Friday, August 28, 2015

The Evolution of Adventure

I decided that maybe it was time to start blogging again, or at least temporarily have it come out of hibernation. I haven't really felt too wordy lately, so I'll probably just start doing shorter posts. We'll see how things pan out...

The Summer of Adventure?!

After the amazing ski season I had, I was thinking maybe this would be the summer of adventure. In addition to our typical hiking and backpacking, I was thinking of crazier backpacking trips, climbing mountains, SUP (suggested to me by Maggie Moo - a great suggestion too!), etc., ... you know, adventure! Well, there was some adventure in there, but not like I had envisioned. As it would turn out, I had more adventure doing our normal summer hiking and backpacking than I anticipated. Who knew?!

It started out like last summer, mixing weekends up between hiking and backpacking. No big deal. We went to Young Lakes and Minaret Lake early in the season - both with a lot of illegal camping and morons (note: we were not the morons or the ones camping illegally). We had fun dealing with hail at Moonlight Lake, but loved seeing the clouds move all around the Evolution peaks (stunning)! We had to cancel our Bear Lakes Basin trip due to major storms over the July 4th holiday weekend, but what we did instead was just as much fun! Swimming in Upper (burrr) and Lower Lamarck Lakes with Moosie, riding an adaptive bike in the parade with DSES, pre-celebrating an engagement with Carlynn and Grady. Not too shabby. While it feels like there hasn't been as much backpacking as last summer, there has been more hiking mixed with other adventures (like SUP, Blues-a-palooza, etc). Adventure!

Enjoying the views on the way to the summit of Mt Dana!

Moonlight Lake between rounds of hail.
Seeing Darwin again for the first time in years brought tears to my eyes.

The Return to Evolution

Evolution. It has eluded me since the summer before breaking my back. It's the one place that I've been yearning to return to since the accident, even more than Precipice Lake. It's haunted me for the past two and a half years. I set goals the past two summers about returning to Evolution - or at least setting eyes on it again. I failed at reaching those goals. With the lack of backpacking we'd done this summer, I was starting to wonder if Evolution would elude me for yet another summer. We were about to find out...

I knew what was coming on this trip. I knew what was going to happen in Evolution Basin. That 'pressure' made this trip even more important. I needed to make it to Evolution this year - for myself most importantly, but also for what Dave had in store. I knew there was a ring - we gave it to Maggie Moo and Jim to keep safe for us while in the backcountry. I knew there was an adventure ahead of us, and I was ready to embrace it (version 1.4 or so of our original plans). 

Note: I'm going to let the photos do the story telling. I'm taking a different spin on this post since words can't explain what it meant to me to be back in Evolution again. Yes, I shed tears at the sight of Darwin and Mendel from Lamarck Col. Yes, I shed even more tears of joy as I set my eyes on Evolution Lake, Sapphire Lake, and all of Evolution Basin again. Did I mention that Evolution has always held a special place in my heart? It's extra special now...

Darwin and Mendel from Lamarck Col. Tears of joy were shed.

Hmmm. Apparently we failed to pay attention to the potential for smoke. Smoke from the Rough Fire would be with every day on this trip. Not ideal, but I WAS BACK IN EVOLUTION! 

Darwin Canyon is absolutely stunning. The lakes are beautiful shades of blue that even the smoke couldn't mask. At least the smoke was clearing a bit.

Home, sweet home. Darwin Bench is amazingly green and lush. A great place to end the day - 8+ miles, lots of elevation gain/loss, miles of smiles.

Evolution Lake. It'd been 3+ years since I'd been here. I still can't find the words to adequately express what it meant to return to this amazing place after the ups and downs of the past 2.5 years of being bionic.

Sapphire Lake. I could sit here for weeks and just soak it all in. Hands down my favorite lake in all of the Sierra. Sorry, Precipice... #sorrynotsorry

The smoke started to drift in as we approached Wanda Lake. Black Giant, Muir Pass and the Goddard Divide are still stunning, even when smoke dances around them. Goddard would wait for another trip...

Muir Hut and the moonscape that is Evolution Basin. It was getting much smokier by this point and it was quite trippy not being able too see the views that were etched in our minds from three years ago. McGee was just cloaked in smoke... such a unique perspective on things.
Proof that we made it to Muir Hut. It was so good to be back here. So many memories.

What a difference a few hours makes. Heading back down toward Evolution Lake from Muir Pass. The smoke made it seem like we were in a whole different world. Mind blowing how quickly it changed...

Sapphire Lake is still stunning, regardless of the conditions. There's something about this lake and Mt Huxley that I just absolutely love. Stunning.

So... this happened at Evolution Lake. I said yes, obviously. Totally caught me off guard because after we ruled out Goddard, I thought it would happen at Sapphire Lake or Muir Hut. It didn't happen at either place. All of a sudden, I hear "Moon River" playing and then it happened. Note the lack of Mt Huxley in the background due to the smoke. Many thanks to Maggie for the hilarious ring she let Dave use in the backcountry. That as a surprise and I still owe her a good ass-kicking for that. 

Smokey sunset at Evolution Lake. An amazing day on so many levels. 15+ miles, lots of memories.

A bluebird morning at Evolution Lake. No complaints.

One of the iconic views of Evolution from McClure Meadow. Three years ago I was too focused on miles on the JMT, that I forgot to enjoy all of the views... and forgot to get this one. I didn't forget this trip. It was so nice... until three annoying kids decided to talk in the loudest voices possible. At least I had 10 minutes of peace and quiet!

Well, we knew the smoke would be back. At least it waited until we were out of Evolution Valley. This was the view before we started the switchbacks down to the junction with Goddard Canyon. A lot of elevation loss in a short distance!

Smokey sunset colors as we finally reached Hutchinson Meadow. We apparently were on a roll while hiking and so we kept going, rather than setting up camp at a popular junction at 2pm in the smoke. The map make the last 5+ miles to the meadow look mellow. Instead there was some sadistic up and down and up and down at the beginning. Oh well, adventure! It was also ridiculously smokey at this point - Pilot Knob was in front of us and we couldn't see it! Yikes! 19+ miles, a lot of elevation loss, gain and smoke!

Bluebird morning on our last day of our trip (cut it short due to the unhealthy inhaling of smoke). When we got to Piute Pass, we could see the smoke starting to rise. 12 miles of mellow hiking - except for my knee that was about to die from the day before. 

Maggie and I recreating the Evolution Lake photo with the real ring. She delivered the pretty blue box to Dave and he proposed again in front of friends and complete strangers. Oh, and he turned bright red too. Such fun! 
More photos here: The Evolution of a Proposal

Adventure is in the eye of the beholder...

At times I still feel like this was the summer of non-adventure, but at the same time, it was a huge adventure in its own special way. Yeah, I might not have been backpacking as much as I had last summer by this time, but I made my return to Evolution. I spent more time hanging out with friends - jumping in Upper Lamarck Lake with Laura, hanging out with Carlynn, Grady, Carolyn, etc., at Blues-a-palooza, SUP with Maggie and Jim - and loved it. Oh, and I'm still wrapping my head around the fact that Dave and I are engaged. As Maggie Moo pointed out to me today, "getting engaged is pretty darn adventurous!" She had a really good point. I might have had one view of adventure at the beginning of this summer, but it evolved as the summer progressed. It's all about evolution! 

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