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JMT '14 - Day 7 - Valley of the Kings

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JMT '14 - Day 7 - Valley of the Kings
August 20, 2014 08:08PM
Day 7: July 21, 2014

Our campsite was roughly at the mid-point of the JMT, but despite the fact that we had completed the first half without significant issues or pain, we all knew that the second half would be more difficult. We flew down the switchbacks to Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) with the realization that our packs would not be this light again until Trail Crest; within hours they would be at their heaviest, loaded down with several days' worth of new food and fuel.

The morning started clear and dry--we didn't expect rain, and nothing indicated that we'd have anything but clear skies.

The previous day's clouds and rain had limited our ability to use our solar chargers; my phone/GPS had no power, and we minimized the use of radios to preserve power. What power I had left went to keeping the cameras going. You're welcome.

Both when A and I had resupplied in 2008 and and when JKW did in 2010, the stop at MTR had been a big time sink--chatting, repacking, chatting, emailing, chatting, and only then hiking again. Things were more straightforward for JKW and me this time: all the food was already sorted and consolidated, and we had tested that it fit in our bear canisters, so the resupply was mostly the exercise of moving stuff from plastic bucket A to carbon fiber barrel B or barrel C. The H party had arrived an hour too early and had to wait for operations to open, but were having a fun leisurely time at their first resupply, doing that chatting, repacking, chatting thing. Side note: they had enjoyed the hot springs despite going to bed smelling of sulphur and a weird bug bite track up one of the H's legs!

We had packed a special treat which we enjoyed while repacking: a can of pineapple. I took advantage of the bright sun to charge my phone/GPS; JKW found an unused outlet and recharged hers. She also procured a partially-used fuel canister that, when combined with the full one we already had, was more than enough for us to finish the trip.

Eventually everything we wanted was repacked, and what we ended up not needed was either with someone else or in the hikers' bins. We weighed our packs to find out what the bad news was--I think I was around 37 lbs; JKW a few less than that. Mine may or may not have included water or the three cameras--I can't remember.

The hike up the San Joaquin river was nice--the recent rains minimized the dust on the trail. Some clouds were starting to form in the distance, but we weren't worried--yet.

I took a slight detour to check out the "Muir Trail Cabin", with all the space of our TrailStar and hantavirus potential of the old double-walled Boys Town cabins at Curry.

In front of us loomed Pavilion Dome, which we knew was in Kings Canyon National Park. Soon we crossed into this park, where we would be until Forster Pass.

We took advantage of the warm sun and not-too-cold waters of Piute Creek to bathe and soak a bit--and to dry out our sleeping bags and other gear. J had gotten bitten by something in the water at the hot springs, and something else bit JKW in Piute Creek--making it two times ever that I know of someone getting bitten by anything in Sierra water. Strange. Despite the rogue biting creature, we could have spent hours at this place resting and just hanging out. We later learned that the H party, which arrived at Piute shortly after we did, had done exactly that. The rest of us eventually decided that we had to move on: we were shooting to camp at McClure Meadow and still had many miles--and one big climb--to go.

The hike to the Goddard/Evolution junction was pleasant--not too hot, but still sunny. The river's cascades in the gorge below the trail and the small waterfalls flowing from the canyon walls held our attention as we traveled up-canyon.

As we continued the clouds did perhaps get a bit thicker, but the air still seemed dry, and nothing looked threatening.

The climb up to Evolution Valley was steep, but we took it slowly, enjoying the views and odd rocks along the way

I had forgotten how nice lower Evolution Creek is, with its many pools and cascades over smooth granite--much more like Yosemite than what people normally associate with Kings Canyon: the High Sierra of Evolution Basin.

The Evolution Creek crossing was straightforward--maybe a foot deep at its deepest. Not far past that, we were at Evolution Meadow, where we reconfirmed our decision to push onto McClure Meadow. We were also entertaining the thought of pushing to Evolution Lake, but we were running out of daylight--and the desire for a big climb near sunset.

