September 24th, 2018
Sallie Keyes Lakes mm 864 to Muir Pass mm 838.5
Distance: 25.5 miles
0645 – 1830
Today was so-so until the end, and then it was one of the best days of all. To start, I got rolling downhill for a short 4 miles to the turnoff for Muir Trail Ranch. It is another resort along the way and has a legendary hiker box. Hikers ship resupplies there for a $50 flat fee because it all has to be packed in by mules. That fee gets you one bucket, so might as well fill it. Hence, there ends up being a lot of extra stuff.
I was in need of some extra calories, especially after the huge day before. I was feeling the drain and dreaming of some mystery goodies. There is an alternate loop trail that goes to the ranch and it is not much further than the actual PCT. I thought the ranch might already be closed but it was worth checking to see. Sure enough, I got to a second junction and there was a “closed for the season” sign. It would have been nice if they made the effort to put that sign at the main trail junction, but at least I didn’t go too far out of the way. If I had the Guthooks app, I could have read from the comments that they were closed. Oh well.
Later, I heard from a couple that had picked up their resupply at the last minute, about 30 minutes before they closed for good on Saturday, and the people at the ranch were pretty rude to them (remember they paid $50 for the service, after all). Dahn had also mentioned that they were short with him, so it’s just as well I didn’t visit.
I took a lunch break at Evolution creek, where I had to wade across…the first and only crossing that you had to get your feet wet. I took off my shoes but used the opportunity to rinse the dirt out of my socks as I walked across in them.
As I was finishing my break, Stellar caught up. I was glad to see him. He had camped just on the other side of Selden Pass the night before. I had passed him yesterday when he was taking a bathroom break. He had left his pack on the side of the trail for me to see but I often get tunnel vision and had missed it. How could I have missed a large, orange pack? How many bears and mountain lions have I walked right past? Lots, I bet.
It was nice to have company again and we hiked with ease up towards Muir Pass. The aspens in the lower valleys were quite spectacular and then all the alpine lakes wowed us more. This quickly became the most stunning pass yet. A wall of mountains kept growing larger around us and it was like we were suddenly surrounded, with no escape. I love how impossible a pass looks, and yet the trail keeps winding up. It was starting to get late and the lighting was perfect for the intense surroundings. I took so many pictures on the final ascent.
Stellar also was taking many pictures with his real camera.
We had been considering the possibility of sleeping in the Muir hut at the top of the pass (12,000′) and had fortunately grabbed some water at the last creek. We got to the hut just as the sun went down and I was immediately sold on staying when I saw the views from the top and also felt the warmth of the interior of the hut.
We had been hopscotching with a couple and they also decided to stay. Eric had hiked the Colorado Trail in 2015 and this was Catherine’s first hike. The extra body heat was welcomed and there was just the perfect amount of space for 4 people.
The Muir Hut is like no other I have had the pleasure of staying in. It is built entirely of stone, is round like a yurt, and there are stone ledges built along the walls, with an empty stone floor in the middle. There used to be a fire place, but as there is no vegetation at the top with which to make a fire, it has been closed off. And there were the requisite stag horns above the old fire place. Every hut needs a pair of stag horns.
We set up our sleeping pads on the outer ledges. There was only one window but the hut felt surprisingly bright and cozy. I couldn’t believe how warm it stayed all night. I always think of stone buildings as being cold and dark. I slept very well and the night was a highlight of the trip.
The most amazing part was seeing the almost-full moon rise and light up the amphitheater of rocks around us. To say it felt like we were on the surface of the moon is a cliche but the only way I could describe it. I wish I could have taken good pictures of it. Another Magical Mountain Moment.