This page describes the summer backpack trip my wife Karen and
I did from August 4 to 10, 2004, to Evolution
Valley and Goddard Canyon in the John Muir Wilderness and
Kings Canyon National Park, in the Sierra Nevada of California.
Photos are included in the day-by-day trip description sections
(links at left),
or view them as an album in order:
After several summers of strenuous backpacking trips at high altitudes,
often with a lot of cross-country hiking, we decided to do a more leisurely
trip in 2004.
Karen and I had backpacked cross-country from the east side
over Lamarck Col into Evolution
Basin in northern Kings Canyon National Park in 2002. I thought
this area was very beautiful, with expansive stark lake basins and
dramatic peaks. I wanted to visit it again, but not via the
strenous route we used in 2002.
Two other east side
entry points, North Lake and South Lake, can be used to make a
looping backpack with a short car shuttle (usually hitch-hikable), but
that would be a long trip with a lot of up and down over passes
and into and out of canyons. And wilderness permits for those passes are
among the most sought after in the Sierra.
Our final alternative was to start at Florence Lake on the west
side, north of Kings Canyon National Park, and just follow the
South Fork San Joaquin River and then Evolution Creek upstream.
This is also a long hike - about 15 miles to Evolution Valley,
using the hiker's ferry across Florence Lake to save 5 miles -
but is only a gradual climb with no intermediate passes to cross.
As an added bonus, Florence Lake has the largest backpacking quota
of any Sierra trailhead (45 people per day), so
we expected no problem getting a wilderness permit.
A simple in-and-out hike to Evolution Valley and Evolution Basin
seemed less interesting than our previous trips, which were usually
loops. Checking old guidebooks and searching the Internet, I
discovered that there was a relatively easy cross-country route
connecting Evolution Basin to Goddard Canyon. This made
our trip into a semi-loop backpack of about 45 miles total
with only 5000 feet of total elevation gain. The first
12 miles would be repeated at the end.
As you will see from the photos, we had perfect conditions
on this trip. The snow was fully melted from the high country
trails and passes; the streams were low so that crossings were
not difficult, and the weather was an unending succession of
blue skies and mild temperatures. This was lucky, as the high
country in the middle section had only exposed campsites
completely above timberline.
With the exception of our campsite the last night at Blayney Hot
Springs, which was very crowded (probably 50 people altogether in camps
on both sides of the river), we also saw fewer people than I expected
on this trip. Along the John Muir Trail up to Evolution Valley we saw
occasional other hiking parties in both directions. On the John Muir
Trail in Evolution Basin we saw only two other hikers, and for the next
two days heading cross-country through Davis Lakes and then on
the trail down Goddard Canyon we saw no one at all.
The map below shows an overview of our trip route (in red). Click
on the "day" labels
below the map to see the detailed map, description, and photos for that
day. Or read the sections in order: