If I stick to what is written on that sign, it’s going to be a very short blog post 🙂 One thing that happens at VVR can best be described by replacing the bear in that sign with a human, and the human with a beer!
Day 12 – Marie Lake to VVR
This would be Jean’s last day hiking. It was actually a bit sad. Once again, on trail before those camped in our vicinity were moving much. Another cool morning, almost perfect temperature. We had a fairly long descent, first past the lake, then past a meadow, where we descended into forested area again. Once past Bear Meadow, we began following Bear Creek, which meandered along, sometimes near the trail, other times a ways off, but never very far away.
We descended from around 11,000′ down to 9,000′ in about 7 miles. Then climbed back to 10,000′, and finally descended to our low point (not counting my end at Yosemite), of around 7,700′.
We enjoyed a second, maybe third cup of coffee in the early morning, watching the distant horizon change many shades of red as the sun began illuminating the smokey haze.
After a break near Bear Creek, which also happened to be where the Bear Creek trail cuts over and also takes one to VVR (longer and more climbing toward the end), we set about hiking up the 2 miles to Bear Ridge, which would be all downhill to VVR! Of course nothing is EVER, ALL, Downhill!
This was our dry section – the next two miles up, and then five or six down.
About 0.3 of a mile from the Bear Ridge junction we came across this little seep right next to the trail. There was moisture coming from the ground and someone had inserted a small, maybe ½” black pipe into the soil and this in turn created a pretty nice little water flow. Probably fine to drink as is. We actually still had enough water, we hadn’t carried but a liter and a half, and figured, we still have some, and it’s all downhill from here.
When we got to the junction, this sign, sort of took us by surprise. 8.2 miles. Jean was not real pleased to see this. She started doing the math. Our watches already showing 9 miles. 9 + 8.2 = 17.2 miles. I just kept saying that guthook, Gaia, and the map all gave different mileages and all shorter than this sign. Lucky for us, or for me, it was shorter. It was only 7.2 miles 🙂
I don’t know what I expected, but a mule trail was not part of my thoughts. This trail appeared to get a lot of mule traffic and it was also a lot of soft sandy granitic sand (that’s what I’m calling it). Sand with boulders. In many of the steeper sections we had to go off trail to avoid losing footing, twisting an ankle or worse. When we met up with Phil, Tish, and Josh the next day, Tish mentioned how they really liked this section, in part because of a flat middle portion. We didn’t have the same sentiments. We really didn’t like any of it. I think largely because it was later in the day, and it was hot. No breeze, hot, and getting more smokey as we descended. In hindsight, the middle flat section was pretty. And it was not dry as everyone had been saying, and of course gut hook showed no water. There was a pretty sizable creek about ½ down.
Indeed, the water level was low. We later learned that Lake Edison was at 7 percent capacity. At 5 percent, no water can be drawn, legally. The lake is a hydro reservoir which is metered into another lake further down that in turn provides hydro-electric to Los Angeles, and aldo provides recreational opportunities. Then the water flows into a third lake that is a popular recreation area. I missed getting the photo at the start of the damn, but the previous sign said to walk across the damn, but at the fence and locked gate, there was no sign. It was a bit confusing. Clearly, we jumped the short gate/fence.
VVR is in the distance a mile beyond the water at the far end of the shoreline in this photo immediately below. The damn measured nearly 0.9 miles long. In normal years, VVR runs a small passenger boat to ferry hikers from their resort to the other end, about 3.5 miles. It saves a lot of walking.
VVR is a fascinating place. Existing since the 1930s on national forest land that is leased, it has evolved. It’s a rustic resort at roads end, a very rough road mind you, that caters to folks looking for a little escape and they cater to through hikers doing the PCT and JMT. You’re greeted when you arrive, get a free beer, and set up a tab. Anytime you want something, you just grab it, go to the cashier, give them your name and voila, go enjoy. They serve an amazing breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had booked a room for two nights so we got our hotel room. Then showered. Ordered dinner, and did laundry in the laundry facility. Which also had a bucket of hiker clothes so you could wash everything.
Zero Day at VVR – Day 13
I made a point to drink a different beer each time. And do you think I would actually get a photo of the beer selection. All cans, no draft. It’s quite the haul to get supplies in. They offered a good selection of beer. I sample most of the IPAs, and Jean had a couple lagers. I kinda lost count, but I might have drank 6 to 8 beers on Saturday. Whoops!
VVR had just transitioned to new owners. The original owner of 20+ years sold to a guy who had hiked the PCT and loved the place. Important to the old owner, was keeping with the culture. The new owners mom, Megret, was the greeter. She did a great job welcoming hikers and giving them the skinny on how things ran. I somehow missed the fact that the power was supplied by generator and was turned off at 10PM until 7AM. Around 3AM, Jean said the power is out. We both had to use the restroom (ensuite thankfully!), and so we had to use our phone lights. I was kinda bummed thinking that we might not get breakfast. Not sure whey the power was out. At 7AM all the lights came on, and they occurred along with the sound of a generator. I figured it was the backup power. Nope. It’s the power. The resort is on leased national forest land and it did not have power originally. And I think, not sure, but with leased federal land like this, you can’t bring in improvements. They can’t even bring in solar power. So gallons upon gallons of diesel fuel.
