Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 61: Vermillion Valley Resort to Virginia Lake

The sunlight filtering through the trees into our tent woke us, but we snuggled back into our sleeping bags, happy that the ferry schedule dictated a slightly more relaxed morning schedule. Eventually we stretched our way out of our bags, packed up, and headed over to the Cafe for one last magical meal. Desert Fox and Masa, a hiker from Japan, joined us.  That Guy, Helicopter, and several other hikers also squeezed into the small cafe to enjoy Roy's fine cooking.

After breakfast we finished packing up and raced to catch the ferry. A forest service ranger checked permits on the ferry. He was the first ranger we have seen in 877 miles.

Several other hikers were waiting to catch the ferry to VVR, including Legion and Steady.  We enjoyed catching up with them briefly.  Then we climbed back up to the trail from the ferry dock (7,850 ft), and continued climbing up toward Silver Pass. We paused briefly as we passed the junction to Mono Pass, knowing we could reach the Pie in the Sky Cafe at Rock Creek Lake by the end of the day. Mmmmmm, pie!

But we continued up the PCT, paralleling the North Fork of Mono Creek for much of the climb. On the lower, steeper stretches of the climb, the creek cascaded and tumbled over smooth polished granite. Reaching Pocket Meadow, the climb eased up, and the creek meandered slowly through the meadow. But where we crossed the creek, above the meadow, the creek was roaring again, although not nearly as fiercely or as deeply as the last time I had crossed it.

We stopped for lunch beneath the Silver Creek waterfalls and ate our lunch while watching the water tumbling down the steep cliffs. Then we continued to climb, past Silver Pass Lake, set in a high, rocky alpine meadow just below Silver Pass, and finally up to Silver Pass (10,900 ft) itself.

Dropping below treeline on the other side of the pass, we soon found ourselves climbing over and traversing around the many fallen trees. We also carefully avoided several trees that were uprooted and leaning precariously on other trees, but had not completely fallen yet. The mosquitoes seemed to sense when these obstacles slowed our pace, swarming around us at the times we were most helpless to defend ourselves.

The mosquitoes grew thicker as we reached the damp, grassy meadow of Tully Hole (9,520 ft). The handful of groups camped there all wore mosquito netting or built fires to drive the mosquitoes away. With no desire to camp near a mosquito infested swamp (beautiful though it may be), we pushed on up the hill to Lake Virginia (10,314 ft).

The setting sun gave a pink glow to the mountains, which were beautifully reflected in the lake's still waters when we arrived. Nestled behind a stand of foxtail pines, we found a nice sandy campsite overlooking the lake and settled in for the night.

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