6.30.12 - Day 1 – Mile 0 - 188.8.131.52 - Day 1 – Mile 0 - 33.5
The whole ride from Anne and Jerry’s house in Prather was rather uneventful. I just mostly felt tired, having left at 4:30am. It was the day before Anne’s birthday so I insisted that she take the passenger seat and I would sit in the cab. For the most part I stayed awake through it all, but I did end up dozing off for about 20 minutes, I rationalized, saying to myself I needed to be well rested for my first big day.
I started hiking today at Happy Isles (elevation 4,035 feet) at about 7:15am when I parted ways with Gus and Anne. Having waited for this moment now for seemingly so long, I was beside myself in my usual exuberant fashion. Still in the back of my mind I wanted so badly to have Gus there experiencing it with me too.
I charged the trail ridiculously fast, forgetting how marathon-esque this endeavor truly was. My enthusiasm was blinding, and my feet took off in a jog. Luckily at this point I only had my lighter daypack for my first 21miles until the Tuolumne Meadows area. The climbing started quickly, so simply the only thing I could do was slow down my pace a bit. I thought of what Gus said to me the night before, “Just forget about trying to run it, just hike it and enjoy it.” Well, it wouldn’t take long for me to realize that hiking was the much more accommodating mode of transport under this terrain and for this sort of adventure.
Along my way, I must have said hello and asked every other person how they were doing today or where they were going or where they had come from. I was hoping that someone would say “Mt. Whitney!” Alas, there weren’t too many people headed that way or coming from there, but there was a father and son that I passed early on in the day (just after I passed the trail head to Half-Dome which was at 7000 feet) who told me they were doing the JMT too! I was so excited to meet someone else making the trek too. Their packs were so much bigger than what my full-size pack was. They each must have been carrying over 40 pounds while my pack must have only weighed a little over 25.
The whole time I was on the trail, my mind just kept wandering back to thoughts of Gus. Every time I saw something new and amazing, I would think about how I would describe it to him once I saw him again. Sunrise meadows, Cathedral Peak, Cathedral Lakes… It felt like a realization of how connected I am with him and how much he’s involved in my daily life. All of these thoughts actually made the hike go by extremely fast, or perhaps the lightness of my daypack played a factor in my speed too. I had so much to say when I saw Anne and Gus at Tuolumne Meadows (elevation 8600 feet), but I didn’t actually get to say any of it. All of my thoughts just seemed to float away when I saw them. All I really wanted was a great big hug from Gus. While I ate my 4:00pm meal I somehow hoped that he would miraculously start hiking with me, yet I knew that wouldn’t really be happening and that both Anne and Gus would be leaving soon, as would I. I stood up gave him a huge hug and kiss and said my goodbyes.
Shortly after I began hiking again, the PCT joined in with the JMT. It wasn’t hard to immediately start picking out which people were the through-hikers were. There were so many of them! Of course, I said hello to all of them, but I no longer needed to ask where they were coming from. With my full pack weight I slowed down pretty dramatically. 20+ extra pounds does actually make quite a difference; in addition, while initially attempting to jog with it I rolled my ankle almost immediately. Lesson learned, as Gus said, “Forget about the whole running thing.”
I hiked quickly through the meadows of Lyell Canyon (8800 feet) as dusk began to approach. The golden trout jumped out of the meandering stream to get their evening meal, as I was hiking through. I wanted to hit my first goal marker, which was somewhere close to Lyell Bridge (9700 feet). I had already told myself that at 8pm I want to set up my camp even if I wasn’t there yet though. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it turns out that I set up my camp just 10 minutes farther down the trail from the bridge. All and all, it was a good first day. I hiked for about 33.5 miles and climbed for about 5,600 feet in elevation. Welcome to the JMT.
