JMT Day 9: Friends, Fish, and Fire

Our perfect campsite, isn’t it amazing? Even better in person, trust me

8/2/2018 VVR –> Bear Creek

Despite going to bed late I still woke up early, I guess I was eager for that shower! I packed up my tent and got my stuff together and headed for the shower. They had a basket of various unwanted shower items near the door that anyone could use. I found some organic coconut shampoo and a conditioner that was nicer than the one I use at home! I knew I only had 7 minutes once the shower started, but I was already a pro at taking fast showers. I got my hair a little bit wet in the sink and then rubbed the shampoo in before turning on the shower. Then I dropped the token in and hopped in the shower, bracing myself against the freezing water while I scrubbed the shampoo into my hair with one hand and tried to adjust the water temperature a little bit with the other. Soon the water was scalding hot and I tried to turn it back to a reasonable temperature while washing the shampoo out. I finally got it to a nice warmth and finished with some conditioner, acting quickly out of fear that the water would shut off and leave me with conditioner in my hair. I guess I was a lot faster than I thought (should have timed it!) I stood and enjoyed the warmth for a while longer wishing that I could shut the water off now that I was done with it, but enjoying it all the same.

Eventually, the water stopped and I got out and dried off. I thought how funny it was that I take showers for granted back in the “real world” and didn’t even really feel like I needed one until I was offered the chance to take one. I also thought about how that would be my last shower for the next two weeks!

As I stepped outside, I realized how smoky everything was! I could barely see outside of the immediate camping area and everything smelled like it had in Yosemite a week ago. Great. I didn’t need another fire! Hopefully, we’d be hiking away from it again this time. I checked with the staff and they weren’t sure but guessed that it would clear up pretty soon. Here’s hoping.

So smoky!!!

I went back down to the camping area, where I found Justin, Ashley, and Derek packing their things and getting ready for breakfast. Justin had bought a laundry token and was asking if anyone had anything they wanted washed! What a luxury. I gave him some underwear and my shirt and I think my socks too. Clean clothes and a shower? This place was the best!

Cute selfie, with something stuck in my teeth, typical.

I was going to have some of my oatmeal for breakfast but I decided to look at the breakfast menu – “just to see what was there” and ended up getting a HUGE breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, hash browns, and toast. I splurged a little bit, but it was so worth it. I think the breakfast portion only cost me $7 or so, my main cost at VVR was the cost of the ferry, which I could have skipped but felt like it was worth it.

What can I say? I love food.

My new group and I lined up for the ferry with a lot of others. We were at the end of the line, and after Celeste, Chad, Ashley, and Derek had gotten on the staff member letting people onto the boat said that it was too full and we would have to wait for the next one. Nooo! My group!

Justin and I walked back to the waiting area and talked with the day hikers who had gathered to wait for the next ferry, an hour and a half from then. We decided we would rest up and try to catch up to the others by the end of the day but I had doubts about being able to make it without making any plans or knowing where the others would be. The extra waiting time did give me a chance to charge my phone, InReach, and external charger though so that was pretty nice. There was a group of people who were going to be backpacking and hiking in the area and taking a long weekend, so we each told them about our trips so far. They had a dog with them but she was shy so I didn’t get to play with her. Justin found out that one of the guys had grown up in the same smallish town that he did so they were chatting away while I played cards with a few of the others.

The most important signpost
View from the back of the ferry, staring out into the smoky nothingness behind us

Eventually, the ferry came and we got on. I made sure to stay at the back again, I didn’t want to hike while soaking wet. We got to the other end of the lake and started down the trail that led back to the JMT, talking about crazy customers and trading work stories. We reached the JMT junction and took a bit of a break and suddenly Chad and Celeste appeared from the other end of the trail! They explained that they had stopped to go fishing for a while, but Ashley and Derek had gone on, they had a stricter deadline to finish the trail. At least part of the group was together anyway, I was excited!

We continued together, chatting about food and answering random questions Justin would come up with, such as

“If you had to make a sandwich using only candy, what would you put on it?”

We eventually came across this weird hole in the ground, filled with liquid and orange-ish mud, slowly bubbling. It looked like a mini-hot-spring-volcano-portal-to-another-world. Chad said,

“man, that water is probably scalding hot”


So of course, I stuck my finger in it.

