As bad as yesterday was, today was equally awesome! A new “best day hiking ever” record was established, and I felt great all day. After a cold and windy night (I still slept well), I got an early start (7:15am), inspired by the beautiful morning in Evolution Basin.
While the hike up to Muir Pass was not that difficult (600′) or long (2 miles), as I approached 12,000′ for the first time on the hike, it still took a bit of effort to get to the top given the climbing over rock steps that was required. Additionally, given the cold the night before, there was actually ice on the trail where runoff existed! Once at the pass, another amazing view, both back to Evolution Valley and ahead on the trail.
I took a nice break and checked out Muir Hut, and then started the jaw-dropping hike down. Over the next seven miles, you experience a wide range of scenery that kept your head up and swiveling with amazement. First came Wanda Lake, which ranks right up there with one of the top five lake settings on the trail.
The terrain during the hike down from Muir Pass was very neat, with the ranges imposing and the type of rock down the Helen Lake outlet very different than anything so far experienced on the trail. Even my rest stop at an unnamed lake was perfect. It was one of those days where every corner you turn you are met with another, different, incredible view.
Once you drop down below the Black Divide and before LeConte Canyon, you reach Star Camp, a wonderful setting of a meadow, lake, cascade, mountain backdrop. A perfect place to camp, and one I recommended to many Northbounders I saw the next day or two.
While you started to lose the broad vistas, the hike down LeConte Canyon wasn’t chopped liver, either. It was a very pleasant, long hike down to the low point, almost 4,000′ below Muir Pass, which enabled this day to be my longest (17 miles).
I was leap frogging or hiking with Cassie and Wyatt most of the day, and Wyatt kept pushing to get as far up the next incline as possible to make the hike up the Golden Staircase and Mather Pass as reasonable as possible. With that objective, we hiked up Palisade Creek all the way to Deer Meadow and found a bunch of sites before the Staircase. I really wanted to prepare for the next day, which would be the most challenging hiking day so far, so I opted for a single camp site a couple hundred feet down the trail from where Cassie and Wyatt camped.
What a difference a day made! I felt great, excited about how I did today and feeling good about the prospects of attacking the Golden Staircase and Mather Pass tomorrow. Additionally, I realized that I have completed 140 miles of the JMT! I couldn’t believe I was 2/3rd done.