Day 10: In Which We Decided that Juniper Trees are Awesome, But Learned Not to Hug Them

Daily: 12.6 miles
Trip: 87.9 miles
Camp: Lake Edison Trailhead

These early morning starts are working well for me! If it’s light enough to see anything when I open my eyes, I’m getting up! If not, I’m rolling over and getting back to sleep. But since it starts getting light just after 5am, I’m usually up by 5:30. Green One and I exchange greetings while packing up and I’m hiking around 6:15am. The day stays cool ’til late morning so we have a chance to do many of our miles before the sun and heat take over.


Today started with a fun series of stepping stones across a narrow section of Lake Virginia. The wind always dies down in the morning and the lake was beautiful! I still didn’t see any fish, though. We lost 1,300 ft right out of camp, gained 1,700 ft to 10,700 ft Silver Pass, then dropped almost 3,000 ft to the Vermillion Valley trail junction. I won’t call it easy since we had a whole bunch of ups and downs at enough elevation to matter. It was also the longest day of the trip so far. But it wasn’t hard. The initial drop put us into a great juniper grove along a creek. We broke out cameras and slowed our pace down to enjoy that bit. Our climb to Silver Pass led us past four beautiful, clear high mountain lakes. The final drop was again often along a creek and took us through the largest collection of junipers and other pines we’ve seen yet. It was simple gorgeous. G.O. and I were constantly taking photos of these awesome specimens.

As I mentioned earlier, the bark of the junipers is more like horsehide than tree bark in some ways. The colors are vibrant reddish-brown. The bark is thick and fibrous with foam-like give when pushed against. My brother learned one of the differences when he enthusiastically gave one of the trees a hug, however. Splinters! 15 minutes after hugging the tree, his skin was spotted with tiny red marks where the fibers had penetrated his skin. Luckily there was no lasting damage, just a reminder that everything out here knows how to defend itself.

We entered aspen territory (although the junipers remain) and are camped among the extensive sites near heavily flowing Mono Creek. This is the point hikers can leave the JMT to head to Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR), the most hiker-friendly of the resupply points in this stretch. Given the hike, boat ride, and cost involved, we decided to skip this resupply. Maybe on a longer hike, but we’re going to reach our next resupply in just two days at Muir Trail Ranch, and it doesn’t seem worthwhile. There are lots of hikers heading down that trail, however, and many will take ‘zero days’. The idea of not hiking for a day – just cleaning up, relaxing, and hanging out – is starting to sound pretty good, though!

We got our first Scrabble game in tonight and my brother beat me by about 30 points. No dictionary – that’s too heavy! Our rule is that, if we’re not sure it’s a word, you can’t play it. He has excellent word knowledge compared to me, but the dictionary rule helps levels the playing field. Looking forward to a rematch before the mileage ramps up too far!

Warmer tonight. Almost 70° at 9pm. Hope it cools down a bit for a better night’s sleep! We prepared for night time temps down in the mid-20’s, so this 60+ stuff means at most using my sleeping bag for a quilt.

Day 11: In Which We Climbed Selden Pass But I Couldn't Quite Wish Heather a Happy Anniversary