Today was a truly epic day in the Sierras. Before lunch was dominated with the massive climb up to namesake Muir pass with its iconic hut. Last September I was here alone, snapping a quick selfie before hurrying down out of the freezing wind. Breeze is still strong today, but the sun is warm enough. Many hikers have stopped for lunch. I chat with JMT hikers, sharing updates on what is to come (hint: mosquitos).
Then a slow descent to my most favorite place on the John Muir Trail corridor, North Evolution Lake. More flowers are blooming in this rocky landscape, streaks of purple sprouting from cracks in rocks are so jarring I keep thinking they are lost bandanas. Heather turns lakesides pink, even way up at Wanda.
There’s so much water today. Too much water! Overflowing from lakes onto the path, the trail running with water, becoming creek. So many stepping stones to navigate. Word is spreading via JMT hikers of a seven mile (gasp!) waterless stretch up ahead. PCT hikers give each other knowing looks, looks that speak of the desert without needing any words.
Though my close friend group is going on, intent on getting in more miles, I decided in advance that I would spend the night at Evolution Lake, alone if necessary. I think I have just enough food to take a tiny bit more time and I cannot think of a better place to watch sunset for solstice than the outlet where the lake becomes a short creek before plummeting into a waterfall. A small crowd of PCT hikers has gathered here at my suggestion. We watch the sunset over Evolution Valley spread out below. Lush trees and layered hills, glowing in the late daylight. I watch half expecting a dragon or pterodactyl to fly into view. I think of my friends camped somewhere below in the valley, sad they are not here to share the view, hoping the mosquitos are tolerable.
As the sun slips away we turn to watch the alpenglow on the towering peaks, running up for a view of the lake. There’s just enough cloud for a streak of color to linger, reflecting in the darkening waters of the lake with its tiny islets and inlets.