Marie Lakes could be one of my favorite spots on the John Muir Trail. John Muir Wilderness has already been quite spectacular. The reflection of the surrounding peaks and clouds really makes it difficult to leave. Thankfully I get the view all the way up Selden Pass.
My knee feels much better than it did yesterday, but is still not nearly healed. I don’t have to try too hard to make it up 10,887 foot Selden Pass as the top is calling my name.
Looking down at the alpine lakes is quite the reward. For perspective, look for Kayla in the photo above!
We take a well deserved snack break. Kayla, Andy, and I chat and share snacks. Today is made even better because we have to polish off the beef jerky (and everything else!) before our resupply at Muir Trail Ranch.
After a long break, we decide to descend Selden Pass and catch up with John. We figure he’s fishing somewhere. We pass Heart lake and find John at Sallie Keyes Lakes fly fishing.
John didn’t have much luck at Marie or Heart Lake, but he catches a Golden Trout at Sallie Keyes Lakes!
We only have around four miles to get to Muir Trail Ranch, but it involves a lot of descending. My knee feels even better than it had in the morning, but Andy is not doing as well. He twisted his knee the other day descending a section and it’s getting worse.
His demeanor quickly changes. He’s not the same carefree hiker atop Selden Pass. I can tell he’s worried.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to finish the trail,” Andy tells us. He looks defeated as he takes some Ibuprofen and adjusts his knee brace. We have two routes to get down to Muir Trail Ranch: a short, but very steep trail or a much longer, but more gradual descent. We leave that decision up to Andy.
“Let’s just go for the shorter trail,” Andy declares, looking ready for a long break. John and I begin to make our way to the ranch and Kayla hangs back to hike with Andy.
The trail descends quickly and I can make out the building in the distance. I make my way up the final set of switchbacks and quickly swing the gate open to Muir Trail Ranch. I’m halfway through my hike and I’ve made it to my resupply a day early.
I put my pack on the scale. With a day’s worth of food and a litre of water, I’m at 15 pounds.
I set my pack down and walk over to the shed to ask for my resupply bucket. I sent this bucket weeks ago and will use its contents to fill my bear canister with seven days worth of food. I also packed myself the last few pages of my map series, new socks, and of course, candy. My fiance also tucked away a picture he drew for me that I promised I wouldn’t look at before I shipped the package. It was tempting, but I didn’t peek.
“Oh I recognize your name,” the woman says to me. She goes into the shed and after a minute or two, pulls out my resupply bucket. “So when we picked up your bucket in town it was empty. It’s never happened before.”
My heart sinks. I feel tears well up as she explains to me what it looked like when they picked it up. She gives me a box from someone who never made it. I thank her and walk over to a bench with my new box. I said I wouldn’t cry on the trail. I immediately begin to. I spend a few minutes, tearfully opening up my new box, trying to make light of the situation as I retell what happened to John. He uses his knife to help me open the box. Prying it open with my stubby fingernails wasn’t getting me far.
I wipe my eyes and let out a laugh. The resupply box has two Mountain House chicken and rice meals, a few cup-a-soup packages and sanitary napkins. Two full packages of them.
“No wonder this girl never made it!” I chuckle, wiping the remaining tears from my eyes. I was over my self pity and ready to find replacements for my missing supplies. There was no way I would leave the trail now.
We spend some more time going through the barrels of food other hikers left behind. We grab some Gatorade powder, a Taste of India package, peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut packages, Icy-hot cream, and candy. The folks at Muir Trail Ranch hand me another unclaimed package. I rifle through it, grabbing a couple energy gels and beef jerky. Score! The rest is six days worth of Ramen repackaged in a large zip lock, oatmeal, and more cup-a-soup packages. I take two to mix in with some rice or potato meals.
I find it humorous that there’s a whole bucket dedicated to peanut butter and jelly. I also find a 12 oz Clover honey bear and some nacho cheese. Doesn’t everyone pack those foods?
My last stop at Muir Trail Ranch is the store. It isn’t stocked like the other resupplies on the trail. They have some Dirty Girl Gaiters, shirts, first aid items, replacement gear such as water filters, and memorabilia for sale. I buy a pair of thick wool socks for sleeping at higher elevations (I did have socks packed in my resupply bucket), a flower bandana, and a knee brace. Andy and Kayla also buy one; the last of their stock.
We finally begin to hike to Blarney Hot Springs as we need some of its healing powers. We thought the springs were pretty secretive before we reached Muir Trail Ranch, but there’s a sign pointing you in the right direction. Once we get close, we spot a group of tents. We really don’t want to be in tent city. Without a second thought we decide to cross the San Joaquin river with our full packs to camp away from the crowds. I unbuckle both my clips, remove my shoes, and prepare to cross.
I enter the river and must forge through flowing white water. The water is freezing, but I focus on keeping stable. There are dozens of small, slimy rocks making it hard to place my bare feet. I take one step at a time, making sure to make full contact with the ground around the rocks. As I move forward, the water gets deeper and more treacherous. It’s thigh deep for much of the crossing and I grasp onto my trekking pole as I slowly adjust my feet under the rocks. As I take my last two steps to the shore, I turn around and see Kayla begin to cross.
A little before the halfway mark she pauses.
“I can’t find the next place to step!” She shouts over the roar of the river. John makes his way back across the river, sans pack, to give her a hand. Soon we are all across without incident.
“Holy shit. That was intense!” exclaims Kayla. We all agree. We planned on taking a zero day at the springs so the crossing would soon be worth it.
Once we’re across, we see two other people camping. Rob walks over to us and introduces himself. He and his dad are hiking 400 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail this summer. He tells me where the path to the hot springs is and heads back to his camp.
We quickly set up and make our way to the opening of the small path, hidden among the undergrowth. The trail swings left and opens up into a muddy field.
Dinner tonight is mashed potatoes, beans, cheese, and green tomatoes. We add in some hot sauce and olive oil. We are so relaxed at camp and already feel the hot spring doing wonders on our sore joints. We plan on staying at camp tomorrow for the day, but will we follow through?
Last modified: December 6, 2014
Really enjoyed the first half of your trip report! We were 3 days behind you and also got *those* comments (2 women apparently shouldn’t be traveling alone), but they dissipated as we went south. I also had a < 15 lb pack leaving MTR, and watched with horror as the next woman to step up was thrilled to have just under 50 lbs! 🙂