7.1.12 – Day 2 – Mile 33.5 – 617.1.12 – Day 2 – Mile 33.5 – 61
An early rise at 5:30am and I was out hiking by 6:30am, which set me up well for my first real pass on the JMT, Donohue Pass (11050 feet). After making the pass, I just kept on trucking for quite some time without stopping (except for pictures). I figured out a better system for where I need to carry my camera and my early morning snack already, and reaching my water bottles isn’t very hard while hiking. These few simple things definitely saved me some time. I didn’t really notice Island Pass; although it was 10200 feet, it just didn’t seem like there was much of a drop in elevation before it.
I must have past 20+ PCT hikers as they were heading north today as I continued on my way south. One of the 20-something year old males was wearing a skirt that had a PCT patch on it. This detail helped me be sure I was talking to a PCT’er before I started talking, “There sure are a lot of you this year,” as if somehow I knew what the other years were like and that what I said was, of course, a true statement. “Of who?” he questioned as if it were some miracle that I could decipher that he too was hiking the PCT that year. “PCT hikers,” I replied in a matter-of-fact tone. “Too many,” he said, “over 900 this year,” in a way that implied that he was not a part of this 900 plus group. “I could understand, it could be the weather this year,” there I go again talking like I somehow know the Sierras well. We continued on down the trail as we said goodbye having already passed one another. Over 900, I thought to myself, damn that’s so many. Just then I happened to see 3 more on their way up as I was on my way down. Young guys with full facial hair and definitely a thinner build, in fact many of the male PCT’ers had this very same build. So similar to Gus’ build, I thought longingly, maybe that’s why he did the PCT so fast. How can I even miss him so much in only one day, I thought, it must be because it’s so beautiful here, and I trudged on.
Not long after that, I had my first extended “sensation” of foot pain. They began to burn and ache non-stop. It was similar to what I felt at the very end of the day yesterday, but it was the middle of the day today. Maybe these running shoes could have been a bit thicker in the soles, but there’s no changing that now. I thought to myself, today I will definitely soak my feet in a stream or a lake when I sit down for dinner; after all, ice baths are great recovery tools.
All the way down from Island Pass to Thousand Islands Lake it was smooth hiking. As soon as I saw the peak I instantly thought of how much Gus adores this mountain, enough to argue that it is the most post-card perfect mountain out there. It was quite breathtaking, and picture perfect too.
I hit the trailhead where the PCT and the JMT break off for a short section, and I thought in my head about the conversation that Trevor and I had about two weeks back. He was on the PCT south-bound for about 1 month, and after he hit this section he called me and told me to take the PCT and to avoid the JMT section through Red’s Meadows because the blow-downs from the wind storm awhile back had not been cleared yet. I remember him telling me he thought they would be cleared in 2 weeks. I thought for a moment at the sign, well it’s been two weeks; I really want to do the whole JMT. So I forged ahead on the JMT section towards Red’s Meadows. Plus this way I would see way more lakes!
As I hiked on I felt confident that I knew the landmarks and my way, it was the JMT after all. By the time I reached what I thought was Shadow Lake I realized perhaps I might be wrong with that assumption. It turns out I was on a trail just off of Garnet Lake not actually headed towards Shadow Lake, but towards a different lake altogether. Needless-to-say I followed a very faint, off-trail, deer path. I was crawling and climbing over and under all of the downed trees that Trevor had mentioned were from the windstorm, but this was not a maintained trail… I nearly threw myself into a panic, asking myself why I didn’t just take the PCT section of this… I had to be rational though; I was following this water down a canyon at this point, so I just had to keep going.
