South Lake to North Lake: Day 3

September 2

This day would be the longest. I wake up to a beautiful morning. The air is crisp, the mosquitoes are gone, and my tent held up to the wind. I had guyed out Brad’s side of the tent to give more lateral headroom to the A-frame profile, and he says that it’s better. Hot coffee, although the instant variety, is surprisingly good on this cold morning at nearly 11,000 feet. Hot oatmeal is good too.

Morning routine after breakfast takes me scouting out a spot with toilet paper in hand. I walk south to an area behind some trees and pick out level ground. From this vantage point, I can see the entire valley. Suddenly, I see trail, and I realize that it is the trail that we traversed the previous day. I have a clear view, and I am sure that anyone coming up the trail would have a clear view as well. Thankfully, it is too early.

There isn’t much condensation on the tent, so packing up is easy. We follow the trail and end up scrambling up a large boulder pile before realizing that the trail had actually crossed the creek. We backtrack, and soon, we head up the trail toward Muir Pass. A high alpine meadow rests on the plateau overlooking Lake 10880. Then, we climb above treeline. Helen Lake is a beautiful, deep blue body of water rimmed with bright snow. We have a little snack here.

The last little push to the pass takes place over mostly snowfields with well-established tracks. Muir Hut comes into view. From here, the desolate northern expanse looks like moonscape dotted with blue gems, deep lakes made up of snowmelt. We spend a lot of time checking out the Hut, taking pictures, and having lunch. After we finish, several groups of hikers arrive from north and south. It becomes a crowd, and we figure that it must be time to leave.

We pass by large Wanda Lake, then Sapphire Lake, and finally stop at Evolution Lake inlet for another lunch break. The noontime sun beats pretty hard in this high environment, and we almost overheat. Brad washes his face and bandana, and I dunk my head in the cool stream. We also refill our water containers for the trip down from here.

Evolution Lake twists, turns, and tucks among boulders, rock piles, and peninsulas. It takes us a long time to reach its outlet. From here, we start our descent to Evolution Valley. We rest on a large slab of granite with an open view of the valley. Brad takes a nap in a gently-contoured spot with a rock pillow. Staring down from here, it’s like flying, lifting off from the mountainside.

The trail flattens out at Colby Meadow, and we soon arrive at a large campsite in McClure Meadow. It’s a nice site, but we figure that we can find better. We walk further down the trail, pass a site that is closed to restoration, and come across another place. There is already an orange MSR tent pitched there, so we walk around and beyond it to a large flat spot. A large clean granite slab forms a low ridge between the site and the river. This proves to be a perfect spot. A few steps away from our campsite, one gets the best view of McClure Meadow and the rugged ridgeline of the Sierras in the background. I am happy we ended up here. Brad is happy that we finally found a spot and can now settle.

Tonight’s dinner is Tom Yum Soup and Thai Peanut Noodle. The fresh lime makes such a difference. We both agree that Asian meals tend to work better. While we have dinner, the mosquitoes have theirs. Brad puts on his bug protection, complete with a netting hood. I’m nearly immune. Because we are now lower than 10,000 feet, we are allowed to have a fire. Brad builds a small one right on the granite slab. The ambiance is nice. We have dark chocolate cheesecake for dessert along with hot chocolate spiked with cayenne pepper. My camera takes star trail pictures while we sit and talk around the fire.


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