The early wake up was great, being on the trail by 7:30am after a cold night. No evidence of frost where I camped, but there was frost in the meadows at the beginning of the hike and I heard about a water filter that froze from a couple hikers that camped in these areas. I slept with my filter in my sleeping bag the rest of the trip.
It is almost all downhill to Muir Trail Ranch, so I hiked it at a very good pace. It wasn’t scenic, but I ran into a lot of other hikers, some JMT, some short trips and even a couple that had their gear packed in by horse. I made the five miles in only a couple hours, arriving at MTR before 9:30am.
I was prepared for MTR to not be that special based on reports on the trail. The word is that VVR caters to hikers, where MTR caters to their other guests. I received my bucket, purchased some supplies (Gold Bond – I started to develop some chaffing; hand cream – my hands were a wreck; and, a 4 oz. canister of iso), and started to go to work on the bucket. I ended up throwing away/donating a lot of gear and food based on my experience so far (especially since I was not eating as much as I thought), really trying to reduce my pack size as much as possible.
Since I got there early, it wasn’t crowded. By 10:30am, there were a lot more hikers. One lesson is to check the donation buckets prior to purchasing anything. I could have gotten the Gold Bond and Hand Cream for free (and partial gas canisters, if I have the room). I was surprised I was able to fit the seven nights/eight days worth of food in the canister fairly easily. Packing went quicker than expected, and I was back on the trail by 11am. The pack was heavy, but fortunately not any heavier than when I left Tuolumne.
The first part of the hike up to Evolution Valley was lonely and dry. I passed into Kings Canyon National Park, which got more interesting as we hiked along the South Fork San Joaquin River. After awhile, you switch over to hiking along the Evolution Creek up to the hanging Evolution Valley. This 1000′ climb in the afternoon wasn’t that much fun with the new pack weight!
I was originally planning on hiking below the incline, but I was making good time and I learned that the only ford on the entire hike that required you to take off your boots was at the beginning of the valley. I figured it would be much better to do that ford at the end of a day instead in the morning. The plan worked out well as I was able to hike from the ford to an awesome campsite along the creek only a few hundred feet down the trail.
I was hoping to find a place that I could take a dip in the water, but that wasn’t going to be possible here. I ended up washing myself off and rinsing out a lot of my clothes, which felt great. After setting up camp, an older Scottish couple hiking Northbound arrived to share the camp site with me and it was great to talk to them about what I was going to be experiencing. They also were using these really cool hiking poles that I am seriously considering getting (http://www.pacerpole.com).
I did have a snafu as I figured I would attempt to hang my toiletries since they didn’t fit in my bear canister. However, my lame attempt ended up getting them stuck up in the limb. When getting them down by whacking the bag with my pole, I ended up crushing all the unprotected Advil liquid gels, thus resulting in no ibuprofen for me! I didn’t have any aches and pains that required it, however I was taking three in the morning and after hiking out of habit, perhaps that was helping me.