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Day 6: Hobbling Up Bear Ridge - Trail to Summit

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August 25, 2014 / Comments (0)

Day 6: Hobbling Up Bear Ridge

Juniper
*This post is from my 2014 JMT thru hike. I began 7/25/14 and finished 8/8/14. Missed the beginning? Read it here!*  
As I peek out through the bug netting of my tarp, I see a steady stream of rain fall. I unzip my sleeping bag a third of the way and roll over to glance at Squaw Lake, just as beautiful as yesterday. The light is dim over the lake, slowly making its way across the jagged peaks to the East.
It’s quiet at camp. I reach for my trail runners and grab my watch out of the right one. It’s past 6:30, already mid morning for thru hikers, but it’s nice to just listen to the rain.
By 7:00 the rain takes a break. I crawl out of my shelter and quickly disassemble it, being careful not to soak my down bag. As I fold it up, I make a mental note to make some time this afternoon to dry out my gear.
Andy, Kayla, and John are packing as well.
“John, I think I’ve got the riddle!” I had been thinking about it last night and finally came to a conclusion. “It’s either the right answer or it’s totally ridiculous. Is the man a little person?”
The riddle was this:
There was a man that lived on the 56th floor of a building. He takes the elevator. If it is sunny then he goes to the 32nd floor and takes the stairs the rest of the way, if it is rainy then he goes all the way up. Why?
“Yes. That is correct,” John responds.
“How’d you think of that?” Kayla asks, struggling to make the connection.
“If it’s raining, he has an umbrella and can reach the button for the 56th floor. If it’s sunny, he can only reach the 32nd floor,” I reply.
John then fires off another riddle before taking off for the day. I follow shortly after.

As I make my way up a long switchback I decide to take off a layer. Kayla appears behind me.

“It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day today!” Kayla announces. She tells me she’s going to wait up for Andy before continuing.

10,900 foot Silver Pass was supposed to be the big challenge of the day, but we camped part way up the climb last night so we just had to make the rest of our way up. My second major pass of the trail isn’t too bad.

Smoke still lingers from the Yosemite fire

As I descend Silver Pass, I run into a much older couple thru hiking too. They’re wearing Gossamer Gear packs as well and we chat for a few minutes about them. They stop and begin to put on their rain gear. I foolishly continue in hopes that it will be a quick and light shower. After all, I don’t want to overheat with too many layers.

Minutes later the rain comes down harder. I stop and take out my rain jacket. I am leapfrogged by the hiking duo and they comment about the rain.

I spend the rest of the day hiking solo, leaping over puddles, running down dirt paths, and gawking at everything around me. It is so green and lush. The trail is really brought to life by the gushing water and flowers drinking up the rain. The smoke still hangs from Yosemite fire and is mixed with fog. The rest of the day is spent hiking in a steady rain, but for some reason I’m really enjoying myself.

“How are you hiking!?” I hear a man shout out from under a tent.

“What?” I ask, confused by his question.

“How are you hiking in all this rain?” he repeats.

“It’s not really bad. Plus I keep warm by moving and I’ll have more time when it’s sunny to hang out. Where are you from?”

“We’re from San Diego. I’ve never seen rain like this before in my life!”

Before I get too cold I continue down the trail. As I look back, I see the two of them pack up their tent.

I round a corner and see the intersecting trail to Vermillion Valley Resort. I see John’s pack on the side of the trail, but he’s not there. I wander a little and soon he emerges from the woods.

“I had just the best morning hiking!” I tell John.

He looks freezing. He didn’t bring a rain jacket on the trail and the garbage bag Kayla gave him this morning was used for his pack. He doesn’t look in good spirits.

“The last time I saw Kayla she said it was going to be a beautiful day. And then it rained all morning! She definitely jinxed us,” I joke. “How long have you been waiting?”

“A while. It just gets so cold when you stop.” John takes out a windscreen and begins to gather tinder for a small fire in an attempt to warm up. Andy and Kayla couldn’t be too far behind. I spent a lot of time taking video and eating way too many m&ms. I was sure they would be arriving shortly.

John gets his mini fire going and we have a snack. It isn’t long until we hear someone coming.

“FRIENDSHIP!!” John proclaims.

Kayla and Andy make their way over and we decide to have soup for lunch. Soup is of course accompanied by lots of snacks.

Beside the Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) sign is a bear canister. I walk over and see a lot of damage to the lid. There’s a hiking stick next to it. As we pack up and start down the trail once again, we come up with different theories to the mystery canister.

It’s a full canister so maybe someone dropped it off as a resupply to a friend. But why would they do so that close to VVR? Maybe someone decided to bail and left it.

We spent a good hour coming up with different scenarios. What about that hiking stick? It would take us a couple days to find out the real story.

The afternoon is wet, but it is no longer raining. My right knee has been hurting since the morning so I stop and wrap it. It’s in quite a lot of pain for not having really done anything in particular to injure it. Maybe I overextended it?

We begin to hike up Bear Ridge and it’s killing me. Every step is painful, but hiking slower or taking more frequent breaks wouldn’t help. I know I need to give it an extended break and treat it with some R.I.C.E. which I can’t do right now. Single push it is.

A single push is when you climb a tough section without resting. I knew this section would just suck and I wanted to push through and get it done. Bear Ridge is not particularly pretty and is not supposed to be harder than this morning’s ascent of Silver Pass. I want it to be done.

Andy, John, and I make our way up with the only motivation being the possibility of the sun poking through the trees way too far away and John excitedly yelling out, “SINGLE PUSH!” as we go.

After a seemingly never ending ascent, the trail flattens out. 60 switchbacks in one go: done. We see the two men from San Diego we all ran into this morning. They soon would be known to us as Uncle-Nephew. They say hello and we respond with our own cheerful greetings. John and Andy stop to talk to them, but I continue chugging forward. I almost feel rude, but know that if I stop it’ll be much harder to start again. I spend the afternoon slowly hiking eight miles with barely a pause.

Aspen after a slow climb of Bear Ridge
Wet camera, faded marker

Soon enough, John catches up to my hobbling and we continue down to our campsite for the night. We pass one of the coolest and possibly oldest trees we’ll see on the trail.

We find a spot to camp near Bear Creek. As we begin to set up, we are attacked by mosquitoes. I never had an issue with bugs on the trail yet and it seemed tonight would make up for it. I quickly stop what I’m doing and grab my canister. My bug spray is inside. As I push on the tab of my BV500 and twist the lid, the mosquitoes take full advantage of how vulnerable I am without a hand to swat them. I cover myself in bug spray and toss it to Kayla.

Camp is set up and we gather for dinner. Thanksgiving Dinner is our choice for first dinner which is followed by a couscous meal. Thanksgiving Dinner is a mix of potatoes, stuffing, and vegetables. The bugs don’t seem bad at all as they really just like Andy. He offers to go down to the stream to filter water for dinner number two and we get swarmed while he’s gone.

Andy returns and begins making second dinner. We help him out by slapping all the bugs off him and obnoxiously clapping all around him. We get a good laugh wondering what others would think walking by our camp.

We kill a couple hundred more mosquitoes and retire to our tents for the night.

 

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Last modified: December 6, 2014

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