Our Final Re-Supply…
We’ve reached Day 15 on the JMT and today we picked up our final re-supply of food from Muir Trail Ranch.
It took a lot of skill to cram 11 days of food into our two bear canisters, but with a little fine-tuning and some ‘swapsies’ from the hiker bins, we’ve now mastered the art of fitting everything we need in there! Well, almost!
With food on our minds (as usual), our first stop today was Muir Trail Ranch.
Day 15 – Sally Keyes Lakes to Florence Lake Trail (7 miles) – Friday 12th September 2014 – ‘Hot Springs Heaven’
After the ‘bug fest’ up at Sally Keyes Lakes yesterday, we were happy to set an early alarm and get going this morning. We enjoyed our last bag of granola, knowing full well we have no more breakfast rations to come in our final re-supply parcel today as we simply couldn’t fit them in! A Clif Bar as substitute will simply have to do.
Leaving Sally Keyes Lakes with a spring in our step!
When we set off, it was downhill all the way to Muir Trail Ranch, and with almost empty bear canisters, we set a good pace, knowing this was the best our backpacks would feel for a while.
A fork in the trail. We diverted off the JMT a couple of miles to Muir Trail Ranch to collect our final food re-supply parcel.
When we arrived we discovered we weren’t the only early morning visitors.
We arrived at MTR around 10:30am to find that the hiker re-supply area was already a hive of activity. What we liked about it is that there are several benches on which to organise your food that are shaded from the sun by a large gazebo. Very convenient and hiker friendly! There is even a rack in which to place your walking poles in a neat and tidy manner.
The very large bell at the gate to announce your arrival.
A welcome relief – large gazebos provide some respite from the sun.
The other great element is MTR’s ‘hiker bins’, of which there are several, conveniently organised and labelled into specific food stuffs, drinks, toiletries, first aid, clothing – it’s amazing what things people leave behind!
We loved the fact there were lots of full hiker bins to rummage through for ‘swapsies’!
But before we could get excited and have a rummage, our first job was to pay for and collect our own large bucket filled with 10 days worth of rations that we had posted to ourselves from Merced on the 27th of August. (It costs $65 per bucket to have your re-supply collected from the Post Office at Mono Springs and transported by mule to Muir Trail Ranch. Conveniently, all you then have to do is pick it up by taking a 1 mile detour off the JMT). But it’s totally worth the cost when you are two days away from civilisation and there is no other option to get food on the trail. We were just hoping that our bucket had actually made it here in time, as we had posted it without allowing a minimum three weeks for collection. Luckily our bucket was safe and sound and on the shelf in the re-supply shed, along with several other buckets awaiting pick-up. Although it’s getting late in the season, there’s obviously still a lot more JMT hikers ready to pass through.
The ‘Re-supply Shed’ – still very full with hiker’s buckets awaiting collection.
Our own bucket full to the brim with goodies.
Now for the hard part of the day – making all of our food fit inside the bear canisters. (Plus a couple of re-fills of toiletries such as toothpaste and biodegradable soap). From here on in, we ideally needed 12 days of food including tonight’s evening meal. There was simply no way we could get all that to fit, despite trying several times with alternative ways of packing the canisters! So our compromise was to carry tonight’s dinner in a zip lock bag, whilst just about squeezing 11 days of food rations in the bear canisters, minus breakfasts and a few mini chocolate bars. (Oh and of course we ditched the 10 bags of trail mix yet again!)
Organising 11 days worth of rations and hoping to fit them into two bear canisters. Really!
We literally ‘binned’ the trail mix once again. Maybe someone else will make good use of this stuff!
Despite our bear canisters being full, we still had a good look through the hiker bins at everyone else’s surplus food rations. We found some real goodies such as a dehydrated chicken fajita mix and a beef stew with vegetables. It was such a shame that we didn’t have any space left! (We did in fact swap out a few more mini chocolate bars just so we could cram in the beef stew!) And surprise, surprise, the surplus trail mix bucket was full before we even added the extra 10 bags of our own. We came to the conclusion that if you really wanted to, you could actually re-supply at MTR out of what’s left in the hiker bins there’s that much surplus food! Albeit, a lot of it is peanut butter and trail mix! But if you like that stuff there’s a whole lot of calories there.
