Date: July 2, 2017
Miles: 21.8 miles (35.1km), from mile 834.1 over Muir Pass to mile 855.9.
Health: Feeling great. Yesterday's short day reloaded my batteries.
After a short day yesterday, and all the rest we got, I woke up early and setup my gear. We had agreed to be on trail by 5am and I didn't want to be late. As I was camping a little down from where DG and Topo were camping, I wanted to make sure I got there on time.
I packed my pack quickly and started to make my way towards DG's and Topo's camp spot. I still had plenty of time to make it there. Once I get there, I see no movement, and they're both still sleeping. As I have my ice axe in my hand, I really can't let such an opportunity go to waist. I bang my ice axe against a rock, making a very loud noise, and yell "waaaaake uuuuup!!!". DG jumps up like there's an air raid coming in but Topo just raises his head.
They realize they both had forgotten to setup the alarm and start quickly getting their things in order. As I wait for them to get ready, I stretch my legs and eat a second breakfast.
We get on trail 50 minutes late and hit the snow as soon as we leave our camp. There are few spots where the rocks are exposed, but mainly we'll hike on snow from here on to the top of the pass.
Today we'll go over the famous Muir Pass, named after John Muir, as is the John Muir Trail we're currently also hiking on. John Muir is the reason we're able to hike in this area, and he was the father of US National Parks. His writings and essays, especially of his adventures in Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, have inspired millions. I'd highly recommend reading more about him. On top of the Muir Pass is also the Muir Hut, build by the Sierra Club, which he founded, in honor of John Muir.
While the Muir Pass isn't as steep or high as the previous passes we've gone over, it's not an easy pass. On regular snow years the approach to the pass can be covered by over five miles of snow fields on both sides of the pass. On a record snow year, like this one, these snow fields are going to be even longer.
The air is still cool as we slowly climb higher and higher. But soon the sun comes out and we begin our race against the melting snow. We really want to get as far over the pass as we possibly can before 10am when the snow begins to get slushy.
The approach isn't too steep or hard, but walking for miles and miles on frozen sun cups is still rough and you have to be constantly alert not to loose your footing. Without his microspikes DG is having a harder time moving on the slippery, icy snow.
After few hours I'm a little ahead and as I'm getting hungry, I stop on a little rock formation to eat more bars and to fill up my water bottles from the little stream running under the snow. DG and Topo soon catch up and after they've eaten as well, we keep going.
Soon we reach a little valley from where the trail climbs up in a more steeper grade. I can see two hikers up in the distance, making their way up towards the pass. We're not far from the top.
On the steep climb I stop to take photos and DG goes ahead. After a while I hear screams of joy and I know we're getting close. My legs are tired from the long climb but as I see the familiar shape of the rocky roof of the Muir Hut, I know I'm almost there.
I push for the last few steps and reach the hut. There I'm greeted by DG and few other hikers. Topo arrives not long after me. We go inside the hut to enjoy being sheltered from the wind, and to eat some more. The hut is nice and I could spend more time here but we still have miles of snow fields to cover on the northern side of the pass and sun is already out at full force.
We shoulder our packs again and start our descent. As we get on snow I can feel it already starting to melt. It's going to be a rough afternoon. We hiked over 8 miles on snow on our way up, and the northern sides of the passes always have more snow so it's going to be even longer on the way down.
We agree to meet somewhere down and as I'm faster on snow, I head out first. I'm soon ahead and only see Topo behind. I'm running out of water so I stop at one of the rivers and wait for the others to catch up.
Going down is much faster and we soon reach the lakes halfway down to the valley. From these lakes starts the Evolution Creek, one of the notorious river crossings on PCT. We cross it once here, right at the lakes. It's wide and shallow, but from here it drops down as a long waterfall to the valley below us.
After a long climb down we get to the valley floor and start getting closer to the Evolution Creek crossing. At times the "creek" looks more like a raging river, and at times more like a lake. There's so much water that the creek is just overflowing. I feel a little nervous as I've heard the crossing can be bad even on a normal year. But this year there's so much water that it's likely going to be much worse.
To cross the Evolution Creek, there are two options. The regular PCT crossing can be bad when the water is high, so there's an alternative crossing up at the Evolution Meadow, where the current isn't as strong and the water is spread out on a wider area. As we reach the junction where we have to choose which crossing we want to do, we all unanimously choose the alternative and head for the meadow.
As we get to the meadow we can't even see the other side of the "creek". But it doesn't look bad at all. All that water has just spread out on a large meadow, meaning it's going to be much more shallow, and easier to cross. We scout few spots where to cross but see no difference and just start crossing. Before getting into the water we put all our gear inside waterproof bags as there might be a chance that we end up swimming at some point.
DG and Topo cross first. As they are both way taller than me, seeing them chest deep in the creek isn't what I wanted to see. But the current looks really slow and they get over very easily. I follow at their steps and as I'm in the middle of the stream, DG asks me to stop so he can get few photos. I happily pose for him as the water feels actually quite nice, even a little warm. I feel like I'm wading through a swimming pool with my clothes on.
As we're all on the other side, we laugh at how easy the crossing was. I go back into the water to get few more photos and then we hike on to the camp spot not far from the creek. Once there we dry our gear in the sun, eat, and talk about where we'd want to camp tonight.
I feel like I want to hike so after we've decided where we'd camp, I head out, saying I'd wait for the others at the spot. I put on my headphones and start moving down the trail. It feels so go to be down here in the valley as there's no snow and I can walk on a dry trail again. Before I know it, I'm at the spot where we agreed to camp at.
The spot doesn't look too nice and there are too many mosquitoes for my taste. I sit down and start eating while looking at the map. I find a nicer camp spot a little over four miles (6.4km) down the trail, and as I'm still full of energy, I want to go there. I start writing a note for the others, letting them know I went further. Right as I'm done they arrive. I tell them about pushing a little further but they both feel too tired to push and want to camp here.
As DG and Topo start making their camps, I keep hiking on. I feel really good being on the trail again. The trail follows along the creek at the bottom of a beautiful canyon and the views in the sunset are simply breathtaking. The miles go by really fast and I soon reach the next camp spot. There I find the hikers who we saw in the morning at the top of the pass. We exchange few words and then I move a litter further to give them space.
As it's getting late I set up my camp, eat a quick dinner, and go to sleep. Today was a good day!