In 2013, we hiked from Yosemite to Vermillion Valley Resort - 100 miles. We now plan to begin at VVR and return to it - 90 miles. As in 2013, our trip began at Emeryville, across the bay from San Francisco, where we caught a train to Fresno. The trains and stations in California were clean and comfortable. We were met by a van from Vermillion Valley Resort for the three hour trip to the mountains. VVR is five miles off the John Muir Trail. We plan to loop out on the trail about 45 miles.
At the nearby pack station, a wrangler pracftices his roping technique. Finally on the trail, we climb through the zone of Ponderosa Pines and beautiful, gnarly Incense Cedars. IMG 0426 Out timing is good in that California partially recovered from its devastating drought so water was easily available.
We had no idea what this means. By the second night, we reached timberline at beautiful Marie Lake. Yet there are more switchbacks up to Selden Pass at 11,000'. IMG 0442
We reach Muir Trail Ranch, a walk-in resort and hiker resupply point. We luxuriate in a cabin at MTR. Our resupply bucket, mailed from Saint Paul, was awaiting us. Construction buckets are popular for food caches to combat hungry mice in the storage hut. Ours was not the only food cache!
Getting rid of acculumated trash is important, as well. A big benefit of a reservation at MTR: the hot springs. After a few days on the trail, the hot tub is extra-special and it's beautifully designed, as well! MTR's Web page mentioned laundry facilities but I did not read carefully enough to realize it's all manual.
IMG 0458 Backpackers weigh their packs after resupplying. After climbing mountains with the equivalent of a sack of concrete on your back, this is a big deal! Off again and crossing wilderness area boundaries. The John Muir Trail was constructed between 1915 (a year following Muir's death) and 1938. Since then, usage has skyrocketed and maintenance is top-notch.
We struggle uphill past great scenery. John Muir advocated a theory that glaciers sculpted the Sierras, explaining the smooth granite surfaces, like this one. He was initially dismissed by credentialed academic geologists as an eccentric amateur. Storm clouds gather over Evolution Lake, a beautiful but over-used spot on the Trail before a major pass through the mountains in the background. IMG 0501
A rare opportunity to photograph two pikas. These little guys live in rick scree at high altitudes. A marmot looks us over from the lakeshore. We approach 12,000' and Muir Pass. Muir hut, at the top of the pass, is guarded by a marmot.
At the top of Muir Pass, the Sierra Club maintains a famous shelter, built in 1930. The fireplace evidently is original but the fuel would have had to have been carried up. IMG 0514 IMG 0516
We are chased back to Evolution Lake by a gathering storm. Another aspect of Muir's glacier theory is the "hanging valley." A glacier plowed the valley, leaving tributary streams on the side with a big drop to the U-shaped floor. That is the configuration of Yosemite Valley, as well as Evolution Valley and Creek. IMG 0539 We sometimes heard bells on the trail and the "llama lady" would appear. Each llama carries 60 pounds.
much of the scenery reminded us of Yosemite. The grand old Incense Cedars are photogenic! We escaped previous threats of storms but this one eventually caught us with hail and rain. Back to Muir Trail Ranch and a final visit to our food cache. This time, we camped out nearby.
Other backpackers have their supplies delivered on the trail. Back to Selden Pass on a hazy morning. There might have been smoke in the distance but we had no indication of fires. A Muir memorial. Joel's pack with a passenger. Quite a few hikers carry a talisman of some sort. Ours is a miniature buffalo (who complained a lot).
We arrive back at Edison Lake, now at a low ebb. We arrive back at Vermillion Valley Resort. VVR is oriented to hikers and has a laid-back vibe. We had a reservation for a room - with indoor toilet and shower!
Edison Lake, home of VVR, was being lowered to feed lower-altitude and more touristed lakes. We head back to Fresno using a couple of coordinated shuttles. Trek completed and on our way to San Francisco, we visit a remnant of the big Armenian community in Fresno. Back on the train to San Francisco. Most Amtrak trains in the west are double-decker, with most coach seats, roomettes and dining upstairs.
We stayed at the small Chancellor Hotel in San Francisco, near Union Square. We figured out the bus system to get to the Bison Paddock at Golden Gate Park. IMG 0649 The Park is an urban treasure!