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Evolution basin and the John Muir Trail: Part four

Sapphire Lake
Sapphire Lake
Sapphire Lake Evolution Basin
    Evolution Basin

For more information on Evolution Basin and the John Muir Trail,  visit parts one, two and three


Make this an early morning; assuming you choose to stay in the high country of Evolution Basin, there's a lot of miles ahead on the trail.

Since going downhill generally requires less time, descend early the way you came from Evolution Basin back into Evolution Valley.  The switchbacks  on the trail are mercifully graded, but be careful on the knees and ankles as you head down.

Pass back through Evolution Meadow and out of Kings Canyon National park back into Sierra National forest. While the trail miles will be long on this day, try to make it to the Blayney Hot springs near the John Muir Trail Ranch. As the trail approaches the ranch, you will see a sign for the trail to the hotsprings which peels off to the left. This trail is a minor .7 mile detour and well worth the warm soak on the tired body. The trail to the hotsprings descends down to the San Joaquin river and there are several camping spots on either  side of the stream.  To reach the hotsprings though, you will need to cross the river which is about knee deep.  An unmarked trail winds behind a few obvious campsites before coming to a small meadow.  The best pool lies at the far side of the meadow next to some pine trees and a fence.  The water here is hot and feels great. A large pond lies further through the pine trees. The water here is warm (at about 80 degrees) but lacks the jacuzzi like warmth that feels so good on tired muscles.

As an alternative to making a straight return through Evolution Basin and Evolution Valley, it's also possible to make a small loop by cutting off trail. From Wanda Lake, go over the low ridge to the right (which is about 250 feet high).  From there, it's possible to cut down the sharp granite rocks to Davis Lake, follow the lake's edge until it empties into a creek, and then follow the creek along the left bank until it becomes impossible to cross the creek because of a cliff; from here, you can supposedly cut up a ridge until you reach Goddard Canyon trail which then descends down until it joins up with the JMT at the base of the first ascent into Evolution Valley.  Be aware, that it's critical to have a good topo map to make this off trail journey; it's also highly recommended to speak with the ranger at McClure before attempting this, as there is substantial risk involved; the ranger should also know the trail well, and be able to mark it on your map.

Whether you return by Godard Canyon or the JMT, you should be able to camp within a few miles of Florence Lake (either near the hotsprings or at another spot). Assuming you make camp near the hotsprings, there's only about five miles of hiking left  for the next day until you reach the ferry landing at Florence Lake and are able to return home.

For more info: See Evolution Basin and the John Muir Trail: Part one, Part two, and Part three

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