Day 64 (30/05/2018): North of Sawmill Pass to Palisade Lakes Tentsite at Mile 819.4 (15.7 Miles)
Well, today took the coveted “hardest day on trail” title. I just keep one upping myself. Trekking over both Pinchot and Mather Passes, postholing for hours on end, and bleeding down my legs from the crust of ice cutting me. 13 hour day. Super intense. My knees and shins are wrecked from breaking through the snow, sometimes up to my waist. Darwin broke his other trekking pole, so now he’s fresh out of fully functioning poles. But luckily for him I have two good poles that I don’t use to set up my tent, so he can set his up without searching for sticks in this vast white wasteland that is early spring in the Sierra. I really don’t know what else to say about today other than it was incredibly, excruciatingly, painfully difficult and full of curse words.
Day 65 (31/05/2018): Palisade Lakes Tentsite to Muir Pass Approach Tentsite at Mile 835 (15.6 Miles)
It got damn cold last night. Woke up to the laces on my shoes frozen solid, so I spent about five minutes hitting my shoes to loosen up before I could squeeze them on. Luckily the snow was hard and postholing was at a minimum this morning. Once down in the valley the snow all but cleared up and the hiking was phenomenal. The sun was out all day, wind was minimal, and clouds were scarce. Above 10,000 feet the snow is still blanketing the valley walls and passes. Darwin wanted to go up near Helen Lake to get closer to the pass for the morning. I thought it would be covered in snow. It was covered in snow. So we hiked back down 1/2 mile to the original tentsite. All in all, a good day and we are set up quite well to do a pass a day from this point out. We get to go through a stream crossing ﬁrst thing tomorrow morning then straight into the snow. Joy! Going to sleep tonight with the Black Giant looming overhead is truly a sight to behold. Venus in the west, and Jupiter in the east. The stars are so clear and bright tonight!
Day 66 (01/06/2018): Muir Pass Approach to Muir Trail Ranch Junction at Mile 859.5 (24.5 Miles)
Early start around 5:30am heading up the very long approach to Muir Pass. Wasn’t too cold, even with soaking wet feet to start off. I Didn’t even posthole until the very bottom of the pass. It even got a little hot throughout the afternoon. Just before the Ranger station I saw a Black Bear in a meadow, ﬁrst one of the trip! The infamous Evolution Creek crossing was knee deep and a non issue thankfully. Walking through the random Aspen (Birch?) groves was really cool. Overall it was a fantastic day! I’m beat, especially my legs and feet. On top of everything, my right ankle is pretty weak from rolling it two days ago after postholing through the snow and landing on a rock. The campsite tonight is splendid (thanks to Darwin for finding it off the beaten path). Very happy to be done at 5pm today.
Day 67 (02/06/2018): Muir Trail Ranch Junction to Silver Pass Approach Tentsite at Mile 881.1 (21.6 Miles)
Woke up at 4:45am again today in order to hike the ~6 miles to Seldon Pass and get over it before the snow softened up. Really pretty pass and the approach takes you by some gorgeous lakes ﬁlled with trout. At the top of the pass Darwin saw a Pika. I missed it unfortunately, but apparently they are small alpine mice with big round ears. On the way down Seldon Pass I was slip sliding all over, looking like Walt Jr. with my trekking poles, and culminating in an epic slip and fall which luckily didn’t badly injure me. Full on banana peel slip. Slight tweak of the knee, but I can still hike mostly pain-free. The snow wasn’t too bad, only postholed a couple times. Lots of stream crossings today. Keeping my feet dry is an impossibility. Beautiful weather, once again it got a little hot in the afternoon on the way up to camp by the beautiful Mono Creek.
Day 68 (03/06/2018): Silver Pass Tentsite to Mammoth Pass Trail at Mile 903.3 (22.2 Miles) (3.5 Miles OT)
The day started with an icy (and sketchy) stream crossing at the North Fork of Mono Creek. Continuing uphill we made the pass with relative ease then looked right and realized we’d have to keep going up before descending the icy slope and postholing our way down (very slowly) towards Lake Virginia. Once at the still frozen lake we crossed the freezing waters in two sections and came across inﬂatable rafts that were left from the previous summer. Leave no trace guys! The rest of the day went quite well with random snowy sections through the trees. The free shuttle into Mammoth from the Horseshoe Lake/ McCloud Trailhead was great. Beautiful side trail and a welcome sight to say the least. Snuggles booked a room at Motel 6 for us which was very convenient! Much relaxing and beer will be had.
Day 69 (04/06/2018): Mammoth to North Fork of the San Joaquin River at Mile 907.3 (4.1 Miles) (3.5 Miles OT)
Lazy morning chilling at Motel 6. Fun night last night drinking beers and hanging out with Darwin and Vicious (who was staying in Mammoth the last week). Over the course of last night Darwin and I convinced Vicious to hop back on trail and continue on with us. This morning Snuggles took our laundry and did a big load for all of us. She is so freaking amazing! We resupplied at Vons (with the requisite Jalapeno Cheddar Bread) then we hiked back out the McCloud trail back to the PCT. Easy trail, nothing like Sawmill… thank God! Good easy day, beautiful trail and weather. Falling asleep tonight to the sound of the San Joaquin River (sounds like voices) and looking at a perfectly clear sky full of stars.
Day 70 (05/06/2018): San Joaquin River to Rush Creek at Mile 926.9 (19.6 Miles)
Started the day off with a little side trip to Devil’s Postpile which was extremely cool. Consisting of Basalt Rock monoliths, we were the only people enjoying it that morning. After that we got to Minaret Falls where I made it across the log bridges without getting my feet wet! Darwin fell in, and Vicious didn’t even attempt the log crossing. Scenic views of the mountains from the ridgeline before stopping to eat lunch. My feet were aching really bad at the back of my heels. After resting for a bit I felt much better and met back up with the guys a little ways ahead. Hiking through the afternoon went really well, mellow walking with relatively little snow until getting to Island Pass. Even at the pass it was very reasonable snow patches for the most part. Coming up to the campsite we started running into quite a few other hikers, once of which “Dave” ended up getting lost from within a quarter mile of where we stopped. Watching his thru hiker friend “Ranger” look for him was entertaining because not only could we see him, we could also hear him. Somehow Dave still couldn’t ﬁnd the trail again and ended up on a cliff above the snowﬁeld. He ended up being just ﬁne.
Darwin trekking towards Pinchot PassAt least there are tracks this timeSparse, but beautifulAlmost to the top of PinchotLooking down the valley from Pinchot PassMather Pass you F*****! (blood not shown)Serene alpine lakes everywhereSurprise group of deer who clearly couldn’t be bothered by usStraight out of a postcardThe granite goes on foreverCamp for the night under the watchful eye of the Black GiantDarwin gazing towards Muir Pass and a full moonThe early mornings up here are otherworldlyMuir ShelterFirst Black Bear of the trip!I believe this is looking down Seldon Pass (or Silver?) Either way, it was icy!So many perfect rest spots out here it’s hard to pick just oneMost of the valleys boasted snow all the way to the valley floorThe Basalt columns of Devil’s PostpileThe variation of rock is spectacular out hereLooking up towards Thousand Island LakeLooks like most of the islands are still frozen!