Finally I hit a REAL trail…phew! I knew it was real, that seemed like the only thing that mattered so I started going up. Apparently up towards the real Shadow Lake (8750 feet). About halfway up I ran into a couple, which were “going fishing for their dinner at Shadow Lake.” Great maybe they’ll actually know where we are, I thought. I was pretty determined to stay on the JMT at that point so when they told me to go down to meet up with the PCT to get to Red’s Meadows. I was bummed so I thought maybe I need a second opinion, and I kept climbing. I hit the base of Shadow Lake, where it becomes Minaret Falls, and met a man who “knew these parts like the back of his hand,” well he’s worth a listen to I thought. “Oh, you want to head back down this trail here,” he said with an I-know-what-I’m-talking-about tone. Slightly saddened by the thought that I would be missing a part of the official trail, but also pretty spent and beaten-up, I decided that taking their advice was best. I did eventually make it back to the JMT via the PCT where they join back up. I hiked up past Crater Meadow and set up shop at 7:30pm. My feet and legs needed some rest!
7.2.12 – Day 3 – Mile 61 – 184.108.40.206 – Day 3 – Mile 61 – 86.5
Alright, so today’s the day I see Trevor… this is great, so early into the trip I get to see a familiar face that I am happy to see! I can’t help but have this underlying thought from the very start of the day. Today I started early again at 6:30am, which seemed helpful because I got to my destination point earlier than expected! I even took longer breaks though-out the day today… for instance, I soaked my feet at Lake Virginia (10300 feet), which is just after Purple Lake today. So this morning I began a little before Deer Creek (8900 feet) and cruised on over to the most beautiful Purple Lake (9900 feet), where I saw a whole bunch of people (mostly PCT’ers) who were just headed out at 9am. It seems so late to start to me, but what do I know I’ve only been on trail for 3 days now. Either way, they must have just needed more rest! Perhaps my second favorite part of the day was just after I passed Purple Lake and I saw two HUGE huskies on the trail! They must have been the biggest huskies I have ever seen and they were with a younger athletic couple that was just hiking around for a few days. They seemed tired of all of the blow-downs they were encountering and asked me about Duck Lake (which I hadn’t encountered because it went in the other direction from where I was going). It made me think of Gus and the pups. As it turns out there were tons of blow downs on the way from Purple Lake to Lake Virginia. I was crawling and jumping and climbing over it all, which was quite energy consumptive.
When I reached Lake Virginia it sure was a nice point to put my feet in the cold water! Then down, down, down I went to Tully Hole (9500 feet mosquito mania) and so quickly after that up, up, up I went to Silver Pass (10900 feet). What an amazing view?! I could see all around me 360 degrees! I wanted Gus to be with me at that moment, for after all of the climbing over and around trees I made it to an amazing view. I put my pack down and sat on a rock at the top of the pass. Spelled out in the sand was “YOU DID IT!” HA! What perfect timing for me… I needed a positive boost.
A PCT’er told me where the best spot was up there to take in the view. I quickly took my camera out and made my way over to the place that “was worth it.” I even got a great picture of myself up there to boot! After the picture and a quick bite to eat (one of my rye cracker, pb, honey, wheat germ mix) I was off again. Down to meet Trevor I thought! Not too much farther I thought. Alas, on my way I ran into National Park Rangers, and when I was asked for my non-existent wilderness permit I quickly explained my way out of a $140 ticket that I was threatened with. It is absolutely imperative that you get one, as I thought to myself exactly how could that happen. I thought about that question all the way down.
Making it to our meeting spot (Mono Creek Bridge 7700 feet) well before 5pm, I decided to start searching for Trevor. I started calling his name out, and I even looked into someone’s tent (luckily they had their rain fly off). It turns out I was a little bit early, he showed up at about 5:15pm, a little after the ferry had brought him over. When I did see him I was SO happy! He immediately told me about the salads that he had concocted. He had made an egg salad (for the protein, he said) and an absolutely trough sized, crazy good salad with every topping imaginable. Even after just having eaten my Indian pack dinner I still ate a ton of both. I even finished it off with the Chocolate Ensure that he brought me. What a thoughtful guy! Even without the beer I was craving, it was an even better surprise and treat than I could have hoped for. We (and I mean primarily he) built a fire and then we chatted for a few hours swatting away mosquitoes and soaking in the short day of hiking, I called it quits at 8:15pm to start up on my journal, plus my feet are killing me!
