JMT 2019 Day 6: Silver Pass

September 9, 2019
Squaw Lake to Vermilion Valley Resort (9.5 miles)

After the long hiking day yesterday, I thought I might sleep in. But I woke up at 4:30 am, realizing that if you go to bed at 8:30 pm, by 4:30 you have probably had a solid 8 hours of sleep. I got up for a pee, fetched my bear can and boiled water for coffee while packing up things in my tent. I ate my breakfast of Probar & coffee sitting on the granite table next to my tent, with my feet dangling in my quilt foot box and the quilt buttoned up behind me, looking like some sort of mermaid, except half-human, half-fat caterpillar.

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Bag packed and leaned up against the granite “table” at my campsite

It’s a bit warmer than the previous morning, but there are still thin clear sheets of ice along the shores of Squaw Lake and Chief Lake when I begin hiking. I start hiking at about 7:45 and reach Chief Lake in about an hour and a half, just as the sun comes rising over Chief Lake. I find some nice flat slabs of granite, roll out my Thinlight pad and do some sun salutation into the sun. I decide I should make this a routine, hike until warmed up and then stop to do yoga and stretch.

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View from my yoga spot on the banks of Chief Lake

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At the top of Silver Pass I meet a PCT thru-hiker from Belgium named Weatherman, and we take some pictures of each other. Descending the south side of Silver Pass, the landscape is very reminiscent of the Gallatin and Madison Ranges in Montana (where I had done all my training hikes in the summer), only without the moose and grizzlies. Then the trail follows Silver Creek down into the forest flanked by smooth granite formations like those in Yosemite.

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Silver Pass

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Hello, southwestern Montana! (Actually, basin south of Silver Pass)

Mid-morning, I stop and take break where the stream runs over bare granite and ice my feet in an indentation in the rock that makes a perfect little footbath. The water is painfully cold. I eat salami wrapped in a tortilla.

Then it’s down, down, down an endless set of rocky switchbacks. At one of the stream crossings, I meet a couple with the best hiking pups ever, each carrying its own backpack and following faithfully right behind the heels of their owners. I stalk closely behind this group because the sight makes me so happy until we part ways at Mono Pass junction. (Between Yosemite and Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks is the dog friendly portion of the JMT and it was always a treat to meet people’s furry friends on the trail.)

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I reach Ediza Lake junction by 2 pm, so I decide to take the 4:45pm Edison Lake ferry to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) half a day earlier than planned. I meet some folks already waiting for the ferry by the bear box around 2:35. They mosey down to the ferry dock while I spread out my tent and ground sheet to dry in the sun. The sun out by the ferry dock is harsh, so I roll out my foam pad to nap in the shade of the trees by the bear box.

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Lake Edison ferry dock

I am laying prone on my mat using my freshly dried tent as a pillow when Ellen rolls up. We catch up. She’s been having trouble with the cold due to old frostbite injury and managed to lose one of her two pairs of shorts and hasn’t been able to swap out her outfits as she normally likes to do. I tell her I saw her shorts at Red’s Meadow and was hoping I would see her there and I am super glad to see her again going into VVR.

Around 3:50, Ellen and a section hiker we have been chatting with head over to the ferry dock. I am rolling up my foam pad and putting my hiking boots back on when another familiar face appears, it’s Larry! He made it from Red’s in less than two days, camping last night at Lake Virginia. It turns out that the usual ferry is out of commission, so the boat captain has to make multiple trips across the lake in a little skiff and can only take 5 people at a time. My dilly-dallying in the shade puts me on the third and last boat, so Larry, another hiker and I share our life stories as we wait for our ride.

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Putting 5 hikers and their gear in this little boat is pretty sketchy…

We finally arrive at VVR when it is starting to get dark. We get the spiel, get our tabs set up, go set up camp (JMT and PCT hikers get two nights free camping and a free beer at VVR) and I eat a steak dinner. Showering will have to wait till tomorrow.

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The boat ride to VVR was a bit more thrilling than anticipated…

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