Day 65: (19 miles)
mile 833.5 – 852.5
The alarm goes off at 0430 this morning (second day in a row) as we are still trying to make up miles from two days ago, and get over Muir Pass while it’s still frozen. Only five miles to the top of the pass and the Muir rock hut. The trail was a gradual climb at first, and Paul thought out loud “this is too easy… wait for it…wait for it.” We turn a corner and there is that dreaded snow. We don the micro spikes and the climb begins.
Now, snow does have an advantage, you often get to make your own path. A straight line without switchbacks can cut your mileage significantly. Flashing back to Pinchot Pass we stop and break out the map and GPS. We aren’t stupid…all of the time. We located the trail along one wall of the valley leading to the pass, checked the GPS and everything checks out. Three more miles and about 2000 feet to climb over an icy snow valley. We can’t see the pass because there are many false summits, and a right hand turn to the top. We hike on and pass two small frozen lakes. The scenery is breathtaking! Way out in the distance we see two hikers appearing to toe kick straight up a steep incline. “Oh shoot!” (or something close to that) Paul mutters. It looks tough, but we agree we can do it. Is there really another choice? The sun has been up for awhile now and the snow surface has begun to thaw. This is not a big deal, yet, but our boots are no longer “dry” and feel as though they are starting to take on water. When we arrive at the large incline, it’s steep. We decide to make short goals and challenge ourselves to make it to certain locations rather than do the whole climb non-stop, and die. No fun in that. After some time Paul reaches the the last false summit and can see the rock hut. He’s excited and calls to me his discovery. Needless to say, I’m pooped! He motivates me to climb on and waits for me so we can walk to the hut together.
What an amazing structure. Old, yet historically interesting and intriguing in the sense that the foresight and effort it took to errect this rock fortress almost defies logic. We walked around the outside and stop when we see the door. Too bad its locked, we think. It would be cool to see the inside and explore. Paul checks the door and to our surprise it’s unlocked.
A small latch locks the door. What were we thinking? It’s not LA! In we go… instant ooooh factor. It’s a round rock building with bench seating lining the interior and a large fire place.
A set of antlers rest in front of the fire place on the floor.
We took a seat and sat silent as we both looked around and absorbed the ambience. After a few minutes Paul started looking around and told me that people like to hide notes or coins and even little trinkets in places like this, it proves they were here. He looks in the rock cervices and cracks as if he’s looking for his car keys. Convinced they are here some where. When eureka! A note behind the mantel. It reads about two men who were stuck in the hut for three days during the recent snow storm and had been waiting for two other hikers to arrive. Apparently they didn’t arrive so the men moved on. Cool! Time for us to get moving also. The snow is getting softer. We locked the door behind us and set a course for the valley below, not before checking our maps and GPS to ensure we’re heading for the right valley.
We use the snow to our advantage this time and make a bee line to Evolution Lake.
At one point we realize we are walking on the frozen lake which scares me to death, but not Paul. He chuckles before adjusting the course toward shore. Its about three miles before reaching “dry land” as we drop below 10,300 ft. and eventually the snow level. Stopping for lunch now is the option. We’ve beaten the sun and the post holing. As we relaxed with our boots off, another hiker joins us , Brainstorm. He’s from Chicago, an artist who worked in NY and hated his job. Nice guy who had similar trouble at Pinchot Pass. Guess not everyone goes up the right pass every time.
After lunch we get a move on. Evolution Creek crossing is our destination for the night. It’s known for its ferocious current and the guide book suggest crossing in the early morning when water levels are lowest. Why should we follow the guide book now when we haven’t followed its advice for nearly 800 miles. We are making good time when we meet five south bound hikers heading to Evolution Lake to camp. They are about our age and are mostly from the East Coast area. We say hello, make small talk, and when they hear our destination (Canada) they become interested in our hike. We explain the objective, when we started and how far we have traveled. They’re impressed! They ask questions about our trail names and laugh at each other when we ask for theirs. The best comes when they ask if we need any food. “Well…..” we answer, “as a matter of fact we do”. We are short a day of food due to our 8mile day and while we won’t starve, we know we will be short and are smart enough to admit when we might be able to garner some help. Without any hesitation they drop their packs and dig for their extra food (weight). Yum chocolate bars, protein bars, oatmeal and trail mix. We shower them with many thanks as we munch on trail mix. Brainstorm arrived in time so we could get a group photo.
We dubbed them the Fabulous Five and said good bye. I have to say the chocolate was awesome! We pounded out the 8 miles to Evolution Creek and decided to cross in the meadow where the creek was wide and the water moved slower. It was cold and safe but not without blood sucking mosquitoes. We later camped down stream close to the “dangerous” crossing area and agreed we made the right choice. After the week we’ve had doing crossings we didn’t need any more drama!
Such an amazing journey you two are on, a the test of so many things.