7.3.12 - Day 4 – Mile 86.5 – 220.127.116.11 - Day 4 – Mile 86.5 – 116.5
Today would be best described as very serious mosquito warfare!!! Trevor and I had breky together at our campsite, which I knew from last night was a mosquito breeding ground. Even with the mosquitoes, I heard Trevor rousting so I went over to the log near the fire pit to have a queen’s breakfast of delicious salad left overs, another chocolate Ensure and Fig Newton’s that Gus and Anne snuck into my resupply bag (I needed to eat them… they would have gotten all crumpled in my pack). I thanked Trevor again, said my goodbye, and asked him to pass on my love to Gus before I shoved off at 6:30am. I made pretty good time going over Bear Ridge (9950 feet), maybe because I love hiking in the cool air of the morning, or because on my way up the ridge I picked up two sturdy hiking sticks to help me on my way, or perhaps that filling breky I had. Whatever the reason I was just feeling great as I started to make my way down to Bear Creek trail (8800 feet) until… (dun dun dun…) MOSQUITOES!!! All the way to Lake Italy trailhead (9250 feet) it was a race to stay ahead of the mosquitoes, and it didn’t start clearing up until I started my climb up to Marie Lake.
When I did get up to Marie Lake (10600 feet) I was surprised at how much less snow there was there now in July compared to the trip Gus and I took last year in August. The small streams on the way up to the lake weren’t even flowing. The view was so nice and my feet still were quite sore, so I decided to take a foot soak again and take in the view (without any mosquitoes). There actually weren’t any more mosquitoes over Selden Pass (10870 feet which did have an excellent view and plenty of trout filled streams on the way down, making me wish Gus was there with me), or Heart Lake (10490 feet where I passed by two other JMT’ers taking 2.5 weeks and 2 people on horse-back headed to Muir Ranch), or the whole down to the bridge over Piute Creek (8050 feet which is right before entering Kings Canyon National Park), or even the South Fork of the San Joaquin River Bridge (8350 feet).
I climbed and climbed for quite a bit, up to Evolution Creek (9000 feet) and then the bug attack started back up… ten-fold. Somewhere between Evolution and McClure Meadows (9400 feet) is where I was going to stay, and this was absolutely the highest density of mosquitoes of the whole trip. Upon my reflection, I realized that the cumulative heat from the day really made me crave swimming, and it’s not like I didn’t have a good place to do it either. I just felt like I really didn’t have the time to stop and take an extended break. I wanted to put in about 30+ miles today, and that meant I had to keep hiking. I ended up making my miles today (stopped hiking at 7:52pm) at the cost of not swimming. Some other good news is that I’m feeling better adjusted to the elevation now. I have new blisters now though, and they are all the kind where the skin rubbed off and dirt and pebbles got into them. Ew, this should be interesting putting my shoes back on tomorrow.
7.4.12 – Day 5 – Mile 116.5 - 1477.4.12 – Day 5 – Mile 116.5 - 147
This might very well be my favorite day so far! The huge bonus to the day was that there were very few mosquitoes, after I made it out of Evolution Valley that is. I started off in warrior-mode this morning with packing-up camp; I knew that those devious mosquitoes were devising plans all night on how to eat me. They were covering the inside of my rain fly and were all over the netting. They had me surrounded. So I slyly packed up everything in the tent and then shot out of it like a bat-out-of-hell and packed the tent that had kept me safe from them all night. I practically sprinted out of there, except for the fact that it was much more of a hobble due to the copious amount of blisters and bruising I had on my feet. It seems I need about 15 minutes to ignore how painful it is to walk on my feet and then I’m good to go (as long as I don’t have to put my shoes on and off).
