Take a Trek

Day 11: Hurray for Vitamin I

Marie Lake to Evolution Creek
Day: 16.7 Miles
Trip: 128.4 Miles

If you’re advised to do something countless times, through online forums, trail journals, guidebooks, and personal encounters, heed the warnings. Yes, it’s true, your feet will swell up to a full size larger than normal, on a long distance hike. Buy shoes or boots that are big enough for your feet to “grow” into them. I could have learned this lesson from the comfort of my home, but I’m going to do it in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains instead. The tops of my feet are completely round, resembling the backs of little piglets, and my trail runners are so tight that they won’t lace properly. I’m Fascinated by the foreign objects attached to the bottoms of my legs. “Oink oink,” I say to them, as I tilt my head back and swallow a double dose of Vitamin I (Ibuprofen).

Marie Lake

Marie Lake

Several other tents reside at Marie Lake this morning, including the one being occupied by Ben, but I start my hike alone, motivated by an exceptionally cold morning. There’s something profound about witnessing the beginning of a new day in the mountains, to be a silent spectator walking through the sunrise. In the absence of company, the experience provokes a sense of contentment that teeters closely to the edge of loneliness.

Heart Lake

Heart Lake

I think of the battle between light and darkness that occurs every night at dusk, how darkness always wins. I climb to the top of Selden Pass and watch the Sun rise to fight another day and bring life back to the hills, trees, lakes, and sky.

Sallie Keys Lake

Sallie Keys Lake

The Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), is my last resupply point and the official halfway mark of the John Muir Trail. For the price of sixty-five dollars, you can mail a cache of food and supplies to a rural California town and the folks at MTR will haul it up into the mountains with one of their mules. There’s a lot of information on how to go about doing this on their website. If sixty-five big ones sounds like a steep price to pay for this service, I suggest that you look at a map. The only other resupply option is to leave the JMT altogether and spend a day or two hiking out of the Mountains.

Approaching the MTR

Approaching the MTR

Some of the folks living in the cluster of dilapidated buildings, at the MTR, look like they haven’t left the mountains in decades. They’re a weathered and rustic bunch that seem a little out of touch with modern society. I’m not sure if i’m jealous, or concerned, but I’m definitely intrigued. There’s one young person living and working here, a girl who looks like she might be bored out of her mind. The rest of the resupply show seems to be run by an old woman, with swagger and a ball cap, who deserves a nickname like Old Lady Sierra.

Selfie with Old Lady Sierra

Selfie with Old Lady Sierra

 

I bring Old Lady Sierra my claim check, and she disappears into a stone shed filled with five-gallon buckets.

MTR Resupply Cache

MTR Resupply Cache

She returns with my container of dehydrated gold, and I take it to a one of several picnic tables that’s already buzzing with other backpackers. Many of the people who pick up packages at the MTR can’t fit all of the provisions into their bear canisters. Consequently, there’s an array of food and supplies left behind for other hikers to take for free. Old Land Sierra and her friends have organized the leftover provisions into a line of labeled buckets next to the picnic tables. If I were to do the JMT again, I would consider resupplying with those buckets alone and leaving a donation for the folks who run the Muir Trail Ranch.

MTR Resupply Party

MTR Resupply Party

I thought one of the other hikers was joking when he told me that we could use fifteen minutes worth of Internet for ten dollars. “That’s funny, man,” I reply over my shoulder, as I walk towards a small shack next to the picnic tables. The elder woman inside confirms that the man wasn’t joking. “That’s forty dollars and hour!” I exclaim. “Well, it helps if you split the cost with someone else,” she replies. It takes a little sweet-talking and a couple of winks, but I manage to convince the elder woman to let me send a single email for two dollars. “Just hurry up and finish, before anyone else comes in here,” she tells me, while hanging her head out the front door.

My total pack weight when I leave the MTR is a whopping thirty-seven pounds, which includes twelve pounds of food that I’ll ration over the next eight days. Fitting the lid on my bear canister requires me to crush its contents down with my foot. This is the heaviest my pack has been, since I began the JMT, and adjusting to the weight is a tiresome struggle.

Entering Kings Canyon National Park

Entering Kings Canyon National Park

When I arrive at the intersection for Goddard Canyon, my right ankle is throbbing with pain, and I’m ready to quit for the day. As I scan my surroundings for a spot to pitch my tent, I’m interrupted by the voice of Ben. The man who gave me AT&T service has returned, and he’s planning on climbing another eight hundred feet to Evolution Creek. I swallow my third dose of Vitamin I, for the day, and hoist my pack. I suppose I’d like to have some company with dinner tonight, even if it’s just AT&T.

Two switchbacks into my climb towards Evolution Creek, my hydration bladder runs dry. I stop to blow my nose into a piece of tissue paper and my left nostril begins to gush with blood. I stuff the remaining tissue paper into my nose, and I reach for the water bottle attached to the side of my pack. I attempt to appease myself with my last sip of water, but I can’t. The tissue paper hanging out of my nose blocks the water bottle from my lips. I put my ridiculously heavy pack back on and continue trudging up a never-ending series of switchbacks.

Hey, at least my ankle doesn’t hurt anymore. Hurray for Vitamin I.

Altitude Nosebleed

Altitude Nosebleed