Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dear reader...

Planning to do the John Muir Trail? Here's a "Day by Day" of our 30 day trek. Names have been changed to deceive the innocent. At the top of each entry some shorthand notes appear in orange which we wrote BEFORE the trip so these notes often don't match our actual daily progress which is accurately told in our Day-by-Day descriptions as well as in the .KMZ file (see below.)

Similar to the orange notes, our Google Earth screenshots include yellow push pins with dates (Aug 31, Sep 1, ...). These represent our intended daily progress while actual progress is labelled "Camp 2, Camp 3, ...."
If you see red lines shooting across the GPS landscape, that's a result of the unit being turned off to conserve battery power (unnecessary, since our Lithium AA batteries lasted far longer than anticipated.)

Better than screenshots, why not download our waypoints, tracks, verified late-season H20 sources, and campsite recommendations as a .KMZ file that can be opened in GoogleEarth, Garmin Mapsource, or really any GPS app. Edit them to your liking and upload to your own GPS device. Note: On the trail, we marked only campsites and springs not already apparent on Garmin 24k National Parks Topo Map or Tom Harrison paper maps.

In our planning, we drew from many quality source materials including:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Isles to Tuolumne Meadows

10 August 2010

Months of preparation behind us, we bid farewell to Pilastr's parents who had delivered us to the trailhead, and pitched our first camp in the crowded backpacker's campground of Yosemite Valley. Earplugs came in handy this night, and a few crowded others. All told, crowds would be less of an annoyance than we'd feared. Insipid yammer, at passes that you'd expect to strike any human dumb, was really the worst of it.

11 August 2010 - Happy Isles (4000') to just beyond Cloud's Rest JCT (7190')
12% Diff=9.7
C1 - Trail follows Sunrise Cr with some sites btw stream and trail. Just before you cross CloudsRestJCT/Sunrise Creek, a collection of use trails leads north to sites atop small knob, views to Halfdome & Mt.Starr King
Yellow pushpins mark our planned stops, while "Camp 1, Camp 2..." mark our actual campsites.

First day on the trail! Out of shape and hauling too much flesh, the 7 mile 3,210 foot elevation gain meant starting off with a bang. WE'd hiked this first stretch before but it forever defies belief. We are definitely ready for a month out here. Avoiding the popular Mist Trail we stayed on the JMT proper, dusty but nicely graded with a tremendous stretch along a rim with views to Nevada Falls. We passed a couple of hikers who, judging from their deep orange Oompa Loompa tans, were finishing the trail that day. They looked plenty happy. It was encouraging to see them and know the snowy passes and streams ahead were indeed passable despite a report we'd had, from someone who finished three weeks prior, telling us crampons would be advisable. Instead, we'd find completely dry crossings and a single stretch of snowy trail (descending from Muir Pass). But not to jump ahead in the story, this was day one.

We broke for lunch at Nevada Falls and cooled off our feet in the river. Hiked the rest of the day and were glad to loose the crowds at the junction to Half Dome. We continued past Clouds Rest junction and spotted a path just before crossing Sunrise Creek. It led us to a gorgeous, level site atop of a granite knob. The site was previously impacted with a fire ring but completely hidden from the trail with spectacular views into Little Yosemite Valley below and ant trail of people ascending the cables on Half Dome.

We cooked dinner and brought our sleeping pads out on the granite slabs to watch the sky. It was much colder than expected, wind chill mostly though we may have been within the cold sink of Little Yosemite Valley. We fetched our sleeping bags to stay out and see the stars, worrying (unnecessarily it turns out) that if temperatures were this cold at 7200', what would we be facing some seven thousand feet higher!

Pilastr tried to stay up to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower but I hopped in the tent after catching a few decent shooting stars. For Pilastr, a long bright burner or two fell across the sky, but eyelids fell faster. Waking up with sunlight just touching half dome was a surreal welcome to our second day on the trail.

