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Day 11: McClure Meadow to South Wanda Lake

2010 August 7

I can’t remember the last time entering a ‘valley’ required such a huge climb. We started the day pretty easy, then hit a steep set of switchbacks that led into what the book and our maps called Evolution Valley. When we finally got there though, we were in for a treat! 

The valley was strewn with all sorts of crazy vegetation. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen already, but here was just about everything we’d seen mashed into one stretch of valley. Incredible. It was warm and breezy, with just a hint of cloud (the first cloud we remembered seeing on the trail) and animals running all around.

Knowing we were not making the entire trail, we decide to take it easy during the day to try and heal liz’s feet as best we could. That meant rotating through and cleaning her socks over lunch and soaking her feet whenever possible. Evolution Valley hits Evolution Lake (creative, right?) and when we got there we broke out the alcohol stove to cook dinner and kill some time – since the mosquitoes were low there it was an added bonus! What a beautiful place to spend an hour relaxing, eating and refreshing! Fantastic!

As we headed out of the valley after a great lunch and nap, the single whisp of a cloud had teamed up with others hiding on the other side of the mountain. What we saw now was more like an ominous thunder head. It had never rained on us yet – would it start now or hold out? We saw a few other hikers passing by with rain gear on – did they know something we didn’t?

We pulled out the rain covers for our packs and put on our rain gear just in case. It’s a hot way to hike, but it’s great when the rain kicks up and you’re already in it and not digging for it.

It turns out they DID know something as we turned the bend around Sapphire Lake, it cut loose. When the wind hit and the sprinkles started we pitched our tent for cover since there was NOTHING around to hide under. Perfect idea: the sprinkles turned to huge rain drops, which turned to sleet, then pea-sized hail, finishing strong at popcorn-sized before just stopping abruptly. Aside from being worried for holes in our tent (there were none) we were unscathed. Crisis averted! Sliding out of the tent, we had to break ice loose from the sides that slope toward the ground before packing up and setting off again. What an adventure, huh?

We moved up half of Muir Pass before pitching our tent around South Wanda Lake. We heard there was camping up there, but without a freestanding tent the options are really slim. We had to stop for the night so we picked a spot 2 feet from the trail (less than 100 is illegal) and are hoping no rangers will be scaling Muir Pass tonight.

We’ve been following those nasty clouds all afternoon, and as we put up the tent it started hailing again. At 11,000 ft I don’t hold out much hope for being warm. Crossing our fingers…

Happy trails! 

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