August 18, 2014 – Zero Day at Muir Trail Ranch
John Muir Trail (JMT)
Day 15 – No miles hiked.
Spent a second night in a cabin at Muir Trail Ranch.
High cirrus clouds disappear to reveal clear blue skies by mid-afternoon. Still no threat of thunderstorms.
We arrived yesterday morning around 11AM hoping for “real” food for lunch only to be told that check-in wasn’t until 2PM and that they don’t do lunch. “If we want something to eat there is lots of ‘stuff’ in the backpacker buckets.” Such a disappointment for a place that charges $170 per person per day for room and board.
A few other hikers were in the same situation as were. We grumble in low voices among ourselves. One hiker tells me, “if you complain too much they are mean to you”. I don’t know about “mean” but there is definitely a snobby attitude towards through hikers. Absolutely no services for hikers who are not registered “guests” of the ranch, including no toilet. They do, however, have a very efficient resupply operation, the most convenient stop before Mt Whitney. Past MTR subsequent resupplies require a substantial hike out or an arrangement with a porter to haul supplies in.
We sort out our resupply package on the rickety tables shaded by an awning, but as it is located right next to the stables it reeks of manure. Many hikers dump food, fuel, toiletries and other usable items here. Consequently their hiker bins have the best selection anywhere on the trail. One hiker exclaimed that if he had known what was available he wouldn’t have bothered to send himself a resupply package. A fine idea if you’re not too particular about how long items have been sitting in the bins or what you eat on the trail.
People toss out a wide range of interesting trail food – various concoctions of trail mix, homemade energy bars (heavy as bricks, it’s no wonder they were left behind), gallon bags of mashed potato flakes or par-boiled rice, tortillas, large jars of peanut butter, various types of powdered food additive, etc. The good stuff goes fast so you’ll have to hang around and watch the new stuff coming in if you plan to resupply by these means.
Watching the hikers repack their bear containers I’m impressed by the amount of candy, especially chocolate that they live on. Snickers seems to be a favorite, although I’ve never seen a discarded Snickers bar or much other candy in the backpacker bins.
About 1PM someone from the MTR decides he has time to give us and the other guests waiting a tour of the grounds and show us to our cabins. As we pass the dining room Caroline, one of the seasonal cooks, offers us fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and lemonade. We were now officially “guests” and no long the general riffraff claiming our resupply package.
MTR is a rustic camp with cozy log cabins set along a tranquil creek, simply decorated with few frills – including no top sheet on the bed, just a thin quilt. I’m still not sure if you are supposed to use your sleeping bag or what they had in mind. Worse, the bed isn’t comfortable, too soft for our tastes. The log cabins have a small bathroom with a flush toilet and sink but no hot water. The tented cabins have a common toilet facility located in a nearby building. A shower block is also located near the tented cabins. Showers are very basic but adequate with good hot water.
Laundry facilities are a giant step back in the past. A mostly manual process that requires filling the washer tub with a hose, adding soap, turning on the electric agitator for ten minutes, manually changing the position of the hose to drain the tub and then cranking the clothes through an old fashioned wringer. To rinse the clothes repeat the process using clean water and no soap.
The compound also includes a comfy lounge with plenty of books and games as well as two charming bath houses that take advantage of the area’s natural hot springs. One pool is hot at 106° and the other cooler around 95°.
Meals at the Ranch are served buffet style. Good home cooking using quality ingredients, not exactly gourmet but well intentioned. Cooks rotate through the camp throughout the summer season. As the cooks choose the menu, meals can vary depending on who is in charge. However, the cooks I talked to had a passion for food and pleasing guests, therefore, I imagine that most meals will please all but the most discerning guests. Certainly hungry backpackers will be thrilled. Note that no alcohol is available for sale at MTR.
First dinner: chicken breast in a mushroom sherry sauce, a salad of spinach, strawberry, and pecan, steamed asparagus in butter sauce, fettuccine Alfredo, rice pilaf, bread, and apple crisp for dessert.
Second dinner: prime rib, green salad with pears, raspberries and toasted almonds, party potatoes – a variation of escalloped potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted vegies and garlic bread. Dessert was a choice of lemon cake, chocolate cake – which was the cook’s birthday cake – or a brownie served with raspberry compote, chocolate ganache and whipped cream.
First breakfast: Three little pigs (sausage, bacon and ham) frittata, butter fried potatoes, fresh melon, and a small assortment of cereal and toast.
Second breakfast: Chocolate chip pancakes, sausage, eggs cooked to order and orange slices, along with the same selection of cereal and toast.
Lunch is a build your own sandwich bar set up at breakfast buffet and includes – an assortment of bread; cold cuts and cheese; various vegies such as lettuce, tomato and pickles; the usual condiments; chips and fruit.
Granola bars, fruit and small candy bars are available in the dining room throughout the day.