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Day 61-65: Life in the Sierras

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In this post we delve into the details of a single day, to give you a sense of what we experience crossing a pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Day 61: Palisade Creek (Mile 826.5)-Evolution Lake (Mile 844.5); 18 miles

6 AM The phone alarm buzzed. We hit snooze. Birds chirped their good mornings.

6:15 AM The alarm went off again and we woke to find ten lethargic mosquitos in our tent. (The tent zipper was still broken.) We packed our belongings: sleeping bags, pads, tent, food, etc.

7 AM We started walking and met a thru hiker named Penn J. Like many PCT hikers, he had already completed the Appalachian Trail, but was new to the California mountains. Eventually we fell into different paces.

7:45 AM North Star spotted a deer in the forest. It silently watched us walk.

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8 AM We each ate a granola bar for breakfast as we walked on a soft pine needle path through the trees.

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8:15 AM The trail began to climb uphill and to parallel the thundering middle fork of the Kings River.

8:30 AM While Shutterbug was taking a photo, Fairway, a hiker we’d seen off and on for the past few hundred miles, came up the trail. We chatted for a bit, then Fairway headed on since he preferred to hike faster.

8:45 AM We snacked on another granola bar as we continued walking.

9 AM Over the next hour we crossed paths with Thor, Sauté, That Guy, Auto Pilot, Smack, a JMT hiker, and a few weekend backpackers. We hadn’t seen this many people the entire previous day.

10:05 AM We took a packs-off snack break by the river.

10:20 AM Hike on! We continued hiking uphill. We noticed mosquitos in areas with standing water, but they did not overwhelm us.

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11 AM We filtered water from the river.

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11:40 AM A frog jumped past Shutterbug as he was crossing a creek.

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12:05 PM We followed footsteps in the wrong direction for about 100 feet. North Star checked the map and found that the trail should have crossed the river. Looking back at the river we realized a small rock slide had covered the trail. We created cairns (small stone piles) to help future hikers stay on the trail.

12:40 PM Ice cold water flowed down the trail and our shoes were quickly soaked. The terrain was stunning and looked like Iceland.

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12:45 PM A pika scurried away as we approached a lake at 11,500 feet. We stopped to get water and to eat cereal for lunch.

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1:45 PM Energized by lunch, we hiked on, hitting the day’s first on-trail snow sections.

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3:15 PM We reached the top of Muir Pass. Views of alpine lakes and mountain peaks were a nice reward for the 4,000 feet we had climbed that day. We also found a beautifully constructed dome-roofed stone hut, dedicated to John Muir, atop the pass.

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3:40 PM The trail descended past the beautiful Wanda Lake.

5:30 PM We rock hopped across a wide crossing of Evolution Creek.

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5:40 PM Evolution Lake came into view. This was an idyllic and almost unreal landscape.

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6:15 PM We dropped our packs at an amazing campsite on Evolution Lake. It was our favorite camping spot of the trip to that point. We set up the tent, inflated our sleeping pads, got water, and changed into warmer clothes.

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7:30 PM North Star cooked a dinner of couscous and beans, seasoned with hot sauce, salt, and pepper. As dinner entertainment, we watched fish jump to catch bugs which hovered near the water.

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8:15 PM We studied maps covering the next day’s hiking, and wrote up notes on what we’d just experienced.

8:40 PM Zzzzz.

Highlights from other days:
Day 62: Evolution Lake (Mile 844.5)-Sallie Keyes Lakes (Mile 864); 19.5 miles

We crossed the lower section of Evolution Creek. Due to low snow pack, the creek wasn’t the raging torrent it usually is this time of year. We got wet, but only up to our knees.

Nearing sunset, we saw a bald eagle swoop over Sallie Keys Lake. Breathtaking.

Day 63: Sallie Keyes Lakes (Mile 864)-Vermillion Valley Resort (Mile 878.5) +1.5 miles off trail; 16 miles

We climbed Selden Pass in the morning and caught the afternoon ferry across Edison Lake to Vermillion Valley Resort.

Day 64: Zero at Vermillion Valley Resort

At the store we picked up our resupply food box, showered, ate ice cream, and wrote Sierra blog posts.

Day 65: Vermillion Valley Resort (Mile 878.5)-Silver Pass Creek (Mile 882.5) + 1.5 miles off trail; 5.5 miles

The rest day was nice, but we were happy to be back on the PCT.

Our uninterrupted eleven day stretch in the Sierras was magical. It was a week and a half filled with mountains and alpine lakes and completely without advertisements, car exhaust, or the many distractions of modern life.

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26 Comments Post a comment
  1. Elif #

    I’m loving seeing pictures of you in the familiar sierra landscapes … I miss those mountains, but it makes me happy to see you guys making your way through in all those amazing pictures. Hugs!

    June 25, 2012
  2. Great Post – loving your photos – thanks for sharing! Have a Great Day!

    June 25, 2012
  3. Barb #

    Does Shutterfly have a new pole yet? When will you get your tent zipper fixed? Is North Start sleeping better now? YOUR PHOTOS ARE BREATHTAKING, AND YOUR STORY IS BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN!

