John Muir Trail Thru Hike: Day Four

Sallie Keys Lakes to McClure Meadow: 15.5 miles.

Sept. 15th, 2011.

This is the day I found my trail legs and felt totally acclimated. I woke up feeling strong and rested and after drying out my quilt, bivy and tarp from the condensation and rain I hit the trail. My pack was light (with almost no food) as I walked through the meadows just below Sallie Keys Lakes. I fell into my usual two mile/hour pace and quietly came across two groups of deer in a clearing. The morning fog was just lifting from the meadows and the sky was clear and blue. I made it down the switchbacks to Muir Trail Ranch to collect my resupply and after socializing with some familiar hikers I made my way along the San Joaquin River toward Evolution Valley.

Sunrise on Sallie Keys Lake.

A family of Deer along the trail.

I was starting to see some familiar thru-hikers as we ran into each other at various times along the trail. As I sorted out my resupply more and more people made it to MTR, a popular resupply point at the middle of the JMT. It's been months now since I left the trail and I can't remember all of the names, but we had a good time talking gear and food at the ranch. Talk of food seems to be the main topic of conversation with thru-hikers. One guy joked that his base weight was only eight pounds, but he carried forty pounds of food.

After resupplying my pack weighed 17 pounds with all the food I needed to complete the final 110 miles to Whitney Portal in 7 days.

Entrance to Muir Trail Ranch.

Resupply cabin at Muir Trail Ranch.

Resupply at MTR.

The obligatory ultralight scale photo. 17 pounds for the final 7 days/110 miles.

San Joaquin River.
The trail along the San Joaquin River is beautiful with great views of the river. I passed the Piute Trail Jct. and crossed the bridge into Kings Canyon National Park. Kings Canyon is home to Evolution Valley, Muir Pass, Pinchot Pass, Forester Pass and the other high passes that followed.

Bridge over Piute Creek.

The entry to Kings Canyon.

It was 5:00 pm by the time I reached Franklin Meadow and the switchbacks up to Evolution Valley. I was starting to really hit my stride and in the later afternoons I seemed to have unending energy. I made it up the 700 feet of steep granite steps and switchbacks up to Evolution Valley and in less than an hour I was crossing the creek at Evolution Meadow.

The benefit to traveling in the 'late season' during mid to late September is that there are no crowds and very few mosquitoes. Unfortunately this time of year also means shorter days and by 6:30 pm it was getting dark. It was 7:00 pm before I made it to McClure Meadow and made camp for the night. I slept under the trees with the sound of Evolution Creek quietly passing by.

Evolution Creek near my camp by McClure Meadow
A video of beautiful Evolution Creek:

Map (click for full size)

Elevation profile (click for full size)


  1. Thanks Andy. I love your blogs. You did so much last year it's amazing.

    1. Right on Jeff!!! You 'da man. I'm looking forward to hitting the trail with you and Henry soon.