Day 65 (Tuesday, July 13): Evolution Lake inlet, 842.5, to Senger Creek, 860.1
Hello everyone, far and wide!
No rain fell on Fozzie, Flyboxer, or myself during the night, but you’d think it had with all the condensation drenching everything. This made it no less beautiful next to Evolution Lake. The sun climbed rather lazily over the Goddard Divide, and never really arrived before I left. The trail was all downhill, until the end of the day.
Evolution Lake made a great impression: fish jumping out of the water slowly reducing the mosquito population, blue water, and a ringing stillness. Evolution Creek took the path of least resistance down to McClure Meadow. I had to take the trail. Drying out my rain gear, tent, and sleeping bag sapped an hour that I would regret later in the day. Waterfalls were flowing down from the side cliffs, adding to the already swollen Evolution Creek and flooded meadow. These creeks were crossed easily enough.
Many John Muir Trail hikers asked about trail conditions ahead in the opposite direction. To one group of five sisters, I shared my pictures. I let them decide for themselves whether to continue or turn back. They chose to turn back. Everyone seemed unprepared and inexperienced.
In this neighborhood, 14 years ago, Andrew, I, and Allison, a JMT hiker, had climbed to a lake at elevation 11,106 feet above McClure Meadow. I rebelled, protested, complained, and most enjoyed this alpine gem. It rained and thundered on the way up, but the hue of light grey of the sky made it both worthwhile and priceless. That number, 11106, has stuck in my mind to this day.
I walked pretty fast today, in response to nagging anxiety over the main crossing of Evolution Creeek. This was one of the top three most feared Sierran crossings. I had crossed it twice before at knee-high. This year, in the same spot, it was chest high. I had skipped a designated safe crossing trail to save time and minimize detour mileage, and was confronted with this doozy. Blackgum was on the opposite bank already. I bet it took a lot of nerve for him to cross. The year before, he had lost his footing, swam, and lost his pack in a crossing of a river in Maine on the Appalachian Trail. Blackgum motioned for me to go upstream. There, the water moved fast but was more shallow. I gathered my confidence as best I could, and got in. It was thigh-high right away, then knee, for about 40 feet. The remaining third was again, at thigh level, and moving. My poles did their rattle and quiver routine, the true test of how fast the water was moving. And it was moving. I got stuck once, broke free, and lunged for lower water. Delivered, I did all I could do; crossed myself and thanked the Lord. I caught up with Blackgum, who I hadn’t seen in days. As he left, Chipper arrived.
If you could see what Evolution Creek does after the crossing, you’d perhaps understand the anxiety. It shoots down a cataract, spilling about 800 vertical feet to its junction with the San Joaquin River. The trail is second class next to the starshow but still showcases some stately Western junipers. At the bottom, the lack of snow and drier terrain reinforced how hot it really was. Chipper noticed too. I drank three quarts right there during lunch. The crossing was by bridge, not once, but twice. The second was about a mile down. The river and trail became buddy buddy. It would have been more fun to ride the rapids through Goddard Canyon, but even this would have been grounds for insanity. For about 5 miles, I walked next to the San Joaquin River.
Piute Creek, bridged, signaled the five mile point. It was also the Kings Canyon National Park Border. This park had humbled me with Forrester Pass, Glen, Pinchot, Mather, and Muir. It would humble the hardiest of hikers. It might have even slowed down Hummingbird. So See’ya Kings Canyon.
Where Kings Canyon ended, thr John Muir Wilderness began. The path, full of round rocks, slowed me down a bit. After a couple of miles of hot trail, I passed the turn off for Florence Lake, Muir Trail Ranch, and the Blaney Hot Springs.
The time I had lost earlier in the day meant that I could not make it to Muir Trail Ranch or the hot springs. Hikers can send a resupply bucket here and a $50 handling fee with it. Hikers that don’t show up usually don’t pay to have their resupply returned, so it becomes common property for hikers to vulturize, scavenge, parasitize, and clamber over. All of my hiker buddies made the detour and cashed in.
In 1993, when I originally planned to hike the John Muir Trail, I sent a bucket to Muir Trail Ranch. The hike fell through and someone surely cashed in on the M&Ms, instant rice, oatmeal, and boullion cubes. That was about all I packed. Not enough calories or variety. I was a novice. It would have been a disaster.
In 2006, though, I came just to see what hiker pickins were available. Pat, who handles this part of the non-equestrian affairs, was a sweet lady. She has a reputation for being rough around the edges, but I didn’t see any rough edges. I picked up 40 Clif Bars and a ziploc quart of dried onions and carrots with Torrey. It was like mixed blessing. The Clif Bars weighed like a cinder block and the the dried veggies. The dried veggies. The dried veggies. They took days to filter through my digestive system. It was carnage and foul air for all to bear and suffer through.
In 2006, I also visited the hot springs. After crossing the San Joaquin River, with no official path, they were hard to find but there, in the middle of a meadow, hidden in the tall grasses, were a couple of hot pools. It was worth the mud and mosquitoes and crossing the wide San Joaquin. Although everyone went this year, I probably wouldn’t have. The river, in all its wildness, was uncrossable. But there was a log jam that made it possible. But with one false move, it would be game over. Not worth it. Ursa lost a hiking pole to the San Joaquin.
Instead of taking the Florence Lake turnoff, I continued on the PCT. It was 6:30, and I didn’t have much time to walk. I passed some perfectly awesome camping spots and, once it was too late, started climbing really steep switchbacks. Then there was nowhere to stop. I stopped every three minutes to both catch my breath and complain. This went on for about an hour, when I finally resolved to grab the first flat spot and call it a night. I did exactly that. Flyboxer shared that sentiment too, an hour later. Answer Man too, but he went a bit further.
Thanks for reading along!