Muir Ranch to Darwin Creek
Approximately 14 miles
Had last breakfast at the ranch, made up our sack lunch at were heading up the trail by 8:15. I felt much heavier with a bear canister full of food and really wondered if I could do this next 111 mile section. Started off easy, but leaving the South Fork of San Joaquin River was steep and slow. Embarrassingly slow. We met this guy who forgot his camera at the river though, so he had to climb it TWICE. Lots of pretty cascades to look at as we climbed and once we got to Evolution Valley it was easier, not flat mind you, but easier. Met a lady from Colorado who was camping after being packed in with horses. She really made me feel like a rock star and I was encouraged. Did our first actual creek crossing. It was only calf deep, but we still had to take our shoes off. We swam a few times in the creek throughout the day sharing the pools with fly fisherman. Beautiful sunset lighting up the surrounding granite.
|Looking back down San Joaquin drainage|
|One of many cascades along Evolution Creek|
|Evolution Valley/ McClure Meadow|
Darwin Creek to Little Pete Meadow
Approximately 15 miles
Amazing hike over Muir Pass. Evolution Basin incredible; desolate, wild and beautiful. Talked with the camera guy and his friend from yesterday, they are from New Jersey. Really nice. Had a two older hikers zero in on us to talk. It was kind of weird, but we got some advice, "don't do Golden Staircase in heat of day!". Finally, got to top of pass and Muir hut stood sturdy and Mark had another glacier frosty. Hike down was rocky and hard to follow and we are now footsore for first time. Worst section of trail yet. Very long day. Father and son team, Fred and AJ, are camping with us tonight. Interesting people and strong hikers as they are also climbing many peaks along the trail. Found out boys from Jersey are named Jeff and Chris. One big family on the JMT.
|Mark on diving board in Evolution Basin|
|Muir Hut and Mark|
|Long hike down|
Little Pete Meadow to Lower Palisades Lake
Approximately 11 miles
Hiked 7 lovely miles to Deer Meadow at base of Golden Staircase. We did laundry, ate, rested and visited with the Jersey Boys who stopped also. About 5:00 we headed up the Golden Staircase under some clouds that turned to rain that brought in thunder. It was a little intense, but an amazing 1800 foot climb. The rocks were hot, but the air was cool. No problems. Thanks old guy who gave us the advice. Weather cleared at lake and we were going to hike higher, but met this old sour dough, with not many teeth, and he told us there wasn't any camping higher. "All filled up." I'm starting to think these old guys are angels in disguise! Set up tent and just as it was getting dark the Jersey Boys showed up.
|Granite walls of La Conte Canyon|
|Lovely spot along the way|
|Going up the Golden Staircase|
|Lower Palisades Lake with small sunset glow|
Lower Palisades Lake to small tarn near Twin Lakes
Approximately 18 miles
Two 12,000 foot passes today and a varied terrain. Mather pass was steep with amazing views. To the north you had alpine lakes surrounded by rock quarries and to the south was a wide rolling valley surrounded by craggy mountains in various shades of browns and reds. Hiking through the broad valley was magical. We crossed streams and in one I had a cool shower. We gave some young men going the other way some snicker bars and sent a bag of peanut m&m's back the trail to the Jersey Boys. Wondered why they hadn't passed us yet and found out from some other hikers that Jeff had forgot his camera on Mather and had to go back! We see a pattern here. :-) Crossed Kings River and for the fun of it decided to go for Pinchot Pass 4 miles away. At about 5:00 we met up with Fred and AJ camping at Marjory lake and shared some more candy bars and then took off for the nearby pass. It was an easy pass as far as passes go. The terrain was a nearly barren, rocky landscape with small, tiny plants. One wonders how they survive. The lakes in this area were strangely blue. Looked alien. By 6:00 we were on top and discovered there wasn't any nearby water on the other side. OOPS. Hiked to first little pond with campsites and enjoyed a dinner by sunset and then collapsed in bed. It looks a bit like the southwest here.
|Mather Pass looking south|
|Mather Pass looking north|
|Looking back at Mather Pass midday|
|Sunset at camp|