Day 5, August 30, 2021

My phone says we have hiked 10 miles. The map says we have hiked 7. Hmmm…I choose to believe my phone.

Our dusty camp near the first San Joaquin bridge
The view from the bridge, as we start off in the morning.

We are at Blaney Hot Springs, across the San Joaquin from Muir Trail Ranch. For some reason, all the other backpackers are on the other side of the river, which is great for us. We have a spacious, beautiful campsite to ourselves, with nobody else anywhere nearby, a short walk from the springs. We sat for a long time in the hot springs and soaked. I have felt a little beat up, with my Morton’s neuroma making itself felt. Yesterday I dug a sliver out of the bottom of the dame foot—a remnant of the Grand Canyon raft trip last March. I stepped on a sharp shard of something or other on the first night of the 21-day trip. At the time, I got most of it out, but a little bit remained. It finally worked its way to the surface of my foot, five months later.

Our nicely-appointed campsite near Blaney Hot Springs

This morning’s hike was pleasant, but my knee was hurting and I was feeling sad about coming out of the high country. The outside world’s worries were starting to weigh on me again. We haven’t seen much wildlife on this trip. A doe, her two fawns from this year and her yearling daughter, and a fine buck. Chickarees, ground squirrels, chipmunks, jays, dippers, juncos, Clark’s nutcrackers, a few hawks, a marmot or two. It’s a quiet time of year and a fairly busy trail.

Another bridge, another view, early morning on the trail.

Today, at the Piute Creek bridge, we met Vanya. She is from Bulgaria, came to the US as a teenager, was homeless for awhile, and is now a cardiac surgery nurse. She has brought over her parents—for whom she is the primary caregiver—and several cousins who are all doing well. She was maybe in her late 40’s (it’s harder and harder for me to tell anyone’s age), warm and bubbly, full of energy. I asked if she sang any Bulgarian songs. She was surprised that anyone would ask her that, and with lots of apologies about not being much of a singer, she launched into a song, full of the Eastern ornamentation and the bold, committed vocal style. It was great!

This particular hot spring pool is perfect! Shoulder-deep, clean, and a just-right temperature.
Ahhhhh…we had this little pool to ourselves today.
The view from our pool. Not bad.

So dry! My skin is flaking away. The sky remains thankfully deep blue and smoke-free. At this lower elevation, we are surrounded by aspen and pine.

A short walk through the meadow the trail led us to a perfect little lake, just right for a dip after the hot springs.
Another view of the little lake.

I highly recommend Fernweh mushroom pot pie backpacking meals. They are really good. Well, I take one meal, open it up and add various other ingredients: home-dehydrated spinach, kale, kashi, and parmesan, and potato flakes. Then I extend it to two meals. Margaret brought delicious chicken broth, and my dehydrated miso is great, too. We are eating really well on this trip.

My knee kept me awake last night, even with three ibuprofen. The hot springs are helping a lot!

Margaret and I stopped to weigh our packs and get rid of a little garbage at the Muir Trail Ranch backpacker station. I haven’t been here since they moved it over from the main ranch yard. Makes more sense for the ranch to have it removed, but I liked being near the horses and snooping around the grounds (exactly why they moved it!). My pack weighs 20 pounds, after I removed about a pound of detritus picked up along the trail, including some wrecked footwear. Nice to be rid of it. I go into the wilderness and gather lost soles—my own personal Savior Complex.

The new backpackers’ station at Muir Trail Ranch. Not nearly as interesting as the old station. There’s a little store where you can purchase necessities, and through-hikers can mail their resupply buckets here. People were under the pop-up tents with the contents of their packs spread out on the tables and benches, sorting and repacking. There are some buckets on the porch with food and other supplies that people left behind, and anyone is welcome to take what they want. I still have two pair of then-new socks that someone left behind in 2014.
We lingered on the banks of the San Joaquin, cleaning up and basking in the changing light.

1:58 AM Sleep is hard to come by, but I don’t really mind. The stars are brilliant and the night is still. The river is murmuring in its rocky bed in the distance. This is the most comfortable I’ve felt in my tent. Must be the lower altitude, the flatness, the cool air, and time spent soaking in the hot springs. Such a beautiful unexpected spot. Just took three more ibuprofen and am hoping that they will lull me back to sleep soon.

Crescent moon is just coming up among the trees. I heard the owl far off as I drifted to sleep earlier. It could be one of the same ones we heard on our first night. We are not far downstream from there. Good night.

5 thoughts on “Day 5, August 30, 2021

  1. I have so enjoyed the journal entries, of your backpacking trip. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us. The photos are beautiful. I live in PA so it is very different scenery. Bless you for forging ahead.


  2. Those hot spring pools look magical! And I feel for you, as I’ve had Morton’s Neuroma in one foot for many years. Wide toe box hikers help a lot! But still…


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