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Day 50: John Muir, Our Hero

Posted by on June 24, 2015

June 19, 3015
Tentsite near Palisade Creek (824.6) to Tentsite past Evolution Lake (845.9)
21.3 PCT miles today
890.0 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 4,172 ft, – 3,188 ft

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We don’t know as much about John Muir as we wish we knew, but from what we can gather, he was one very incredible man. He was an outdoor enthusiast, a writer, and a conservationist, and he had the foresight to protect this incredible land that we’ve been enjoying before there was even a real present threat. If he hadn’t worked as hard as he did to protect the Sierras, who knows how many trees would have been cut down, water bottled, and roads built. When so much changes on a daily basis in the world around us, we love knowing that these rivers, meadows, mountains, and forests looked and felt the exact same 100 years ago when Muir was roaming around as they do for us today.

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We’ve been on the John Muir Trail for 6 days now (mutually agreed upon as the best week of our lives) but it wasn’t until today that we finally crossed Muir Pass. It was a beautiful hike from start to finish, and our favorite pass overall. The hike up the south side was long and steep in sections, but we followed the Middle Fork of the Kings River for almost the entire way and the abundance of water lent way to fields of wildflowers, an array of wildlife, and innumerable waterfalls.

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When we got just one mile from the pass, we stepped over a ledge and there in front of us lay a massive ice-covered lake. It was surrounded by snow-covered peaks and it beckoned us into its frigid waters as temptingly as a bed tempts a weary traveler. We knew we had to go for a dive. I had just been talking to Pickles about how overwhelming it felt to be in a place of such grandiose beauty and to not know what more I could do to really honor and preserve the experience in my memory. This lake was that perfect opportunity. We already knew we’d never forget Forester Pass because of our dip in one of its glacial lakes, so now we had the opportunity to do the same for Muir Pass. Plus, we figured this would be the perfect way to bookend our High Sierra passes experience. The five big ones are Forester, Glen, Pinchot, Mather, and Muir, and now not only have we climbed up and over all five, but we’ve commemorated the whole stretch of wild beauty with two freezing cold lake swims.

Image 5The top of Muir Pass held stunning views (of course) but it also had the unique addition of the John Muir Shelter, a very cool all-stone hut constructed in 1931 in honor of Muir. There is space in the hut for about 15 people to sit comfortably, and because it was quite windy, we actually had about 10 or so hikers in the hut all eating lunch and swapping stories.

The afternoon’s hike down the pass was easy and relaxing. We hiked along a number of lakes, the award for most magnificent going to Evolution Lake. Many hikers were camped along its shores, but we went a bit further down into the forest and happened upon our favorite campsite yet. We are right along a clear, cold creek on an exposed cliff of sand. To one side we have the forest and trail, but to the other we have an unbelievable view of even more massive granite mountains. We are also directly facing the sun and are looking forward to watching every second of this evening’s sunset and reflecting on all the beauty of today’s hike.

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