We got up early today, around 6:00, and packed up so that we would have time for one last soak in the hot springs before we had to leave to catch the ferry at Florence Lake. This morning, our favorite soaking pool was already occupied by four young through-hikers by the time we got there. But they were about ready to leave, and invited us to join them, which we did. It’s fun hearing the stories of the trail. Some seem born to ramble, and some are definitely being dragged along. One couple had met on a backpacking trip led by the father of one of them, and I think they are in it for life. The other two met on the trail, and were just teamed up for the duration of the trek. A fiercely independent young woman who liked having a man around the house, just in case…
The dusty miles back to the ferry dock are starting to look very familiar to me, as I have hiked them six times now, I think. We met one of the Muir Trail Ranch crew returning on horseback, leading a mule carrying supplies back to the ranch. We stopped and chatted for awhile. I was very curious about how one makes reservations there these days, and whether they could arrange for a less-able-bodied person to ride in on horseback. The answer to the latter was yes, they do that all the time. The answer to the former was that the ranch is generally rented out to groups, and if you know a group, there are often accommodations available for one or two people extra within that group. I would love to come back with my partner, who would be hard-pressed to do the hike at this point. So if anyone reading this knows of a group that is making or has made reservations for 2022, I’d love to hear if there’s room to be included to piggyback on their stay. The other thing I thought about was actually forming a group and reserving the whole place for a week. Expensive, but idyllic. It would be a great place to have a music gathering! But of course I would need the more affluent to help sponsor the less affluent. That could work.
By the time we got to the ferry dock, we were hot and dusty, and took advantage of the free half hour or so to swim in the lake. How wonderful that felt! At first, it seemed too cold, and then after a few minutes I didn’t want to get out. The shallows over the smooth granite were almost warm. My skin felt completely alive.
The ferry operator told us that as of midnight tonight, all national forests would be closed. Nobody can enter, so that firefighters and other personnel don’t have to worry about any more people who might need to get rescued from potential fires—or who might start them. There was one more hiker on the ferry with us, who was going to the Florence Lake store to meet a friend who was supposed to drive up from SF with his resupply, and join him on the trail for a week. The friend hadn’t arrived yet, and I overheard from a phone conversation that he hadn’t yet left SF. He HAD to get there by midnight, or the hiker wouldn’t get his supplies and his friend couldn’t join him. As it was, if they missed the last ferry of the day, they would have to hike around the lake, since after today there would be no more ferry service. I hope they managed to get together!
The woman running the Florence Lake store (who was also the ferry operator) told us that she had to, on very short notice, close the store down for the season tomorrow. That meant shutting off the electricity, which meant that all of the frozen foods left behind would have to be thrown out. She gave us It’s It ice cream sandwiches (“a San Francisco tradition since 1928”), and offered us more. If only we had had a cooler! I discovered It’s Its when I was in my 20’s, and for years they were my very favorite treat. I don’t eat that stuff much anymore, and hadn’t had one in decades. It was sooooo delicious! Margaret and I were in post-hike ice cream heaven. Plus, the store dog was a real pleasure to hang out with. I wish I had taken some pictures of him. He never begged for food or even asked for attention. But he accepted pets, seemed to enjoy the company, and regarded me with deep soulful eyes.
Margaret expertly drove the slow Kaiser Pass road out to the highway, and then we were zipping back down the mountains and foothills into the smoke-choked San Joaquin Valley. It feels good to be back home, with ocean breezes protecting us from the drifting smoke, but oh, how I miss being at 10,000 feet. Here’s hoping for a big snowpack leading to a late season in 2022. I’m planning the next excursion already. Thank you for sharing the trail with us!