Take a Trek

Day 9: Hikeaholic

Deer Creek to Vermilion Valley Resort
Day: 28.1 Miles
Trip: 98.8 Miles

There’s something absurd about waking up at five o’clock in the morning, digging a six-inch hole in the ground, defecating into it, and thinking to yourself: “wow, look at all of the weight that I don’t have to carry today.” I consider enlightening Skyler with this gem of a thought, but I don’t think he’s interested in philosophizing about bowel movements right now. When my giardia-ridden friend is ready to dig a cathole, it’ll need to be deeper than six inches.

Ladd and Derek will be traveling slow for a few days, so I’m sure to wish them farewell when I break camp this morning. I also remind Skyler that Reds Meadow is only six miles away. Sitting upright on his two-foot-square piece of foam padding, with his head pressed between his hands, Skyler manages to mumble something that resemble “thank you, bye.” Or, maybe it was “pooh-pooh pie.” I’m not sure.

Morning Commute

Morning Commute

I meet a Father and Son duo, Steven and Danielle, near the intersection for Duck Pass Trail. Like myself, they’ve stopped here to fetch water from a stream. While having a generic backcountry conversation about the weather, where we’ve been, and where we’re going, I notice that they aren’t treating their water with anything. Alarmed by the irony of this, I tell them about Skyler and the two-foot cathole that he’ll need to dig for himself before leaving Deer Creek this morning, this afternoon, or maybe tomorrow. Steven smiles at me disinterestedly; “I’ve been drinking this water for years. Giardia is overrated.” I feel like someone just told me that the world is flat, that all of the pictures we took from outer space are lies. I look towards young Danielle, tell him and his father to have a safe trip, and return my attention to something that makes sense: walking.

Purple Lake

Purple Lake

I pass Purple and Virginia Lakes midway through the morning, but only spend a few minutes at each. Traveling alone, I’ve become entranced by the beautiful simplicity of what I am doing: moving my body forward, one step at a time.

Lake Virginia

Lake Virginia

In Cascade Valley, I discover a pair of women that I met on Donahue Pass five days ago. The sixty-something-year-old Mother and her forty-something-year-old Daughter tell me that they’re hiking the entire JMT, all the way to Mount Whitney. Despite their good nature, and positive attitude, my female acquaintances appear to be running low on energy. Their enormous packs are decorated with water bottles, large first aid kits, pots, pans, and other miscellaneous items that they couldn’t seem to store anywhere else. I’m notice that one of them has a stuffed animal hanging off of her bag. I want to ask about it, but I can’t. I’m too tired, exhausted from looking at the impossible amount of weight that these women are carrying. And I’m not just talking about the weight of their packs; my friendly acquaintances look like they’re about two Twinkies away from popping the buttons out of their pants. “You must have stayed in Mammoth, because that’s the only way we see people more than once,” the mother jokes. I chuckle respectfully and wish them luck.

Squaw Lake

Squaw Lake

I stop for lunch at Squaw Lake, early in the afternoon. When I looked at my maps this morning, I decided that I would camp here for the night. It’s only one o’clock though, too early to stop for the day. My feet feel good, my spirits are high, and I’m anxious to see what’s on the other side of Silver Pass, a mile and a half farther up the trail.

Silver Pass

Silver Pass

I’m a hiking machine, a hikeaholic. I watch through my eyes, like a spectator, as my body transports me down the trail. Entranced by an endless landscape of enigmatic cliffs and peaks, I move effortlessly, as miles upon miles of dust and dirt disappear beneath my feet.

Silver Pass Lake

Silver Pass Lake

When I arrive at the Lake Edison Trail Junction, I’ve hiked over twenty-two miles. There are water sources here, and some flat areas a little ways off the trail that would be fine to camp on. It would be wise to call it a day, but I’m not wise right now. I’m a hikeaholic. Without hesitation, I turn onto Lake Edison Trail and hike another six miles to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR).

The side trail that takes me to VVR circumvents the west side of Thomas A. Edison Lake. I was warned that this detour is a terrible walk. The Lake Edison Trail bobs up and down constantly and pointlessly, seldom offers a noteworthy view, and is almost entirely unmarked. With a giant body of water to my left and a wall of rock to my right, I spend six miles feeling trapped between a lake and a hard place. If I had arrived at the junction an hour earlier, I could have ridden a ferry across the lake. That would have been awesome.

I’m an hour too late to order a hot meal from the kitchen, but I heard a rumor on the trail that JMT and PCT thru-hikers can get a complementary beer when they arrive at the VVR. Exhausted, I stagger my way into the small store next to the backpacker’s campground and inquire with an employee named Cody about this rumor. “Are you really thru-hiking?” he replies, raising an eyebrow. I’m appalled by his question; apparently I don’t look how I feel. “Yeah, I’m on my way to Whitney. Would you like me to take my shoes off, so you can look at my feet?” Apparently, Cody doesn’t have any more questions. I take my complementary beer outside, and find a quiet spot to sit down.

I can barely believe my eyes, when I look up to greet a familiar voice and see Big John standing before me. With a smile stretched from ear to ear and the watery eyes of a man who has seen the bottom of seven or eight beer bottles, he’s eager to gossip about wild Mammoth orgies that never happened. I’d love to drink beers and reminisce about kicking up dirt in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but I’m forced to make our reunion a brief one. My 28-mile day of hiking has left me exhausted; it’s time to retreat to my tent and manicure my swollen, bleeding feet.