PCT Day 153, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 72

September 12
Mile 870.9 to mile 859.5, 11.4 PCT miles + .8 mile off-trail to Muir Trail Ranch, 12.2 miles total (0.6 blue blaze miles counted in PCT miles ’cause it’s a continuous foot path!)
PCT miles: 1581.5
Running total: 1716.9
We woke up to another chilly morning and yet again Matthew let me sleep in! Niceee!!

There were a few others who had camped in the area the night before, but Melissa was only one left when we emerged from our tents. We all ate breakfast and packed up, Melissa and I both dreading the creek crossings- we knew we had three, but one definitely required getting our feet wet. On such a cold morning, nothing sounded worse.

Melissa spotted a guy coming NoBo and went to pick his brain. I followed closely behind, anxious to get the 411. We were psyched to hear that this man made it across all three crossings without getting his feet wet BUT, I have learned that an easy rock hop for one doesn’t necessarily mean dry feet for all- I’m convinced that some of these hikers must have been Division-1 long jumpers or balance beam gold medalists- their ability to cross some of these creeks dry far exceeds the capabilities of the average human. Our brief interaction with this NoBo left me feeling hopeful, but I didn’t dismiss the fact that my already cold feet could possibly be frozen AND wet in just a few miles. I started the day wary of what was to come…
Not long into our morning we passed an overly enthusiastic older man coming NoBo towards us. “I have GREAT news for you,” he said with a humongous smile, “DRY FEET!!!” YES!! He gave me more hope than the Olympic athlete we had first talked with.
Both men were in fact 100% correct: dry feet for all!! One of the rock hops was a bit tricker than the others due to how spaced out the rocks were and I did almost lose my balance when the hiking pole that I had been leaning on began to collapse (I blame the cold air!!) but after a brief heart attack and an awkward dance to catch myself, my feet were spared from an ice bath- success!! I cannot tell you how much of a difference it makes to be able to hike with dry feet…

From where we camped, we spent the morning climbing up 1683 feet over 5.3miles to Selden Pass, which sits at 10,912 feet.

Just before reaching the pass I turned around and saw this amazing view, which only got better as we climbed higher.

My exact words were, “wow, holy fuckin shit,” which I said out loud to no one.

We enjoyed the view briefly before starting our descent- we had 6 miles to go before reaching our destination for the night, Muir Trail Ranch(/MTR). While most hikers simply pass through the ranch, Matt and I were told by quite a few people (my friend Avis and Beats Working!) that it was definitely worth spending a night there, so it was on our radar. Although it was super pricey, back at Kennedy Meadows North Matt and I had agreed that we could treat ourselves to a night at the ranch as motivation to stay on the trail- it worked, and we were super excited to relax in shelter again!!

About 2 miles down from the pass we took a quick break at Sallie Keyes Lake, where we snacked, filtered water, and loaded on the sunscreen.

I found this guy in my dirty water bottle: an alien fetus?? I don’t even want to know. Matt returned him to the lake {and I continued to use the bottle for the remainder of our hike. Cheers!}
The day grew really frickin HOT as we neared the ranch. The trail was totally exposed, leaving us to roast in the sun- I felt terrible for the people heading uphill!!

SO, there are two trails that lead to MTR, and we did as most everyone does and took the first one we came to, which lead just under one mile to MTR. It was a ridiculously steep, rocky path with a million short switchbacks- again, I was glad I wasn’t climbing UP them, but holy shit were they knee-breakers!! The next day, when returning to the PCT, we planned to take the second (less steep!) trail back, which intersects the PCT farther south and cuts off approximately 1.8 miles of the PCT. If we were dead-set on walking every single mile of the PCT I might have argued otherwise, but y’all know where we stand with that!

We made it to the ranch by 2:30. After checking in, chugging complimentary lemonade, and checking out our room, Matt and I joined the other hikers in the hiker area.

MTR is a rugged, rustic guest ranch in the middle of nowhere (/it’s in a valley in the high Sierra) only accessible by foot, horseback/hiring a mule, or, if you’re super swanky, via helicopter. The easiest/quickest hike to the ranch involves a ferry ride over Florence Lake and a 5.5 mike hike, but I think most people, like Matt and I, arrive by taking that slight detour off of the PCT/JMT.

