Day 60: Muir Ranch and Florence Lake

June 13, 2017: Hiked Mile 848.1 to 857.7 and 11.5 on alternate to Muir Ranch and Florence Lake (20.1 total) 

I woke up in the middle of the night last night to go pee. For some reason I was wide awake even though it was only 2:30. It was still freezing cold outside and the entire tent was already covered in frost. But when I got out, there was a crystal-clear sky full of bright stars and an even brighter full moon. The moonlight was reflecting off the river and illuminating the snow on the mountaintops. I stood outside staring at my picture-perfect view, amazed at how lucky I was to have it all to myself. I almost wanted to start hiking because it was so pretty. But then my toes went numb. So I went back to bed. 

We decided to sleep in this morning since we didn’t have any passes to climb today. So we slept in until 5:30. Getting crazy out here. When I unzipped the tent to get the bear canisters, the frost started falling off in big chunks into the tent… all over my sleeping bag. Not the best way to start the morning. It was freezing, like always, as we ate and packed up and tried to not let our fingers turn into icicles. 

It was even so cold that we didn’t warm up for at least a mile when we started hiking. Good thing we had some pretty meadows to look at and distract us.

Of course right when we started to warm up, we had our first creek crossing. Evolution Creek is supposed to be a pretty deep crossing with the crossing getting up to six feet deep. Now it’s one thing to swim in six feet of water. It’s another to cross a rapidly flowing creek that’s full of icy, snow-runoff water. Luckily there was an alternate route that took us through Evolution Meadow instead. 

But first we had to cross this little creek to get there. 

It was quick, but still freezing cold. And then we came to the meadow…. which turned out to actually be a creek this year as well. 

Luckily it was only thigh deep, but it was wide enough to sting the crap out of your legs and feet by the time you made it across. My legs warmed up pretty quickly, but my toes stung forever. After doing quite a few creek crossings, Colton has decided walking in underwear is much more comfortable. Don’t be surprised if he starts showing up like that in more pictures.

After our creek crossings, we wound our way down the valley along the river. 

We crossed a bunch more little streams and even lucked out with a few bridges!

We started seeing less snow and more trail. And before long, we were actually following a legitimate trail, only having to cross snow every so often. 

It felt so weird to walk on dirt and rocks. I forgot how different muscle groups you use in snow vs. dirt. Snow is all calves and quads and dirt is more hamstrings and butt. Needless to say, we’ll probably be sore tomorrow. 

We kept following the creek, and crossing more bridges. 

In the deep parts of the canyon, there was still so much snow. 

Eventually we came to the junction we would be taking for the alternate we have decided to take. 

There are two creek crossings in the next section that have, of recently, been deemed impassable. The water is so high (like over your head high) with all the snowmelt now and the current is so strong, that they are being said to be way too dangerous to attempt. And if the things we’ve done in the past couple weeks aren’t seen as too dangerous, I can’t imagine how insane these crossings must be. So someone figured out a nice little alternate around them that most hikers are taking. It will probably add six our seven miles, but I think that’s better than risking our lives just to cross a creek. 

The alternate first took us a mile and a half off the PCT to Muir Ranch. In the summer this ranch operates as a horse and pack ranch that people come to and stay in cabins for a few days and go on trail rides through the Sierras. It’s also a popular spot for hikers as it is a place we can send resupply packages. The only way in is by house or mule so you have to send packages in big barrels that cost $75 just to send. But due to all the snow this year, the ranch isn’t even open yet. We wandered down anyways, just to check it out, and were surprised to find a worker there. He told us he was prepping for the opening in a few weeks and told us all about the place. We wandered around a bit and stared in envy at all the warm looking cabins.

We ate lunch by the ranch and dried our tent out which still had frost on it when we took it out of the bag. 

After lunch we continued on our alternate course which would take us nine miles to Florence Lake. The trail was basically a creek, so we spent the afternoon running over little bridges and logs, rock-hopping over creeks, and trying not to get soaked in wet meadows. 

It felt weird to be warm and sweaty and not freezing every second. And even weirder to be surrounded by so many trees. 

About half way through our hike we made it to the river that flows into Florence Lake and had another bridge crossing. 

We hiked along the lake into the evening, crossing more creeks and getting attacked by mosquitos. Trying to cross a fast creek, while also trying to kill the hundred mosquitos that are on you at the same time is no easy task. 

Once again, our path was full of water.

We are getting really good at rock-hopping now. 

We got some good views of the lake and finally made it to the campground a little after six.

It was our first twenty-mile day in a while, and we were definitely feeling it. The campground and resort are closed still, so noone is here. But it’s great to have portapotties and a trash can to throw our trash away. The mosquitos are horrible so we put our tent up, got dressed in all our long clothes, and doused ourselves with mosquito spray before eating. And they still managed to bite us through our socks.

We enjoyed warm enough weather to comfortably eat outside and got to watch the sunset over the lake.

I was thinking about something today when I was hiking that I think is an important lesson I have learned or improved upon out here that can apply to hiking the PCT or to life. Sometimes things are hard or they hurt or are uncomfortable. Sometimes out here I’m freezing, or exhausted, or feel like my legs are going to fall off. But when things are rough I always just tell myself, time will pass. No matter how bad something might feel right now, it’s not going to last forever. There will be relief. Time will pass no matter what and things will change. I think it’s so important to remind ourselves that negative feelings we have are just that, feelings. And feelings change. They don’t define us all the time. And when you start being able to compartmentalize these feelings, you realize that you can control them instead of them being able to control you. You know it won’t last forever and you can change your outlook on your situation. This helps me to push through tough times when I don’t want to get out of my sleeping bag, hike up another hill, or through another freezing river. I remind myself that after awhile things will be easier. And then I do it.  And they are. 

Ok, enough late-night (9:30) ramblings. Time for bed and hopefully no sneaky mosquitos!

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6 thoughts on “Day 60: Muir Ranch and Florence Lake

  1. Hi Jenn,
    I am enjoying your posts. I started reading after you shared on Facebook. I’m sitting in a heated home in Barrie Ontario Canada. My son, Sam, or Chill step is on the trail, but actually just arrived in Bishop today. I enjoy reading you because i know whats coming up for him…maybe not the exact same conditions, but the same trail. I loved your reflection about “when things are difficult, I know they will pass”. its great to learn that at such a young age. I’m wondering, could you write the date that you’re actually on the trail on your posts? That way I can guage things, if you don’t mind, if its no trouble!
    Peace, Penny

    Liked by 1 person

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