Day 15: Sapphire Lake to Mather Pass Trailhead

Today we scaled the first of four passes in four days. They are:

  1. Muir Pass 11,955 ft

  2. Mather Pass 12,100 ft

  3. Pinchot Pass 12,130 ft

  4. Glen Pass 11,978 ft

Going over Muir Pass was like entering another universe. King’s Canyon is truly spectacular. Walking by the river at the base of the canyon I could not help but marvel at each peak lining the canyon. Sheer rock faces, thousands of feet high bare their chests broadly and proudly before capitulating in fierce points. All in a row it seems like each rock is trying to outdo its neighbors.

We made a fire tonight and plan to go to bed early, there’s a lot of climbing on the agenda for tomorrow.

Day 14: Zero Day at Sapphire Lake

We took a zero day at Sapphire Lake today in the shadow of Muir Pass. It was nice to rest the feet, back and legs. I even did laundry in the lake (although it only helped a little.)

Will and I pretty much killed the day by reading and listening to music. We went on a hike but turned around when the rain started to come. To get back to camp I slid down the rocks on my feet and butt. I was going pretty slow, but in my psychedelic state I felt so giddy. I can’t remember having so much fun.

As the day wore on we chilled more and finished a bottle of Virginia Gentleman that I picked up at MTR. The lake in the afternoon sun looked like an electric blue neon sign, living up to its name.

I passed out around 8 and woke up at 11 to look at the stars. I could even see the Milky Way. I went back to sleep around midnight with the tent door open and the big dipper gazing down at me.

Day 13: King's Canyon N.P. Junction to Sapphire Lake

Today was brutal. 15 miles and two major uphill climbs have left me begging for a rest day. Lucky for me we are going to hang out here for a day before heading over Muir Pass. The effort today will be worth it when I sleep in tomorrow.

Sapphire lake is beautiful. Located at 11,000 feet at the base of Muir Pass it is sunken between Mt. Warlow to the North and the Evolution Range to the South.

Mt. Warlow is a single solitary peak sitting above 13,000 feet. In the afternoon light its appearance likens it to a pile of sand on the beach. Perfectly conical and burnt orange, the snow at it’s base could be foam from the ocean.

The Evolution range to the south, while not as tall as Warlow, are the waves to Warlow’s sand. Sitting beneath the range of mountains, all connected by a single ridge line, I feel as though I am shoulder deep in the ocean, looking up at a wave as it crests before ducking to safety under the water. But these waves never break.

It is a testament to the power, beauty, and tranquility of mother nature to form these solid rock faces more than 2000 feet above you, and to poise them on the verge of collapse, and to then leave them hanging in their fragile state.

Day 12: Marie Lake to King's Canyon N.P. Junction

We took some extra time this morning to let our things dry. Then we hiked over Selden Pass to the Muir Trail Ranch.

Muir Trail Ranch is nothing more than a conglomeration of huts. Fed by spring water they will pack in your resupply package by horse for $75. There’s a little power outlet for charging electronics, internet for a fee of $10, and “no public restrooms.” Will was disappointed to find that last one out.

The best part of MTR was the food buckets. People who send their resupply buckets to MTR tend to overpack their buckets with food. They then put the excess food in the communal buckets at MTR. So each hike that comes to MTR goes through the process of scavenging through other people’s discarded food. It’s a lot of oatmeal, but a few hidden treasures.

We camped at the footbridge that denotes King’s Canyon National Park.

We’ve now gone more than halfway on our journey and have through hiked:

  • Yosemite NP

  • Ansel Adams National Wilderness

  • John Muir National Wilderness

  • Devil’s Postpile National Monument

Still to come:

  • King’s Canyon National Park

  • Sequoia National Park

Day 11: Mono Creek to Marie Lake

Less than a mile from our destination at the base of Selden Pass we were hit with our first storm. Sensing the impending doom we began sprinting, pack on, to the lake, but we came up short. To pass the storm we tied our ground cloth (tarp) to some trees and huddled underneath with our things.

For two hours the storm unleashed its fury. The mountains reverberated with thunder, crackled with hail, and exploded with lightning. Wet and cold beneath the tarp we were powerless to the forces acting upon us.

Finally the skies cleared and we made it up to Marie Lake, which is stunning. Situated at the base of Selden Pass the lake reflects the surrounding mountains like a polished mirror.

After the day we had we decided to hit it early, considering the legion of mosquitos, it’s a good thing.

We’ve now gone 100 miles. Tomorrow we will be halfway done. Where does the time go?

Day 10: Squaw Lake to Mono Creek

As we near the halfway point at Muir Trail Ranch the days are becoming more and more routine. We normally wake up around 7am and start doing the morning ordeal of filtering water, making breakfast, and taking down the tent. We usually hit the trail by 9 or 10 at the latest.

We’ll hike until around 1 or 2 at which point we go a little ways off the trail for our hour long “siesta.”

Normally we will make it into camp at 4 or 5 in the afternoon at which point we explode our packs all over the place. Afternoon activities include filtering water, reading, and killing insects. Dinner is at 6 and bedtime is at 9 unless we have a sunset (like last night) or a fire (like tonight).

When you’re out hiking this strange transformation takes place. You transform from a sophisticated, cultured human to a man. Gone are all the unnecessary troubles of the world, replaced by the bare essentials. Food, water, and shelter, these are your goals. You are beaten down by the mountains until the only thing left is your most basic form of self.

We are all creatures on this lonely planet, trying to find our way.

Day 9: Duck Pass to Squaw Lake

I am currently sitting on top of a 100 foot cliff watching the sun go down over the ridge before me. In the distance are 2 distinct ridge lines off far away mountains engulfed in an orange haze.

We took today easy after yesterday’s ferocious pace. We still have 26 miles until our next resupply at Muir Trail Ranch. I figure we should be there in about 3 days, easy.

I can hear the water rush through the canyon below, the birds calling out, the wind in the trees. It’s so calm and peaceful out here, so easy to get lost in one’s thoughts!

It’s as if I am living in a dream and tomorrow I will have to wake up and find a new job, and have a family, and send the kids to college. The time moves so fast in the outside world. But right now, right here on this ledge, the only thing moving is the sun as it slowly makes its way across the horizon. And for now, I’m in heaven.

Day 8: Reds Meadow to Duck Pass

We hiked 10 miles today to Duck Pass. After the rest day we were feeling pretty good and made great time - 4.5 hours.

I finished reading Into Thin Air about climbing Mount Everest today. It’s pretty crazy. Just one small mistake and everything can go wrong. Lucky for us, Mount Whitney, which we are climbing, is well traveled, so it should be relatively easy to get up. The hardest part is pooping in these bags they gave us. My aim isn’t particularly good.

Back to Everest - I don’t think I would ever attempt the summit, but it would be cool to go to base camp and see the mountain. That would be enough for me, just to see the summit and know that someone has been there. It’s the same fascination I feel when looking at the moon and, one day, maybe mars.

We finished off the day with a 375 mL bottle of Jim Beam that I sent with the resupply to Reds. We shared it with some folks and played cards as the sun set on the horizon. All in all, another good day.