12 August 2010 - Cloud's Rest JCT (7190') to Echo Creek JCT (9320')

2300’ 7% D=8.8
C2 - Trail crosses sandy ridge+descends toward Sunrise HSC. Cross 1 small tributary where there is a small campsite among Mtn Hemlock. Joe=“Good camp @ Columbia Finger just past Sunrise HSC”
Broke camp, hit the trail and found ourselves immediately upon a huge bear standing on it's hind legs and tearing bark from a tree in order to snarf down some bugs. Pilastr was able to get a few blurry photos while I backed off, moving down the trail to let the bear have it's space. It eventually crossed the trail and continued on it's way up the hill on a felled tree but stopped, turned and took one and half charging steps to make sure we weren't pursuing him! Seems we weren't far enough away to avoid detection.

Brilliant ridge views down into Little Yosemite Valley on one side and chimney peaks on the other preceded a challenging uphill climb. There's ample water along the way, we could've carried far less than we were. We managed just fine and once things leveled off we stopped for lunch in a huge, gorgeous meadow where saw another bear!
We continued past Sunrise High Sierra camp, through the long meadow and started the climb toward Cathedral Pass stopping well below though to pitch camp on a stunning granite ridge just below Columbia Finger. The ridge flanks a secluded frog pond that's not marked on the Tom Harrison map. After pitching our tent on a sandy patch, we found an excellent established fire ring about a hundred feet away, marked above as "Camp2 Firering".

13 August 2010 - Echo Creek JCT (9320') to Tuolumne Meadows (8680')

(640’) D=10
C3 - Tuolumne backpackers camp is due north of Dana Campfire Circle. $5 per person, no reservations. Tuolumne Deli closes at 5pm Clark says “camp 18” not far from toilets is hidden, best.

The short steep climb to Cathedral Pass was just enough to wake us up, and the next 9 miles, loosing 850 feet in elevation, is well-known for its stunning views. We passed the scenic and crowded Cathedral Lake and sped on through groups of shampooed day-hikers. We did not continue out into Tuolumne Meadows proper, the official trail leads to Soda Springs. Instead we took the cutoff, before hitting the highway, to reach the Tuolumne backpacker's camp situated
up the hill from the car sites, behind A32 to be exact. Pitched the tent, gathered our resupply bucket from the post office and hit the Tuolumne Meadows Grill for lunch/dinner as we hadn't bothered to stop for lunch. Our hunger level was not as high as we predicted for this stretch of the trip, still I managed to inhale the pricey cheeseburger, fries and all, in under 60 seconds. We then discovered a note from Pilastrs' family on the bulletin board beside the post office. We hurried to meet them at Lyell Forks for an early evening swim which was most welcome.

After saying our goodbyes we returned to camp where Pilastr learned the most dangerous place on the trail is the place with the most people. Not to suggest anyone messed with us; but loitering outside the bathrooms the many campfires led him not to use his headlamp. He walked straight into a chest-high granite boulder, hidden in the shadow of a nearby car, giving himself nasty hamburger slider on the knee. Our first aid kit was put to use for the first time. By the time we were turning in, hikers were still arriving to the backpacker's campground, pitching their tents in between the numbered sites and sharing our bear locker. It was another very crowded campground where earplugs were welcome.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuolumne Meadow to Reds Meadow

14 August 2010 - Tuolumne Meadows (8680') to Lyell Forks Bridge (9650')
4% D=13.5
C4 - At Lyell Forks cross a footbridge before resuming ascent. A few good sites here, less good sites for latecomers. Better to forge ahead, cross a stream then drop down to a 2nd stream crossing. There are a few small sandy tent sites used by Mt.Lyell climbers.
Breakfasted at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill then hit the trail to Lyell Canyon. As soon as we reached the 2nd foot bridge we were compelled to stop and swim -- the water was far, far too beautiful to pass up. While wading, I found a famished little trout boldly nibbling my leg. While swimming, day-hiking hordes descended on our position. They stood sweating, watching us swim, which inspired our exit and a few miles of speed hiking on the nearly flat trail up Lyell Canyon.

