Today was probably the worst hiking day I had on the trail. It was the first morning I didn’t have coffee, for I had made the decision going into MTR that I would only have coffee three more mornings because I felt it was slowing me down getting out of camp and that I could limit myself to only adding one 4 oz gas canister for the rest of the trip with the reduced number of boils. On top of that, I forgot to have breakfast (a ProBar Meal) while packing up camp!
Thus, the initial part of the hike through Evolution Valley was not fun. In addition, what was supposed to be a beautiful part of the trail wasn’t that spectacular to me, at least from the trail. I did take a break after a while at the beginning of McClure Meadow, which was pretty damn nice.
I am thinking that in order to get the most out of Evolution Valley, you need to get off the trail and explore. Eventually the valley ends, and there is a decent 1,000′ incline up to the hanging Evolution Basin. The climb was tough for me given the state I was in and the pack weight. Due to the combination, I was really beating myself up over the gear decisions I made, to the point of really bringing me down, mentally. It took me awhile, but I ended up at the base of beautiful Evolution Lake around Noon.
While stopping for a long lunch, Cassie and Wyatt arrived, having hiked up from below Evolution Valley. At this time, clouds started to get more prominent, and by the time I wrapped up lunch, it was completely overcast, which didn’t help my mood. Especially since Evolution Basin is a highlight of the trail, and I could tell already that I would normally be enjoying it.
Having talked to Wyatt about camp sites, we both were thinking Wanda Lake would be a great destination. Even though it was only going to be a 10-mile or so day, it was still a struggle for me on this day, and I didn’t arrive until 4pm, well after Cassie and Wyatt. Fortunately, they found a great spot and pointed out another great site just above them for me. I was beat and just wanted to rest, but with clouds that appeared to be the most threatening of the trip closing in, I forced myself to put up the tent, which I then proceeded to lay down in. Almost immediately Wyatt called out that it was hailing (I would classify it as sleet), and I got out to cover up my pack. That one minute of sleet was the only precipitation for the 18 days on the trail.
The Wanda Lake setting, while windy, was beautiful. I had never camped in an exposed area, this high (almost 11,500′) before. Fortunately, the clouds gave way to sun and the evening light was just amazing.
I went to bed that night concerned about my ability to finish the hike in the timeframe allotted given the struggles today. There is a huge day coming up in two days climbing up the Golden Staircase and Glen Pass. There is no way I could have done that today. I knew I would have a couple bad days on the trail out of 17, so I resolved that this was one of them given the coffee, breakfast and overcast issues. I also resolved that I would not beat myself up over the gear decisions and pack weight. There was nothing I could do about it, so nothing was going to change. It just means I will have a better workout!