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John Muir Trail

Day 12 of 22

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Sunday, July 27th
Piute Creek to McGee Canyon
9.4 miles
2090 vertical feet (ascent)
340 vertical feet (descent)
7:48


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GPX File

We were now in familiar territory. We had done the North Lake to South Lake "loop" hike two years ago, so we had done the entire stretch of the JMT from Piute Creek to the Le Conte ranger station. While it was familiar, that wouldn't necessarily make it any easier, though.

It was much warmer today as we left camp at 8:55am. The trail climbs gradually next to the San Joaquin River South Fork. At 10:20am, we took a break in the shade of the forest. After half an hour we resumed and almost immediately crossed the river over a large footbridge. We could see good campsites nearby. After the bridge, we crossed a cattle gate and continued to climb.

South Fork San Joaquin River

Hiking next to the South Fork San Joaquin River

The trail crosses back over the river on another, smaller bridge, then passes some last campsites before starting the steep climb up to Evolution Meadow. We had climbed about 375 feet in 4 miles. Now we started climbing about 850 feet in 2 miles. The trail switchbacks at the start, then continues to climb with good views of the creek. The creek descends in a series of falls and cascades.

Looking down from the climb to Evolution Meadow

Looking south from the climb

Evolution Creek cascade

Evolution Creek

Wildflowers and Evolution Creek

We reached the top at 12:30pm. The trail levels off before reaching the Evolution Creek crossing. We stopped here to filter water, play in the water, and eat. It had already been a hot day and we had to carry nearly our full packs, so it was nice to have a cool break. But we still had a long way to go to reach Evolution Lake, our ambitious goal for the day, so we pulled ourselves away.

Playing at the Evolution Creek crossing

After putting on our water shoes and crossing (it was less than a foot deep), we finally resumed our hike at 1:50pm. The two young men and their dad were still on the other side of the creek, but this wasn't the last we'd see of them. We next passed Evolution Meadow, then continued on.

Evolution Meadow

From here, the trail is gradually uphill through the forest. We made slow but steady progress. The afternoon heat and our nearly full packs were taking their toll. I took solace in the fact that our packs would never be this full on the trip after today, but by the time we reached McClure Meadow at 3:20pm, I wasn't sure if we could make it all the way to Evolution Lake today. There was still about 1300 feet of climbing between us and that lake.

Approaching McClure Meadow

Mountain view at McClure Meadow

We enjoyed the views from McClure Meadow, resting in the same spot we had rested at two years ago. Interestingly, I remember this same stretch of trail being draining then, as well. We had already passed a few people setting up camp. We also knew that it would be hard to find good campsites at Evolution Lake this late in the day, since it was probably already swarmed with campers. We discussed it a bit and decided (though not convincingly) that we would at least try to make it to Evolution Lake. I figured we could still make it there by around 7pm.

We got as far as Colby Meadow before doubt started creeping in again. We got a little further before I spied a vacant campsite in the forest to the right. Although the kids wanted to keep going, my wife and I had had enough for the day. After exploring the area we found that it was a great campsite and called it a day, even though it was only 4:45pm.

Colby Meadow

The site we found is next to Evolution Creek near the base of McGee Canyon. There were numerous small sites in the granite above the creek, in addition to several larger sites in the forest below (which is where we put our tent). We put our cooking area up on the granite where we had great views. Afterwards we made the short walk down to the creek, where in one spot we could see cascades coming from one direction, falls coming from another, and the creek flowing away in the other direction. And from just about anywhere in the area, The Hermit (elevation 12,328) mountain is clearly visible dominating the view to the south. It's a great spot and quite possibly my favorite campsite on the entire JMT. Though we knew the consequences - a long day ahead of us tomorrow - we were quite happy with our decision to stay here. At least our packs would be lighter tomorrow.

The Hermit

View near our campsite

Evolution Creek near our campsite

Evolution Creek cascades

Evolution Creek

Water slide

Evolution Creek

Moon above The Hermit


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