Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Evolution Valley loop - August 2014

At the start of the trip. Good one, Lisa.
Frank, Laurelle, Garrett and Lisa set out one day on a walk in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They took a boat across a lake, walked through a meadow, traversed a gorge, swam in a lake and took lots of pictures. They climbed up and down. Five days and 45 miles later, the four returned to "civilization" - a little foot sore, but much better off than when they had started.

That's one way of telling the story.

Another way would be regulation travel blog post, with lots of maps, photos, facts and chronological order. Our route is mapped out here. I've stalled almost two months before beginning this blog post, perhaps because I don't want to sully a beautiful experience by taking it apart and looking at it too hard.

So I'm just going to share a lot of pictures with you, and hope you enjoy seeing some of the images we chose to record.

We spent most of the trip on the John Muir Trail.

The South Fork of the San Joaquin River was our trailside companion for two noisy nights and several days. It's a friendly river. It rushes down canyons, swirls around boulders and deepens into pools. I soaked my feet in it. I submerged myself in it. It made me cleaner.

I drank its cold, sweet water thanks to my handy new Oko water bottle. I was grateful many, many times.

This bridge got us across the river. There's a nice rest spot on the other side, and a camp in the trees just downstream.

Lisa and Garrett are great hiking partners. They are the most positive people you'll ever meet. Really. They sing a lot. The two of them somehow survived on half the food Frank and I ate. Honestly.

We ascended Evolution Creek on Day Two and were rewarded by stunning falls.

We were now in the Evolution Valley and around 9,500 feet elevation.
We stopped at the most perfect granite waterslide for lunch. I could have stayed there forever. But we kept on walking. Even more amazing places awaited us.

Evolution Lake

We ascended another thousand feet to Evolution Basin. It looks fake. It's the landscape of my imagination. I can't imagine life without it.

Lunch at Evolution Lake was followed by a bracing swim. I put on all my clothes afterward and warmed myself like a lizard on the in the sun. Nothing better.

Intrepid travelers.

Making our way around Evolution Lake. Our path will take us up through the gap at the far end of the lake and up almost as far as you can see.

We ascend into a landscape of rock and tundra.

Sapphire Lake - 11,000 feet - looking back the way we came.

Late afternoon heading toward No-Name Lake.

Tired. Cross country towards Camp Three - found for us by Frank - on the shore of No-Name Lake. I could climb no further that day.

Wind protection among the rocks at Camp Three - 11,300 feet. It was to be our only frosty night giving us frozen water bottles and 22 degrees Fahrenheit on Lisa's thermometer the next morning.

Alpenglow lit up the peaks before bedtime.

We ascended to Wanda Lake the next morning, our highest point in the Evolution Basin before going off trail for the next day and a half. The John Muir Trail continues over that saddle at the end of the lake and up to Muir Pass.

Garrett looks back over Wanda Lake as we began climbing over the pile of talus that divides the Evolution Basin from - what? - Davis Lake Basin? The headwaters of North Goddard Creek?

Tarn among talus at the highest point of the trip, a saddle at almost 12,000 feet.

Frank slowly descends over talus blocks, our difficult terrain for the rest of the day. The turquoise lake is unnamed and shallow, fed directly by snowfields glistening high on the dark peaks above. 

Lunch break on the way down to Davis Lake. We'll pick our way through the talus around the left side of the lake and across a finger-like peninsula, barely visible in the picture.

I took this photo of Frank, Lisa and Garrett ahead of me on "the trail," as they kindly waited for me to have a little meltdown. After hours of talus under foot, I was basically done. Somehow I kept wobbling along for another hour or so....

Davis Lake is on two levels. The upper level flows through this creek across the peninsula to the lower lake.

This is where we ground to a halt, dumped our packs, soaked our feet and made camp just behind the photographer. The clear lagoon was also the site of my bath before dinner.

Somehow everyone felt a lot perkier the next morning. Looking back the way we came, you can see the peninsula dividing upper and lower Davis lakes. We traversed the steep scree slope to get around the lakeshore on the left side of the picture. The divide leading back to Evolution Basin is visible at the far end of the valley.

Still off trail, we wound around the top end of Loch Davis before climbing over a saddle into the North Goddard Creek canyon.

We descended North Goddard Creek, criss-crossing several times.

Frank's and Garrett's expert and intuitive navigational skills enabled us to find our way back to an actual trail - the Goddard Canyon Trail - by mid afternoon.

We had to go the long way around this waterfall section.

Somehow Lisa and Garrett managed to look as fresh near the end of Day Five as they did at the start of the trip.

At the trail junction where we ended the loop and began retracing our steps, Frank and I looked a little less fresh, but we soldiered on to Camp Five near the steel bridge that evening. The four of us made it back to the ferry at Florence Lake by 2 p.m. the next day.


  1. What a great post!! Somehow those photos look even better in your blog than they do in my photolibrary. Maybe it is just the weeks that have gone by that are making the memory all the sweeter.
    Thank you for creating this, Laurelle. I'm not sure we deserve all the kind words you wrote about us, but if that is how you remember it, who am I to stop you from forgetting all the grouchy and grim moments you endured from us that week. I love it. --Lisa

  2. I hiked into Evolution Basin with three high school buddies in 1959. The Florence Lake boat wasn't operating so we hiked 26 miles uphill with full packs - a personal record. We (foolishly) climbed Mt Spencer in a thunderstorm. But the loudest noise came from a cherry bomb we pitched into a cirque near the summit. The firecracker gave a nice pop, but the echo seemed WAY louder!