the Sierra Nevada
Rod and Diane, who hike about twice as fast as Lisa and I do, take off before dawn. Their ambitious plan is to get up the 99 switchbacks, traverse the crest and continue their climb up to the top. Spend a little time there, twenty minutes or so, and then come on back down. And by “on back down” I mean all the way back down to their car which is at Whitney Portal. That’s 4.7 miles and 2500 feet of elevation gain to the summit, and then eleven miles and a drop of more than 6000 feet coming down.
Lisa and I originally had a less ambitious plan which was to begin predawn, hike up and tag the summit and come back to camp here for a second night, then leave the day after.
We two take our time breaking camp and leisurely begin our descent. We’re seeing how, in my reduced state, I will be able to hike out of here.
Still above tree line, some hikers are being smart. Smart, but not particularly attractive. They have so much sunscreen slathered on their faces they look like bad clowns. Lisa calls our encounters with these hikers “a walking yuckfest.”
A hiker approaches. His mustache is thick and white, he wears a bomber hat and has three little dogs on leashes. His voice is melodious, “Greetings, fellow outdoor enthusiasts.”
“Did you make it to the stream? I haven’t been here yet. I’m wondering what the golden trout interpretive display is. Do the trout do an interpretive dance?”
Lisa says, “If you see that, please report back to us.”
Next we pass a solo hiker, an Asian man. He says, “Howdy.” I wasn’t expecting that.
Farther down, two guys are leaning on a rock, their dog resting, lying on the trail. One guys says, “Go ahead and step on his tail. He’s too tired to do anything about it.”
Halfway back to trailhead, we take the side trail to Lone Pine Lake because we haven’t had enough beauty yet.
As soon as we get back on the main trail, approaching us at a fair pace are Rod and Diane, nine miles from the summit, on their way down. I had a feeling that we would run into them again on the trail. We pump them for information about their hike, about the summit, and understand when they tell us they are tired and sore.
Retracing our steps down to Whitney Portal, we arrive back at trailhead. We use the latrine and splash our faces. These are two entirely separate maneuvers. We high five each other, dump our WAG bags in the appropriate containers and just hang around contemplating the size of the mountain we’ve just climbed, and for R & D, the mountain they just summited and the almost sixteen miles they hiked since pre-dawn. And now it is time to drive back to town.