We continue our tour of great places for breaks, naps, or campsites, this time reviewing the middle fifth of the trail. For previous posts, check out Happy Isles – Marie Lakes Trail Junction, and Marie Lakes Trail Junction – Silver Pass.
Coming Down Into Pocket Meadow (~ 82 miles from Happy Isles) Map. It’s only seven miles from the top of Silver Pass to the bridge over Mono Creek, and it’s almost all downhill. Why then, does it take so darned long? Why not split up the stretch with a long break? This is a terrific place for just that, particularly if, like me, you soak your feet at lunchtime.
Along Bear Creek (~ 92 miles from Happy Isles) Map. This is another spot that isn’t great for camping, but is ideal for a break or a long lunch. Many people dread the walk up Bear Ridge, but I actually enjoy the climb. I think the reason I have a different opinion is that I get an early start, when all fifty-two switchbacks are in the shade. (Tip: don’t carry a bunch of water from your campsite, below. There is a spring about two-thirds of the way up where I have always topped off.)
Not long after you get to the top Bear Creek will appear at your side. There are lots of places to stop and enjoy the water, but this is a good one!
Marie Lake (~ 99 miles from Happy Isles) Map. If I had to pick a single spot that was my favorite on the trail, this would be it. If you spend the night here, you will have to end the day with a decent climb, but it is well worth it. Everything wonderful about a John Muir Trail hike is right before you: water so clear it’s almost invisible; trees that appear to be shaped with the eye of an artist; towering granite peaks; and views up canyons that seem to go on forever.
If that isn’t enough to persuade you to stop, consider where you are in relation to Selden Pass and Muir Trail Ranch. If you camp at Marie Lake you’ll be over the pass less than an hour after you start walking (after climbing just a few hundred feet), and you’ll be at Muir Trail Ranch before lunch. If you are like me, and spend two nights at MTR, that gives you an extra twelve hours of rest and the opportunity to take an extra soak in their sumptuous, hot-springs-fed, bath facilities. If your plan doesn’t allow an overnight at Marie Lake, at least plan a long lunch there.
Isthmus Between Sallie Keyes Lake (~ 103 miles from Happy Isles) Map. If for some reason you decide to pass Marie Lake, the isthmus between the two Sallie Keyes Lakes is wonderful as well. Starting out no more than 30 feet wide, and never exceeding more than about 850 feet wide, this is a place I always stop, even though I arrive there not long after I depart Marie Lake in the morning. I don’t believe the isthmus has a name, so I call it the Breakfast Strip.
Near Evolution Creek (~ 115 miles from Happy Isles) Map. Before you slip off your footwear and wade across Evolution Creek, you’ll pass by these cascades and deep pools of water. Break out those sandwiches you made at MTR before you left and enjoy a long, leisurely, lunch.
This middle part of the JMT is truly one of the best stretches on the trail. Not only that, when you leave Muir Trail Ranch, well rested, well fed, and well marinated in the tubs, you’ll have passed the halfway point.
Good hiking, Ray