We broke for lunch along the river and Pilastr was able to tie on a fly and fish for an hour or so. Our destination was the foot bridge below Donohue Pass, approximately 12 miles from our breakfast, with a 1000' elevation gain that we failed to realize would come entirely at the final half mile in the form of very steep switchbacks. Daylight was escaping and we ended our day with a rushed 800' slog. Several rock climbers were speeding down the other way, no packs just climbing gear, headed to a nearby base camp... unless they meant to keep on clear to Tuolumne!

We pressed on to the Lyell Creek foot bridge where 100% of the campers had pitched their tents a few feet from the trail, dusty, illegal and ill advised since they were now in full view of one another. It proved good for us because there were many truly outstanding sites free for the taking just 200 feet straight ahead from the bridge via a small use trail. We selected a site, perfect like a Star Trek set, among a pile of boulders with a fire ring perched on a balcony ledge looking back down the valley. Totally hidden from other campers and the legal distance from water. We quickly pitched camp and then ran down to the river for a dip, treating the illegal trail-clingy campers to our hurried nude bathing revue complete with ice-water scream opera.

15 August 2010 - Lyell Forks Bridge (9650') to Island Pass (10,200')
8.5mi 1400‘ 7% D=10...Donahue Pass to Rush Creek has numerous small creek crossings that may slow progress. (These crossing are dry by Aug)
C5 - Camp Island Pass or press on to Garnett Lake (joe=”Garnett is crowded but good to swim”) NW Shore, "sites better the nearer to Garnet head/inlet. Also good sites beyond at Ruby Lake.
Climbed our first major pass of our journey, Donohue Pass (11,056 foot elevation) arriving before noon. On the way up, in a grassy patch among the boulders, I spotted a pair of (white tailed?) Ptarmigan .

We broke for an early lunch on the pass so that we could acclimate for an hour or so to lessen our chances of experiencing altitude sickness (climb high, sleep low). One the descent, we spotted our first Pika of the trip.

We had heard that Thousand Island Lake was likely to be crowded. Apparently the bears have heard the same as campers are routinely besieged there. So, rather than descend, we kept our incredible view of Mt. Ritter and left the trail to explore the many frog ponds atop Island Pass. The ground is lumpy here but we pitched our tent on a sandy bar atop a small granite ridge beside a seculded, pristine frog pond. We were careful to carry our shower bucket away from the water so as not to disturb the world of bizarre water insects and yellow legged frogs dwelling there.

We felt stronger each day and decided not to use our planned zero-day (shown as Aug15 in the map image here) opting instead to keep it for later.

16 August 2010 - Island Pass (10,200') to Rosalie Lake (9350')
815’ @7% D=12
C6 – Rosalie Lake, various sites are strung along trail. Best sites are a few hundred feet from water, sandy sites West side of trail. Some great sites nearer to water too.
As spectacular as the views are all along the way from Island Pass to Garnet Lake, we were most amazed with Ruby Lake with steep glaciers tipping into deep clear waters and shores patrolled by thick trout. Pilastr was over-anxious to get at these fish and kept snapping his own line when he'd try to hook the hard-striking char. We had miles to cover and soon pressed ahead.

Garnette Lake is huge, windy, and fishing from the shore proved fruitless.

We'd been told Shadow Lake was closed to camping though we did not see signs posted and did see tents pitched there. We busted up the steep hill from Shadow Lake to Rosalie Lake where we found an excellent site on the near shore, high above the water. We walked down and found the water in the shallows warm and perfect for leisurely bathing.

It was clear we were no longer in a National Park by the presence of trash in the fire pit, specifically a tangled, shredded and scorched jiffy pop popcorn aluminum tray with wire handle. Ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Red's Meadow to Vermillion Valley Resort

17 August 2010 - Rosalie Lake (9350') to Red's Meadow (7700')

C7Red's Meadow =showers and dedicated campgrounds for backpackers. Reach Devil's Postpile on southeast trending fork down to river + bridge
Mule House Cafe home cooked meals open 7am-7pm

The cool shade of the gem lakes gives way to a hot dusty slog as you hike south from Lower Trinity Lake. We happily threw ourselves into the stream below Johnston Meadow, but alas there was more slogging ahead. Hopes of seeing Minaret Falls from above were misguided as they aren't visible on the approach down to Devil's Postpile.