Once I climbed up and out of Evolution Valley I reached Evolution Lake (10850 feet and oh what a beautiful sight it was to be reaching it in the early morning) I ran into a man doing the PCT. He told me all about how it looked at sunset since he had camped there last night. He parted with these words, “it’s not about how many hours you hike it’s all about the place.” I thought to myself, that sure would have been good for me last night, but I just really wanted to lye down. These were good words of wisdom for the future camping spots, though. I passed another nice lake, Sapphire Lake on journey up to Muir Pass (11955 feet) that morning.
On my way up I passed a few people, and I even happened to know one of them. It seemed so strange that I would run into someone I knew out here. It was none other than my old neighbor from Hidden Creek Road in Arcata, CA, Ben. He insisted on a picture at the top of the pass to prove our chance encounter, so we both had our picture taken together next to Muir Hut on the top of the pass. I also got some good advice of a restaurant to stop at in Bishop called Whiskey Creek. There was a man and his son on the top who were from Bishop, so I asked for their opinions of a place for a good salad. After collecting my information for Saturday’s first meal off the trail I busted out of there fast.
I descended to more pristine lakes and streams all the way. I knew that I was going to drop down to Palisade Creek (8000 feet), which meant a whole lot of descending was ahead of me. I thought it sounded like too much descending because after hitting Palisade Creek it was all a matter of going back up again. I would be camping at the second Palisade Lake, which was somewhere close to 10800 feet. Wowsers, what a lot of climbing to do! Apparently, the climb was called the Golden Staircase because the granite blocks were like stairs… after stairs, after stairs. I just thought it was another hard climb, and by that point I had taken on a new approach to the tough climbs, they are all going to be hard. Enjoy the hard while you’re doing it, and don’t ask anyone when it’s going to be over. Stop and look back at the view from where you’ve come, and see all that you’ve accomplished as you move upwards. It’ll be over when you reach the top, and a little ways down the line there will be another climb you have to do, so just be present with what you’re doing as you’re doing it. I said this sort of thing in my head if I ever thought I might want to ask when a climb (or descent for that matter) was almost over. Anyhow, I did have hopes of swimming and finally washing this stench from my body and clothes but alas, I camped at the second Palisade Lake and the trail is actually a lot higher above the actual lake than I thought based on the map. I started my hike this morning at 6:30am, I ended at 7:50pm and I took about 1.5 hours of breaks cumulatively.
7.5.12 – Day 6 – Mile 147 – 18.104.22.168 – Day 6 – Mile 147 – 176.5
Today started a bit late today at 6:40am, but I guess it’s not too late after all. I really enjoyed Mather Pass this morning (12080 feet elevation) and since I was already at the Upper Palisades Lake it made it much easier. After I made the pass and was on my way down I ran into 2 guys in their mid-20’s who were doing the Sierra Crest Trail. I had never heard of the trail, but I assume that Gus would know what it is and where it goes. Anyhow, these two guys looked like more “serious” hikers so I thought they would be good candidates for me to ask my “serious” hiking question to, “What do you guys think about doing 3 passes in one day?” Without much of a delay, “Oh, hell yeah.” The other guy chimes in, “You definitely got that.” Maybe it was because we were sporting the same brand, Go Lite, backpack or because I felt like they just honestly thought that I could do it. Whatever the reasoning was, it was decided, Pinchot and Glen Pass were next! I was charged up with energy about how accomplished I would feel to complete that feat.
On my way down the basin I passed substantially less PCT’ers, I gathered that they needed to be farther on North by now. When I did reach what I figured to be the bottom I crossed several streams and I happened upon a guy who was just finishing up his breakfast (it was 10am, maybe he needed his rest). We talked for a while and soon I discovered he was from NY and asked if I was too. I thought that was an interesting guess (did I sound like I was from the east coast?). He picked up on my Equinox hat and even though there are gyms of their brand in California, he must have thought they were only from NY. “Well, I actually used to work at one in NYC on Park Av,” I said, “but not anymore!” “Oh really, I go to one not too far from there,” he replied. All this chatting with him distracted me from the exact direction I was initially headed and I crossed over another serious of creeks and started following what turned out to be yet another deer path. This time I didn’t follow it for very long before I realized something was up. Panicked that I may be lost AGAIN, I frantically rushed back over the creek crossings and back to where I had been talking to my NYC friend. Phew, I got turned in the right direction, headed up towards Pinchot Pass!
