Good news on the morning of the third day of our North Lake South Lake loop hike – our boots were dry!
Following the routine, we had breakfast and packed up camp to set out at about 9 am! The morning would be spent hiking through Evolution Meadow. A much easier trail to hike along. There are times when the trail feels like a river flowing under your feet and you make good mileage with little effort. That was this morning. Evolution Creek opened up across the meadow, the sun was out, the smell of bacon wafted through the air. Wait, what bacon?
In the middle of Evolution Meadow is a Ranger station, McClure Meadow Ranger Cabin. There was a sign outside, saying only to approach in case of emergency, due to COVID-19. Clearly, the ranger was at home and cooking a lake breakfast as the smell of bacon drifted through the woods. We pushed on, passing some deer, the first large animals we had seen. We got to the end of Evolution Meadow, marked by another steep uphill climb.
We started the climb out of Evolution Meadows up to Evolution Basin. Again this was a pretty hard, hot grind in another stunning day of sun and clear blue sky. This climb brought us out of the pine forest and back into the much more open, sub-alpine area. With only a few trees dotted around Evolution Lake finding shade for lunch was a little more tricky. The high lakes of Evolution Basin are absolutely stunning. Definitely a highlight to the overall trip so far. Clear water surrounded by imposing mountain tops.
The sun is incredibly strong at this altitude. We made sure to re-apply sunscreen at regular intervals. My preference in hiking is to cover up as much skin as possible, not only does this provide great protection from the sun, but also from biting bugs. Keenan relies more on sunscreen and has to be particularly careful to make sure he has good coverage.
We hiked along the shore of Evolution Lake, before crossing Evolution Creek at its head and making a small climb to walk slightly above Sapphire Lake. Despite the altitude and remoteness, the trail was excellent. However, there are fewer campsites at the south end of Evolution Basin and we were getting close to Wanda Lake. Wanda Lake is the most exposed of all the lakes and there is a risk in setting up camp there. However, pushing over Muir Pass and descending the other side seemed ambitious given it was already mid-afternoon.
We made another small climb and arrived at Wanda Lake. Right at the north end of Wanda Lake was a small set of campsites. We decided to take an early break and spend the rest of the afternoon here. This ended up being the best site we picked for the trip – with views there were just unparalleled. We shared the site with a couple of guys who were doing the JMT. They were fanatical lake swimmers – far bolder than either of us. Apparently, the water was at 53 degrees.
So far we are hiking a little ahead of plan. We had planned to camp right at the start of Evolution Basin and we made it an extra 5 or so miles. We have been averaging over 10 miles a day – so we have about 22 miles to go! This was a good setup for Muir Pass in the morning and the fourth day of our North Lake South Lake loop hike.