Day 7-8 – Vermillion Valley Resort
After a solid week of hiking, we had earned ourselves a zero day (thru-hiker slang for a day of no hiking!) We had originally expected to reach Lake Edison too late to catch the ferry across to Vermillion Valley Resort, located on the far East side of the lake. We were going to camp near the ferry landing and catch the first boat across in the morning.
Instead, we made it to the ferry landing by 3:30 pm. The ferry was just leaving, full of other hikers, so we had to cool our heels and wait for it to come back for us.
While waiting for the boat to come back, we got to chatting with another hiker, who turned out to be a Vancouverite hiking the PCT. She introduced herself as “Hot Tamale” and was nice enough to let me use her phone to call home to my parents. We ended up sharing the ferry across the lake with Hot Tamale and another PCT hiker.
We were thrilled to make it to VVR. As soon as we got in we set up our tent in the thru-hiker campground, a large forested area near the main building. We also learned that VVR is truly an off-the-grid place. They have very limited wifi, a satellite phone, their own well, and a generator to power everything. But, they do have running water, laundry and hot showers!
We had heard rumours that thru-hikers receive their first beer free. These rumours turned out to be perfectly true! We were invited to grab a cold bottle from the fridge. They even had a decent selection of local brews from Tioga-Sequoia Brewing and Mammoth Brewing. Of course, you can’t stop at just one beer! Over the course of the evening we shared a couple more bottles and got down to socializing properly with the other campers.
It was a pretty even mix of JMT hikers and PCT hikers. Around the campfire that evening we met PCT hikers Rapunzel, Suture, Clicker, and The Baptist. Rapunzel was from South Africa, and had heard about the PCT from a colleague who had hiked it!
The fellow fisherman whom we’d met a couple days before also arrived at VVR. We declared that we’d chosen a trail name for him, and so dubbed him Spinner. We enjoyed chatting with Spinner and hearing about his fishing adventures in the Sierras and around California. Turned out his family owned a tackled shop in Monterey so he came by his fishing quite honestly!
We stayed up well beyond “hiker midnight” that first night, actually getting to see the stars for the first time in a few nights.
The next morning we were rather rudely awoken around 6am by horrible clanging and beating noises. It was the generator, dying a loud and fiery death. No generator meant no electricity for the washrooms and no heat for the water! This was rather horrible news because we had planned to get our very dirty clothes into the laundry first thing and then get ourselves nice and clean with hot showers.
The staff said they were hoping to get a new generator up to the resort by the end of the day, but they couldn’t guarantee it. We moped around a bit and then tried some fishing at the lake.
We raided the hiker bins for some lunch, scoring fresh peanut butter, trail mix and a Costco-size bag of Snap Pea Crisps.
After lunch we did our laundry Sierra hiker-style. Earlier in the day we had emptied out our bear canister and filled it with water. We then left it to sit in the sun and heat up. We did the same with our “Kitchen Sink” basin. With the help of a bit of soap, we were able to wash our dirty clothes in the canister, rinse them in the basin and then hang them to dry on a clothesline. It certainly wasn’t the perfect solution, but it got the worst of the trail dust off! The resort even had a bin of spare clothes to change into while doing laundry, which meant I could wash my capris, the only bottoms I had brought with me!
Our next chore was dealing with our resupply box. We had to go through everything, remind ourselves what we had and then pack it all into our bear canisters. Once done we rewarded ourselves with beer, and more socializing.
Later in the afternoon we were thrilled to see a pickup truck hauling a generator into the Resort. It took the staff a little bit of time to set up the new generator but it was ready just in time for us to have hot showers before dinner.
Dinner was a delicious affair from the Resort restaurant. They keep a small menu, but everything was made up fresh to order. We also got to share our meal with Chris, a long-time visitor to the Resort. He shared some great stories of hiking off-trail to the alpine lakes of the Sierras for fly-fishing.
We sat around the campfire once again that evening, enjoying one more chance to socialize with our fellow thru-hikers.
As you can see, VVR was a great experience for us. We badly needed a day of rest, time to clean up and do chores. It was a particularly nice bonus to enjoy cold beers and home-cooked meals.
If you’re planning your own JMT thru-hike and are trying to decide between VVR and MTR (Muir Trail Ranch) I highly recommend giving yourself a bit of extra time and stopping at VVR!
Note: It seems we were so busy relaxing, doing chores and socializing that we forgot to take any pictures while at VVR! All photos in this blog are Creative Commons licensed and are linked to their appropriate locations on Flickr.