VVR Here I Come! – Day 6 on the JMT
A Good Night’s Sleep
Last night I slept great! I’m surprised because one of the guys in the tent site next to me was snoring from the minute I rested my head upon my pillow, yet for some reason, I fell asleep the fastest so far during this whole trek. Maybe it made me feel at home. LoL! I should create a white noise snoring app and load it on my phone. That just might work wonders for me. Who knows; It might work wonders for others as well. Needless to say, I slept like a baby all night long. Rev’ed and ready to go, I woke up around 6:30 a.m. and was out by around 7 a.m. All three of us girls, plus the men that were camped next to me, headed out at the same time. It was probably the excitement of what was to come. VVR here I come!
Hiking out of my campsite at Lake Virginia was a bit trickier than I thought it was going to be. The two men said they had brought water shoes and I realized why when I started out on the trail. There were two huge sections of water on the trail due to the strange shape of the lake. Wayfinder put on her sandals to cross, but I was too lazy to switch into mine. Looking across I was pretty sure I could rock hop to the other side and I was fairly successful until the last jump. I kept looking around for any feasible option, but no rock was close enough without fear that I’d miss it and fall in. Finally, I found a dry bit of land and leaped as far as I could. Success! I felt like a freakin’ grasshopper ninja.
The first bit of the hike was beautiful. The lake was mesmerizing with golden mountain reflections and a backdrop of contrails streaking across the sky. Wrapped in my coat, the weather was perfect; cold that is. I always like it cold when I’m hiking. This is completely the opposite of when I’m at home. When at home, I love the sun and heat beating on my body. I’m always cold and have been known to wear sweaters in the dead of summer. I even have a sweater that says, “Always Cold.” It fits my liking perfectly! On the trail, it’s different though. I prefer around 40 degrees when hiking hard trails and maybe 50-60 degrees on the easier ones. Cap that off with a nice refreshing breeze once in a while and you’ve described my perfect hiking day.
Trail conditions today started off perfectly too. There were a few ups and downs, but nothing major. It was a nice way to ease into the day. I especially loved crossing over the large, well-constructed, Fish Creek bridge. Beautiful! Those conditions can only last so long though. The bad has to come, and boy did it come… right after that bridge in fact.
When The Going Gets Tough
For about three miles it was nothing but up, up, up. I hate hiking up. I’m not even sure hate is a harsh enough word. I despise it! Okay, I don’t really exercise outside of my backpacking trips, and I’m sure if I did, uphills wouldn’t be so bad, but for now, I really struggle. I take breaks every 5 minutes and I move like a snail. I huff and puff the whole way. Not in a big bad wolf way. More like in a struggling asthmatic way, desperately trying to catch my breath with each agonizing step. The incline felt never-ending, and I found myself yearning for the sweet relief of a downhill trail or at least a magical escalator to whisk me away from this uphill torment. Do they have those hidden up here?
The Uphill Battle
The uphill battle lasted for about three miles, but it felt like ten. My goal today was to cross Silver Pass and then drop down to the Vermilion Valley Resort. Stair after stair and hill after hill I climbed. Most of it was viewless so I just trucked on waiting for the pain to end. That is until I approached closer to Silver Pass. The lakes near the pass, Chief Lake, Warrior Lake, and Nuumu Hu Hupi, are gorgeous! I had to stop to take it all in. If I had time I would have enjoyed a lunch break so I could soak up all the beauty there was to see, but there is no time for that. I have a boat to catch, so on I went making the last push to the top.
Not too far ahead of me I could see Jammin at the top of the pass, so I pushed a bit harder, but as I neared the pass, I came to a halt. The trail just disappeared under the snow. I looked to the right and then to the left, but saw no tracks that would give evidence of how hikers were continuing on. At first, I decided to continue right, but looking at the rock scramble I thought maybe the left side would be better, so I went back to look again. After further inspection, I could see a light footpath through just above a small rock climb. I didn’t have my microspikes, but the snow was just slushy enough that I could dig in and not slide down. Success! I reached the top!
After a few ceremonious photos to commemorate the achievement, I began my descent down the other side. This was truly a moment to celebrate in more ways than one. The rest of the day would be smooth sailing as I coast downhill. Thank god! As I continued on over the pass I noticed that just over the ridge there was a glorious turquoise blue lake (not named according to FarOut). Looking at it made me want to jump, but I’m sure it was freezing cold… plus the warm food and cold beers at VVR were calling me. I must move on.
It’s All Downhill From Here Baby!
The trail was lush and beautiful at first as I traveled down the mountain pass, but soon became rocky and a little more difficult to traverse with the multitude of stairs that seemed like even the tallest of men would have difficulty conquering with ease. Luckily I was going downhill, but it took a bit more concentration and careful foot placement than most other trails I had been on. The unexpected terrain really added to my time and what I thought would be a short day with plenty of time to reach the boat dock, turned into a race against time. On clear paths, I would jog to make up time, but most paths were too rocky and I had to focus on my foot placement.
