Day 53: mile 836.5 – mile 852.2
Elevation gain: 1,087 ft
Elevation loss: 3,911 ft
We have backpacked in hail and rain before, but never snow…until today! We set the alarm for 6am because Link is pretty darn tired of postholing in the softened afternoon snow. We have been so lucky to have only had to set up camp one time in the rain, but now we needed to break down camp while it was snowing. With this tent having 2 big vestibules, it was actually pretty easy and only the outside of the tent got wet. Right around 6am we heard a couple hikers out on the trail. We peeked outside the tent but they were a little too far away for us to tell who they were. We haven’t seen any new hikers this entire leg, so we had a little debate regarding who we thought it was. We were anxious to find out, and hoped we would see them at the Pass.
So we were hiking at 7am with 3 layers on because it was below freezing and actively snowing. Mantis/Pants needed a little more time to get ready so we told them we would meet them in the cool Muir hut at the Pass. Hiking in the snow flurries was super fun and seeing all the rocks dusted with new snow was gorgeous!
We had left ourselves only 2 miles to get to Muir Pass (11,969 ft), but there was still about 1,000 ft of elevation gain and A LOT of snow which didn’t make it easy. When we were about 1/3 of the way there, we saw the 2 hikers again who had passed our camp at 6am. We caught up to them pretty quickly, and guess who it was?! YUP…PI (stands for: Person Irresponsible, by the way…perfect)!! I am absolutely not kidding…”What the…”, I was literally so confused. She said she had skipped the last 4 Passes, but was now back to try this one out with another hiker named Sunshine. We wished them luck and moved on as quickly as possible…yikes, I hope it all works out!
We got to the Pass and Muir Hut, which is a work of art built in 1930, at 9am. It was sooo much warmer in there and I loved that it was left in pristine condition. No trash, no graffiti, just an amazing piece of architecture to commemorate John Muir.
Mantis and Pants got there a little bit later so we had fun taking a bunch of pix as well.
The descent is 5 miles of very gradual terrain which means the snow was dense and going to be sticking around for many hiking miles. Pants was so nice to take over the postholing duties for a while which is exhausting! As always, the scenery was stunning as we passed by Helen Lake, Wanda Lake, Sapphire Lake. Wanda Lake is where we stayed in 2016 when Link and I did a backpacking loop in the Sierra that included Muir Pass.
We stopped to have lunch at about 2:00 by Evolution Lake which is where we stopped to have lunch last time we were here as well.
Walking along Evolution Creek and Valley was beautiful and we saw at least 2 deer in almost every meadow…it was obviously dinner time!
We had a big hurtle next: crossing Evolution Creek which is notorious on the PCT for being the hardest river crossing, depending on the snow year. We didn’t know what to expect, but were hoping that maybe there hadn’t been much snow melt today due to the low temps…we had our fingers crossed! Many times it’s better to cross big rivers in the mornings because they are lower than in the afternoons, but we really didn’t want to start our day tomorrow with wet feet and legs. We got there at 5, but wanted to wait and cross with Mantis/Pants since Mantis had been worried about this one. So at 5:45 we all started the crossing which ended up being only knee high and not too terribly strong. In some years, it can be up to hikers’ chests and they have to carry their packs over their heads, so we feel lucky! They even have an alternate route in case it’s too dangerous.
After we all high 5’d each other for a relatively easy crossing, we decided to move on just another 1.2 miles to a campsite that will set us up better for the next Pass tomorrow.
We made it to the campsite in the trees at about 6:15 with a stream nearby. Exciting news for tonight is that we both get our very own Backpackers Pantry meal for dinner. We got them from the hiker box at the Independence Inn…there are usually hiker boxes in each town along the PCT at places hikers stay. When hikers resupply, sometimes they don’t want all the food they get so they can leave the extra in the hiker box for a hiker who needs it in the future. Mine was a Pad Tai that tasted amazing and had 920 calories, oh happy day!!
What a difference in a day…it was snowing and freezing this morning, and by the afternoon it was blue skies and beautiful! It feels colder tonight even though we are camped at only 8,000 ft…last night we were over 11,000! Another day of amazing sights…thanks for following our journey with us! Double Down