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


  1. Please continue! That's not your whole trip is it? I want to know how you got out and stuff.

  2. Blogger automatically breaks up the page, so you have to click "OLDER POSTS" at the bottom of the page.