Margaret and I enjoyed a beautiful, relaxed morning at Evolution Lake. We walked over to the outflow overlook again, just to admire the view. There was more smoke in the valley this morning, but we were blessed with clear skies. We broke camp and shouldered our packs at about 9:00 AM. I suggested that we drop our packs at the faint trail to Darwin Bench and go have a look-see. Margaret was all for it.
It was so beautiful up there. You have to look pretty carefully to find the path at times, especially because everything is calling so loudly for you to come take a look. It’s easy to wander off the trail. Fields of Spring wildflowers were still in bloom, even this late in the season—lupines, mostly—and streams were flowing everywhere. It put me in mind of John Muir writing about the Sierra. He often referred to the mountains as fountains, because of how the water sprang from them. Even in this dry, dry season of a dry, dry year, there is water flowing. Good thing, since it is the drinking fountain for most of California.
We spent a couple of hours enjoying the place, and almost talked ourselves into a swim in the frigid lakes. If the wind hadn’t been blowing, I believe we both would have immersed ourselves completely. If Barbara Higbie had been there, she would have done it! And then I would have to rise to the challenge. Lucky for me, she wasn’t there As it was, I settled for some good splashing and then lying in the sun for a bit.
After a bit, we walked back down and retrieved our packs. We hadn’t seen a human anywhere, since we turned off on the Darwin Bench trail. No evidence of camps, either. Margaret suggested that we camp near Evolution Creek, just above the steep set of switchbacks. I didn’t recall seeing any campsites around there, but it was such a beautiful spot, and I readily agreed to the plan.
We went, but there were no campsites anywhere, search though we did on both sides of the creek. So we ended up hiking all the way down to the San Joaquin, where we have set up camp before the first bridge. There’s lots of space and nice sites, but it all seems beaten-down, dusty and dirty, after our time on the granite slabs above. I hate to leave the high country, but this has been a very good visit. I am still feeling the lack of conditioning, and though I am grateful for what I have, I miss the 69-year-old me!
We hiked 12.2 miles today. More than I would have ideally wanted, but every step was so, so worth it! Tomorrow, we soak in the hot springs.