Day 9 – VVR to Bear Creek
The day following our relaxing and social zero day was my worst day on trail.
We made the most of our last morning at VVR and treated ourselves to a full and hearty breakfast in their restaurant. We got the last of our gear squared away, weighed our packs and hit the dirt road out of the resort.
Our first two miles followed the dirt road and crossed the earthen dam at the outlet of Edison Lake. By the time we made the trailhead for Bear Ridge, the day was really starting to warm up.
We chose to hike out of VVR and take the Bear Ridge Trail as an alternate to paying for the ferry back across the lake and climbing the 60 or so switchbacks up from Mono Creek. We still had to gain over 2000 feet of elevation, but we would do it over 5 miles instead of the shorter 3.5 miles. I’m honestly not convinced that our choice was any better.
I believe we gained a significant part of our elevation anyways in the first mile or so, climbing steeply over rocky and not-so-nicely-graded trail. Throw in a 40 lb pack, blistered feet, and 90-degree heat and you’ve got a recipe for one miserable hiker.
We took a short break within the first half hour to put on our iPod shuffles and have a snack. Tunes were a welcome distraction from the trail.
A few miles in the trail did level off a bit, but the trade-off was a swampy, buggy section. This meant another quick stop to cover ourselves in bug spray and pull on our bug nets. I hate hiking with a bug net over my face, especially on a hot day, but it was better than the alternative!
About a mile from the junction I ran out of water. My feet and ankles were killing me, I had itchy bug bites, I was hot, sweaty and all-together worn out.
The challenge of a thru-hike is both physical and mental. While I had spent months preparing for the physical side of our thru-hike, it was nearly impossible to prepare for the mental. All I could do was to be aware that there were going to be challenges that I would need to overcome with my brain, not my body.
I didn’t really have any option other than to put one foot in front of the other.
After what seemed an eternity, we made it to the junction with the JMT. We took a shorter break than I’d hoped for, because there was no water source nearby. And then we picked ourselves up and kept going.
Perhaps the worst part of the day was that after such an intense and challenging climb, we then had to descend 1000 feet.
The trail down the South side of Bear Ridge descended through open, dense vegetation which offered us the smiling faces of colourful wildflowers. We also thankfully crossed some small streams along the way where we could fill our water bladders.
By about 2 pm my feet and ankles were screaming at me to stop. I simply could not keep going through the heat of the day. So we pulled off at a campsite along the descent and threw the hammock up between a couple trees. And there I stayed for the better part of an hour, resting in the cool breeze working it’s way up the valley.
Thanks to that break I was able to keep going, and eventually we made it close to our goal for the day, pulling up about a mile from the Bear Creek crossing.
Our campground for the evening was quite a nice one, with easy access to Bear Creek where I could soak my sore feet and legs for a bit. Bugs were still an issue, but we were treated to a visit from a lovely young deer who laid down in the grass across the creek from us. I had to wonder what she was thinking about all these crazy humans invading her wilderness.
I had spent a fair bit of the day reflecting on John Muir, the mountain explorer, writer, and namesake of the trail. He would often venture off into the mountains with the clothes on his back, a pocket of hardtack, his tea-kettle and mug. He found life and healing in the mountains and I am proud to follow in his footsteps.
I managed to shake off my soreness and regain some of my positive attitude by the end of the day. It helped to remind myself that every day can’t be perfect and that we knew there would be challenging sections of the trail. Ultimately, this day would make me stronger and more capable, allowing me to finish the trail.