A Challenging Week and Decision Time

Note: to aid in anonymity, I will use trail names for people who have them, and initials for those who do not yet have trail names.

Mt. Baden-Powell

Bluejay, H. and myself arrive at Vincent Gap around three in the afternoon on a Monday, and intend to go halfway up the mountain today to split the climb into two sections.

It takes us about thirty minutes of slipping in the slush to realize we may as well go back to the snow-free parking lot and regroup for a morning effort. In the morning, my two trailmates decide to take the highway detour. When I woke up, I had thought I would do the same, but feeling the firmness of the morning snow persuades me to give the climb another attempt. I throw on my pack and hurry off to catch up with those who have already set out.

The morning climb up Baden-Powell

The morning climb isn’t bad, and by 10am I am at the summit with Journey Man, Mantis, Dash, Sheriff, and Maxwise. We congratulate ourselves on our prowess and set off on the descent down the back side toward our destination of Little Jimmy campground.

Atop the mountain.

And then Nature flexes her muscles. We move at less than a mile an hour as the melting snow provides us with postholing, slipping, and some crazy descents and traverses that leave my knees and feet battered. The obstacles separate most of us out over quarter mile clusters of 1-2 people, and when alone I question whether I’m doing sufficient physical damage to put myself off-trail.

Finally into Little Jimmy, four of us set up camp in the snow that is deep enough where we can only see the roof of the outhouse.

Over the following days, my body feels the effects. I get new blisters and have to wear a knee brace. Some days we hike in the clouds, with a bitter cold dampness that permeates all the gear and ourselves. One day I find three ticks that I luckily catch early enough to just flick off.

Digging Deep

In my last post, I naively said something like “I don’t know if I need a why…I just go from point A to point B because that’s what needs to be done.” But this week I finally have enough physical distress that I realize it won’t all be so simple. When I’m with others it’s easier to feel upbeat, but when I’m alone for a day with physical struggles, there’s a deeper mental place that I have to go to in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other.


Whenever I look to the top of a hill and see the trail going over it or around a corner at the peak, there is almost always another hill beyond it. There’s a metaphor here somewhere.


We are now in Tehachapi. For the last 560 miles, my trailmates and I have been saying “we don’t need to worry yet about what to do in the Sierra, we’ll decide when we get to Tehachapi.”

Bluejay and H want to take a week off when we get to Kennedy Meadows. They are leaning toward going around, flipping ahead, or finding another trail altogether. Being from Europe, they want to make the most of their time and not spend it bouncing around avoiding the snowy chaos.

I lean toward wanting to at least go as far as Lone Pine, so that if I do skip ahead I can come back for the John Muir Trail section in September. I sadly wonder if our group of three might face an early breakup.

We’re about to go to dinner with Journey Man and Mantis, and while decisions are thought about, I intend to cherish the moment for what it is. If we all go our separate ways, we’ll have these times to smile about.

My trailmates.

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