Pilastr had caught a very large trout in Gladys Lake and saved it to cook at lunch. No place for a lunchtime fire presented itself, and to start even the tiniest blaze among the deadwood below Trinity Lakes would have been dangerous. So with no place to cook him, we carried the monstrous fellow all the way to Red's Meadow, pitched camp and finally roasted the f***r which didn't prevent us from tying into a more monstrous hamburger an hour later at Red's Grill. Met a crazed young man Ryan who had just "bailed out" of the trail -- his pals sounded nuts to do the trail on a 17 day schedule. Ryan was already enjoying the friendly attention of a waitress who'd offered to give him a ride home with her at the end of her shift.

Wish we had known that the unsigned path from the campground up to Red's Meadow general store and grill comes in right at the geothermal showers. Instead we hiked along the road, not nearly as nice. Before leaving, we would manage to shower three times. I saw a tiny frog in my shower - a good omen!

18 August 2010 - Reds Meadow (7700') to Duck Creek (10200')

6.5mi Deer
+1000’3.5% D=8
C8 - 6mi to Deer Creek FILL WATER, it's the last until Duck Creek 6mi more. The next section is "most monotonous" on JMT.
Joe=”avoid Purple Lake =zoo”

We left Red's Meadow fully fueled on pancakes, bacon and eggs! We'd been told (and had read in the Wilderness Press book) that this was the most monotonous stretch of the trail. We couldn't disagree more. The wasted forest just outside Reds Meadow is super strange and beautiful. The volcanic red cones are singularly surreal and the flowery meadows around them are gorgeous. Maybe we read the wrong section of the WP book, reading south to north instead of north to south, because the stretch coming down into Devil's Postpile was far less interesting.

At Red Cones, Pilastr saw a Wolverine scampering away. We would later learn than there has only been a single confirmed sighting of wolverine in California in 60 years. Excitement! Sadly, we failed to search for scat, tracks, and fur that might have confirmed this sighting. Here's is Pilastr's initial report to the Dept. of Fish and Game.
"As I made the ridge at Red Cones I startled a mammal approximately 40 feet away. It sent up a flurry of dirt and stones as it scampered down toward the stream. I gave chase to keep it in view as long as possible. I had a sustained look and clearly saw it’s yellow strip and broom-like tail. I also saw it’s face briefly as it angled down to the stream. I lost sight of it behind rocks near the water. I followed to the stream’s edge but couldn’t see where it had gone. The two others I was hiking with were 100 feet or more behind me and did not see the animal. I had my GPS (Garmin 60Cx)running and immediately marked the place and time where the sighting occurred.
The animal was more than twice the size of a marmot, it moved with strength and speed far greater than any marmot, and of course it had the distinctive stripe and broom tail. I had John Law’s field guide drawing of a wolverine with me which I reviewed immediately, comparing what I had seen to drawings of Marten, Fisher, and Badger as well. I am quite certain the animal I saw was a wolverine. Also, on Aug. 30 we encountered a Fisher below Deer Meadow as we ascended from Grouse Meadow (LeConte Canyon). This sighting of the smaller, solid colored Fisher further convinced me that the size, striping, and movement of the mammal I saw at Red Cones was indeed a wolverine."
Lunched at Deer Creek where there are numerous shaded sites, but no views at all. We thought about camping there but decided to press on to Duck Creek which was a great call though sites were few. Above the Duck Creek crossing, things are marshy whereas ahead of the creek they're exposed to wind (and trail). We set up ahead of the crossing on the exposed flats where level space for one tent occurs beside a stunted pine just barely 100' from water. As a consequence, secluded opportunities for our morning ablutions were few. The next morning it would be a steep hike in search of level relief. We broke camp before taking that hike and, in our haste, flushed an enormous grouse that did something very near to flying.

