Total Miles: 853.4
Up and down. Rinse and repeat. Just another daily routine, except the scenery in this routine is anything but ordinary...
The morning air was dead calm as I climbed through fields of sun-cupped snow. When I caught up with Beardoh and Sweet Pea, we stopped and listened to an eerie silence--no wind, no voices, no chirping birds. No sound, only light.
Atop Muir Pass stands Muir Hut, a stone structure built in 1930 as an emergency shelter for hikers caught in storms in this remote section of trail. To the north, the PCT makes a very gradual descent through broad open basins that promised miles more of snow walking.
Logistically, the Sierra is mostly defined by a daily pilgrimage up to a high pass of 12,000 feet or more followed by a lengthy descent, only to have the process begin anew. Each day, there are a few competing concerns. Ideally, it's best to do the climb up to each pass a few hours after sunrise when the snow is still firm and fast to hike over, though not icy. Much the same is true for the descent, since waiting until too late into the afternoon means softer snow and a higher likelihood of post-holing up to your hips. As the day wears on, the daily snowmelt also swells rivers and creeks well above the water levels they had in the morning, making fords much more treacherous. Balancing each of these is a constant challenge.
Several miles north of Muir Pass, the trail enters Evolution Basin, another stunning series of granite towers threatening to pierce the sky above and lakes cascading from one to the next, each completely overwhelming the bushel of adjectives I might use to describe them.
The further the trail descended, snow and rock gave way to lush green meadows ringed with trees, split by the course of Evolution Creek draining the lakes above.
A constant companion all afternoon, the sound of Evolution Creek is now my lullaby as I write this just after a sunset that set the sky aflame.