I passed over Pinchot (12100 feet) at about noon and boy, was it getting hot. The rest of the day didn’t let up either because it was blazing! Rae Lakes (10500 feet) were on the way up to Glen Pass. This is where Gus told me that I could camp because of how pretty and enjoyable it was. I really liked hiking around the lakes as the sun was starting its’ descent in the sky. The mountains hugged in the beautiful blue of each of the lakes, and made pockets of luxury up there. There were a bunch of day hikers and overnight campers, which was good to see and yet it was also a reminder that pretty soon I’d be coming off the trail. As I began the climb up Glen Pass I went into survival mode. I was committing to making it over Glen Pass and down to Glen Lakes before it got too dark, and I needed to focus on the task in front of me. I hiked up to what I thought was the pass, but alas it was not. I looked over to my left, “Oh, up that,” I thought. I made it over Glen Pass (11500 feet) by 7:50pm, down to my campsite by 8pm, and I had camp set up by 8:10pm. I rinsed my feet and legs off more thoroughly in the little lake next to my camp. My muscles are quite a bit shaky tonight from all the exertions of the day. Ah, now time for bed!
7.6.12 – Day 7 – Mile 176.5 – 2127.6.12 – Day 7 – Mile 176.5 – 212
My body is shaking so badly right now I can barely write anything down. Probably because I am freezing but I’m sure it’s partially because I’m exhausted and also partially because I am in disbelief. I made it to the top… to the top of MOUNT WHITNEY! 9:45pm I was just able to make out the faint silhouette of the shelter at the summit. I was so scared climbing over the narrow passes and over snow and boulders in the darkness of the night. Thanks to my nighttime helper, Ricardo, (who I accidentally woke up with my bright head lamp and all of my clamoring about after reaching the top) I will stay in a “grounded,” horseshoe-shaped, 2-ft rock wall enclosure instead of being brutally exposed to the elements. My hands are so shaky right now that I can’t write anymore tonight, so I’ll have to wake up in the morning and recap then.
Now that it’s 4:45am I think I am capable (warmish) enough to go back over day 7 events. I left Glen Lakes at 7am this morning, and began thinking of what I would have done differently on this trip. 1)Brought Mole Skin or Second Skin to cover all of my gross and painful blisters 2)Brought more Advil for inflammation of my painfully blistered and swollen feet 3)Brought trekking poles 4) Worn gaitors over my shoes to keep out all of the pebbles and rocks 5)Had a more diverse breakfast selection since my granola and protein powder combo started getting old 6)Had another lunch choice besides crackers with my peanut butter, wheat germ, honey mixture (perhaps dried hummus and naan). After all of that contemplation, I was on my way down to Charolette Lake I met a very nice PCT’er named Steven who was wearing cheetah gaitors. He told me all about the benefits of having them (making me wish I had brought a pair even more). He also talked specifically about how hard it was for him to move quickly through this part of the trail because of how beautiful it was… it made me think about staying longer at some of the lakes, streams or mountain passes. Perhaps I could have swam or taken in the views for a bit longer. Even without stopping at more places and taking it slow more often, I still thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of these incredible mountains.
I headed on down the road and I started to think about the possibility of summiting Mount Whitney that day. Can I get there by tonight? All day long I thought about it. It really helped me power up Forester Pass (13200 feet) quickly. I was called a little battery rabbit by a woman in her early sixties that I passed on my way up. That’s pretty cute, I thought to myself. It was noon when I got to the top, and there was a whole crew up there! Everyone was just happy as pigs in mud too! It was mostly people in their late 50’s, who had been enjoying backpacking for a good portion of their lives. We all chatted for about 15 minutes then off I went. Once I was over the top and moving on I asked a few of them about my question, “Sure you can do it! You’re into day 7 now!” “Yeah,” I thought, “of course I can do it,” as a wave of positivity was washing over me. So I began to make faster miles, which I thought may make up for my later start.
