Friday, February 10, 2017

Day 13: Poop Falls

Karolina woke up remarkably early and I thought we'd be ready to hit the trail by around 7:30, but then I made the fateful mistake to walk over to the hot springs to take some videos for our upcoming music video. That was it--just videos! No swimming! But Karolina suggested she should dip her feet into the hot spring so that there was someone in the video to make it more interesting.

I soak my feet in the hot spring before we hit the trail in the morning.

Okay, no problem... she sat down on the edge of the water and put her feet in, oooh-ing and aahhh-ing about how wonderful it felt.

"You know, I really should take a quick dip. It'll invigorate me and help me hike faster down the trail," she explained.

I didn't buy that story for a minute, but it was remarkably early in the morning and based on our maps, it didn't look like we had a particularly difficult day ahead so I agreed... but told her she could not spend the whole day there! That was my biggest fear--that she's want to take a zero day that we just didn't have time for. We did have a schedule to keep to, after all!

Karolina was delighted at the opportunity to jump in the water, but made me turn around while she stripped and jumped in. Once she was safely hidden in the murky water I was allowed to look again. I didn't feel like going for a dip because I didn't want that wet feeling all over my body when I came out. You can dry off, but you aren't really dry like you are before going in. But I now had time to kill so I took off my shoes and shoes and dangled my feet in the water. And oooh... that did feel nice. It was tempting to jump all the way back in the water, but I refrained. I'd have to get my feet wet anyhow to ford the creek on the way back to the JMT, so there was little reason not to soak them in the hot spring while waiting for Karolina to come back out.

About a half hour later, Karolina was finally ready to come back out of the water. She dried off, dressed and was ready to hit the trail.

We took turns fording the creek so we could each both take photos of the other doing so, then it was a short path back to the JMT.

Karolina fords the creek, on our way back to the John Muir Trail.

From our campsite, the entire day's hike was uphill. Despite that, however, we covered about 14 miles--a new daily record for us on the trail! The reason we were able to hike so far on terrain that was entirely uphill was because it climbed a total of 2,000 feet over those 14 miles. That's less than 150 feet per mile of trail--which feels almost completely flat. It was an easy 14 miles.

Karolina kept suggesting that her new-found strength came from the hot spring. I think she was playing that up a bit, hoping we'd find some more hot springs and justify a lengthy stop at them "for strength."

In fact, a couple of times during the day we would see a small spring near the trail--I'm talking about a puddle of water maybe one or two inches deep--and she'd want to touch it to find out if the spring was hot. "It's just a regular spring," I'd tell her. "Hot springs are very uncommon. You'd probably find a thousand or more cold springs before finding a single hot spring." That didn't seem to diminish her new-found enthusiasm for hot springs, though.

The trail crossed into Kings Canyon National Park late the morning, which thrilled Karolina. "My second national park!" she exclaimed. Which is true, but it's not exactly one of those "world famous" ones that everyone around the world has heard about. It's one of those parks that gets overshadowed by Yosemite. Which is okay by me--it gives me a national park that's much less crowded with people and tourists. I've always preferred Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park over Yosemite.

Late in the day, the trail crossed Evolution Creek, our first official ford on the John Muir Trail. We had forded a creek by the hot spring just that morning, but that wasn't actually on the trail. This one was on the trail, and it was the first creek we reached that we were unable to cross without getting our feet wet.

The water was maybe ankle deep. That's it!

Karolina fords Evolution Creek.
Which might not sound impressive to you, but from my point of view, was absolutely astounding. My only experience on this trail before was my thru-hike of the PCT six years earlier, and I remembered crossing Evolution Creek. It was a wildly dangerous place to cross. The water was waist-deep and moving swiftly. My trekking pole had broken, but I found a thick branch to help with crossing, and the fast and ferocious water was scary as hell to cross--and that was before I even realized that there was a series of dangerous waterfalls just downstream. I was hiking with Fidgit at the time, and we scouted a bit along the stream looking for the best place to cross and after Fidgit had crossed first, she had called out to me that it was too dangerous and I should go back to Evolution Meadow to cross. I hadn't, but in hindsight, I probably should have. Among us thru-hikers, we joked that Evolution Creek got its name because not all hikers would make it and it was all about 'survival of the fittest.' Evolution in action, right here at Evolution Creek.

The stream I remembered had absolutely no resemblance to the slow, trickle of ankle-deep water I that I now faced. It was hard to imagine that this was the same stream, in the same place. Even a baby taking its first steps could cross this stream!

