If this is your first major thru-hike, and if you have wisely chosen to spend a zero day at Muir Trial Ranch, leaving all that luxury and returning to the trail can be psychologically difficult. Your reward on that very first day will be gorgeous scenery, a water crossing where you will be forced to get your feet wet (Evolution Creek), and the Evolution Valley. Within the valley you will find abundant water and three meadows: Evolution, McClure, and Colby. All three contain great campsites.
There is a Ranger Station in the valley. On one of my trips I met the resident Ranger there, enjoying his day off, sitting in front of his cabin with a good book. The famous John Muir Cabin is not far away, north of Piute Creek. The peaks in the area were all named for famous naturalists by Theodore Solomons: Mount Darwin, Mount Fiske, Mount Haeckel, Mount Wallace, Mount Huxley, and Mount Spencer. The most prominent peak, and the one on the right in the photo above, is called The Hermit. It was also named by Solomons, who wrote of the mountain in Appalachia 8, no. 1:
“A colossal, sugarloaf-shaped buttress of fractured granite stood sharply up, the advance Guard of the host of peaks presently to be described, yet so conspicuously separated from them as to suggest the name The Hermit.”
The Hermit reaches an elevation of 12,328 feet. You can hike near the top and stay class 3, but summiting the last bit will require some class 5 technical climbing. Does the peak, in the photo above, look imposing? If so, consider this: when you reach the end of your John Muir Trail hike you will be more than 2,000 feet higher.
Good hiking, Ray