My day of respite at VVR didn’t go quite as planned, but it still proved to be just what my body (and supplies) needed at this stage of the hike. I was able to get three square meals, a bunch of supplies, allow the blisters to heal and take care of some gear issues. While VVR isn’t the most elegant place (“Resort” is used indiscriminately on the trail), the staff if very friendly and cater to hikers. The place really grows on you the longer you stay. I would highly recommend it to any JMT/PCT hiker.
After an excellent breakfast (the bacon at VVR is awesome!), I went shopping in the small store and stocked up on iodine tablets (backup water filtration), new liner socks (I was wondering if my old liners were a contributor to my blister problems), more lip balm and a new 1 liter bottle of water to use (Smart Water – the bottles everyone uses on the trail). I also spent an hour on the old computer/slow internet connection to send a status update to Ann and check on the weather and a few other things.
After shopping, there was a large group of hikers (including Mark and Jason) waiting for the water taxi. It seemed to be a bottleneck that wasn’t anticipated, and the thought of getting back on the trail early waned for them. Additionally, there were some clouds coming in that had the potential to affect the boat running. As and alternate, they took a shuttle to the Bear Creek Cutoff trail, that takes you to the more scenic Bear Creek Trail as an alternate to returning to Mono Creek and hiking the JMT up Bear Ridge.
I went back to the Tent Cabin and took my time going through all my gear and reorganizing and cleaning stuff up. I worked on repairing my pump filter by cutting the remaining tube by a third and using that for the source side (a decent stop gap). I also sewed up two holes in the bottom of my shorts with thread and needle that Carly gave me. At this time, the guy cleaning out the tent cabin discovered Jason’s nice headlamp, so I took it with the intention to at least send it after the hike.
Heading back to the main area with my pack ready and waiting for lunch, I ended up striking up conversations with Cassie and Wyatt (who arrived that morning) and Hilda and Sebastian (who were staying another night). A nice lunch, and more discussion around the weather impacts on the water taxi ensued, with myself getting more and more concerned the an overnight delay in getting back on the trail would threaten the remaining schedule buffer I had available.
Hilda an Sebastian had a great alternate idea of taking the shuttle to the Bear Creek Cutoff first thing the next morning. Looking at the map, I figured this is a good enough fallback since I can most likely get back onto my planned schedule with reasonable effort (especially after the long break!). Feeling better about the prospects (and realizing the chances of the water taxi running were diminishing rapidly), I then met Amanda and Svetlana (who graduated from Dublin Scioto and her parents still live in the Columbus area!), who arrived on the morning taxi and were resupplying. They had a very aggressive schedule and wanted to get back on the trail that day, so they planned on taking the shuttle to Bear Creek Cutoff that afternoon after they were done repacking. This was great, and I ended up deciding to join them to get a head start on the next day.
We ended up heading out around 4pm and on the trail by 4:30pm. It was a hot and dry 2.8 miles to Bear Creek which has excellent camping. The only problem was that Svetlana’s back, which had been bothering her, was getting worse. It was nice having company for the night, and I decided I would hike with the ladies the next day and see how it goes. With their schedule, they like to start early, so they sparked me to wake up at 5:15am the next morning! I am pretty grateful for that, since it ended up getting me to set my alarm for 5:30am the rest of the trip.