September 13, 2019
Piute Creek Junction to Evolution Lake
Day Miles: 11.6 mi
Cumulative Miles: 103.3 mi
I wake up and my sleeping pad is flat. Duct tape slowed the leak, but not enough to be functional. I re-patched with Tenacious Tape, which worked slightly better, but I still had a slow leak. I woke up a couple times in the night to reinflate my sleeping pad, and luckily I wasn’t terribly uncomfortable because temperatures did not drop to freezing overnight.
The day was devoted to worrying about my sleeping pad. I have 5 more nights to endure on trail before a bed and the possibility of replacing gear in Independence. I announce that my sleeping pad is leaking to my campsite mates, but no one has anything better than the Tenacious Tape I have already tried, so I get nothing but sympathetic looks. I pack up and start hiking to find a place to poop. (A considerable challenge as so many people were camped at Piute Creek Junction last night.)
I take some time to find the Muir Trail 1917 rock and take a selfie with it. Down by Muir Trail rock, there is a little eddy of shallow calm water in the otherwise turbulent South Fork of the San Joaquin River and I dunk my sleeping pad in this eddy to check for leaks. I learn that I had managed to find all the holes last night: there is one area of the pad with two tiny holes on the front and one in the back. I must have folded a tiny piece of sharp granite into my pad when I rolled it up in the morning at Rosemarie Meadow and then the rock ground into my sleeping pad all day at the bottom of my pack. When I submerge the pad in water, bubbles form around the patches of Tenacious Tape I have stuck over the holes. So it appears that while the adhesive does not form an airtight seal, the tape itself is impermeable.
Back on the trail, I happen upon a group of three packing up their camp site. “Hello! Does anyone have a sleeping pad patch kit?” I announce to total strangers. And one of them does! I explain my predicament and a guy named Ken gives me a tiny tube of Seam Grip. He says he is headed to Muir Pass today and hopefully I can give it back too him, but if not, not to worry about it. The trail provides!
After this, I stop twice to sun my sleeping pad, damp from being dunked in the river. I apply Seam Grip and new patches over my lunch break, hoping the sealant has enough time to set in the sun.
On top of the sleeping pad anxiety, it is a tough hiking day: uphill the whole day; following the South Fork of the San Joaquin River upstream to Goddard Canyon, climbing up the steep east canyon wall along Evolution Creek, and then climbing out of Evolution Valley up to a hanging glacial valley, Evolution Basin — 2,810 feet of elevation gain.
This shit is tough! I feel like I have an above average fitness level in normal American civilian life, but I am definitely a slow hiker by JMT standards. I am being passed by people in their 60’s with heart issues and hip replacements. I guess in that aspect, hiking the JMT is like hiking in Japan… The other thing that is happening is that my hands are in the worst shape ever from the sun and dryness. Even over all the seasonal jobs that have caused me to lose my fingerprints (handwashing glasses in hot water at a bar, glacier guiding in wet work gloves all day). I intended to bring a small tub of Vaseline but left it in Lone Pine and the small tube of Gold Bond I picked up at VVR isn’t cutting it. My right wrist is still kinda puffy from the bee sting I got at VVR. I stopped wearing my watch on my wrist to minimize irritation. Dunking my wrist in cold water helps. Also, I managed to lose my potty trowel. I think I left it stuck upright next to where I pooped at Rosemarie Meadow.