Day 61-65: Life in the Sierras
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.
8 AM We each ate a granola bar for breakfast as we walked on a soft pine needle path through the trees.
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.
11 AM We filtered water from the river.
11:40 AM A frog jumped past Shutterbug as he was crossing a creek.
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.
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.
1:45 PM Energized by lunch, we hiked on, hitting the day’s first on-trail snow sections.
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.
3:40 PM The trail descended past the beautiful Wanda Lake.
5:30 PM We rock hopped across a wide crossing of Evolution Creek.
5:40 PM Evolution Lake came into view. This was an idyllic and almost unreal landscape.
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.
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.
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.