The Weather Turns!
We’ve reached Day 11 on the JMT and it’s been the first time we’ve experienced rain! We mustn’t complain as California is in its third year of severe drought, but it made for a miserable day of hiking.
We’ve already seen a number of dry creeks along the way, but the most startling evidence was the level of Lake Edison. At full capacity, the lake contains around 154,000,000 m3 of water. Today it seemed a mere puddle with only 5% of water left. Yes, even though we don’t want it, California really needs some rain!
Continuing through the area known as the ‘John Muir Wilderness’.
Day 11 – Silver Lake to Vermilion Valley Resort (12.2 miles) – Monday 8th September 2014 – ‘R & R at VVR’
We awoke around 3am with an unexpected pitter patter of rain drops on the tent. So we grabbed the head torches and made a mad dash to gather up all of our belongings strewn about the campsite, and get them inside the tent before they got soaked. We didn’t know if it was just a passing storm or whether the rain was here to stay. So all we could do was literally hunker down and wait it out. Having never been rained on in this tent, (our JMT tent is the Tarptent Double Rainbow), we’ve never had the opportunity to put it’s waterproof capabilities to the test. So we just had to hope that the seam sealant would do its job and all would be fine.
A storm’s a brewing! Waking up at silver Lake to dark skies and ominous looking clouds.
There were a few more passing showers in the early hours, but thankfully by the time we got up around 7am the tent had stood the worst of it, with just a few minor drips in the corners. (With 14 more days still to go on the trail, Wayne would now have a job to do at VVR re-sealing the tent seams in case rain was going to become a regular occurrence).
We set off and returned to the trail hoping to beat the rain.
By the time we left camp we were already excited about getting to Vermilion Valley Resort, a privately operated ‘wilderness retreat’, which was going to be our ‘rest stop’ and break from the trail. We had our heart set on burgers after not getting them at Red’s and couldn’t wait to get there. Especially as it became a day of dodging rain clouds and storms coming in from across Bear Ridge.
Early morning, hiking in full waterproof gear.
With the prospect of a storm coming in, we had to stop so Wayne could get a time lapse of the dramatic skies overhead.
A great place for a ‘rest stop’ before the heavens opened.
Enjoying the view before rain dampened our spirits.
The good thing was that it was mostly downhill from Silver Lake. (So not too strenuous). But it’s not so easy or straightforward reaching VVR from the JMT as it is six miles off-trail. One route is to take the private ferry across Lake Edison to save you the extra six miles. However as the lake is suffering from severe drought, the ferry landing is now about halfway down from its original position and only saves you, in effect, just over three miles as you have to hike to the new pick up point. As the ferry would have cost us $36 (return) and was only going to save us three miles anyway, we decided to give it a miss, hike around the lake and walk the entire way to VVR, making our day just over 12 miles in total. (Hardcore as ever or just too tight to pay for such a short distance!)
Despite the turbulent weather, we’re always on the look out for reflections.
No rock hop today. Crossing the creek on a nice, wooden bridge!
New instructions detailing where to catch the ferry.
As you can see, the lake bed is completely dry at the northern end, so the ferry landing has been moved around 3 miles from its original position.
The walk along the side of the lake, although going uphill, would have been quite pleasant if it hadn’t been for the rain storm we got caught in.
A very dry Lake Edison.
Hiking alongside the lake as we make our way to VVR.
Our first glimpse of water! Lake Edison stands at only 5% of its usual capacity.
The rain clouds inevitably catch up with us.
A good downpour is needed to clear the air.
Wet but in good spirits as we’re almost there!
By the time we arrived at VVR we were literally soaked for our efforts and had already decided on paying for a tent cabin for the night in order to dry all our gear out. But on the spur of the moment, we went one better when we found out that there was a luxury yurt available just for that night, for only $20 more!
Happy to have reached VVR!
The ‘welcoming’ sign on the General Store. (Apparently if you wash the dishes you can earn a free meal!)
Our luxury ‘yurt’ for the night. To the left of the photo is our private ‘toilet’, a cleverly disguised ‘portaloo’. (Much better than digging a hole!)
Having never slept in a yurt before, we were immediately impressed with all its mod-cons. Gas fired heating, sink with hot/cold water, a cooker, fridge and even a microwave. Not that we needed either of the latter as we were ‘going out’ for dinner. Well, just to VVR’s little diner for a burger feast! But the best thing about the yurt was most definitely the ‘bed’. Soft and springy as you like, having not slept in a bed for 12 nights, instead sleeping on a Thermarest Z-Lite mat that’s literally 2cm thick – it was bliss!
We couldn’t believe the fantastic facilities inside the yurt. (We certainly know how to spread out and trash a room in minutes. But we had an excuse – all of our gear was laid out to dry having been caught in the rain storm earlier!)
Laying on a soft, comfy bed was pure bliss!
In addition to the novelty of having a bed, it was the first shower we had had since leaving Merced back on the 29th August. (I hope this helps put it into perspective for you just how excited we were!)
The cafe at VVR is open for dinner from 5pm until 8pm, so we headed straight there after a nice hot shower. (10 minute showers are usually $6, but we got ours free in with the price of the yurt).
We were disappointed to find out that we wouldn’t be getting a burger as they’re only available on the lunchtime menu. Instead, the evening menu is more ‘fine dining’ so Wayne opted for a 15oz steak, while I was tempted with the chicken and vegetable pasta. Although rather expensive, we were just desperate for something other than ‘hiker food’ and we couldn’t really complain as you are literally in the middle of nowhere and we expected prices to be inflated. (I guess it will be burgers tomorrow for lunch on our ‘Rest Day’).
A great big piece of steak – that’ll do nicely!
I was more excited about having vegetables than anything else. (Well, maybe the wine too!)
The other good thing is that the store is really well stocked with beers and wines. Wayne got a 6 pack ‘pick and mix’ consisting of various real ales, while I got a bottle of white zinfandel. (One I actually like, and I’m really fussy about rose!)
Wayne with his hand-picked selection of American real ales.
After dinner we chatted with a few other hikers before retiring to the yurt. As electricity at VVR is by generator, it is switched off between the hours of 10pm and 7am, so we just wanted to make the most of our time in there. (Especially as we had to vacate the yurt by 11am the next morning and we wanted to charge all of our electronic devices!)
If the weather had been fine, we’d still be in the tent camping for free in the ‘Hikers Campground’. But because of the rain, we had an unexpected ‘splurge’ making this most definitely our one night of luxury on the JMT!