This morning is still rainy and cloudy and as I slowly pack up the sky clears a little and some of the sun's rays are extending bit by bit towards my piece of earth. One of the women comes to visit me this morning. She is a doctor and is very intrigued with my solo hike. We chat while I eat and she looks on as I eat my oatmeal with powdered milk out of my cooking pot. I think she feels a bit sorry for me since I surmise that she just got up from a breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes, coffee, hot cocoa and fresh fruit. Lots of us take photos and meander along the meadow - in the sunshine this is a prime resting and bathing spot. Right now, it is ok to move on.
The trail winds along the meadow and it is lovely everywhere. I see tents every once in a while and nobody seems keen to move in this weather. I increasingly meet hikers who are doing 5-6 day loops that intersect with the John Muir Trail, hanging out at lakes or meadows, climbing into a few of the side valleys and visiting alpine lakes. That's what I will be doing in the future as well. Establish a base camp and do some day hikes and really take in a few of the other lakes and valleys I only catch glimpses of on the map or from the passes I cross.
Another climb up onto the next level of evolution valley and I have company. A mother deer and her kid are right next to me, drinking out of the same stream. They are so trusting and keep looking at me without any concern. The little one plays around, jumps up with all four legs at the same time, enticing its' mum to play along. They make my climb more enjoyable. I keep talking to them and they listen - ears forward, eyes focused on me. Eventually they head down to the meadow - smart animals to choose the easier direction.
I am now half way up to evolution lake, the stopping point for many the night before John Muir Pass. Muir Pass is the first of the 4 tough ones (Muir, Mather, Glenn and Forester) and I have read quite a bit about hikers experiencing altitude symptoms for the first time here, so I am concerned. Some continue on to the more exposed lakes further up, I am not sure yet what I will do. I do want to be close to the pass and also not very exposed. The decision is clear once I get to evolution lake. This is fantastic. I find a bush to protect my and my tent, cook lunch and chat with a trio of hikers who have also stopped. We are early and have the place to ourselves for a while. I wash myself and go exploring. As I go along the lakeside, I discover a trail that leads along the outflow which is evolution creek. And to my utter delight, the trail ends right on the edge of a waterfall with a view over evolution valley and the San Joaquin valley - I can see where I have come from in just 2 days. I am overwhelmed and proud. The view is truly breathtaking. I take photos and hang out for a few hours.
As I get back to my tent, many other hikers have gathered and are getting water and preparing for the next day. The community of hikers isjust so nice. There is an immediate intimacy through the shared experience, the knowledge of what we all go through and that we can emphasize, the shared love and respect of nature and appreciation of our efforts and also respect for each others privacy - both for our stories and our actual camp site space. I rarely am asked about what I do at home and my family and what makes me hike and yet I feel I know people very quickly. Their true nature, their values, their energy.
And so I manage to sleep well, embraced by the valley and the community of hikers and a bit more confident that I will get up to the pass.