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Thru-Hiking the JMT: A Zero Day at Vermilion Valley Resort


Day 10 on the John Muir Trail…

Today was a special day. Today was a zero day — hiker-speak for a rest day or “zero-mileage” day. And Vermilion Valley Resort was the perfect place for it.

John Muir Trail Day 10
Distance: 0.0 miles
Cumulative Distance: 93.15 miles
Total Ascent: 0 ft
Cumulative Ascent: 24,300 ft
Harrison Map Sheet 8
VVR caters to thru-hikers and fisherman, and is a popular resupply stop on both the JMT and the Pacific Crest Trail (the PCT). The resort gets completely socked in during the winter, and only opens up when the roads  clear. Our VVR experience began yesterday when we stepped onto their water taxi for the four mile boat ride across Lake Edison. This was the first time in 9 days that we traveled without using our own two legs — other than for sitting.

When we arrived at VVR, we checked in and they opened a tab for our expenses. You settle up before you leave, and since we would be here for two nights, there would be plenty of opportunities to part with our money.

Welcome to VVR

Last night, we set up camp in the free tent camping area, then feasted on steak and cold beer in the dining hall. The dining hall has a rotating menu and a few optional choices, and the seating is on long benches which you share with your new best friends.

This morning, I awoke at sunrise, and wandered down to the lakefront. The water was still and a mist swirled above it as the sun warmed the surface.

Lake Edison from VVR

Joan and I managed to book a small room for the night. In addition to a free tent camping area, VVR also has tent cabin and actual rooms for rent. The first thing we did after checking into our room was shower. The second thing was start our laundry. Yes, VVR has a washer and dryer, too.

We picked up our resupply package and distributed it among Hari, Joan, Jeffrey and I. We at breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining hall, enjoying the extra calories and guilt-free eating. “Yes, I believe I will have a slice of pie, thank you!”

Dining at VVR

But the best part about VVR wasn’t sleeping in a real bed. It wasn’t the steak or the pie. The best part about VVR was the conversations we had with other hikers at the dinner table and around the campfire at night. These conversations enlightened, entertained and inspired us. The hiker community is bound by the experiences we shared, and those bonds are stronger for it.

We met many thru-hikers, some hiking it for their second or third time. One young  couple were headed northbound. The family who with the “missing” teen hiker on day 7 was there. All of us were glad to share a hot meal for once not cooked over a backpacking stove.

Plan B - Exit the JMT?
JMT-JoanComing off of Silver Pass yesterday, I was in a lot of pain. The blisters on my feet really hurt. I had serious doubts that I could continue, and was  considering exiting the JMT at VVR. Around the dinner table last night, I heard everyone sharing their own stories of blisters, aches and pains. Everyone shared their  remedies for treating blisters, and I was encouraged. I realized what I was experiencing was pretty typical.

That evening, Jeff told me he hoped I would consider continuing, but the decision would have to be mine.Today, I treated my blisters and rested, and made my decision… I would finish hiking the John Muir Trail.

Taking a zero day recharged our batteries, and the experience at VVR was memorable. We were ready to once again hit the JMT tomorrow.

Important! Check Lake Conditions with VVR

In 2010, Lake Edison was at capacity. In 2013, the water levels had dropped quite a bit, meaning a longer walk to the boat launch, especially on the west end of the lake. The moonscape below is actually the lake bed. No, it’s not dried up, but you can see the levels are way down.


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Tomorrow, we head to from Mono Creek to Rosemarie Meadow.

Originally hiked on August 5, 2010.

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