Everyone abruptly woke up at 5 this morning and started quickly packing our gear to head down the north side of Muir Pass. It was a cold and iced over morning. For 6 miles I hiked down through the north valley passing the frozen and interconnected Wanda Lakes. I rarely have listened to music while hiking during these stretches because I have limited battery recharging supply, but this morning's hike down snowfields in crampons warranted some Childish Gambino. I vibed out until our first river crossing at the Wanda Lake outlet. I was suprised to discover that I hiked the whole 6 miles in 2 hours. That's pretty good time for snow travel.
From there I hit the dry trail and a whole new set of canyons and valleys below Muir Pass. So damn gorgeous. 6 more miles got us to the trail's number two fear monger: Evolution Creek crossing. For weeks we heard stories about how gnarley it was and this and that. That we would have to ford chest high water with our packs above our heads. It just wasn't so. In fact, it was only balls deep and pretty easy to cross. My pack stayed dry. The water was colder than hell but it wasn't the end of the world. After crossing we laid out in the sun and dried off, snacked some nasty lunch and enjoyed the meadows. I traded some candy for tobacco from Earwig. We always wind up running out of it and someone always holds a monopoly on the tobacco stash the last few days before a stretch is over. Food is more valuable than cigarettes and I always seem to carry too much food. A lot of bartering happens.
At this point we knew we could do more miles with more dry trail ahead of us. Part of the group is going to attempt Bear Creek (the other fear mongerer) and get to VVR (our next resupply) in two days. Heroin Eyes and I decided we will break off from the team and take the alternate to get there a day early. It shaves off some PCT miles and we skip both Bear Creek and Seldon Pass. Some of the team aren't willing to skip miles because of personal goals. I'm not down to deal with a raging river, even if there is a way across it. I'm not a PCT continuous miles purist.
We headed out from evolution to try and get to the alternate junction 8 miles away.
Hiking this next stretch was so wonderful. Basically the whole day was downhill or flat, and dry, with the exception of the first 6 miles off the pass. The valleys and canyons are steep and drop out of nowhere. The JMT is so beautifully designed to deal with this. Dynamited sections of the trail take you down granite staircase into the valley floor. Evolution creek dumps right into the South Fork Joaquin River - a beast that has been carving this canyon for eons. The views are large, and the mist from the rapids keeps you cool. I kept thinking about my family and friends and how much I miss them. I miss them so bad that several times throughout the day I entertain the possibility of quitting and going home just to be connected to them again. I wish my brother was here hiking with me. I wish my mom and dad could see what we have climbed. I wish ELACCers could bring members here. I wish Jessica could experience this too.
Just before hitting the junction we found what I think is my favorite campsite of the whole trip so far. It just gets better and better. We're right along the raging river with fire rings and and lots of cool hidden spots to tent. We all scatter and claim our tent spots (this happens every night). We bullshit for a while over dinner and return to our corners. I will sleep to these noisy rapids forever.