We eventually reached McClure Meadow, where several parties were camping. We found an unoccupied campsite and, after checking out alternatives elsewhere, including across the creek, we decided to call it home for the night. The popularity of this meadow was understandable given the excellent views of the high peaks around Evolution Basin. We later heard from the H party on radio that they were stopping at Evolution Meadow, having lost too much time at Piute Creek.

What little threat of rain there had been dissipated by sundown, and we enjoyed spectacular views of the Milky Way as we slept under the stars--and without having pitched the shelter--for the first time on the trip. The weather had fooled us on our Virginia Lake day, but we were optimistic that the monsoonal rains were finally behind us.

The dark, cloudless night probably kept us up a bit later than we wanted, but we eventually fell asleep--rest that would be needed for the next day's haul over Muir Pass and down LeConte Canyon.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 7 - Valley of the Kings
August 20, 2014 09:09PM
Right. This was probably the day I dreaded the most.. Resupply Day. Reds doesn't really count, it's too easy. Only 3 or 4 days of food over relatively easy terrain. MTR, halfway through, with ALL of the remaining days' of food.. with the longest, hardest days ahead... that's Resupply Day.

And though we hit MTR later than I'd originally hoped (mostly because I wasn't changing our usual schedule just for this special day), we left earlier than I had in 2010! I was so happy that I cut my time down to 1.5 hours total (without rushing) - this was HALF the time it took me in 2010. I had time to rummage and to offer our extras to others, and yet, I managed to not get sucked into the time-sink vortex that can be MTR. As Basilbop noted, the H party got fully sucked into it, but it was their first time. I think it's obligatory for first-timers! smiling smiley

Again, this day I was struck with how different this trip was compared to 2010. The weather was sunny and warm, but not hot. I was never suffering while hiking, as I did in 2010. My load was about the same as before, but it didn't feel as heavy (I thought I clocked in at 36 pounds including a liter of water this time). It wasn't as hot, yet the water at Piute creek was warmer (not a plus for me), yet still refreshing. Damn bug bit me, which freaked me out - I saw it, and it was ugly - and I scrambled out of where I'd seated myself mostly submerged in the rocks. I whacked my heel against a rock scrambling and realized I could have hurt myself worse than the bug would ever do! But I was lucky - no damage done! The hike up the freaking switchbacks was over before I realized it. Yes, they were work, but I never felt like my shoulder was blistering, I never had to stop and sit to recover, it all just passed along as all the previous miles did, with every reasonable step. I did NOT trip and fall this time and hurt my knee. I did not get eaten alive by mosquitoes when crossing Evolution Creek and this time, I MADE it to McClure Meadow and felt okay! YAY!

By the way.. A was enchanted with the sunset from McClure Meadow. She said she's always doodled a scene that has just been in her head. A meadow surrounded by high mountains with a lovely stream running down it...Well, McClure was the embodiment of that vision! And though she didn't envision fish jumping out of the water, we saw many do just that. It was stunning and sublime. And so very, very soothing. I was very glad we camped at the western end. The view up the valley was perfect. If you go too far up, you don't get the full effect. We obviously weren't the only ones enchanted, up and down the meadow's edge, you could see people lining up for the view. On one hand, yes, lots of people, on the other hand, kinda neat we were all there soaking in the gorgeous scenery and appreciating nature's beauty together. Strangers, yes, but with a shared appreciation...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/2014 09:11PM by JustKeepWalking.
Re: JMT '14 - Day 7 - Valley of the Kings
August 21, 2014 06:15PM
I loved McClure Meadow with I was there years ago. Thanks for allowing me to revisit it through your description.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/21/2014 06:15PM by lschaaf.
avatar Re: JMT '14 - Day 7 - Valley of the Kings
August 23, 2014 10:48AM
Wonderful! That photo of McClure is fantastic.
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