Hot Dogs and Beer
(Muir Pass)

27-29 Aug 2006 - by Jim Curl

Did any of you cross over Muir Pass about a week and half ago?

I'd been that way a couple times before. Once while hiking the JMT. Another time I spent a couple of nights in the stone hut during a spring ski tour when the weather turned particularly windy and cold. On that trip I had planned optimistically for warm weather and corn snow and had packed light: summer clothes, skimpy sleeping bag, meager food rations -- I was cold and hungry in that drafty hut.

So last week we're taking an easy day and hiking up from a nearby lake to the pass. My friend has never been there and from a distance she comments on how it looks kind of like a South Pacific island thatch hut. I read later that it was actually modelled after peasant huts in southern Italy. I have once again skimped on food and although it's early in the trip I'm already worried about running out of calories. My sleeping bag isn't keeping me all that toasty at night either. Come to think of it, I've got the same bag and clothes as that ski trip.

We're getting closer to the hut and my friend wonders out loud if it might be just like a Nepali teahouse. Maybe we can order up a big plate of fried potatos with kursani, and a couple of cups of chia? My stomach is empty and my mouth has a left-over stickly sweet taste from the rice crispy treat I'd eaten earlier. A hiker appears, descending from the pass, and I jokingly ask him if the "restaurant" is still open up there.

"Yeah", he says, "I couldn't believe it. Hot dogs and beer."

We laugh and continue on our way.

Eventually we stroll up to the pass. As we round the corner there is a cheer and a hearty "You made it to the top!". Then a young guy presses a can of beer into my hand. I'm just standing there dumbfounded, looking at the beer, looking at these people, thinking they've confused me with someone else, and wondering where in the hell you get Pabst Blue Ribbon these days anyways? Before I can say anything, he asks me if I want a hot dog.

Every pore in my stomach opens wide at the thought. "Hell yes!"

These aren't cheap dogs either. They're top quality and even the buns are soft and chewy and excellent. This trio of Cal student/graduates has not only concocted the unusual idea of passing out beer and dogs (with condiments) at Muir Pass in the Sierra, but they've actually pulled it off. They've somehow managed, unassisted, to carry 120 cans of PBR and a similar number of hot dogs and buns in multiple trips over Bishop Pass and up to Muir Pass.

My friend is a vegetarian, but no problem. They're from Berkeley: veggie dogs are on the menu as well. They even change out the cooking water first.

One of the trio admits to having been a vegetarian himself for about a decade. Then one morning he awoke to the recollection that he had wolfed down half a dozen corndogs the night before. The two of us discuss the possible merits of eating marmot. Although I've never eaten any rodent, I'd be willing to give it a try. But I venture a guess that the meat might be a greasy and gamey, to which the once-vegetarian now corndog enthusiast replies, eyes widening: "YEAH!!!"

My friend has her own theory about marmots and John Muir. She refuses to believe that he did forty mile wilderness dayhikes fueled only by a pocket full of dried bread. My friend's theory is that John Muir used that bread for bait, perhaps even carrying a noose in his other pocket. Can't you see it? Mr. Muir, full in beard, perched on a block of granite, and slowly roasting a marmot on a backcountry spit.

Eventually we finish our food and drink, thank them profusely, and wander up some nearby pile of talus before returning to one of the two lakes named for John Muir's daughters. We had a nice time in the Evolution Basin, even climbed a few peaks. But that hot dog and beer on Muir Pass pretty much made the trip.

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