Tails from the Nümüü Poyo (The John Muir Trail) – Chapter Nine

Chapter 9: That Hut on Top of a Rock Pile

  • Section: Evolution Creek to Starr Camp
  • Camp ID: 8.08
  • Mile Marker: 133
  • Daily Mileage: 14.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2350 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 1660 ft
Heading towards Evolution Lake.

Well, here it is! Week number two of the JMT is in full swing and we are starting the first of 5 days straight of one major pass per day. Yes, we have our trail legs at this point…but don’t let that fact let you be overconfident. The southern half is NO JOKE!!!

We tore down our camp, and made our way towards the famous Evolution Lake. This beautiful lake is surrounded by hulking mountains all around, lending to its dramatic appearance. This is one of several infamously beautiful spots on the JMT. However, I’ll share my unpopular opinion – it does not make my top five for most beautiful views. That being said, it is very hard to choose amongst 220 miles of beauty.

Stephanie at Evolution Lake.

As we continued onward, we hiked around Sapphire Lake, which in my opinion, was the prettiest lake of the day. Maybe it was the honey roasted peanuts I ravenously ate while I gazed at it – who knows.

Me at Sapphire Lake.

Upward and onward we went to Muir Pass. Along the way, we were warned by other hikers coming from the opposite direction that Wanda Lake was incredibly buggy, and that you practically had to run through the area to not get bitten. “Awesome”, I thought, me being the mosquito buffet that I am. We geared up with extra bug spray and head nets, and persisted onward. We basically made a light jog along Wanda Lake, which was relatively flat, and yes, very mosquito ridden. I laughed just the other week as another former JMT-er described Wanda Lake in all of its infinite beauty, and that it was the prettiest lake on their trip. I could not see it from where I was standing!! Well, jogging.

As I suspected from the photos I had seen, I also did not really care for Muir Pass. To me, it seemed to be simply a hut on top of a rock pile. As we reached the top, the rain started to come in, and suddenly hikers appeared left and right huddling in the hut at the top. To me, this was the true highlight of the pass. We all started chatting about our journey, where we had come from, trail names, who we were hiking with, etc. Much of the trail, it seemed we were going so fast that we missed out on some of the social aspect of it. That comment may seem counterintuitive, since many people know I hike to get away from civilization and other people, but the comradery on a long trail such as this is totally different from anything else that we have hiked.

“Nope, I did not even take a picture of the hut on top of the rockpile…#RAIN”


Eventually, it was our time to start heading down. The rain started to dissipate, and we started to warm up eventually as we hiked onward. And wow, was I impressed with the hike down! Swiftly we transitioned down into the outlet of Helen Lake, surrounded by metamorphic rock in black, orange, and even green. The rain made for a dramatic landscape as we made our descent into Le Conte canyon to Starr Camp.

Helen Lake outlet and the start of some dramatic metamorphic rock formations.

We made it to camp around 3pm, pretty early for our standards. What awaited us was a gorgeous “post-Donahue-esque” campsite surrounded by 360 degree views of the sides of the canyon and the beautiful meadow nearby. This was definitely one of my favorite camp sites on the JMT. We pitched our tents and even enjoyed some welcome sunlight breaking through as we drank tea to warm up and enjoyed our dinner. Right after dinner, another line of rain rolled fiercely in, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect to hunker down for the night. I was really impressed with us – it felt like another half day even though we crushed 15 miles!

Starr Camp – per usual, the pictures do not even begin to do it justice!

Hopefully you enjoyed this post full of “unpopular opinions”. Until next time!

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