South Lake to North Lake: Day 4

Pine Tree and Emerald Pool

September 3

We both slept very well. The night felt warmer, and we had very little tent condensation. Brad checks his thermometer, which reads 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It feels warmer. Anyways, I go on a private walk back along the creek, taking pictures along the way. I find an interesting tree whose bark had split to reveal bright yellow streaks. The morning sun turns the forest on the opposite riverbank bright gold.

I return to find breakfast ready. We have coffee and then oatmeal while sitting on a boulder. My feet dangle without touching the river. It’s a very peaceful morning, soon to be interrupted by mosquitoes. We do a quick cleanup, slather on DEET, and head down the trail.

Past Evolution Meadow, we come across a wide stream crossing. Shoes and socks come off, and we wade across Evolution Creek. The drying and redonning takes longer than the crossing. The descent along the creek brings us close to so many emerald pools and roaring cascades. After passing Aspen Meadow and following the creek through an exposed section, we reenter a brief forested area. At the bottom, we cross the footbridge and end up back in the John Muir Wilderness, having exited Kings Canyon National Park.

The next uphill stretch turns out to be quite strenuous. The first part is nearly straight up. Brad and I wonder how stock would ever be able to do this trail. We stay high above the river gorge. The trail then winds through a large slope of manzanita bushes before reentering forest cover. We had originally planned to camp at the park boundary trail junction, but being too early in the day, we figured we should push forward. Now, I ask everyone we pass about campsites ahead, and we get some useful suggestions. Past the manzanita, the trail dips a little to meet the river. There is a campsite tucked in a stand of mixed conifers and aspens. The river roars just a few boulders away, and we decide that this is perfect.

Like last night’s site, this is one of the most beautiful places. A little upstream, the river makes a series of stair step cascades, creating braids of trickles and bathtub-size pools. The afternoon sun bathes this east-west canyon. We clean up here and do laundry, taking our time on the warm slabs of granite.

Dinner starts off with miso soup decorated with tofu and seaweed. The main course is hot and spicy Japanese curry with vegetable protein and a fresh onion from my garden. We have this over rice, and again, Brad and I agree that Asian dinners seem to work better. Cleanup is easy, and after that, I take a solo stroll up the river. There are wildflowers among the boulders. The creek is beautiful in this late afternoon light. Soon, the setting sun briefly gives the clouds a brief orange glow.

I return to a warm glow at the campsite. Brad had started the fire. We have hot chocolate while staring at the flames and listening to the flow of the river. The blaze feels warm. Brad tells stories from a book he recently read, about a Navy SEAL lone survivor in Afganistan. This is better than ghost stories in the dark forest in the middle of nowhere around a dying campfire.

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