MTR, but says they have bad Hiker Karma. If he thru-hikes again he’ll supplement his diet with fish so he can make it all the way to VVR. “VVR has good Karma.” As I start to leave he advises I get water at Deer Creek, since it is 6 miles to the next water after that, Duck Creek.
At Crater Meadow I look for a use trail up the Red Cones. I never see one and soon have passed both. Guess I’ll have to hike them another day.
Andrew and Lauren are finishing lunch when I arrive at Deer Creek Crossing. They want to know if I plan to stop at VVR. I haven’t decided yet, but just in case Andrew tells me the ferry times. We have a nice conversation while they pack up, Andrew noting that it is interesting to learn how other people do things, “You always pick up something you can use.” Andrew says Mt Izaak Walton from Silver Pass and Mt Solomons from Muir Pass are fun climbs “if you have the time.” They are headed, like me, to Purple Lake for the night; though Lauren isn’t so sure, her leg has been hurting. “See ya.” I finish eating and give my feet a good soak in the creek.
From Deer Creek the trail climbs another 1200’ over an easy 5 miles, rising high above Fish Creek and Cascade Valley, periodically rounding points with excellent views south to the Silver Divide. The trail then drops 400’ over a final mile to Duck Creek. On the last bit of the descent I see Andrew and Lauren across the canyon setting up camp. Their site is well off the trail so I don’t check in, but I do hope Lauren is okay. VVR tomorrow will be a long push for them. Boisterous Duck Creek is a welcome watering and snack stop especially given the abrupt climb out of the canyon.
As I approach Purple Lake a woman hiker coming the opposite direction greets me. “Hi, I’m Deb. Are you the guy who knows Art?” “He said to look for a guy in a yellow California shirt and tell him I am camping at Lake Virginia tonight.” I grin and ask her the time. It is almost 5:00. Deb and her friend, if I remember correctly, are hiking McGee Pass to Reds Meadow. I thank her for the “Art update” and continue on toward Purple Lake. I think about it briefly, but Virginia Lake is at least another hour and I am not really up for it today. I wonder how Art got ahead of me, and why I didn’t see him at Reds last night. Anyway, the news is cheering as this confirms my sense of a budding friendship. It also means he’ll likely be at VVR tomorrow night. I make a decision: so will I.
I reach Purple Lake along with a group of 4 guys from western New York State. We hike together on a use trail along the south shore; they stopping at a large campsite near the water while I climb 50’ or so to set camp on a small sheltered bench in the trees. I rejoin them, camps set, for a swim. The water is not as warm as Upper Cathedral Lake, but not too cold. I enjoy a brief swim, they a quick in and out.
They build a fire and I join them after dinner. They are 3 guys in their 20’s and one my age, dad to two, and the uncle to one. This is their first time in the Sierra, and as they tell it a lot different from their Adirondacks. Their plan was to hike over 5 days the JMT from VVR to Yosemite Valley, but things aren’t going at all to plan. A bout of stomach flu kept them at VVR an extra day. And by their admission, too much gear plus some high elevation butt whooping, they are moving at half their expected pace. 3 nights into their hike, they are still a good 4 days from Yosemite Valley.
Needing a new plan, they ask if I had any advice. I think of two options, one involves using their remaining 2 days and hiking back to VVR via Cascade Valley and either Silver or Goodale Pass. The other is to hike to Reds Meadow and take the shuttle bus into Mammoth and YARTS into Yosemite Valley; and that if they are on the trail by 8:00am they can possibly get to Reds before the last shuttle tomorrow. They like the Reds/Mammoth option best. On this trip the Sierra have given them all they can handle and the prospect of only one more day lifts their spirits considerably.
That settled they talk about differences between the Adirondacks and Sierra. The trails there are built without switchbacks, but elevation is more difficult, at least until acclimated which they aren’t yet. And also the more frequent encounters with bear and deer, though they claim to have seen a mountain lion at Silver Pass Lake. I enjoy the company, and the fire, but when one said it is after 9:00 I excuse myself and go to bed.