It was freezing cold! It was so weird. We all poked it with our hiking poles (well, mine and Justin’s, Chad and Celeste didn’t have hiking poles) and then continued on our way, certain that we had just found a portal to another world and had most likely accidentally fallen through and were now on some alternate planet that mimicked earth exactly. Or at least that’s how I felt.

We continued on, and on, and on up some switchbacks. They seemed never-ending, but Justin kept everyone entertained with more weird questions and trail games. Eventually, after about 45,904,388 switchbacks (approximately), we decided to stop for a snack and Justin brought out some cheese, crackers, and summer sausages. I contributed some trail mix that I had gotten from the hiker box and a Payday bar, that ended up getting caught underneath Justin’s bag and forgotten about until we were packing up (if Chad, Celeste or Justin are reading this, THAT is where the mystery Payday bar came from, not Trail Santa, I just decided to let you go with the Trail Santa idea 😉 now you know. I am Trail Santa.)  There was a small spring there as well so we refilled our water bottles and kept on going up the rest of the switchbacks (there were a lot, trust me.)

Chad and Celeste supervising the meat and cheese operations
Look at those knife skills
Another picture of me, happy because of food. Notice a pattern yet?

When we reached the top of the switchbacks we decided that we needed another snack. We stopped again and this time we combined some of Justin’s crushed mint Milano cookies with Chad and Celeste’s peanut butter and it was delicious! My blog doesn’t support video files at the moment but you can head to my Instagram or Facebook if you want to see a video of us ridiculous hikers eating peanut butter with cookie crumbs in it.

In case you weren’t getting tired of pictures of me eating, here’s another! 

We kept going, heading for a campsite somewhere near the Upper Bear Creek Meadows Area. We started hiking past a gorgeous river and Chad and Celeste started talking about fish tacos, and how if they could catch enough fish that night, they’d make fish tacos for everyone.


As the day started to wind down we started to scout for a good campsite that would accommodate our three tents. We walked past one that looked perfect but was still a mile or two from the spot we were planning on staying that night. We walked another couple hundred feet down the trail and then we collectively agreed that the spot we passed was too perfect and we couldn’t pass it by, even if it meant having to go a little further the next day.

We set up camp and Chad and Celeste headed to the river to catch our dinner. Justin and I gathered wood from the surrounding area and started a fire, using little bits of broken bark and pine needles in a coffee filter as a fire starter, then we went down to the river to watch the others fish. Celeste had headed up the river a bit and I couldn’t see her from where I was sitting, but I watched as Chad caught a few fish. He also tried a fancy move and caught a tree, but we won’t get into that.

Lookit that lil baby fire go! Justin and I are pros! 
Chad catching us a nice sapling for dinner

I’ve gone fishing before, but only a few times and I don’t think I could actually kill a fish unless I was starving. I was still grateful to have fresh fish though! The fish were beautiful colors, bright reddish orange, and gold. I think they were California Golden Trout and some kind of hybrid. I went off on my own for a bit to watch the river and write in my journal and soon the fish was cooked up along with some veggies. I donated some hot sauce and spices and enjoyed the fish tacos, they were definitely some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. It is crazy (and perhaps a little unnerving) to think that the thing you’re eating was just happily swimming not even an hour ago, I tried not to focus too much on that.

Look at those colors! That isn’t blood, it’s just how brightly colored the fish actually were! 
Our baby fire grew and we made Chad model the fish near it (when we cooked them, we cooked them in foil, not like this) 
Taco assembly!

After eating, we made hot chocolate and sat around the fire until it had almost completely burned out, talking about embarrassing and funny stories from our various pasts. If I had known that this was in my future, I wouldn’t have worried as much two nights ago when I was feeling so alone. It is so amazing to me how close you can grow to people while you’re out in the wilderness without phones and other responsibilities to distract you. This was exactly what had been missing from my trip, and I fell asleep grateful to Ashley and Derek for convincing me to come to VVR, even if they hadn’t been able to stick around with us and excited for the adventures ahead with my new friends.

Thanks for reading! See you tomorrow!



Coming soon!


One Comment Add yours

  1. says:

    Oh, Emma, this makes me so happy. Instead of praying for your feet for a change, we had been praying for God to choose your companions…and He did.

    I count it all joy! Sent from my iPhone



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