My final decider to go to the top was when I met a father and son duo close to Crab Tree Meadows (10700 feet). They were just pumped for me too, and the father even asked me to post my hike on Summitpost.org, and perhaps I will after I type up my journal. All of the excitement just carried over to great hiking for my final hours of sunlight. Pretty soon I found myself at Guitar Lake (11600 feet), which is actually shaped like a guitar, charging up towards Mt. Whitney. “Where are you headed?” a man standing next to his tent asked. “Mt. Whitney,” I responded and pointed up. “I hope not tonight,” he said in a wary voice. “Yep,” I said eying my watch at 6:50pm. I passed one other man, who was also standing by his tent, “Have a good hike,” he said with confidence. He knew I was going for the summit I thought, and he knows I can do it too. So I climbed, and climbed, and climbed. All through the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen, I climbed Mt. Whitney.
As the sun was setting and the mountain’s rocks and boulders were changing hues, it was also sinking in that my biggest climb of the whole trip was taking place (and it was soon to be by headlamp). “Have faith in your own ability and choices; stand behind yourself because you are completely capable,” I thought to myself as it got dark. I hit the Mt. Whitney trail (13500 feet) at 8:30pm, looking at the sign that said 1.9 miles to Mt. Whitney as I said my goodbyes to the sun. My estimate for climbing time given the conditions: dangerous terrain via headlamp no more than 1.5 hours and no less than 1 hour. As it turns out, I made it to the top of Mt. Whitney (14495 feet) smack dab in the middle. Thanks to having a calm head about me through all of the sketchy parts (like the snowy section or the pass that was super thin and there was nothing on either side of me but two cliffs going down) I made it up there without a glitch. Man was it ever cold, I had to layer up immediately. The wind was absolutely fierce! Thank goodness I accidentally woke up Ricardo because I at least had a little protection from the relentless winds in my little rock wall encampment. I was lying down on my back looking up at the stars and hanging halfway out of my tent tightly curled into my sleeping bag, and the stars were just magnificent (I knew that memory of the sky would be etched in my mind so I withstood the bitter wind a bit longer). The moon rose at 10:30pm and got brighter and brighter as it climbed in the night sky. Combined with the temperatures and the wind I barely slept all night.
7.7.12 – Day 8 – Mile 212 – 22.214.171.124 – Day 8 – Mile 212 – 222.5
The John Muir Trail is now officially over, but I still have to hike out to Whitney Portal (8360 feet). I clamber and stumble out of my tent, fully layered and in a massive amount of foot pain. After having packed up, I go to get the full 360 at sunrise. I love the mornings out here. There’s someone on the top, but it’s not Ricardo. I ask him his name, “Phil,” he says. He did the JMT too, and in an impressive 11 days. As I’m looking at the views and taking pictures with my frozen non-gloved hands (I forgot my pair), I realized I was getting altitude nausea. Besides being frozen stiff, now I felt like I was going to puke. I cut the conversation short and said I had to head down. I was so disoriented from having come up in the dark last night, I had to be pointed to where the proper trail down was. As it turned out, Phil was on his way down too. We hiked and chatted the whole (LONG) way DOWN, which was very nice after having not talked to anyone for an extended period of time in a while. Phil determined that I was not only extensively talkative and super smelly by that point, but on the nicer side I was his pace horse down the long descent to Whitney Portal. It was a beautiful descent, but I couldn’t help but think about how excited I was to see Gus and the pups again so I didn’t take it in as much as I could have. About 5 minutes from the base of the trail, I saw a handsome young man with two stunning dogs he was walking. “What an attractive family,” I thought and quickly realized it was MY FAMILY!