Day 150: Hiker Buckets And Thunderstorms

Date: September 11, 2017
Miles: 848.1 – 866.5

‘Sometimes only nature felt real, while all human monuments and actions seemed to be the settings and the plots of dreams.’ ~ Dean Koontz, The Face.

The wind was lively in the canyon last night. I had situated my tent so that I would have a view of the creek and the valley when I woke up, but the direction also turned it into a wind tunnel, and everything inside was covered with a fine layer of sand by the time I woke up.  I dusted myself off and got ready for the day, looking forward to stopping at Muir Trail Ranch, where legendary hiker boxes (buckets, really) are said to contain all of the good food that JMT hikers leave there when they realize that they sent themselves too much of it.

The legend is real.

We all really needed to grab some food since we planned to get to our resupply at Vermilion Valley Resort a day earlier than we were actually going to arrive there, and so we were about to run out.  It was only a 12 mile hike in to the ranch from where we camped, but I was rationing morning snacks so by the time we got there I was tired and hungry, and really crabby. A fresh-faced JMT’er with a 45 pound pack tried to tell me how hiker boxes work and I resisted the urge to stuff her in one. I felt much better after I ate something.  We hung out at the ranch for a while watching hikers come in to get their giant ten gallon buckets full of food, and politely offering to help lighten their load. We definitely got enough to make it to our next stop. We then left just as a thunderstorm rolled in, but we lucked out and it passed by in about ten minutes, leaving the sun to turn our climb up to Selden Pass into a steamy exercise.

The approach to Selden Pass.

I huffed and sweated my way up to Lake Sally Anne, then on to Heart Lake, then up and over the Pass.  All of the passes we have crossed have been magnificent, but this one is my favorite so far because of the waterfalls, bright green meadows, wildflowers and dusky tan rock formations that reach nearly to the top, and then the lovely view of Marie Lake not far below on the north side.

Looking north from Selden Pass to Marie Lake.

We didn’t spend much time at the top since we were looking forward to making camp early and enjoying some of the extra food we snagged. A campsite overlooking the lake was less than a mile down. As we started to set up our tents, thick raindrops began pattering down on us and we noticed a blanket of dark gray clouds heading our way. I threw everything in my tent and dove inside just as the rain really started to come down. Fluffy stayed outside a bit to fix the tent stakes that I had done a quick, crappy job of driving in to the rocky ground…bless him. If he hadn’t done that, the huge gusts of wind that came up moments later would have pulled them up and collapsed my tent on my head. JD volunteered to get us all water from the lake while it was raining (these guys!) and we all cooked dinner in our tents (very carefully, of course) as lightning and thunder surrounded.  I was very tense as I watched the sides of my tent blow out as far as they could go and the poles shake in the wind. The storm subsided about an hour later and I breathed a big sigh of relief that my tent was still standing.  The next storm swirled in at 10:45 and I held on to both of the tent poles until it calmed down a half hour later.

One of the Sallie Keyes Lakes.

Marie Lake.
The calm before the storm.