I roll over and out of my bag and into a normal-yet-weird morning. I do everything the same as I normally do, grab the bear cans, pick out the food for the day, pack up, stride off into the flat behind both Yoda and Outro. But today’s the setup – we’re climbing Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states, for sunrise tomorrow, and it’s got me bouncing through the morning’s flat in anticipation.
At first it’s all meadows and dappled sunlight, keeping me company as I make my way through the gentle terrain.
Then it’s down, down, around and over water source after water source – will I ever tire of this? Even the tiny trickles hold music, hold promise.
And then, a creek – Rock Creek, to be precise. A bunch of hikers are camped there, including Big Spoon, who greets me with a big hug. Yoda’s there, too – the awkwardness of the bear can’s not making her pack any more comfortable, so she’s stopped for a break. I stop for the water and the company, eat a pop tart, and enjoy relaxing with everyone.
I head out with Yoda – she’s moving slow-for-her today, which happens to be just my speed, so we get to know each other as we walk.
As we actually go to cross Rock Creek, I Robot tells us what I thought I’d heard and what we’d feared – there’s no camping between Crabtree Meadows and Whitney Summit. Nuuuuuu. A Ranger came by last night and made sure everyone knew. I’m vaguely gratified by being right, but super upset about it, too. We’ll have to make more miles in the dark, and the pressure is going to be on if we’re going to make it for sunrise.
So it’s up out of Rock Creek, pacing Yoda – she sets a good pace today, one I’m at the top end of my comfort zone to match even though I’m not in pain. Still, we’re making the time zoom by, laughing a lot and taking a copious number of breaks – we have fewer miles to make today than we thought, so meh.
I meet someone who read my CT blog, and we leapfrog with their group all the way up Guyot Saddle, where we sit and snack and take ridiculous pictures.
Sweetheart and Snacks are wistful about the ending of their trip, and we all sit and marvel at a couple hundred miles turned more than seven hundred. Life’ll do stuff like that to you, if you let it.
Then it’s down, chatting, leapfrogging down to where we can see the switchbacks leading up to… Somewhere. Whitney itself is still hidden, being enigmatic, saving all the fun for tomorrow.
More down, down into meadows – Crabtree Meadows, though this is the lowest and the slantiest of them. Soon enough, though, we start seeing tents and bear boxes – we’re getting closer.
We sneak across the gurgling Whitney Creek, not minding our feet getting wet, although the trout seem a little spooked by our presence. We’re joined by others – Aaron, Sweetheart, Snacks, Sterling – and there’s yet another break as we try to suss out where Outro would have gone, figure out where we’re going to camp tonight.
So we wash things and proverbially sit at Sweetheart’s feet as he tells us all about being a hiker now, being a blogger always, living the dream. Both Yoda and I are transfixed, not only at his success, but at how relaxed, how chill, how relatable – and how willing to help – he is. Snacks tolerates our fangirling with amused and practiced patience, and Aaron dips in here and there to ask intelligent questions about life, passion, living. Soon enough, it’s time to tear ourselves away – we have to find Outro and sleep up for the mountain climbing tomorrow morning, and so does everyone else.
We’re headed up a bit on the PCT before cutting over towards Whitney. The ascent is steep, but it’s likely our last climb for the day, so we don’t particularly resent it. Particularly. We howl to tell the others this is the way, and it echoes over the valley. Maybe they heard us, maybe they didn’t, but we’ve done our due diligence, so it’s off the PCT and down the side trail towards Upper Crabtree Meadow.
Outro’s been here for hours reading, waiting on our lazy asses. We see the sign saying I was right, though – no PCT hikers camping east of Upper Crabtree Meadow. Womp womp. Still, it’s been nice to have a lazy day, for once, and a lazy day it continues to be as we cook and set up our shelters in the warmth of the afternoon.
Pineapple rolls in, tells us the news – Evac got super, super sick last night, the Kennedy Meadows bug come back to stalk the Wolfpack. Woof. Wolf and U-Turn stayed back to take care of her. We feel bad for making more miles yesterday, but nothing to be done about it now.
She also decides she’s not coming up for sunrise, and when Sprinkles and Homegrown roll in later, they’re not either. They’ll come up in their own time. So it’s Outro, Yoda and I who’ll be making our way through the dark in scant hours.
6:30 comes, and it’s too late to think about sleep. Reframing things always helps for me, so I’m not going to sleep; I’m going to take a nap. Yeah, a nap. A five hour nap. Then I’m gonna climb a damn mountain.
Start: 755.3 • End: 767.0 • Day: 11.7 on trail + 0.8 side trail = 12.5
Notable Accomplishments: Hung out with Yoda • So many breaks. Perfect number of Sierra breaks. • Set up for Whitney today/tomorrow