Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Day 12: Muir Trail Ranch and the hot springs!

I woke up early and with nothing better to do, I walked over to Bear Creek to watch the sun rise and listen to the waterfall. It was a pleasant way to spend the chilly morning hours, and I lounged on the shore for a half hour before returning to camp where Karolina was starting to move about.

"There you are!" she said.

"Here I am!" I agreed. "Where did you think I was?"

"I don't know. Maybe a bear dragged you off during the night."

"And you wouldn't have heard a struggle?"

"I sleep very soundly."

"And saw no blood trail?"

"I didn't have my glasses on," she explained.

"So if a bear had, in fact, dragged me off during the night," I said, "you'd just continue on like nothing had happened?"

"Well, I might be a little sad."

Anyhow.... we got started hiking by 7:30, which was a respectable time in my book and the earliest start we'd gotten so far. Yes!

The trail took a long, steady climb about 2,000 feet higher towards Selden Pass. We stopped for a break at Marie Lake, a stunning alpine lake where Karolina waded into the water and we took a few videos for our upcoming music video. I had videos of me drinking the water from the lake, us walking over boulders, and then I had an idea for a scene that--I thought--might be funny. Without telling Karolina, I asked how it look as I stood up and spread my feet out to leave a gap between my legs and with my back turned towards her, and started pouring water from my water bottle in the hopes it looked like I was taking a leak. She burst out in an uncontrollable laughter and stopped filming, which was a shame because now I couldn't see most of the test footage of how the effect looked.

She kept laughing--hard!--for several minutes, and over the laughter, I was pretty sure I heard a fart.

"Are you laughing so hard that you farted?" I asked.

She laughed even harder and farted again. Lesson learned.... don't make Karolina laugh!

Eventually she settled down, and eventually we continued our march up to Selden Pass at 10,900 feet above sea level. It wasn't a new high for us, but it's up there. *nodding*

From there, the trail dropped 3,000 feet down towards the Muir Trail Ranch cutoff passing several scenic lakes along the way along a gradually descending slope before switchbacking down a surprisingly steep slope in direct sunlight near the end of the day that made us uncomfortably hot.

Muir Trail Ranch--MTR for short--was about a mile off trail, and would have been an ideal point to resupply if we had shipped a food drop to ourselves at least three weeks in advance. To call MTR "civilization" is something of a misnomer. Compared to the wilderness we had been walking through, maybe so. There were basic facilities such as buildings and a general store, but the place had no electricity (except whatever solar power could provide, I assume), and the food drops needed that much lead time because they would be hauled up to MTR on horses. We heard that they also had hiker boxes where hikers often left food that they didn't need, and maybe we could find something good in those.

So we didn't have to visit Muir Trail Ranch, but we both wanted to. I skipped it during my PCT thru-hike and was a bit curious to check out it. So we walked the mile off trail to the place.

When we arrived at the gate, a sign said that MTR was open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. We looked at our watches and it was.... 5:02 PM. Son-of-a.....! Drats! Seriously? We missed it be two freaking minutes?!

There was a line of 5-gallon buckets sitting out which were used as hiker boxes, and they were being closed up and stored away. Stuff was definitely shutting down. Karolina and I were both a bit disappointed about this. We snapped a few pictures of the area and chatted with some of the hikers.

But there was a sign that pointed to Blayney Hot Springs, which intrigued both Karolina and myself. Hot springs? Out here? How far away were they? A sign nearby gave simple directions to the hot springs and noted that it was about a 10 minute walk away. How did I never hear of these hot springs before?! Karolina wanted very much to see the hot springs because she'd never seen any hot springs before. Ever. I wanted to check them out because... hey, hot springs!

Muir Trail Ranch

We followed a trail, finding a small, informal campground where a surprisingly large number of people had already set up camp. Far more crowded with more people than anywhere else we'd seen on the trail so far. We passed through them until we reached a river. It was time to get our feet wet! We forded across the river--the first time we had to get our feet wet on the trail (although we weren't actually on the trail anymore having taken the detour to Muir Trail Ranch). I tromped through with my shoes on--it was easier and faster that way, but Karolina took off her shoes and socks to ford, then put them back on at the other side.

From there, we followed a small trail past a few other campsites into the woods. The campsites on this side of the river were strangely empty of people considering how crowded it was on the other side. We followed the small trail into the woods and eventually hit an unsigned trail junction. We picked the more well-traveled of the options, but eventually the trail petered out to a seemingly dead-end. We backtracked and looked around some more, constantly hitting dead ends.

We could not find the hot springs!

We eventually wound back up near the river where a couple of other hikers had crossed the river and were setting up camp--the only hikers on this side of the river we'd seen so far, and asked if they knew about the hot springs. They hadn't been to the hot springs either, but had been told to follow a fence through a meadow and we started off in that direction, finding a fence and following it which led us--finally--to the hot springs. Yeah! We made it!

A few other hikers were already soaking in the springs. It was a good-sized spring. You could have easily have fit a dozen people in it comfortably, and it appeared to be at least several feet deep. It was, however, in direct sunlight when we arrived, and I was already hot and sweaty from our hike down from Selden Pass. Jumping in a hot spring, in the sun when I was already too hot didn't actually appeal to me that much, although I did like the idea of washing the grime, sweat and dirt off my body. Karolina, never having been to a hot spring, however, wanted to jump in immediately and soon stripped to her underwear and jumped in.