We found these sachets of peanut butter ‘goodness’ left by one kind-hearted hiker! (Or someone completely fed up with peanut butter, like myself). Like the instructions say, perfect if you have some tortillas.
Unfortunately no one had binned any deodorant. We were hoping to maybe pick one up as our ‘no-deodorant’ experiment hadn’t been such a good idea after all. Despite strip-washing every day, we were starting to have a faint whiff about us! (Wayne said he’d actually use the word ‘stink’!) Anyway, moving on…
Our final task before leaving MTR was to weigh our packs. With a full load (but minus water) Wayne’s pack weighed in at 18kg (but he is carrying the tent, cook-set and all-important tripod). My pack (minus water) weighed in at 16kg! Wayne couldn’t work out why mine was still quite heavy despite the fact I’m carrying less than him. I put it down to a heavier mid-layer jacket, the First Aid kit as we’ve only used one single plaster out of it, my electronics as I’m carrying the battery pack plus cables etc, plus my diary/ scrapbook, which is about as heavy as a brick!
Tentatively weighing the packs… Mine was the lightest of course, but weighed in at a respectable 16kg!
Anyway, we didn’t have to carry them far today. From MTR we were heading straight to the Blayney Hot Springs for a much needed soak. (Plus, the smell of sulphur is better than BO right!) Then we had planned on hiking just about a mile further up the trail to find a place to camp for the night.
Show me the way to the hot springs!
The Blayney Hot Springs can be found just across the river, off a side trail when you leave MTR. The river was ankle deep so we easily waded through without removing our trail shoes. (It was hot enough for the sun to dry them out that afternoon). There are 3 natural hot springs – just don’t expect too much. The first one looked like we’d end up dirtier than before we got in it. The second one was like a ‘rugby bath’ with 4 naked men already enjoying a soak, so we thought it was best avoided. So that just left one more, which we opted for. It’s difficult to see from the trail but the third hot spring is located right in the middle of the meadow. There are signs all around stating ‘Private Land’ but we were told it was OK to use the hot springs as long as we were respectful. The water was luke-warm but that didn’t matter. It was a much better temperature than the lakes we’ve been swimming in recently! And it felt so good to be fully immersed in water. As well as making us smell better, we were also hoping that the natural minerals would be good for moisturising our skin as it has become so dry. It’s not just because of the intensity of the sun, but also from the fact we are using multi-purpose soap for washing. If it can strip the grease off your pots and pans, imagine what it can do to your skin! (And no, there wasn’t any moisturiser in the MTR hiker bins either. I have to admit that I did look! We wouldn’t have been able to fit it in the bear canisters anyway. I’m actually thinking olive oil might be a good substitute. We had 2 mini bottles of that in our re-supply!)
Our first proper creek crossing where our feet actually got wet! (The guy behind fell flat on his butt whilst navigating rocks, in a futile attempt to keep his boots dry, just a second after this photo!)
We opted for the third hot spring in the middle of the meadow.
It’s not 5 star spa quality, but it felt awesome being submerged in water!
After about an hour at the Hot Springs we braved the fully-loaded backpacks and set off along the Florence Lake Trail to find a camp spot. There are established campsites both before and after the hot springs but as there were already a few hikers pitched around there, we decided to move down the trail a little further. One more mile today would mean one mile less tomorrow, which was going to be a hard day anyway going uphill to Evolution Valley.
Enough fun for one day. Time to get back on the JMT!
A successful crossing with no wet butts on our behalf.
We followed the Florence Lake Trail to take us back to the JMT.
We found a decent camp spot near to the San Joaquin River, which was made even better by the fact 5 deer came wading across the river and into our camp area to feed on the nearby bushes, whilst we watched them silently from the tent. (We just hoped there wasn’t a mountain lion tracking them nearby!) What an unexpected treat to end a rather busy day in the wilderness!
We had the pick of new rations for our dinner tonight.
Mule deer that wandered into our camp.
Getting ready for ‘hiker bedtime’ – cue ‘as soon as it gets dark’!
Tomorrow we’ll be rejoining the JMT and hiking from one valley into another, with our packs now the heaviest they’ve ever been. I guess we’ve got a lot of food to eat before they start feeling comfortable again!
But the next 11 days are meant to be some of the most scenic out of the entire 211 miles. So it will all be worth it!