We awoke early and very quickly retraced our steps down the exposed switchbacks and into the woods to Muir Trail Ranch, where I was able to snag the only room available, from a last-minute cancellation. The MTR folks were really great (I was going to say “accommodating,” but that goes without saying).
A little grove of birch along the switchback trail added color. The forests are so incredibly dry! And the smoky air gives me a feeling of impending doom.
Check-in time is not until 3:00, so Kris and I had the day to just wander around. We waded across the San Joaquin to Blaney Meadows with our books, a lunch, and our water bottles, and explored the hot springs there. Some are basically mud holes and not very inviting, but there was one beautiful clear steamy pool that seeped up among granite rocks, and we spent a few hours luxuriating there.
I read Kristin the Peattie story about Death Valley, and was surprised to find how emotional it was, read aloud (you can access it online from a link in my last post). I got all verklempt, right at the time that our idyll was invaded by other hikers. Even with the smoke (which was still fairly light), it was really lovely to be there. Talked to hikers about their ordeals walking north through the smoke, and others who were still considering heading south. As one who could say what they would be missing by not being able to see where they were, I advised against it. There were rumors that the rangers in Evolution Valley were telling people that they would have to evacuate over Bishop Pass. But what do you do, when you have saved and planned, and only have this possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hike the JMT? I met a group of young Spanish men who had been looking forward to their ramble on the trail for years. Here they were, and couldn’t see a damn thing, to say nothing of having to breathe smoke at high elevations. They decided to keep going. I guess they will have stories to tell.
Smoke wasn’t so bad this morning, but last night it hung heavy most of the long night, with the scent of woodsmoke constantly in my nostrils. I tried to imagine I was at home by the fireplace, and remember how much I liked that smell, but it didn’t help much.
After checking in to our cabin, Kris and I gathered up our dirty clothes and did a load of laundry in the old washing machine, manually draining the dirty water, rinsing, and then cranking the clothes through the wringer by hand. It feels good to be clean! I got recognized by four people here. I don’t think I really like that. I haven’t seen a mirror in days, and who knows what I look like. Me, I guess. But oh, well. My fan base is definitely aging along with me. I occasionally idly wonder what I could do to attract younger listeners. Probably stop singing songs about death, for one thing. Maybe I don’t even care. My season of popularity has come and is fading like autumn leaves. Although when the 20-something kitchen worker recognized me a little later, it put a spring in my step, I must admit. She was so pleased to have us visiting the ranch. I didn’t want to ask how she knew my music. Generally, I get “Oh, my mom used to make us listen to you in the car.” I thank those moms from the bottom of my heart!
Of course, we took a good long soak in the “domesticated” hot spring at the ranch, which is very sweet. Here’s a photo from when I was here in 2014:
More comments and stories tomorrow! I’m done writing for the day. Hot springs will do that to you…