Sometimes I feel trapped in this mountainous beauty. I know that my only way out is to walk and it makes me feel claustrophobic and panic stricken. I can’t get out of here. Sometimes hiking is bigger than the thing you’re hiking. I want out. I keep messing with my Gut Hook app, turning on the GPS to locate myself. I’m here. I am that little blue ball.
As I hike, I daydream about going to a cafe near my house, about cooking real dinner, about dancing at a club. For the past three nights, I’ve night dreamed about New York City. In the last dream, I broke into an abandoned, boarded-up newspaper stand. Inside, I found stacks of shoe boxes filled with maps to a secret city.
It’s desert-hot today and I’m deep in this stuck feeling when Namaste, Duckets, and I hike the mile or so off trail to Muir Trail Ranch.
The ranch has been operating for forever. Guests can ride horses, stay in quaint cabins with private hot springs, and enjoy all-you-can-eat breakfasts and dinners. The ranch also accepts hiker resupply boxes. JMT Hikers, it seems, tend to over-prepare and Muir Trail Ranch has bountiful buckets filled with the extra goodies these over-burdened hikers leave behind. Hiker box Shangri-La.
The 5-gallon buckets are labeled by content – meat, snacks, trail mix, prepackaged food, home packaged food, drink mix, etc. We open the lids. The buckets are filled. Joy! Loads of deliciousness! We sit and snack when Microwave shows up and tells us about the warm lake and hot spring. It’s relatively early, but we decide to spend a mental health afternoon camping and swimming.
We ford a river and follow some faint trails through a meadow to get to the lake and spring. The lake is slightly warm. Blue dragonflies are alight on lily pads. Sunbeams penetrate the water. A snow topped mountain is the backdrop. I dive into the water. Ahhhhhhhhh… When I get chilled, I walk over to the hot spring and slip in. The bottom is soft and gushes through my toes. I feel my muscles relax. I feel my mind relax. The trail is good. I don’t want to leave.
After a few rounds of lake and spring, I’m ready to return to camp. Duckets, Namaste and I have a food party with all the goods we scored.
I’m clean, full, and refreshed. It’s another four days to Mammoth.