JMT – Days 8 + 9 – Silver Pass Lake to VVR
August 10 – August 11, 2014
We’re having a slow, lazy morning while waiting for the sun to dry our tent. It should be an easy day today with lots of downhill cruising all the way to Edison Lake, home of Vermillion Valley Resort. I am reluctant to leave the high Sierras. Despite the storms and hail, I find the terrain of rock and tarns and fragile vegetation captivating and I’m hungry for more of this alpine scenery.
Luckily we do not drop into a forest immediately. The trail leads us down along beautifully marbled slabs. The pattern of dark and light streaks is prevalent. Water flows down freely and in abundance. Part way down the slope we come across a creek crossing that is not possible to rock hop. We have read many accounts of wild and dangerous river wading we may experience along this hike and came prepared for the frightening experience. At its deepest this stream raises to our lower calf and the water is pleasantly soothing.
Surrounded by the music of numerous streams it is hard to imagine a lake just several hundred feet below us so dry that guests receive a shuttle across it in 4WD truck rather than a boat. It is a reality we walk into couple of hours later. The valley is hot and dry, and the air carries the scent of pine mixed with the one of dust. I’m hoping we can catch a shuttle to Vermillion Valley Resort but it’s past the regular shuttle hours and our cell phones do not have signal here so we are unable to call for pick up. This means we are to walk the 4.5 miles around the lake. During the planning stage 4.5 miles of gently rolling terrain did not sound like much of a deal on a scale of 200 + miles hike but soon after we start walking it becomes obvious we should have planned more carefully.
What we underestimated was the temperature difference between the trail passing the high alpine scenery and the parts taking us through the valleys. We shed a fair amount of sweat when climbing the hills, and it was expected but the stale scorching heat of the lower elevation takes us by surprise. The temperature down here is in three digits and it soon makes me feel about as alive as the perched vegetation along the trail. The water I carry does no longer hold its mountain freshness. It’s lukewarm and its ability to quench thirst is largely diminished. The 4.5 miles to Vermillion Valley resort are quickly becoming the most excruciating miles of the whole trip.
All is forgotten when we finally arrive. For once I am glad to be back in civilization where a reach to a refrigerator yields an ice cold beverage. It takes two bottles of Mountain Dew to restore the life in me. Vermillion Valley Resort is known for offering a free drink to every hiker upon arrival. We chose to wait until the camp is set before we claim our beers and then with not much planned for the remainder of the afternoon we go socialize with other hikers.
Nearly everybody takes a zero here, a day when the only chores are taking a shower, washing clothes, eating enormous amount of food and having few beers. There is a great variety of hikers here and a great variety of stories are shared.
Laundry costs us $6.00. A constant humming can be heard from the laundry room where couple washers and dryers try to satisfy the never ending demand. Showers, I believe are the same price. We have a room booked for the second night of our stay, and can shower for free. The room is pricey compared to the free camping, and is rather simple but it feels good to be able to stretch on the soft bed and rest without the confinement of a sleeping bag.
The room gets even more appreciated when a sudden storm sneaks upon us during the course of the second evening. In matter of minutes the rain doses a fire we sat by for last couple of hours. And it keeps pouring. Soon the employees engage in digging a trench around the building to prevent the water from entering the premises. The camping area floods. Tarps are no match for amount of water falling from the sky. People with tents fare slightly better but nobody remains completely dry. It rains long into the night. It feels just like being back at home in Washington.
Miles today: 10.2
Cumulative miles hiked: 92.1 Miles left: 118.9
Tomorrow we hit the trail again and will break some of our backpacking records.