19 August 2010 - Duck Creek (10200') to Fish Creek (9500')

7mi Tully
+1530’ (1100)
C9 -Camp at Lake Virginia if tired. Sites among scattered trees on sandy knob Northwest of lake. Or continue 2mi, and start descent to "Fish Creek's impressive west bank past slabs and deep swimming holes and campsites." to FISH CREEK/Tully Hole ZERODAY? Note: hiking Silver Pass nxt day, water taxi to VVR = 9:45am
We broke camp at Duck Creek and hiked on to Virginia Lake - a most beautiful lunch spot beside wide green waters - probably would have been nice to camp there but we pressed on down hill to Fish Creek. Met a Scottish man on the way down -- very nice fellow, does the JMT every year. Pitched camp above Fish Creek, a short steep scramble up the hillside immediately over the log bridge yielded a superbly hidden fire ring among broad granite steps beside dense lodgepole. We saw giant fungus growing at the base of lodgepole pines which I think could have been a variety of porcini (!) perhaps the California king bolete. I'm a beginner mushroom enthusiast so not to the level of eating anything I identify, yet, but I find the fungi to be some of the most interesting looking things you are likely to run into on a hike.

20 August 2010 -Fish Creek (9500') to Chief Lake (10500')

10mi Mono Cr
...Cascade Vly JCT is not clearly marked, it's among avalanche debris and not as far downstream as many maps show. Be sure to go LEFT, straight up to SILVER PASS.
Camp below Siilver pass at Squaw or Chief Lake. There may be a small but quite steep snow bank near Silver Pass. Before descent, look south where trail to Selden is visible. Further down is a dangerous crossing at Mono Creek with rocky creekbed. (Not a problem in August)
C10 – Stop at Silver Lake (halfway) or past Mott Lake JCT, Mono Pass Trail eases (1st campsite in miles) Or Press on to ford N. Fork of Mono Creek Water taxi to VVR = 9:45am VVR BBQ=Saturdays!

Pilastr took the morning to fish the plentiful but minute golden trout that infest "Fish Creek" while I made some sketches of a young lodgepole pine growing out of granite. Still more 0ther-worldly fungus surprised us at every turn. Our time here was among the most beautiful and secluded on the whole trip. We saw and heard no one until we departed. On the JMT, that's really something.

I've been using my sleeping bag in a "quilt" fashion as I've found I sleep warmer that way. My bag seems to be so close fitting that the down gets compressed and renders itself useless, however, unzipped and piled on top of me, zipper side down, I'm much less claustrophobic and warm. Hiked in the afternoon to Chief Lake. Met the inimitable Hiker Mark from Mammoth with his sturdy dog as we descended toward the bridge over Fish Creek. Pilastr fished the whole way down, gasping at all the perfect deep holes he was having to pass up in order to make time.

Hiker Mark took advantage of the astounding meadow below Squaw Lake, we pressed on to Squaw and higher still to Chief Lake where we met Hiker Dan who coincidentally worked at the same company as Hiker Chris, though they did not know each other. Strange! It seems Hiker Dan was quite miserable with his choice of meals for the trip, choking down several "Lipton Sides" flavored spuds. Sodium city. Blech!

We had nearly stopped at Squaw Lake but happily we climbed the extra distance to Chief Lake which affords view clear back to Island Pass and the vertical slab that is Mt. Ritter. It was like looking across time to the previous week of hiking. The orange sunset lent the perfect time travel special effect.

