DAY 13: Zero Day! We slept in and hit the restaurant for breakfast. I had eggs, toast, and home fries. And so much coffee, I love diner coffee. I sat around in the sun and read for a bit, while we waited for Jason's dad. He came to meet Jason and to hike with him for a few days on the trail. He arrived with coolers full of beer and a car full of snacks. We did our laundry (oh the joy of clean clothes!) and continued to do nothing, which was awesome.
We hit the restaurant for lunch and Anna and I took our fried food bodies to the tent for a quick nap. We had signed up to wash dishes during the dinner shift at the restaurant in exchange for a free meal. Anna and I were pumped to do something after laying around all day.
Chef George LOVED us. Anna and I have experience in restaurants, so we used kitchen lingo and danced around all evening. We got to eat pie, and ice cream, and other goodies throughout the shift. We worked super fast and it was actually kind of fun! Eventually, Chef George handed us both a can of Strawberita, that sugary drink made with Strawberry flavor and Bud Light. We just went with it.
Progressively, the evening got sillier as we sipped Strawberitas, sang songs, and washed dishes. Jason made fun of us for a while but then got a free steak out of it and decided we were cool again. Chef George handed us plates of salmon and Choco Tacos for the grand finale. The VVR staff couldn't get enough of us and begged us to stay after our time in the kitchen.
With way too much sugar in me, we sat around eating snacks from Jason's dads car and passed out. The idea of hiking tomorrow was both daunting and also bringing me relief.
DAY 14: What happens in VVR stays in VVR. The next morning we hit the diner for pancakes and waited our turn to get a boat back across the river. There were so many hikers trying to leave and we didn't get back on the trail until 11AM.
Almost immediately we lost Jason. He hiked ahead of us and went to meet his dad a bit off trail. Anna and I spent the afternoon ascending towards Silver Pass and crossing paths with male hikers telling us we wouldn't make it to Virginia Lake that day. At this point we were used to having our hiking abilities belittled by men on the trail. It was one of the more obnoxious things to deal with on the JMT.
We made it over Silver Pass and found a note and a beer from Jason at a trail junction. Continuing on, it started drizzling. This was our first time experiencing any sort of precipitation and I loved it! We passed some llamas and began a big ascent from Tully's Hole. We could see the storm brewing from across the meadow but we were walking towards a blue sky. This portion of the trail was so distractingly beautiful.
We arrived at Virginia Lake around 6:30PM. The sunset was unbelievable and reflecting off the lake with its multiple colors. We toasted to the older men that told us we wouldn't make it that far and sipped apple cider under the stars. This was one of those nights where I really felt so alive in the wilderness.
DAY 15: Anna and I slept in this morning. Probably not the best way to start a 15-mile day, but Virginia Lake was just begging us to stay. We took off for our all day descent towards Red's Meadow. We heard their cafe had the best milkshakes. We got a little lost around Purple Lake but figured it out and started making great time.
Again, the storms skirted around us and we were caught in nothing more than the occasional drizzle. Jason caught up to us around 3:30PM and told us that Red's Meadow Cafe closes at 7PM. Wanting desperately to make it to dinner, we flew through the last 5 miles in less than 2 hours. We wandered through burnt forest for a few miles until we found ourselves surrounded by healthy trees once again. Red's Meadow is right off trail, making it a convenient stopping point.
We arrived, drank beer, ate burgers, took showers and stocked up on snacks from their little market. This was also the first point on the trail where I had cell service. I called my parents and told them I was alive. We stayed in the campground nearby that night and pitched our tent in the dark, not really sure where we had ended up.