Day 2 of our North Lake South Lake loop hike. There’s always a bit of a hiker debate about breakfast and whether to break out the stove to make coffee. I am an ardent coffee drinker so I’ll typically break out the stove to make a hot drink. It does take a little longer – but worth it for the coffee!
Generally, it seems to take us about 2 hours from wake up to being on the trail. This always seems a long time to me – but it works so we generally plan around it. If we want to be on the trail earlier, we just get up earlier.
We were on the trail by 9 am. The trail continued down as it had the day before. We were on the way to the lowest point on the whole loop. The trail jumped across several creeks, keeping right of Piute Creek.
Surprisingly as we descended the trail broke out of the woods and went through a pretty exposed section. The side creeks died off and the landscape looked more arid again. In these more exposed periods, we got glimpses down Goddard Canyon.
Even though the wilderness is a supremely quiet place, even more so now that the sound of airplanes is more diminished, the sound of change is always present. As we descended towards the canyon floor, we heard a thunder-like clap and saw a section of rockfall not too far from the trail.
We descend to the lowest point on the hike where Piute Canyon Trail meets the PCT/JMT. This is where the trail enters Kings Canyon National Park, and technically the only stretch where bear canisters are necessary.
A bridge crossed Piute Creek, which at this point was a raging creek, grown from the small mountain streams leaving Humphrey’s Basin. At this junction there started to be more hikers, a mix of JMT and the very occasional PCT hiker. We’d been hiking for almost three hours and so this was a good spot for a snack and water filter break.
We now turned south and joined the JMT. This would be the start of our long slow ascent towards Muir Pass. Overall the ascent to Muir Pass is about 3000 feet. Our goal for the day was to gain at least 1000 feet and to get to well along the Evolution Meadow, ready for the climb the next day.
We were now following the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. The second day, like the first, was perfect weather, not a cloud to be seen, but the rising temperatures made for a relatively hot afternoon of hiking. The shade of the trees is always a welcome break from the intense sun.
Even though the backcountry is generally impeccable, there are always a sad few that seem to feel the need to leave their mark. I have no understanding of this behavior and would hope that the general hiking community would ostracize these people.
As we covered about the 9th mile of the day we came to the branch in the trail where the JMT/PCT climbs steeply towards Evolution Meadows while continuing more directly south is the Goddard Canyon Trail. In my original planning, this has been my original stop for day 2, but as we had discussed in the morning we were going to push on past this and climb the first 1000 feet of steep gain in a mile or so.
We left the South Fork of the San Joaquin River, across another bridge and started our way uphill, now following Evolution Creek. These uphill grinds, full of switchbacks, with little breaks, are taxing. Keenan can certainly cover these quicker than I can, and my strategy is more to just keep going, at a constant speed, with plenty of water breaks.
After a slow hour the switchbacks flatted out and we were walking next to a much slower, wider meander of Evolution Creek. This came to our first true river crossing. So far we have easily rock hopped, crossed on tree trunks, or had the luxury of bridges. This was definitely going to be none of those, but neither was it a difficult crossing. The creek was wide, but none of it was deeper than shin deep. We kept boots on, and clearly, they were going to get wet. We had made a decision not to bring water shoes as this was probably the only true river crossing and I had assumed that our boots would dry out pretty quickly.
This might be one decision I’d reconsider. The boots took longer to dry than expected. And it made the next couple of miles a little miserable. So after another mile or two, we decided to start looking for a campsite. There are many options along Evolution Meadows, but we found a spot a little way from the trail. Evolution Creek bubbled just close by.
Tomorrow our North Lake South Lake loop hike takes us towards the iconic Muir Hut. Here were the stats from Day 2.