VVR offers free camping to backpackers at Mushroom City. But you can also get a room in their modest 4 room hotel. Rent a yurt, A couple small cabins, or one of the few travel trailers. They also have travel trailers parked for their staff to live in.
Our Saturday is spent relaxing. Poking around in the hiker box for goodies, drinking beer, eating, and socializing.
We had an awesome cheeseburger. Photo credit to Phil of Phil and Tish! And a milkshake. I don’t recall if the shake was after dinner or after lunch.
Around mid-morning, one of the staff began prepping food. Brisket that would be Sunday’s lunch. And then BBQing chicken and ribs for Saturday night. They’ve been busy building little things like this igloo cooker and the BBQ pit.
The pile of meat and food was amazing. Some might say they were in heaven, or their happy place. I wouldn’t necessarily say either, but I’m always game for a big plate o meat! I ate it all! Most folks finished their plates but apparently they suffered through the night. I slept like a baby!
As I mentioned, I check the hiker boxes a few times. I found a few useful food items. Toward the end of Saturday I hit the mother load and stocked up. Along with the left over food from our first 12 days, a couple things I bought in the store, I basically had another 6-7 days food. Then I got to thinking. Why carry so much food when it’s only 2 ½ days to the next resupply, so I removed some. I ended up with about 4 days I think. And it only took me two days to get to Reds Meadow, but I was disappointed in their hiker box and wish I’d brough more from VVR. VVR had a big food box, and one for sundries and then crate for partial fuel canisters. I ened up swapping a ¼ full can for a ½ full can, which ultimately worked out perfectly.
The images below are from around the campus, so to speak.
The photos below are actually from Sunday morning. Phil, Tish and Josh showed up Saturday mid-day. We had last seen them just before Charlotte Lake where our paths split. They needed to exit over Kearsage Pass to Onion Valley and the town of Independence for resupply, while we stayed on trail with a mule resupply. They would have a long ½ day to exit, do their running around, stay the night in a hotel and then return to the trailhead and begin hiking. Kearsage is a serious trek just like all the passes. I was amazed to see them considering they had to hike at least 20 miles round trip to get back to where we left them. It was great to see them again and hang out. Phil and Tish’s daughter is dating a guy who is trying to grow a small clothing line – Jolly Gear (https://jollygearapparel.com) The signature piece is the button-down trekking shirt with sun hood that Phil and Tish are wearing in the photo below. A cross between the Columbia Omni-shade (Link to Amazon Columbia Products) like I’m wearing in the photo, and an Outdoor Research Sunhoody.
They are only open for a few months each year. Once the snow melts enough to access the place and open up. That time will vary depending on snowpack. But it’s in the May/June months as I understand. It takes a lot to keep the place going. Difficult road to get there. The staff is pretty much there and works really long hours. Everyone seems really happy. And because of occasional staffing shortages, it’s possible for hikers to work off some of their bill$$ That occurred on our first night. One of hikers stepped in when the call came out and he was the person delivering food to those who ordered. He did a great job. I could easily go back here, other than it’s not easy to get too!
On Sunday, Jean was scheduled to shuttle out. We found out late on Saturday that all the shuttling is still done by Jim, the previous owner. And the new owners, who were actually still not fully the owners (it’s a process of transition, escrow, etc.), and didn’t know anything about the shuttles. This caused us some worry. Jim showed up and when we told Jim Jean had a 7:30AM shuttle arranged, he seemed to not remember. And, said that was not possible. And tossed out a time of 9:00AM. I searched my emails, but unfortunately, that arrangement was via the telephone and I never followed up with an email. Jean made sure to have him repeat it a few times.
Jim assured us it was plenty of time to get her to Fresno airport for a 2:40PM flight. It also gave us time to have a more relaxed Sunday. Which all went well until 9:00AM and no Jim. Finally, around 9:45 or so, we learned from the staff that David (new owner) would be shuttling Jean and a couple other folks to Jim, basically meet him part way. Apparently someone he was picking up at the airport was causing a delay. At the end of the day, it all worked out great! Jean left for Fresno at 10AM. It was very sad. I took the next two hours to pay our bill, get checked out, and fully packed. I was basically packed up, just final touches.
Before Jean left, she offered Josh here ½ foam pad. Partly because Josh’s air mattress had a slow leak. And 2, It was kind of bulky for taking on the plane and we had her set up to carry on her pack with her running style trekking poles in the pack. She was able to get everything in her pack of course and all got through TSA. I took her knife and big lighter.
A quick addendum. Our VVR bill was over $500, and with tip it topped $600. Again, 2 nights lodging, 10 huge and delicious meals (5 each), enumerable beers, as well as a few sodas and snacks.