What A Difference A Day Makes!
As if the first 100 miles hadn’t been picturesque enough, today just blew us away! Hiking out of Evolution Basin was simply stunning. It truly is mountainous scenery of epic proportions. No wonder John Muir said ‘the mountains are like coming home’.
To put it plainly, today on the JMT will be a tough one to beat. Today being in the wilderness was amazing!
Feeling on top of the world hiking through Evolution Basin.
Day 18 – North Evolution Lake to Le Conte Canyon (11.9 miles) – Monday 15th September 2014 – ‘Thank You John Muir’
We were not stuck in the tent because of bad weather or bored today! Our day started with Wayne getting up early to capture a time lapse of sunrise coming up ‘The Hermit’. (Always a good start when he can put his photography skills to work and take his mind off food!)
The first rays of the sun hitting ‘The Hermit’.
We decided to leave North Evolution Lake and head to Muir Pass.
We then got packed up and ready to leave Evolution Lake. After all the weather dramas of yesterday we were debating whether or not to camp two miles further down the trail at Sapphire Lake, or whether to just go for it and head over Muir Pass while the weather was good. It was a tough decision to leave Evolution Basin, as from a photographer’s perspective, yesterday had been Wayne’s favourite day because of all the time lapse footage and dramatic photos he’d been able to capture. I guess it’s not just being in the right place, but being there at the right time that really pays off. But after we set off, we knew we’d made the right decision to hike on.
Panorama looking back onto North Evolution Lake.
A memorable section of the JMT.
The cumulus clouds look much friendlier than yesterday.
A perfect day for walking.
And a perfect day for taking photographs.
Well positioned rocks help us to cross the outlet.
Continuing along the valley.
Colourful tundra draws the eye in stark contrast to the cool, grey granite peaks.
As soon as we began the ascent towards Muir Pass, we enjoyed breathtaking scenery from start to finish. From beautiful, crystal clear glacial lakes, to rough, craggy mountain peaks surrounding us in all directions – today really was a day with the ‘wow factor’! Plus, Wayne was extra happy about the appearance of some clouds! (In his opinion, clouds make the best time lapse photography).
It’s definitely ‘survival of the fittest’ as we reach higher elevations.
Big skies, big mountains… A day appreciating the ‘big’ stuff!
There were no ‘trail bandits’ as such, but we did spot one or two ‘rock rats’ surviving here.
Wayne filters water at Sapphire Lake where we stop for a ‘break’.
Trying to capture it all on camera.
What a breathtaking view!
The trail continues…
Just a tiny blot on the landscape whilst heading up to Muir Pass.
As well as being overwhelmed by the scenery, today was all about the legacy of John Muir. If you didn’t know already, John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist who was instrumental in preserving numerous ‘wilderness’ areas across the United States in the late 1800’s. So here we were today, not only walking in his footsteps on the trail, but we also found ourselves hiking around Lakes Wanda and Helen, named after his two daughters. We then climbed to almost 12,000 feet to reach the top of Muir Pass, and took a breather in the Muir Hut, built in his honour by the Sierra Club in 1931.
At the top of Muir Pass, the brilliant construction and hiker haven – the Muir Hut!
Built by the Sierra Club in honour of John Muir and his work.
Inside the Muir Hut.
This photograph of John Muir was inside the hut. His words were very touching at that moment and we felt very privileged to be in this place.
“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action”. – John Muir
From the top of Muir Pass looking on to Lake Wanda and Lake McDermand.
Looking across the other side of the pass to where we would be heading.
Reaching Helen Lake on the other side of Muir Pass.
After enjoying a bit of ‘quiet time’ at the Muir Hut, we set off down the other side of the pass into Le Conte Canyon heading for somewhere near ‘Big Pete Meadow’. The views coming down were just as stunning as going up.
We passed the imaginatively named ‘Small Lake’ and ‘Medium Lake’ on our way down.
From grey granite to greenery – it was an incredible descent down the valley into Le Conte Canyon.
On the way, we passed a ‘Maintenance Crew’ who were busy clearing debris from the trail.
Having to descend 2,000 feet after Muir Pass, we both agree that we like going up much better than coming down.
But what thrilled us the most (after first seeing it on The Muir Project’s ‘Mile, Mile & A Half’ movie) was that we finally located the ‘rock monster’!
‘Please don’t eat me!’
We were also very excited to meet 3 Tibetan guys hiking the JMT in the opposite direction to us, going south to north. After commenting we hadn’t seen a great mix of nationalities on the trail, we were really pleased to chat with them about their experiences so far.
After a tiring descent, we reached the Middle Fork Kings River and looked for a place to camp close by.
We finally found a camp spot around 5pm along Le Conte Canyon near to the Middle Fork Kings River, just before Big Pete Meadow, avoiding the big, ‘tour group’ that we have now come across hiking this section of the JMT. (With around 15 people camping together, minimal impact, we think not!)
Our pre-used camp site close to the Middle Fork Kings River.
It was a nice, sheltered site close to the creek, but we didn’t have much time before dark to appreciate it, nor the energy. We were both really tired today after hiking an unexpected 12 miles, when originally if we had stayed at Sapphire Lake back in Evolution Basin, we would have only hiked on two miles today! (Well at least we still now have that ‘extra’ day to use up somewhere else).
The beautiful sunset view from our tent.
We washed as the sun was already going off the valley, (meaning cold), then rested the feet whilst enjoying a hot cup of beef and vegetable stew. It actually made a nice change from our own hiker meals so we perked up a bit after our fab ‘freebie’ dinner from the hiker bin at MTR. (Thank you to whoever donated it! It was well and truly devoured and appreciated!)
‘Re-hydrated beef stew’ courtesy of a fellow hiker who donated it at MTR. Thank you, it was wonderful!
Then it was time to try and get a good night’s rest in preparation for hiking another 12 miles tomorrow and tackling the ‘Golden Staircase’.
If the scenery is in any way as spectacular as today, then I’m sure we’ll just take it in our stride whilst enjoying the view!