This wasn't the first time I had that feeling. Bear Creek--which I crossed without even getting my feet wet!--was so fast, dangerous and powerful, Fidgit and I set up camp nearby hoping the water level would drop by morning. It hadn't, and we spent over an hour scouting up and downstream for a safe place to cross, eventually settling on a location a bit downstream. It was still waist-deep, fast-moving, ice-cold water, but we had made it through. Bear Creek was still running. Karolina and I had camped along its shores, but I'm baffled how we got across it without getting our feet wet. We just jumped from rock to rock or along a fallen log sticking out of the water, and that was enough.

There were numerous dangerous creek crossings, and absolutely none of them had required Karolina or I to so much as get our feet wet. Until now, at Evolution Creek, where the water was only ankle deep. It was like night and day for me. Two entirely different trails with entirely different experiences.

Once again, Karolina took off her shoes to ford the creek while I tromped through shoes and all. The trail followed Evolution Valley, along a long, scenic meadow, and we finally stopped and set up camp near the end of the valley. We had originally planned to camp near the McClure Meadow ranger station where our maps showed camping, but somehow we had completely missed the ranger station and by the time we realized we had passed it, we stopped at the next decent campsite we had found near the end of the valley giving us a couple of extra miles for the day.

McClure meadow, in Evolution Valley.

We quickly set up camp. While Karolina started cooking dinner, I had some "private business" to attend to and walked away from the campsites, off trail, looking for a place to "lighten my load."

When you're going out to poop, there are several things you have to watch out for. You're supposed to stay away from creeks and lakes and other water sources for sanitary reasons, so I had headed away from Evolution Creek. You also don't want to be too close to the trail because, well, you want a little privacy. Hikers don't want to see you, and you don't want to see them. The feeling is mutual. So I headed in a direction that I thought was away from water and the trail.

Heading cross-country, scrambling over rocks and boulders, weaving between the trees, I suddenly reached a small cliff with a small but scenic waterfall. What a nice surprise! I had absolutely no idea there was a waterfall here. Our maps didn't show anything, and immediately I named them Poop Falls because I found them while trying to find a place to poop. =)

I admired the falls, and fortunately had my camera in my pocket so even tried taking a few photos, although it was difficult now that it was a bit after sunset and everything was in darkening shadows. All my photos were blurry and bad, but there was nothing I could do about that.

I backed away from the falls looking for a place away from the water and headed deeper into the trees, following the cliff a bit and eventually found a nice place to dig a hole and get down to business.
Poop Falls--but don't let the name throw you off. It's delightful!

When my business was finished, I was about to work my way back towards the trail when I suddenly spotted a trail maybe 20 feet ahead of me. There was only one trail around here as far as I knew--the John Muir Trail--but I thought the JMT was quite a bit further away than that! Out of curiosity, I started following the trail roughly in the direction I wanted to go, and it eventually turned, then turned again, and sure enough, it led directly back to the campsite. I spent 10 minutes climbing over rocks and boulders, through the trees, and thought I was probably a thousand or more feet away from the trail, and it turned out that I was--quite literally--just a stone's throw away from it. Even worse, in plain view of it! I hadn't realized how much it curved, making switchbacks as it started climbing out of Evolution Valley and it curved right by where I had stopped to poop. Fortunately, nobody walked up on me in such a compromising position, but probably only because it was so late in the day that almost everyone had already stopped hiking and were in camp.

When I returned to the campsite, I told Karolina about my discovery of Poop Falls, and showed her the photos on my camera. I wanted to go back in the morning after the sun rose, hoping the falls would be better illuminated than they were at the moment. Karolina noted that yesterday, when I went to do a poop, I found a wasp nest. And today I found a waterfall. She was curious what I would find the next time I went to do a poop. In fact, so was I! =)

And thus ended another day of adventuring on the John Muir Trail.....

I soak my feet in the hot spring.

Karolina started soaking her feet, but she couldn't resist dropping all her clothes and jumping in completely!

These are some of the waterfalls just below where we forded Evolution Creek. During my PCT hike, if the creek had swept us off our feet, we'd have been thrashed (and probably killed!) in these falls! The amount of water was just a fraction of what was running back then.

My turn to ford Evolution Creek!

Evolution Creek
There are even fish in the water!

Poop Falls.

Drinking water from the creek while cooking dinner. =)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

By your comments on the stream fording water levels, when you did the PCT was just before the two year drought, and your JMT adventure was just before this winters heavy rains that are hopefully breaking the drought.

di and her guy