From just past grouse meadow to evolution lake
We’re all hurting this morning, but Teal is in bad shape. “I just don’t think I should be in this much pain after taking four ibuprofen.”
“Probably not, Teal.”
Teal decides to bail and get to a doctor. The quickest way out is over Bishop Pass, so he’ll take that. Bluesman is leaving us today too – he’s got to get off trail for some stuff at home, and if he doesn’t put on the rocket boosters his schedule won’t work. We misplaced our rocket boosters somewhere back in Arizona, so we’ll let him race ahead without us.
“I can’t believe we’re breaking the fellowship,” mourns Bluesman.
“I know. Good times have to end eventually, I guess.” Thinking about hiking with just J and my own self for company feels a little bit lonely, and a little bit free. Our own fate is just on us now.
In the bright, late morning light, the canyon we slept in reveals itself as a twinned citadel of bright white stone, guarding its emerald meadows. This is King’s Canyon.
We see Teal off at the side trail for Bishop’s Pass; he leaves us with a bag of skittles to remember him by. Bluesman has dusted us already. I think about our friend Bob, hiking with the three Canadians. “I think the Canadians are ready for twenty-fives,” he’d told me. “J,” I say, “I think Bluesman was our Bob.”
“Yeah,” he laughs. “And we were his Canadians!” We’ll have to see if we’ll be able to make miles still without our coach to drag us along.
King’s Canyon is spectacular, and gets prettier the higher we go. We stop when there is a man sitting right in the middle of the trail. J wants some snacks, so we end up embroiled in a conversation with the most annoying man I’ve ever met. After telling us that we are slow, behind, and running late, he gives us a barrel of unsolicited advice on how to do the rest of our hike. I take great pleasure in blasting past him on the switchbacks (although I end up panting for a long time after).
Heading to Muir Pass is the most beautiful stretch of trail I’ve ever been on. Cascades of water tumbling over stone fields, trails lined with flowers, sharp-edged peaks. Everything has such sharp lines here, such bright colors – blue, white, green, pink – you could cooler it in with a twelve set of crayolas.
We stop at Lake Helen, the bluest thing I’ve ever seen. A group of weekenders are admiring the view, and we chat a bit. “Why are you doing this hike?” asks one. J stops, thinks, then says slowly: “I don’t know. It’s a decision I made once, and I’ve just never reevaluated!”
“Oh no,” I think. “He’s going to reevaluate, then I’ll have to hike the rest of the way all by myself!”
He doesn’t though, and we hike to the pass together. We see Muir Hut, and the familiar sight of Bluesman’s back. “Bluesman!” we scream after him, and we reunite one more time before watching him disappear of the horizon.
We hang out in the Muir Hut while we decide our next move. J would like to do a section of the High Sierra Route, an alternate to the PCT pioneered by a climber. It sounds cool, if I wasn’t exhausted. The Sierras are amazing, but they’re wringing me dry. That, and the black clouds building behind us, and friends we’re supposed to meet in Tuolumne… We decide to stay on the main PCT and take a short day at Evolution Lake instead.
There’s a rock outcrop with a secret, sandy spot hidden behind it, and we set up our tarp. J fishes, I get swarmed by mosquitoes, and watch the water turn gold and lavender. We eat fish for dinner. No passes tomorrow.
Can you find the trail in the photo?