JMT 2019 Day 11: Swimming with Tadpoles

September 14, 2019

Evolution Lake to Little Pete Meadow
Day miles: 13 mi
Cumulative miles: 116.3 mi

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Moon-set over Evolution Valley

I fall asleep watching the full Harvest Moon rise over Evolution Lake. I wake up to Orion hanging right outside my still half-open tent vestibule. No bugs, no wind, warm night. My sleeping pad stayed full, though I give it a few extra breaths at 5 am before deciding to get up early anyway and watch the moon set. I eat a Clif bar without trouble, make my coffees, and am on the trail hiking at 6:40 am.

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Leaving camp at dawn

Evolution Basin is gorgeous and shaded from the morning sun and the combination of great scenery and cool morning makes for a brisk pace.

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Trail skirting Evolution Lake

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Evolution Lake

After about an hour of hiking to warm up, I take a 20 minute yoga break at Sapphire Lake to enjoy the sunrise. Ken and Danny pass me as I am rolling up my yoga mat and I leap frog with them all day.

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Sapphire Lake

I stop on the banks of Wanda Lake, inflate my sleeping pad and submerge it in the clear waters. No bubbles confirms no leaks!

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The shore of Wanda Lake looked like a rainbow

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Ken and Danny passing me, as I stop to check my sleeping pad for leaks at Wanda Lake

It’s a steady, mellow incline up to Muir Pass alongside sapphire lakes, reflecting the intense blue of the cloudless sky, among stark white granite. I catch up to Ken and Danny on the top of Muir Pass. We take photos of each other and have lunch by the famous stone shelter. They make fun of me when I pull out my thermos of hot coffee. I think they are jealous.

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Crazy beautiful sky mirrors

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Muir Hut

One the other side of Muir Pass, the trail follows snow melt streams down another string of beautiful alpine lakes. It is sunny and hot so I decide to strip down to my underwear and jump in alongside the giant endemic tadpoles. (No fish up here!) I think I manage to stay in for 2 or 3 minutes. It was pretty cold! It was the perfect day for a swim; by the time I got down to Big Pete Meadow, my underwear was dry.

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Lake

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Rocky descent

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Lake

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Mountain Yellow-legged Frog tadpole!

Following the string of beautiful lakes, the trail follows the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Kings River as they become an impressive series of cascades and then mellow into a river meandering gently through lush meadows at the bottom of a glacially scoured granite canyon — Le Conte Canyon. Apparently, this is what Yosemite Valley used to be like before “they paved paradise, put up a parking lot” and all that jazz.

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Hello! Le Conte Canyon!

The day was so gorgeous, the scenery so magical, I felt so physically strong. My sleeping pad was fixed. My pack was carrying well since it had lightened up. The climb up Muir Pass was steady and not too steep, and the rocky descent was broken up into interesting and varied sections. There were so many small beautiful things on the trail: the sound of water tinkling over smooth rock, the sun glinting off glacier polished granite, the intense colbalt blue of the lakes, wildflowers. I am so so stoked, just elated to be out here in paradise.

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Feeling goofy with the Le Conte rock monster, another JMT “Easter egg”

I pass Ken and Danny setting up camp in a shady grove of trees at Little Pete Meadow, but determine that campsite is too buggy for me. (I am very mosquito susceptible.) I hike a little further and set up on a little shelf behind a tree on the other side of the trail where it is a bit higher up and drier and, I hope, less buggy.

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My home for the night

But I’ve had such a great day I want to talk about it, so I take my dinner re-hydrating in its foil pouch down to Ken and Danny’s campsite, where I hide from mosquitoes in the smoke of the campfire they have built. We review our upcoming itineraries. At Ken’s advice I decide I will alter mine to go over Mather Pass and Pinchot Pass in a single day, since those are the passes with the least elevation gain/loss between them. Then a family of deer come to investigate. Did you know that baby deer meow? We’re sitting around the campfire and not 10 feet away the deer circle and sniff at Ken and Danny’s tents. Then they take off, not running away startled, but romping, hopping like bunnies on all four feet across the meadow. The sight is comical. I say, “I read on Guthooks that a deer at one of the campsites in this area will steal your trekking poles. Maybe it is this one.” I glance at the guys’ trekking poles just stuck upright in the ground in the campsite next to their respective tents. The guys laugh, but don’t move their trekking poles and we keep talking.

Two days later, I’ll see them on the climb up Mather Pass and they’ll say, “You were right!” They woke up and their trekking poles were gone! They found them in the meadow covered with deer spit and had to rinse them off in the river. As proof, Ken will show me how the deer chewed the brand logos off the wrist straps of his poles.

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