Day 54 mile 852.2 – 873.1

Elevation: ascent 3,628 ft, descent 2,983 ft

Wow was it cold this morning. We were getting out of the tent around 6:30 and it was hard to get moving since everything felt frozen. There were a couple of reason for this; cold front had moved in, no cloud cover and we camped at the bottom of a valley next to raging creeks with snow melt. Perfect scenario for a brutally cold start to the day. Since the sun was no where close to peaking over the ridge we left camp with down jackets, beenies and gloves on. Boy were we glad we crossed Evolution Creek last night!!

We left before Mantis and Pants but figured we would catch up later as we had the same destination in mind. As Double Down and I followed the South Fork of the San Joaquin River down the valley we just couldn’t get warm. It’s hard hiking when you can’t feel your feet and gripping the hiking poles is hard because our fingers are numb. This is June in California right?

We followed the river down to where it met the Piute Creek where we had planned to stop for our breakfast shakes. It was now 9:15 and we had been hiking for about an hour and a half. I figured it was time to strip off the gloves, beenie and down jacket at this point. After filtering water we got ready to continue hiking and is also when I realized it was still too damn cold to leave without a jacket on. So the down jacket came back out and was on in jiffy. I really can’t remember the last time I was hiking in such warm gear for this long. Maybe it’s that I am getting older or the fact that I am losing all of my insulation as we hike miles everyday. Something I am just not use to that’s for sure.

Piute Creek

The rest of the morning we ran across so many beautiful meadows. Around 11:00 we arrived at the junction for Muir Trail Ranch and Seldon Pass. In the past there are PCT and JMT (John Muir Trail) hikers who use this as a resupply point, however this year they are closed. There are also hot springs in this area which sounded great until we thought about how it would feel to get out 🥶. So it was off to Seldon Pass. It was going to be an 8 mile ascent with a gain of 3,200 feet. Gotta love these passes in the Sierra!! 🤣. The climb actually wasn’t bad as the grade was consistent and the trail was mostly smooth allowing us to keep a good stride as we climbed. On the way up we again were treated with great views of the valley we just left and the surrounding peaks still covered in snow.

At 1:15 we reached Sallie Keyes Lakes. The deep blue and crystal clear water of these high alpine lakes never gets old. Now we had to find a spot that would provide some protection so we could have lunch. Success!! We really enjoyed sitting at the lake and just relaxing taking in the beauty around us while also being entertained by all of the fish feeding and chasing each other around right in front of us.

At 2:00 it was time to head towards the pass which lied only 1.6 miles away. On the way up we past Heart Lake which became very obvious how it got its name. We arrived at the Pass at 3:00. It was definitely windy and cold but we couldn’t rush off before taking pictures of Marie Lake and the Valley we just came from.

Heart Lake

Our plan was to stop at Marie Lake ,which we got to in about 30 minutes, and enjoy the lake by camping there. The problem was we couldn’t find a protected tent site and after checking the weather, we saw they were predicting temps as low as 19 degrees. Didn’t t take long to come to the conclusion that we should move on and head to a lower elevation (hoping for warmer temps). We found a tent site 6.9 miles away that fit the bill. So much for short day!

Seldon Pass
Looking down on Heart Lake
Marie Lake
Marie Lake looking up at Seldon Pass

About half way to the tent site we came up to Bear Creek. Turns out this is a fairly big stream crossing and we hadn’t seen the warning about it. There was no way of crossing without getting wet. Not exactly what you what at 5:00 with a bone chilling wind blowing. Not having much of a choice, in we went. The current wasn’t bad so the crossing was easy, except for getting wet to our mid calves. Before we arrived at the tent site we got to get wet 2 more times 😬. One of the other crossings was on logs that were precariously perched between the two banks and even had icicles hanging from them.

We got to camp at 6:30 and quickly set up camp as the wind was still blowing and were we needing to get into warm dry clothes. Right after getting camp set up Mantis and Pants came by. They too had plans to stay at Marie Lake but made the same decision we did with the cold temps. They were going to move on a bit as they are trying to get to an early morning ferry to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) for rest. Tonight looks to be a cold one.

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