August 6, 2015
15 miles today, 140 miles total
Sapphire Lake to Grouse Meadow
It was a very cold night at our high elevation. We were awake at 6, but didn’t get much of a sunrise due to the amount of wildfire smoke still in the air. (We would learn a few weeks later that the wildfires grew bad enough to kick a lot of JMT hikers off trail, and we were very fortunate to have missed the worst of it).
The first five miles were climbing toward Muir Pass. It was a little strenuous, but I remembered the torturous climb from the other side two years ago, so I could hardly complain. I was glad we would be descending that route this year.
At the top of Muir Pass sat the infamous Muir Hut, built by the Sierra Club from chunks of granite to serve as a make-shift shelter in a storm. We went inside to block the cold wind, and found two other JMT hikers with mandolins. They played us a song they had written, the music echoing inside the small structure. We thanked them for the song and hurried off the ridgetop to escape the wind.
The hike down was long, as expected, but quite beautiful. Two years ago this part of the pass had been so covered in snow that Rotisserie, Honey Bunny and I could barely find the trail. This year it was all but melted, and we wandered beside the glacial lakes, soaking in the views.
Our next twelve miles descended from 12,000 feet to 8,000, so it was a slow, steady fall from the granite mountains we had grown so accustomed to and into the valley below. We took lunch beside Middle Fork River and by 4:30pm had reached our camp in Grouse Meadow.
Heather, Jennifer, Andrew, Courtney and I made dinner and gathered water at the slow, marshy river beside our camp.
Despite the beautiful days of hiking, Courtney and I were growing a little snippy with each other after fourteen days hiking. Fatigue and hunger soaked into us tonight and we argued about the small, silly things that the wilderness sometimes makes so important. We thought we heard a bear in the night, and neither of us slept very well.