Three Forty Eight Ante MeridiemNo alarm. It was set, but the dang thing still had 12 minutes before it was scheduled to awaken my tired and sorry derriere from beautiful sleep. If only I had looked at that clock two hours earlier; I would have had two more hours left of sleeping. Alas, that was not the case, and if I had any hope of being on time to meet Bruno and Chrissy somewhere near the intersection of the 210 and 5 Freeways, I needed to leave somewhere around 4:10.
I quickly grabbed my frozen Camelback full of Gatorade, wallet, keys, camera, recharged batteries, gizmos, gadgets, and other minutiae and burned rubber into the early morning before dawn ever even dreamt of cracking.
What made the setting for this adventure even more insane was that this was the second time we had taken such an epic mini-marathon road trip in a few short weeks. Gas prices be damned, we're headed for the Sierras.
We met up in Santa Clarita just south of Magic Mountain on Lyons Road. Bruno parked at the BK and we were underway by around 5:15 AM. The traffic was considerable for such an early start time, but it was Labor Day weekend after all. The Disneylanders, out in full force, heading to god only knows what types of mindless recreation destinations were clogging up the Grapevine. The road obviously belongs to me at that time of the morning, so my road rage quickly kicked in as I stealthily swerved through rows of zombies unable to understand that the left lane is for vehicles traveling at a higher rate of speed. If a faster vehicle approaches and a person is driving in the left lane, the law requires that the slower vehicle move aside. In California however, one can only be cool if one is driving in the fast lane, any other lane is unacceptable. It doesn't matter how quickly one drives, just so long as perception is maintained. I spent most of the drive in the "slow" lane passing all of the cool Californians.
I decided to exit on the 65 and blow through stop signs and stop lights whenever possible to assure an early start time. This included passing in turn lanes and other technically "illegal" but safe maneuvers that had Chrissy protesting. Slow people need to stay in bed or get out of my way.
The HikeWe arrived unceremoniously at the Wolverton parking area around 9:30. After arranging our gear, applying sun block, and stashing excess food in the bear lockers we got underway in the brisk and somewhat surprisingly polar air.
The usual aromas began filling the air, and while I won't name names, let’s just say the free floating methane wasn't coming from any female member of our party. There was more than one of us with an overactive digestive tract on this late summer morn.
The trip was quite standard until I had to begin looking for a place to rid myself of whatever foul food I had consumed the preceding day. After shoveling my cathole and missing, I used a rock to put the straggling remnants into the pit. Unfortunately some got on my hands. I tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to remove the fragrance. I stuffed my zipped plastic bag with the soiled paper and decided on a course of action.
As I had no water on me I had to tromp off trail and descend a few hundred feet to find the trickling stream that was audible in the distance. I used a discarded water bottle to rinse my hands away from the stream and then began my trek back up to the trail only to find the stream crossed the trail less than a minute ahead of where we had stopped.
The noxious miasma that one of our party members frequently releases on hiking trips relegated him to the back of the group and once again we were underway. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and the hike was fairly simple and straightforward.
At Panther Gap the trail sits a full 1500' above the High Sierra Trail, so the views are stunning and stellar. The trip stays considerably easy until the climb begins shortly after Mehrten Meadow.
My mojo kicks in around 10,000' feet, so I started blasting the way up thinking about how great it would be to make an ascent on Tharp's Rock as well. None of us would be thinking of that or mentioning it on the way down. Bruno was coming along behind me, but he and Chrissy seemed to be slowing up a bit. I took pictures of some strange wispy dandelion-esque beauties and the rocks while conversing with many of the people I saw coming down and those I passed going up.
I summitted and had the place to myself for about 10 minutes before Bruno arrived. We spent a while on top, perhaps longer than we should have. We heard second hand that Chrissy wasn't feeling well and she wouldn't be joining us on the summit. After picking out Whitney and Black Kaweah, and not realizing where Triple Divide Peak was, we spotted Gould, the summit we mini-marathoned a few weeks before just 20 short miles away (as the eagle soars anyway.)
We started down and met Chrissy only a couple hundred feet from the top. She was understandably bummed, but elevation is a strange thing. If it makes you sick, it is wise to not continue upward.
By this time my stomach was feeling miserable and none of us were particularly happy when thinking of the return drive and the hours of hiking that remained before our eventual arrival at the car.
Bruno lamented the fact that there was no snow to glissade on, and swore that he would never hike that long of a distance again without snow, even though he was already talking about next time as soon as we got in the car.
As we left the parking lot, there was a huge line of cars in front of us unaware that using brakes for an hour of downhill is not good unless paying for new brakes is someone's idea of fun. We got to enjoy the smell of burning brake pads until we reached Serranos in the little burg of Three Rivers.
The ReturnThe food at Serranos is worth talking about. Spicy and tasty is what I would call it. I wasn't hungry though. Whatever was dogging me on the trail today had suppressed my appetite, but I forced myself to eat which was a bit of a mistake. Tears nearly left my eyes after Bruno reaffirmed our friendship in a nonchalant but masculinely sweet fashion. Chrissy also reiterated. Thanks you guys!
None of us were feeling too awake or good, but we left anyway and got back on the road. After several hours on Highway 99 and passing people in the fast lane, I had to make one last pit stop in Pixley.
Since the Men's restroom was either permanently closed or occupied, I relieved myself in the Women's which was unsurprisingly as fragrant as a men's room normally is. The fluorescent strobe effect had a miraculous response on my digestive tract, and I left feeling almost like a new man.
We arrived in Santa Clarita around 11:30 and I still had an hour and a half drive back to Moreno Valley.
I had to stop at the REI in Rancho Cucamonga and sleep in my car for a few hours before finally showering and hitting my pillow at 5:30 AM.
All in all it was a severely long day and night. Was it worth it? Always!