    June 25, 2012
  4. U must have a gala time… love the photos

    June 25, 2012
  5. Mary #

    Magical and magnificent. What a day. It must be very special to share this with each other.

    June 25, 2012
    • Thanks Mary, we have so many amazing days like that and we wanted to share at least one of them! It really is great to do this together too. Sometimes I think if I only saw it all by myself, I would wonder later on if it really happened.

      July 5, 2012
  6. Mike Irving #

    Thanks for the great post! Loved it.
    -Portland PCT Section Hiker Mike

    June 25, 2012
    • Thanks Mike! We are looking forward to seeing your neck of the woods, since we haven’t spent much time north of California.

      July 5, 2012
      • Michael #

        Good to see your comment back. I’m heading out to Timothy Lake today to do the SoBo route from there to Olallie lake over 2 days. First time on the PCT this summer. Snow is finally melting enough to do the lower parts.

        Portland PCT Section Hiker Mike

        July 5, 2012
        • Sweet, have a great hike. Maybe we will run into you out there at some point in the future.

          July 5, 2012
        • Just got back from the hike and I loved every minute of it. No snow, but it’s still nasty snow between Ollalie through the 3 sisters…but melting quickly as it was 80+ degrees at Olallie Lake today. Beautiful view of Mt Jefferson, Ollalie Butte and Mt Hood through this hike, but also lots of trees as it is Oregon (the “green tunnel”) There is a sweet camp site about 70 yards in on the NW shore of Jude Lake that looked awesome. (there’s a sign marking the trail in right when the lake comes into view for you from the south. Also another really good site just south of Lementi Creek/Meadows. We camped in the saddle between North and South Pinhead Buttes which was fine, but nothing special. Two or three sites in that area. Ran into “Jackrabbit” and “Snow Scrambler” that were going from Willamette Pass to Cascade Locks continuing a thru hike from last year that ended in Kennedy Meadows due to the snow. (Jack Rabbit is going back to KM after Cascade Locks with his friend Paul who hiked with him last year.) Enjoy your hike!

          Portland PCT Section Hiker Mike (now testing the trail name GoalTech) bestowed to me….

          July 7, 2012
        • Thanks Mike for all the tips. Sounds like a great hike! I’m sure the snow will be gone by the time we get there, especially with such warm temperatures. We enjoy the forest, so I’m sure we will love it there.

          July 8, 2012
  7. Sabrina #

    Thanks for making the time to post like you are! Discovered the PCT not long ago and have put it on my bucket list. The photos are beautiful and descriptions so informative. Congratulations on making it happen!

    June 25, 2012
    • Thanks Sabrina! We sometimes struggle to fit in the posts along with covering all the distance we do, but the blog is a labor of love for us and we very much enjoy sharing the adventure with all of you out there.

      July 5, 2012
  8. dante #

    I know why those 10 mosquitos were lethargic, they were fat and happy after gorging on your blood as you slept! The little vampires. Hope you smacked them good!

    Then again, you could let by gones be by gones, and accept the natural order of things . . . and let them go lay a zillion eggs now . . . To feed the fish and birds and eventually hatch more vampires!

    June 26, 2012
  9. Jan Alexander #

    Evolution lake looks like a magical kingdom…Which I guess it is…Thanks for sharing what a day is like…the couscous and beans look delicious with that hot sauce on them! I hope you get a new trekking pole soon, Shutterbug. And a new tent!

    June 26, 2012
    • Yes, it didn’t seem real to us, it was so perfect!

      We always look forward to the couscous, lots of protein in there too.

      Yes, our new tent, which we ordered from the top of Mt. Whitney, arrived in Tuolumne, along with the poles. Anna’s brother has been great about making sure we get everything on time.

      It’s amazing to have working tent zippers. One night in Yosemite we had at least 200 mosquitos trying to get in through the mesh!

      July 5, 2012
  10. Margaret #

    Well, I think I’m back on your post, now, although I had to go through Facebook — it used to show up in my email, but doesn’t any more. Just when I was thinking I could avoid Facebook altogether…

    You mention catching sight of a pika. What is that?

    You don’t eat when you first get up? I would think you would be ravenous all of the time!!

    Take care, you 2. You are getting close to the 1,000 mile mark!!

    June 30, 2012
    • You can resubscribe by going to mexicotocanada.com and entering your email address on the right hand side. I’m not sure what happened, but that should fix it.

      Pikas are small like chipmunks, but plumper, with shorter tails. They only live at high elevation and are being forced higher as temperatures increase. They make little dens with grass.

      We are indeed ravenous, but in the morning we like to get going quickly, so we just eat bars as we walk.

      We have passed the 1000 mile mark now, as you will see in our next post. An exciting landmark on our journey!

      July 5, 2012
  11. Dan Sheppard #

    What a great experience. Karl and I had a great run from edison lake on a loop back for about 35 miles in 1989. Your lucky to be able to do it all! Keep up the treak and thanks for sharing your experience with us all.
    !
    Dan down hiller!

    July 2, 2012
    • Nice one, I remember you telling us a bit about your travels in the Sierra, and how much you enjoyed those trips. Our travels in these mountains have been hard but wonderful. Certainly memories we will always return to in the future. Of course, you know what we mean, having been there!

      July 5, 2012

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