PCT Mile 853, along the S Fk San Joaquin R 


An unexpectedly hard and rather wet-footed day. Left my camp at a leisurely 6:30 and proceeded up the booming M Fk Kings R to its head at Muir Pass.

Several fords were required. My usual technique is to remove my socks, ford and hike on for 15 minutes or so. By that time most of the water has drained from my shoes and I can put my socks back on without them getting too wet. But this year’s model of my shoes (Altra Lone Peaks) has more padding and a mesh top that both more breathable but also soaks up more water. The shoes now take much longer to dry, a complaint I have heard from other hikers. As a result, my feet were pretty soaked by the time I hit the snow. I may have to write a sternly-worded letter.

All of the other Sierra passes have been notches in canyon headwalls. Although they have had snow, the snow fields were patchy and required only minor detours or snow crossings.

Muir Pass is a high wide bowl sitting between the Kings and San Joaquin watersheds and storms must funnel through it in the winter and dump loads of snow. Both sides of the pass are expansive open basins containing very large and very beautiful lakes – and are filled with snow. The last mile of trail to the top was about 75% buried under deep snow, and it made for very slow going. It took me 3.5 hours to make the 5 miles to the top, and I was beat when I got there.

But it was amazingly beautiful- deep, deep blue (cerulean?) lakes surrounded by wild jagged snow-covered mountains. A very Arctic scene.

Sierra trails tend to be constructed differently than Colorado trails. They have a steeper pitch, and to reduce erosion, are stepped with blocks of granite. Rather than an incline, the trails are more like staircases, but with 2-foot steps, which is much harder on the knees. Despite similar levels of elevation gain and loss, I find it much harder to hike 20 miles here than in Colorado.

As a result, I’m spending more time pounding trail, and less time fishing, gawking and ruminating than I would like in order to stay on schedule. I am 59. It’s not likely that I will ever pass this way again. I want my memories of this beautiful place to be more than long days and sore knees. Some adjustments may be in order.

Mile 835, Middle Fork of the Kings River under the Black Divide

Mile 837, Helen Lake

Last pitch up to the hut at Muir Pass

Still winter on Muir Pass

Evolution Valley