21 August 2010 -Chief Lake (10500') to Vermillion Valley Resort (8350')
Woke up early at Chief Lake to a wind storm -- very strange weather all day, very windy, beautiful feathery cloud formations. Headed up to Silver Pass (10,895 ft). We were excited to hike up to Silver Pass as we were finally getting into territory neither of us had hiked previously. We couldn't wait to see the view at the pass and our next mountain range beyond that. However, upon our arrival at the top of the pass we were met with a large pile of what looked like someones trash. We examined the item and found it to be a full family sized jar of peanut butter wrapped in several layers of plastic bags with a note in it describing this as a "geo-cache" and to "please enjoy this peanut butter and leave something for others". It was such a disappointment and tarnished our experience of the otherwise pristine Silver Pass. What ever happened to "LEAVE NO TRACE"? Also, why would somebody think that a jar of peanut butter would enhance my experience of Silver Pass? We resolved to pack out the 2lb jar since we were headed to Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) with it's horseless carriages and refuse receptacles that self-same evening.

We hiked around 8.6 miles that day but it seemed hard because it was almost all downhill. At this point we were preferring uphill to downhill; downhill is hell on your feet and knees. We arrived at Lake Thomas Edison, which is a very large man-made reservoir, hiked over to the inlet for a cold swim then awaited the water taxi to VVR where we'd fetch our resupply and enjoy the Saturday BBQ. The windy weather still hadn't let up. When we finally got onto the water taxi we were in our full rain gear and I put my trash bag over my pack as well, which was lucky because everything got wet. It was a pretty fun and exciting boat ride. We arrived at VVR which is a typical "summer camp" complete with cabins, small store & restaurant. You basically open a tab with them and pay it before you leave. We didn't bother to use internet as escaping the world of computers was one of my primary reasons for going on the trail (and now I'm blogging about it, har!). Anyway, we pitched camp directly across the road from VVR and behind two 12 foot boulders; it was extremely nice, duff instead of dust and much more secluded than the tent city situated right outside the restaurant/store.

Went over to the restaurant and got our BBQ and our 6-pack then returned later to find our camp rifled through by a bear! There was a scratch on our bear can and slobber all over the top of it -- kind of cute! Nice to know the device works.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Vermillion Valley Resort to Muir Trail Ranch

22 August 2010 - Vermillion Valley to Lake Italy JCT
8mi from Lk Edison
(1090) +1980’
5% D=12
Don't start late, Cross Mono Creek on steel bridge, FILL WATER before 2k' 5mi climb to Bear Ridge. There may be a seasonal stream halfway up. DUNK your head. Down the other side, consider ZERODAY detour to Volcanic Knob.
C11 - Southside of Bear Creek JCT offers mediocre sites on the upper benchs, but continue lower to an unmapped stream and a beautiful large site among Jefferey Pine.

Joe= at MTR ”look for hotspots in the largest Blaney Hot Spgs lake”

Woke up early, broke camp quickly and hit the store for our resupply and the restaurant for a giant breakfast, easily the best of the resupply spots: Biscuits and gravy with two eggs over easy PLUS a pork chop! Made it out of VVR on the morning water taxi which was calm and dry, unlike the stormy inbound ride one day prior. Grateful we didn't have to spend the day killing time at VVR. The morning saw us doing an extended, steep uphill (though difficulty was greatly overstated in the WP guidebook). The "seasonal stream" which the book says not to depend on at the halfway point on this climb was flowing dependably on this date. No need to haul as much water as we did. Even so, we felt full of energy (see: biscuits and gravy) and Pilastr's pack, though heavy with food, wasn't as heavy as our next, nine day, resupply would be. We shared the trail with a happy, seasoned couple from Kansas City who had the misfortune of leaving their trekking poles in their car at Whitney Portal before embarking on a complicated string of shuttles to get them to the trail head in Yosemite Valley. They were improvising, with success, using found walking sticks.

The descent to Bear Creek has many excellent potential camp sites. Water is plentiful with flecks of gold mixed in the sand, and views galore. Except we felt like hiking farther, these sites on granite flats among twisted trees would have been ideal.

