Waking up the morning of July 4th, I knew our goal would be to get to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) by the afternoon. It didn’t seem too difficult of a task. Shoot over Silver Pass, and drop a bunch of elevation into VVR!
Bobby, the boys, and I made breakfast, broke camp on got ready to go. My campsite was pretty cool, a rock pit in the middle of the mountainside! The boys were struggling that morning, and Jim had taken off early, but soon enough, we were off!
It was a fairly gentle slog up the pass, but still challenging. Many breaks were taken, and reflecting back on it, I admired how Bobby was describing the lakes and where we had been to his boys. He was like a father figure, or older brother to me on this trip.
The last push up the pass was sketchy snow, but I made it alright. We crested, took a breather, and continued on down to the meadow. Around this time, I got an attitude. My feet were sore from sandals and new boots, and I was eager to see if the girls would be at VVR, like they had planned.
I got some chafing from my hipbelt, so I stopped to take a medical break. The boys and Bobby continued on, which sent me into a panic. Loneliness was setting in again, and I didn’t want to be left behind like I had felt often before in life. The negative self-talk wailed about my inadequacy and how I wasn’t fun to be around. So I ran after them, and I was told they were giving me space to cool off. After all, I was doing this solo, right?
I heeded that advice, and reflected a bit. Frustration continued settling in, though, as the terrain grew rougher and rockier. Eventually, at a waterfall pool, I was cursing the Gods about another water crossing. I marched through, not caring about soaking my boots or rock-hopping. I was so water-logged by the end, and irritable, that I told Bobby to go ahead while I decompressed and had lunch and hydrated.
The view was beautiful, seeing the valley we were dropping into, but it seemed so far away. After refueling, I continued on. Eventually, we were nearing the VVR junction, and it was the longest mile of my life! Needless to say, arriving at the makeshift boat dock was like an oasis. I was almost there!
But so was everyone else. The line for the ferry was crazy long with PCT hikers, JMTers, and other people from shorter trips. Bobby was significantly further in line, so I put my pack in line begrudgingly, and joined them. They were chatting with the couple I ran into before arriving at Reds Meadow. Cool! I struggled to connect, because of my headspace, but attempted still.
After a few hours of waiting, there was one spot on the boat left, and I was super eager to get across (instead of waiting for the next ferry). The couple offered me the spot, and I felt bad. I realized that even though I got what I wanted, we were all in the same boat (pun intended). I offered to buy them a drink when they got over and they obliged.
The boat ride was awesome and scary. I was afraid of tipping in the rinky-dink boat, but held on and grinned the whole way. The driver said my smile made his day! Awesome! As I was getting off the boat, Greg and Kendall greeted me on the lakeshore. They grabbed my pack, told me to set up camp, and that dinner was on them. Wow! So much love.
Bobby offered me to stay in his boat house with him and the boys to take a zero day and rest up. I considered it, but knew I wanted to catch up to the women. Especially since they weren’t at VVR! I kept missing them, but my brain was like a steel trap at that point, craving companionship. Bobby recommended that I rest instead of chase women, but I rejected that advice.
After getting my tent set up, I met Greg and Kendall at the restaurant. I got a burger (without a bun) and offered them my fries. I supplemented the meal with some of my own food, and had some awesome conversation. I shared with them how I don’t drink booze or eat processed sugar / flour, and they were shocked. But they respected me. It was nice to have a bond with people like that, even if they were older than me.
Then, Bobby came to the restaurant, and I went out to socialize with him and the couple. I offered the couple a beer, and they said they were good. At least I tried! Everyone was slightly hammered, but I enjoyed the socialization, and got to chat with some day hikers, too. I felt like I was sharing stories from war! It felt really neat to be admired for pushing through challenges and to be surrounded with like-minded individuals.
Later that evening, I wandered around the facility. Again my sense of inadequateness set in. All the PCT hikers were gathered around the fire pit, looking like best buds. It didn’t look like there was room for me to squeeze in, so I just wandered aimlessly until I went to sleep. Fear of rejection prevented me from approaching the group, and I blamed it on the fact that they weren’t that welcoming. Reflecting back, I wish I would’ve joined, but it was another lesson the trail provided.
The next morning, I woke up, had breakfast with Greg and Kendall, and packed all my stuff. They took off early, telling me to meet them at Heart Lake. So I mozied around the hiker bin, decided to let go of my one remaining boot (after some PCT heckling), and was able to trim some more weight from my pack. I even found some Dirty Girl gaiters to help keep rocks and such out of my boots. Cool!
On the boat ride back, I socialized with PCT hikers and got a couple awesome selfies. We parted ways at the JMT junction, and I started making my way up Bear Ridge. A lot of people said that was the toughest pass for them, but I flew up it at a steady pace. As I got to the top, however, fatigue set in. My feet were still hurting, and I knew I had to descend, cross Bear Creek and still go up Selden Pass before reaching Heart Lake.
Shortly before Bear Creek, I ran into Greg and Kendall at what looked like an awesome campsite. I was secretly hoping they’d set up camp and I could get a break, but no, they were charging on. Wanting company, I trudged with them. In my exhaustion, I tripped a couple times, and eventually told them to go on without me. I crossed Bear Creek in my sandals (didn’t lose the boots), and continued on through the mosquito-infested land.
I started feeling woozy entering the rocky meadow, so I stopped despite the mosquitoes, and drank some electrolytes. I passed by some PCT hikers and asked them if they thought I could make it over Selden Pass and down to Heart Lake before dark. They said I could if I made a decent pace, so onward I pushed! Walking by Marie Lake, with the V-shaped pass up ahead was beautiful, even though I was exhausted. There was a little snow on the pass, and I had conquered it!
As I descended the switchbacks, I saw some people in their tent in a treed area. Could it have been the crew I met at Red’s Meadow? They got in their tent before I got there, so I marched on. Greg and Kendall were nowhere in sight at Heart Lake, so I started looking for a place to camp in the beautiful chute of mountains surrounding me. Snow was covering the trail, which made things treacherous for a tired Doug, and then I saw goats. Goats?!?! What the hell? They don’t look like mountain goats, yet there they were.
The owners of the goats told me I could camp near them. Sweet! They were a little odd, but I didn’t mind the company. As I dropped my pack, the goats got spooked, but the owner told me it was probably good to keep them in line. I was freezing!
Eventually, I got camp set up with my cold hands, made dinner, briefly socialized, and went to sleep. Dusk looked great on these mountains, and I was only eight or so miles from Muir Trail Ranch. I was cooking along just fine! I was sore and tired, I missed Greg and Kendall, but I made it to my planned destination. All was well for the evening.
Thanks again for reading and following my journey! Remember, take a hike and spice up your life!
– Doug aka OneBoot