Today we have a long but beautiful climb up to Muir Pass. The trail follows the Middle Fork Kings River up into the snowy alpine, where it begins. The first 3 miles of the trail is through the Le Conte canyon. It’s a peaceful place. The meadows are soggy with recent snowmelt and wildlife is abundant, enjoying the warm, sunny morning.
This morning I feel suddenly overwhelmed with the sanctity of this place. It’s so lovely and comforting. If by some cosmic fluke, I was transformed into a squirrel or deer and lived in this peaceful valley for the rest of my days, I wouldn’t be mad.
The rock walls close in as we ascend, narrowing the path. My legs start to burn. We have just about 4,000 feet to climb. I stop for a snack, enjoying the numerous waterfalls which adorn the narrow canyon.
Soon the trail turns into a slushy, wet mess. Snowmelt is making everything wet and soggy, including my feet. Navigating all the soft snow is exhausting, and my calves burn with all the hopping around.
Rock and water, snow and sand. The alpine is a primordial wonderland. I imagine that it looked much the same 10,000 years ago.
We had planned on camping below the pass, in order to get over the snow in the morning when its firm, but it’s only 3PM and the ground everywhere is wet. Too wet to pitch our tent, we decide to push over the pass this afternoon. Maybe we can meet up with Chef and Sriracha at Evolution Lake?
Finally, we reach the upper snow fields. We march though the soft snow for miles. The UV rays are strong at this elevation and the sun reflects off the snow. I cover my whole face in my buff to protect my skin, and put more sun block on my legs.
The approach to Muir Pass is actually more gradual than any of the other passes we have done. This makes for a long approach. Right before the top, we stop for a snack and more water. As much as I’d love to be done, we really need to drink some water and eat. Our energy levels are low and we are totally spent.
Finally, finally! We are done climbing. Muir shelter marks our end. It’s 5pm and we made it.
On the other side of the pass all we see is snow and frozen water. Actually, we even see ski tracks on the slopes to the east. This is gonna be an interesting descent.
Immediately we begin postholing into the soft snow. My soaked feet are even more wet, as if that is even possible. It makes for very slow hiking. Determined to get down and out of the snow, we move as quickly as possible with calculated determination.
The Evolution Basin is impressive. A staggering amount of snow and water is captured up here. Water logged tussocks and tiny alpine flowers make this region look like it could be found in some geographically extreme range – like the bottom of South America or the north slope of Alaska.
Making good time, we make our way down to Evolution Lake, our destination for the evening. We are greeted by Chef and Sriracha. They have spent the day at this lake, resting and enjoying the scenery.
The alpenglow is so beautiful up here, I can’t stop taking pictures. It changes color every minute, each hue casting a new look onto the rock and water.
We eat a quick dinner in the dark and scramble into our tent, just as the cold air settled onto our tentsite.