Golden Trout from Bear Creek
The site marked "Camp 12" is where we actually put down after gaining 1,600 ft of elevation over 9.6 miles. This site was just below (north of) the Lake Italy Trail Junction. It was a heavily impacted site with two fire rings, but we'd had it for the day and the fishing prospects looked excellent. Indeed they were, though per usual the trout were small. We took our daily swim in Bear Creek and enjoyed our evening around a crackling fire listening to the shortwave radio.

23 & 24 August 2010 - Lake Italy JCT to Marie Lake

6-7mi Marie Lk 1570’ 3%-8% D=8.5 At Bear Creek Jct, gradual rise thru lodgeple, lots of campsites. Slabs and swimming holes. Then wade Hilgard Creek, partly on logs then get in. Next ford Bear Creek (deep, swift, mosquitoes) and look for wild BLUEBERRY bushes. Cross Bear Creek West fork on a large log. Begin moderate climb. C12 - Rosemarie Meadow has great sites in the slabs above the meadow. Or take earlier side trail 1mi to Rose (joe=”gorgeous”) and Lou Beverley lakes. Or continue steep up to beautiful Marie Lake with several open campsites near outlet and get a jump on difficult Selden Pass

A short day, we hiked about 4 miles and gained about 1,230 ft to Marie Lake where we took our first zero day. We pitched our camp high above the trail on a rarely used flat spot just below the ridge. It was a scramble to get up there each time but the effort afforded us amazing views and total seclusion from the trail. Unfortunately on the second day hikers arrived who had a satellite phone and could be heard making inane and unnecessary calls to various people. Anyone who thinks satellite phones are cool: they aren't. Hiker Mark from Mammoth had a habit of counting hikers he passed on the trail; however he refused to count trail runners: "They don't count"; I tend to agree and would add satelitte phone hikers to that no-count list.

Distractions aside, we reveled in our two days at Marie Lake fishing, swimming, reading, clocking the critters, and zoning out. We were camped next to a boulder field full of squeaky Pika that were fun to observe: hopping about gathering their grasses and posing to advantage beside the Columbine. Pilastr had a superb day of fishing the char all around the peninsular rocks that jut into Marie Lake. Our camp was surrounded on one side by a cluster of stunted Whitebark Pine, attracting a plurality of Clark's Nutcrackers.

25 August 2010 - Marie Lake to Muir Trail Ranch

855’ 7%
(3000) 6%-12%
Cross Selden Pass. Sallie Keyes ranger (sometimes) half mile south of the lakes, east of trail. Then long dry drop to Senger Creek with no camping.
C13 - Take lateral trail to Florence Lake to Muir Trail Ranch
“From the JMT, Muir Trail Ranch is 0.9 miles and (600’)drop” Resupply8am - 5pm

8.5 miles, up 329 ft/down 3,090 ft.
Broke camp early on our way to Muir Trail Ranch. Lingered in the incomparable Selden Pass, got engaged, then merrily tripped toward Sallie Keyes Lakes. We made it to MTR fairly early and picked up our bucket from the lovely older lady who expertly manages the resupply there. MTR is old-school no-frills and the best of all resupply scenes. There's no soda pop for sail, alcoholic or otherwise. There is ice cold springs water and 20+ buckets of unclaimed supplies that are fun to pick through just to marvel at what others thought in was prudent to send themselves. Dehydrated peanut butter, what? It's the oil, not the flavor, that makes it worth hauling! We carefully packed our bear can to its limit, 8 days of food and toiletries for two.

After leaving MTR we headed for the established campground and pitched camp and crossed the San Joaquin River to have a soak in the world's greatest Blayney Hot Springs. Many guide books offered stern warnings regarding this river crossing, which could pose a problem at high water, but for us it was below the knee. I'd recommend wearing water shoes and taking at least one trekking pole. The main hot spring was a big black pool of lukewarm water so we went on to find the crystal clear lake that was cool but dotted with warm "hot spots", covered in lilly pads and thousands of neon blue damselflies. After a while we went on and found a small, clear and very hot pool near a boulder in the middle of the meadow. We hopped in and had a welcome soak in the tub and enjoyed the scenery.

Tree Frog