Friday, June 15, 2012

15 June - Day 55 - Diving into Muir Pass

From Middle Fork Kings River (Mile 831.7) [8,880 ft] to Muir Pass (Mile 838.6) [11,976 ft] to Evolution Creek to campsite at South Fork San Joaquin River (Mile 852.4) [8,493 ft]

Total PCT Miles today: 20.7

Pan (Charles) here. Broke camp to hike out of our copse by the meadow after our customary mocha lattes in "bed" - we all (now nine of us) said good bye to our camp deersies, put all our hands into the circle atop one another and "broke" for the game.

Most everyone in our growing group was up & going up LeConte Canyon along the roaring Middle Fork. Wow! What waterfalls & cascades. Up & up into the tundra toward Muir Pass. (we passed the California halfway point today)!

At broad and alpine 11,600 ft Helen Lake - with a snowy range behind, cerulean waters, and ice floes, Dionysus (Chris) despite his ongoing pain from pulled muscles took off his pack & jumped into the water. Some of our group (& other thru hikers also on the pass) whipped out cameras to take photos of him. He laughed that the water was just too clear & beautiful to pass up. I arrived and agreed, so did as we three Caballeros have always done in alpine waters: took off my clothes and dove in. Twice.

Pan thinking about the plunge into Helen Lake. (Notice that half the lake is still covered in ice?) [Photo courtesy of Rubylocks]

Pan taking the plunge. [Photo courtesy of Rubylocks]

Seano wondering if this is really necessary. [Photo courtesy of Rubylocks]

Seano before the plunge.

Then Seano did (twice), then Dirty Brown (twice). Then Anteater. Couldn't get the women-folk (Rubylocks, Stride, or Nancy) or Calf to do it. Breeze was cold, but sun very warm. 

After visiting the Muir Hut (w/ beehive dome) up at the pass itself, we started down the beautiful lake-dotted alpine landscape on the north side.

Muir Hut atop the pass.
Atop Muir Pass. From the left: Rubylocks, Anteater, Dirty Brown, Dionysus, Pan, Calf, Seano, and Stride. [Photo courtesy of Rubylocks]

At alpine Lake McDermand, Ruby picked a diving rock. Here we stopped for lunch & pretty soon many of us were diving into the waters again - including Calf, Rubylocks, Stride, and Dirty Brown (everyone naked, except Stride who nonetheless gamely jumped in with Ruby). DB dove in w/ his sunglasses still on, and they went to the bottom of the lake. I retrieved them for him in a long deep dive.

Dionysus [Christo]: first dive into Lake McDermand.
Dionysus's second dive into the lake. We always do at least two, since after the first one we know what we're getting into.

Elated, jazzed, and refreshed we continued our hike - the long troop of us - down the valley as thunderclouds formed to one side and another.

The PCT heading down the valley. [Photo courtesy of Rubylocks]

Pan, Calf, Stride, and unknown hiker heading down from the pass. [Photo courtesy of Rubylocks]

Thunder grumbled and we saw the long gray curtains of distant rain raking across other valleys and mountainsides - but we stayed dry.

Really gorgeous descent into valley after valley.

At Evolution Creek we had to do our first ford - wading across the knee-deep/thigh-deep water, then setting up camp about 1.7 miles or so beyond. 

I got a fire going for our many soggy-shod thru-hikers, and we all sat together cooking our various suppers, laughing & chatting about the day. 

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