As I looked at my map the destination seemed to get further away and I was getting frustrated. I’m done with hiking for today! I just want to be there already! Finally, I hit the fork in the trail heading to VVR where I would spend the next two nights. I could feel the warm shower and cozy bed already. Oh, the little things that we take for granted in our regular lives; indoor plumbing, a closet of clean clothes, my fuzzy blanket, and and a razor. Oh, how I need to shave these hairy twigs that I call legs! Wow, I’m a hairy beast right now. Look out, hikers! Bigfoot is on the trail!
The Mile That Lasted Forever
The last mile seemed to last an eternity filled with mud, bear poop, and some sort of red goo that looked like flowing marinara sauce, but I eventually reached the boat dock. Jammin was already there drying out her tent and sleeping bag as were a few others. We sat and chatted while we waited for the boat and marveled at how much longer this day took to hike than we thought it would. The two men that I had chatted with the day before laughed at how they had been told to camp at Purple Lake for its expansive views, but realized when passing Lake Virginia, that they were doled out the wrong information. Our lake rivaled theirs tenfold.
When the boat pulled up at 4:30 we all piled in. I couldn’t believe the expanse of the lake. It was huge! I felt like the ride lasted forever and was thankful that I had decided to take the boat instead of hiking the extra miles around the lake. On board, I met an older woman who reminded me of Nancy, David’s mom. I miss her. I wish she was still here so I could tell her about this grand journey, but alas, she passed away just before it started. I’m dedicating this trail to her. She would have loved it.
Vermilion Valley Resort
Once we reached the dock all new hikers were pulled aside to receive an orientation regarding the ways of the resort. Bathrooms are here, showers and laundry are over there, plus, there is no electricity available from 10 pm to 7 am. The store and restaurant are in the center of the resort as well as the free campground, called Mushroom City. Oh! And speaking of free. Upon arrival, we were able to choose any drink of our liking from the store (alcoholic or not) to celebrate our long day hiking and arrival at VVR! I chose a hard seltzer that I hadn’t tried before, Lone River Ranch Water in a prickly pear flavor, and proceeded to drink it down immediately. It was delish! Beware, everything is on a tab here so it can be racked up quite easily if you’re not paying attention.
Dinner and Laughs
I’m staying in a yurt for two nights while here, but before checking in, I’ve decided to have dinner with the girls first. Tonight the restaurant is serving up huge tri-tip burritos with all the fixins. Yum! Jammin, Wayfinder, and I chat all night as we eat and they rummage through their resupply packages. We laugh hysterically at the insane amount of food that Jammin has. She only needs food for about two more days, but she has enough food for about a week. Jammin tells us that she’s always been known to store food in copious amounts and it’s suspected that in a past life, she was a starving child roaming the streets. As she sorts through deciding what to keep and what to toss in the hiker box we order some apple blueberry pie with ice cream on top. It was delish!
Football and Dogs
In the background, the men hoot and holler over the football game on the television and the dogs walk from person to person looking for snacks. One dog in particular catches my eye and I instantly want to take her home. She’s a hound of some sort, reddish brown with long floppy ears that I just want to draw up into my arms and cuddle. If I didn’t just get Luna, I think I’d want a dog just like this one. She knows how to work the room for sure, walking from person to person receiving pets and the occasional treat from their plates.
There’s also a blue heeler who also works the room and a poodle who is sitting off to the side with one of the other guests. All is fine and dandy until the cute floppy-eared hound picks a fight with the poodle. There’s instant tension on the back patio and the hound has to go home.
When Friends and Family Think You’re Dead
While sitting in my seat the store cashier came up to me and said that she just got off the phone with Shannon. She was worried that I’d turned off my tracker and wanted to make sure that I had arrived. I gasped and realized that my message must not have been sent out telling everyone that I was at camp. As I boarded the boat, I had turned off my tracker so it wouldn’t count those miles as miles hiked for the day, yet those who were watching my tracker location had thought that I’d possibly drowned. I felt horrible! I instantly messaged everyone to say I was sorry. I’m alive! Don’t worry! I hate to think of the stress this has caused for all of my friends and family. I know my outdoor adventures stress them all out and this surely didn’t help.
After dinner, Jammin headed to the showers, Wayfinder to her tent, and I off to my yurt. I knew in general where the yurt was as I saw it while on the boat, but finding it in the pitch-black night was a different story. With my tiny flashlight in hand (ultralight of course), I crept around trying to find the circular building. When I ran into the lake I backtracked, frustrated and regretting that I hadn’t checked in while there was still light outside. I know you’re here! Finally, I found the yurt tucked behind another cabin and entered the toasty, and cozy space.
Sleep At Last
The yurt is so cute! There is a queen-sized bed, game table, breakfast bar table, and a tiny kitchen. I think I’d nix one of the tables in exchange for a cozy chair or two with an ottoman, but otherwise, it was perfect! I pumped up the heat and dropped all of my things on the game table. Afterward, I slipped into my pajamas, stashed away all my smellies in the fridge so bears wouldn’t break in, and crawled into bed. Phew! I’m exhausted! I was too tired to really write much in my journal, but David and I texted a bit before the lights went out for the night. My body ached, especially in my feet, but eventually sleep and I found each other blissfully. Another day in the books for the JMT!
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