August 1, 2015
15 mi + 6 mi to VVR, 89 miles total
Lake Virginia to Vermilion Valley Resort
Courtney and I left Lake Virginia this morning at 7:00am after a nice breakfast watching the sunrise. The trail started downhill for three miles, then up for another three. It was quite hot even at 9:00am, so I listened to a podcast to get my mind off the hard climb. At the top was the beautiful Squaw Lake, the reward for our efforts. Heather and Jennifer were already there, so we stopped for a break with them, and then Courtney and I went for a swim.
When Andrew caught up we discussed our options for the evening: our destination was ultimately Vermilion Valley Resort, which was a few miles off the JMT. There were a few ways you could get there: you could walk one mile off trail to take a ferry from one end of the lake to the other, you could walk the full six miles around the lake to get to the resort, or you could take the Goodall Pass junction which shaved a few miles off the six mile trip. Courtney and I were planning on camping near the ferry tonight so we could take it first thing in the morning. Andrew, Heather and Jennifer were planning to hike to Goodall Pass today and hike all the way into VVR (Heather and Jennifer had yurt reservations there tonight). All of us were planning on taking a “zero” mileage day tomorrow and spending the day hanging out at VVR.
With our plans set, we hiked to Goodall Pass together and said goodbye, Courtney and I taking the JMT while the others took the junction. Courtney and I climbed Silver Pass, and the view from the top was so stunning that I was glad we had not skipped this part of the trail. We had lunch at the top and admired the view, though the abundance of fluffy cumulus clouds in the blue sky was worrying me.
After lunch we hiked down the pass, the storm clouds chasing us.
At 3:00pm we were only half a mile from our camp destination when the shies opened up and it started pouring. Courtney and I quickly put on our raincoats and tried to decide what to do. We didn’t want to set up our tent in the rain, so we decided to try and wait it out. We soon met two hikers named Steve and Evan who were in the same predicament. They suggested trying to hide under a nearby bridge to get out of the rain. In theory, this seemed like a good idea, but the wooden bridge was made of slats, and even crouching beneath it didn’t keep the rain from sloshing down through the gaps. We were soon soaked all the way through, and our packs were sitting in a lake of water under the bridge. The space was cramped and uncomfortable, and the river was rushing loudly too close for comfort. Pretty soon it started hailing, and after an hour, the rain had not let up.
Courtney and I reassessed our options. We had seen a sign nearby that claimed VVR was only four miles away, which would only be another two hours of walking. We decided to keep going instead of trying to set up camp in a deluge.
We struggled out from under the bridge, said goodbye to Steve and Evan, and took the trail around the lake. We discovered afterward that four miles really meant six – and it took us a slogging, miserable, soggy, exhausting three hours to get to VVR. It rained the whole time, cold, bone chilling rain that turned the trail into a river, and it seemed like VVR would never arrive. I started lagging behind and soon couldn’t see Courtney on the trail anymore. We were both starving, cranky and exhausted and couldn’t talk to each other without snapping.
When I finally rolled into Vermilion Valley Resort, I found Courtney and Andrew sitting warm and cozy inside the restaurant drinking beer. Every article of clothing I was wearing was soaked, and I stripped off my soggy boots and dropped them on the porch. I sat miserably with them, not trusting myself to talk without food in my stomach. The rain finally calmed down late in the evening so that Courtney and I could quickly pitch our tent. I passed out very quickly – we had covered 21 miles today and I was exhausted.