REDS! REDS! REDS!!!
Today is Red’s Meadow Resupply day!! I am so excited that I’m tempted to pack up now, in the cold and the dark, and start hiking! Tempted, but not driven, because that would require venturing out of the warmth of my tent. I already scrambled out to get my bear can and stove and it’s freezing out there! My Nalgene water bottle, which I left next to my tent, has a thin layer of ice floating on top; evidence it was another bitter cold night. But I was prepared, and slept better, in my double socks, rain pants over wool layers and extra trash compactor bag beneath my Thermarest. I wasn’t warm, but I wasn’t freezing my ass off either.. that’s progress.
After finishing my coffee and making my usual morning scouting expedition two hundred feet away from the creek I camped near, I discovered a hidden pocket of inspiration in this “most boring section of the JMT”. As I bumbled through the dense forest of giant conifers and graceful aspens, stepping over felled, rotting victims of the Mountain Pine Beetle, I stumbled onto the edge the most idyllic scene I’d witnessed in days: a tiny meadow cloaked in fog and slumbering peacefully beneath the weight of the frigid night.
Framed by pines on three sides and the Red Cones on the fourth, northwest edge, the meadow gently pooled at the base of the rolling hills. Her plush golden-green grasses mingled with the glistening morning frost, creating a mystical and other-worldly setting. I followed a game trail for a couple hundred feet to further admire her muted brilliance as she lay docile in the crystalline morning, patiently waiting for her chance to shine again. I stood in my tracks, facing her, inhaled deeply and soaked in the silent and mystical scene. This is what I came out here for. Scenes like these and precious moments when nature beckons and envelops me in her majesty; claiming me as one of her own.
Later at Red’s Meadow Resort: My Last Resupply
Red’s was awesome! It was everything I’d hoped Muir Trail Ranch to be and wasn’t, making it that much more awesome! I could have stayed there all day, eating, showering and relaxing, but I had miles to go before I slept! (Love me some Frost!).
After leaving my magical meadow and hiking a relatively easy five miles through a forest of dead trees, (more victims of the drought, fire and the Mountain Pine Beetle), I arrived at the rustic Red’s compound around ten. It was Labor Day weekend and bustling with tourists spilling out of the log cabins.
My first order of business was a shower. So much for my quest to go thirty days without a shower! Twenty was my limit. I couldn’t stand my dingy, pungent self any longer and couldn’t wait to strip off my filthy clothes and scrub away twenty days of sweat and dirt with hot water and soap! I even splurged and went for the deluxe fourteen dollar, ten-minute shower (showers are $7 for 5 minutes). It was worth every single token! Plus, I multi-tasked and showered with my trail clothes on the floor. So, while I got clean, my clothes got clean too.
Oh. My. God. You don’t know heaven until you have your first hot shower in twenty days. Holy moly! Feeling human for the first time in weeks, I put on the cleanest clothes I had – my hiking shorts and a tank top – stuffed my sopping wet, shower-washed, hiking clothes in the dryer and moseyed to the café in search of a real meal and an outlet to plug in my phone.
The café was bustling with Labor Day resort stayers so I claimed a stool at the counter, against the far wall, near the only visible outlet that wasn’t surrounded by diners. I debated between the veggie burger and eggs for several minutes and then opted for scrambled eggs, rye toast, home fries and an iced tea, topped off with a not-homemade giant slice of blueberry pie. The pie looked homemade and the crust might have been, but I worked at Dunkin Donuts long enough in my teens, to spot blueberry filling from a bucket, a mile away! It wasn’t very good, but I ate it anyway, adding four packets of sugar on top of it. I don’t usually like super-sweet desserts, but the pie needed it and it made me feel like a real thru-hiker!
After breakfast, feeling fresh and clean and human, I went back into the store to claim my resupply bucket and shop for something yummy. Carrying my bucket in one hand and a newly acquired bag of Fritos in the other, I plopped down at a picnic table outside the diner to unpack and organize my resupply. I had way too much food! I threw a bunch of leftover food away and added some of my fresh stock to the hiker bucket – which was pathetic compared to the MTR buckets. Rumor has it, that the Red’s staff take stuff out of the buckets and sell it in the store. I hope that’s not true, but that’s the rumor. Judging by the piddly selection, it seems it could be more than a rumor.
The people of Red’s were so friendly and helpful – another contrast to the “get down to business”, no frills, attitude at Muir Trail Ranch (MTR). Actually, it was more than that: MTR wasn’t hiker friendly at all. Period. They charged an arm and a leg for a resupply bucket and didn’t even provide restrooms or water. The feeling I got, as soon as I walked through the wooden gate was: “unless you’re spending $200+ to stay in one of our tents, get your shit and move on…”
Red’s was the exact opposite; friendly, outgoing, inviting. The inherent attitude was, “come, pull up a picnic table and stay a while. Feel free to use our electricity, water and restrooms!” Yes, I liked Red’s. A lot!
I texted my emergency contact and my friend Steve to update them on my progress. My emergency contact and I had devised a communication plan: I’d update her with my SPOT tracking system at least every few days and then text her at my resupply points to let her know I’d arrived safely and on schedule (I was two days ahead of schedule). Steve was picking me up in Yosemite to shuttle me back to Lone Pine to get my car. “I’m at Red’s. Should be in Yosemite Valley in 4 days” , I typed out on my phone. A sadness enveloped me. I don’t’ want to be done! I can’t believe I’m just four days away from completing what I’d dreamed of and planned for nearly a year. WOW.
With much hesitation, I heaved my newly replenished forty-pound pack over my shoulder, buckled in and headed toward Devil’s Post Pile amid happy bouncy tourists. I felt heavy – and it wasn’t just my pack. I sensed that I was marching toward the end of a dream. Toward a new unknown. Toward a life that held nothing that felt worth hiking back to… Why can’t I stay in the woods…?