May 27, 2018
When I woke up the next morning I found that I was having some misgivings about skipping ahead. I’m not sure what it was, but for some reason, I just really wanted to continue up into the Sierra. Maybe I was still married to the idea of hiking a continuous footpath even though I’d already broken it by skipping small sections. I can’t really say. But I guess Sparky and Ghosthiker had been feeling the same way because they immediately agreed that going up now felt better than skipping ahead. We decided that if we got to Kearsarge Pass and it looked bad ahead, we’d turn around and head back to Lone Pine. We packed our things and made plans to hitch to Horseshoe Meadow.
I had thought my misgivings were about skipping ahead, but once we’d decided to go ahead and hike on from there, I still felt just as apprehensive as I had before. What was wrong with me? I figured it was just the thought of summiting Mt. Whitney that was making me nervous. It wasn’t technically part of the PCT but it was something we’d all been planning to do. We’d already heard of a few fatalities that had happened just in the last month. Even though those had been people attempting to summit Whitney from the Lone Pine side during bad conditions, it did very little to ease my mind. Why wasn’t I more excited? Sparky and Ghosthiker certainly seemed to be.
I had thought this hike would change me. Make me different. Better. I thought it would reveal – or maybe cultivate – the strong, capable badass that I surely was deep down, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m still anxious and depressed half the time. I keep thinking, this isn’t what I expected at all, and I kind of just want to be done. If I were to quit now, then maybe I could try again another year and it would be different. I’d be different. I’d do so many things differently. Re-hiking 800ish miles didn’t sound so bad, really.
Even though we were about to go into what is arguably the best section of the entire Pacific Crest Trail, I was depressed. I couldn’t shake it. I should have been excited to finally be going into some real mountains, but I was not. I was disappointed with this hike. I was disappointed with myself and my prevailing negative attitude. But I knew if I quit now, the decision would haunt me for the rest of my life. I couldn’t quit.
After breakfast at Mt. Whitney Cafe and some long waits and road walking, we were finally able to get a hitch from a marine named Rhett who was heading up to summit Whitney from the Lone Pine side. Even though he had a little rice burner of a car, he was more than happy to give us a ride up the long, winding road to Horseshoe Meadow trailhead. The sky was overcast, which was an odd change from what we were so used to.
Perhaps it had been the consecutive days of either light hiking or no hiking at all, but I began to feel better once we were back on the trail and started hiking up toward Trail Pass. We made it up the 2.2 mile climb faster than I’d expected and were soon back on the PCT, so maybe that boosted my morale somewhat.
Almost as soon as we started gaining elevation we began to see snow on the ground, and then it began snowing thick, slushy chunks of snow onto our heads, accompanied by thunder and lightning. It was actually kind of exciting to be hiking in elements so completely different from what I’d experienced so far on the trail. Snow, thunder, lightning, and a heavy fog had settled in all around us. Sparky thought we should all hike nearby each other at least 30 feet apart until the storm passed. The lightning seemed to be far off, but just to be safe, if we kept that distance and one of us happened to get struck the others would be far enough away not to be affected but close enough to help.
We both paused on the trail a little distant from each other to wait for Ghosthiker to catch up so we could explain our plan to her when Gently Used appeared slowly out of the fog. He held up a cheap-looking toothbrush with half the handle cut off and asked if any of us had lost one. It was mine! I don’t even know how it fell out of my pack! I thanked him profusely and tucked it safely away in my hip belt pocket. It would have been a long, gross journey over these next few mountains without a toothbrush. Breaker appeared moments followed by Ghosthiker, and we all agreed to hike together, but apart, according to Sparky’s plan until the storm passed.
When we got to a lower elevation it gave way to more calm, dry woods, which was nice. We’d overestimated how many miles we were going to be able to do that day and ended up dry camping just a few miles past the Sequoia and Kings Canyon Natl. Park boundary. We had to melt snow to cook our dinner and have water for the morning, but we were all pretty excited about being in the Sierra and exhausted by the days climb, so it was an early night.
We had another full day of hiking before we reached the basecamp at Mt. Whitney, so I was able to let my anxiety rest enough to get a pretty decent nights’ sleep. Though I did lay awake for a while listening for bears.