Stayed awake most of the night planning and replacing our trip to try and avoid the smoke. If we didn’t have a paid reservation at Muir Trail Ranch in six days, I would suggest aborting the whole thing and driving north into better air. But that non-refunadabl reservation puts a crimp in those plans. Sallie Keyes Lakes and Selden Pass may be better, but today it looks like the smoke is butting up against the steep slope that gives access to that area. I guess we’ll head to Evolution Valley as planned and talk to the ranger there, if he or she is around.
About 20 minutes later, the smoke started pouring in. Scratched plans for Evolution Valley and Goddard Canyon. Sallie Keyes it is! We packed up and I went with Kris to the cutoff to Muir Trail Ranch from the JMT, so that she would stay on the right trail heading out. This is that damn section of the JMT that I said I never wanted to hike again. Endless switchbacks on a hot, south-facing steep ascent through chaparral. Not many trees to shelter from the sun. I wanted Kris to get as early a start as possible. I stashed my pack in the trees and hiked unencumbered the mile to the Ranch. I used the computer there to inform Tom of our change of plans. Really slow connection! But it’s a way to communicate with the outside world, and that’s what counts. Then I poked around in the free bins of hiker stuff, and headed back out and up. It’s a very nice service that MTR provides for hikers. You can leave anything you don’t want to carry, and take anything that you might need that you find in the bins. Generally, there’s lots of oatmeal in there, but often yummy things to eat and many useful items. I heard that Evolution Valley and environs were super-smoky, though the actual fire is miles away. Talked to a hiker who came down Goddard Canyon, and couldn’t even see the canyon walls. The fire is out of control and burning rapidly. It’s a mess–a perfect storm of 100 years of fire suppression, a long drought, higher temperatures, and who knows what else.
It’s almost 6:00 PM now and we are camped above the first of the Sallie Keyes Lakes. The sky is clearing! It was terrible today. Every step was difficult, with the combination of lack of sleep last night and the heavy, smoke-filled air. I hope I sleep better tonight! I have to fix whatever is wrong with my left shoulder and the bottom of my right rib cage. Neither side wants to be slept on, and I have never slept well on my back or stomach.