Karolina enjoys soaking in her first hot spring ever!

With nothing better to do, I figured I may as well jump in too. At least long enough to wash the grime from my body. But.... I didn't want to go in my underwear which was made of cotton and would probably take days to dry. I wanted to... skinny dip!

None of the other hikers in the pool were skinny dipping, though, which would have made it a bit awkward, so I asked if everyone was okay if I jumped in naked. They all said that was fine, although one guy made a crack about it being "ten minutes of his life he'll never back, but go for it"--in a joking sort of way than being truly offended at my jumping in naked. Karolina didn't say anything one way or another, but I knew she had the decency not to stare.

So I stripped all my clothes off and jumped in and holy cow! The water was hot!

And it really didn't feel all that nice. I was just too hot in the water. I felt like the sun was burning my skin and my body temperature was just getting too high, so I stayed in the water only for a few minutes before calling it quits. Karolina lingered a bit longer enjoying the sensation of hot water in nature for the first time, and wanted me to take photos of her enjoying her first hot spring. Photos of Karolina in her underwear? Yes, ma'am! =) Too bad she was in all that water....

Eventually Karolina was ready to get out of the water too and we discussed where we would camp for the night. Our original plan when we woke up in the morning was to camp at a site along Shooting Star Meadow about a mile away, but Karolina wanted to change the plans and camp nearby the river so we could come back to the hot spring.

And... I was totally okay with that. Because we had done about two extra miles the day before, and we had made great time today, we were now about 4.5 miles ahead of our minimum schedule. We could stop now and still be ahead of schedule. And I very much liked the idea of jumping in the hot springs after the sun had set and it was a lot cooler outside.

So we set up camp near the river--on the hot spring side of the river which was not only closer to the hot spring, but also far less crowded. We cooked dinner, ate, and cleaned up as the sun set, and then we headed back to the hot springs again.

I was a little concerned about leaving our campsite unattended. We made sure all of our food and smelly items were stored properly in the bear canisters, and I put all of my valuables such as my wallet, camera, journal, and so forth in my pack which I'd take with me. Hopefully a chipmunk or squirrel wouldn't try to make a home out of our sleeping bags while we were gone.

Back at the hot spring, the air temperature was cool and invigorating, and somewhat to our surprise, there was nobody in the hot springs anymore. We had it all to ourselves! Without the harsh light of the day and lots of strangers around, Karolina wanted to skinny dip this time around. Which I had no problem with, but I did warn her that other hikers could arrive at any time. We knew for a fact that there were a whole heck of them camped nearby the river and at Muir Trail Ranch, and there would likely be some of them wanting an evening dip.

She said it didn't matter. It was dark anyhow. Who cared?! So we both stripped down to nothing and jumped in the hot spring. It was, I admit, a challenge not to stare at her--I am a guy, after all (and not dead!), but I did take a quick peak. (Sorry, Karolina, but it's true!) I couldn't see much, however, before she jumped into the water at which point you could only see her head bobbing above the water's surface.

And the hot spring was awesome! Refreshingly warm and comfortable. I wasn't overheating in the sun, and the surroundings were quiet and peaceful.

Certain parts of the hot spring were painfully hot to step on, where the hot water bubbled into the pool. Karolina seemed constantly amazed at the hot water, coming up from seemingly nowhere, in the middle of nowhere.

We soaked and relaxed in the water for about an hour or so. Much to my surprise, nobody else ever did show up. It boggles my mind that people would soak in this spring in the heat of the day then skip it in the chill of the night, but perhaps they didn't want to ford the river this late at night. I was actually a little surprised that more people didn't camp on this side of the river either. Did they not realize the hot spring was here? Not that I'm complaining.... just surprised!

I think Karolina would have spent the night in the hot spring if she could, but we still had to get miles on tomorrow and couldn't stay up too late. We eventually pulled ourselves out, dried off, dressed and returned to camp for the night. Happily, no nocturnal animals had tried to turn our sleeping bags into a home, and we soon faded off to sleep for the night.

We found this large bone on the trail. But what was it from?! A cow? A deer? A bear?
I channeled my inner Blueberry and tried it out as a mask.
But I could use it as a necklace too. It would improve the visibility for me. Decisions, decisions...

Karolina wades into Marie Lake.

More video antics for our upcoming music video.

Although Karolina stopped filming early, this stunt caused Karolina to laugh so hard that she farted. Which would then become an ongoing joke whenever she laughed. "You aren't going to fart, are you?"

Marie Lake
Looking back at Marie Lake from Selden Pass.

This is Heart Lake, because it roughly forms the shape of a heart. See it? The top of the heart is near the right side of the photo. We had trouble finding a vantage point where the heart shape was clearly obvious.

Sally Keyes Lake
Sally Keyes Lake

Muir Trail Ranch
Fording the creek to get to the hot springs.

1 comment:

7rxc said...

Masque looks similar to a moose pelvis... might be any large critter.