Since JMT hikers are silly, many opt to send a resupply BUCKET to MTR- yep, a bucket. Since everything gets carried in to the ranch by mules, people are required to send their resupply in a 5gallon or smaller plastic bucket AND pay 85$ to pick it up! Holy shit! No way, Jose! I guess since most people don’t need to quit their jobs to hike the JMT, $85 doesn’t seem so ridiculous, but for a jobless, homeless, paying out the ass for health insurance PCT hiker {/me}, paying for the food + shipping + $85 seems absolutely fuckin absurd! I totally know WHY the ranch needs to charge so much, and I’m not knocking the price, I’d just rather hike an extra 15 miles to buy food vs paying that much for a few days worth of food! (Foreshadowing maybe???)

The absolute kicker?!? Most JMT hikers are not nearly as hungry as they thought they would be, so they end up leaving most of their food behind- *enter starving PCT hikers.*
While most JMT hikers go to the ranch to pick up their resupply, most PCT hikers go to the ranch to raid the legendary hiker boxes stocked more or less entirely by JMT hikers. If one arrives at the right time or spends enough time at the ranch, they are totally able to do a full resupply from the goods that JMT hikers have left behind!! In spending an hour or two by the boxes chatting with PCT and JMT hikers, Matt was able to resupply for the next section, and I was able to resupply off of Matt’s leftover food! I’m super picky and weird and will not take opened food from a hiker box*, but I was able to score a huge bag of unopened roasted, salted almonds from Trader Joes, an unopened bag of trail mix, and some bars. Matt grabbed some bars and a few dehydrated meals that were homemade by a hiker we had met at the ranch. Matt is a lot more adventurous than I!
*Avoiding opened, often unlabeled leftover food from dirty, gross strangers is probably normal, but not for a thru-hiker! People take ALL sorts of gross things from hiker boxes- half a jar of pb? An opened bag of who knows? Unidentified white powder? I’ve seen people indulge in it all. While we were there, one guy even offered his used plastic jar that he had JUST thrown into the garbage to a gal that was combining her PB and Nutella into one jar- and she took it! Like, this jar that was used for who knows what that was touched by hands that haven’t been washed in days and was JUST sitting in a garbage can- she took it and loaded her PB and Nutella into it- why? ’cause it was lighter than the jar she had. No judgement but…wait, yeah, I’m judging. That’s a level of hiker trash that I’ll never be able to reach!!
After sufficiently raiding the boxes and gathering enough food for our next 4.5 day stretch, Matt and I enjoyed a dip in the private hot springs at the ranch- it was lovely! But after just about 15 minutes in the water I became a little lightheaded and queasy- not good! I downed some water and took it slow- we did NOT need a repeat of day 45!!

After peeling ourselves from the quiet, relaxing hot springs, Matt went to start laundry and I ended up running into Melissa at the hiker tent! She was with Paul, a man we had met at VVR and had since run into a few times as well. Paul did the AT and the PTC in the 90’s & was currently hiking the JMT. Fun fact: Paul, originally from the US, has been living and working in Australia for I think almost 2 decades. Labor laws in Australia are actually amazing he gets a ridiculous amount of mandated vacation time each year….I’m living in the wrong country!!!

After chatting briefly with Melissa & Paul, I ran over to assist Matthew with the arduous laundry process.

Once our laundry was sufficiently rinsed and drained, Matt and I went to relax in the lounge while we waited for dinner.

Dinner was dangerous- it was fresh, homemade, and almost all-you-can-eat! And since I don’t eat meat, they made me special fish tacos! Omg yum!! We sat and chatted with Mike, a JMT hiker just a few years younger than our parents- these “older” hikers always blow my mind!! Badasses, all of ’em! In conversation we learned that Mike was originally from NJ and actually went to the same Catholic high school as Matt’s dad!!!!! SMALL WORLD!!! Mike had taken the day off at MTR and raved about how awesome his day was.

As we were finishing up dinner I mentioned the “Z” word to Matt…yup, Zero Day. I planted the seed, and we both watered the idea. We spoke to the owner of the ranch, Hillary, about our interest in extending our stay, and she confirmed that there was an open cabin for the next night, but we would have to decide by 8am before the room got scooped up by somebody else! Matt and I agreed to think about it overnight, but I think we both knew that we weren’t leaving that next day.

After dinner, as we were finishing up a cup of tea, Daddy Long Legs, a current JMT section hiker and a past PCT hiker, offered Matt and I some Jamaican rum- I couldn’t believe I said yes! In typical fashion, I was able to drink a few sips before passing my glass off to Matthew, who, as always, was a willing recipient.

We then set off to bed in our non-heated but surprisingly cozy cabin. Gosh I love shelters I don’t need to set up and indoor plumbing!!

Happiness is: see my last sentence .

One thought on “PCT Day 153, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 72

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