A force of nature: Reevaluating our plans to move forward

Our first night in the Sierras, our crew of eight was snowed on.

Photo by Joey Rice, AKA Sultry Bear, of his tent covered in snow night one of the Sierras

When we woke up the following morning to a blanket of white covering the forest floor, Sultry Bear took one look around and said, “this is the Sierras telling us not to f*** with them.”

I took the June 12th snow much the same way; the Sierras are going to test us and we have to be calculated, diligent, and intentional with all of our moves.

That first day, with our new elevation above 10,000 ft and a blanket of snow hiding the once well groomed trail, our pace slowed from three miles an hour to about one and a half. We stopped seemingly every twenty minutes to catch our breath, and for the first time since starting the trail I hiked in my puffy, a beanie, and gloves with a hot hand stashed into the palm, rotating between my left and right hand.

Teva trudging through snow up to one of our many morning stops on day two

It was definitely a different experience from the 700 miles of desert we just completed.

On our third day in the Sierras, we decided to rethink things. Unfortunately we weren’t going to be able to summit Whitney, an endeavor we all wanted to pursue but couldn’t at this time for various reasons. There was a new foot and a half of snow in the Northern Sierras, the river crossings were becoming more impassable, and being somewhat on a time crunch the possibility of moving too slowly through the Sierras and affecting our end date began to seem all too real.

That’s when Bighorn made a suggestion. We get off trail in Lone Pine, mile 745 for us, and somehow get up to Ashland, OR. There, we’ll southbound back to Lone Pine, this time summiting Whitney, go back to Ashland, and continue hiking northbound. A flip flop, in hiker speak.

We were all sold on the idea, and within hours we’re off the mountain preparing to head into Lone Pine.
Currently we’re in Mammoth Lakes, staying at Buddha’s family friend’s condo. Hopefully over the next few days, we’ll be able to get someone to Reno where they can rent an eight person vehicle, turn back to Mammoth Lakes to pick us up, and drive all the way to Ashland. We’re antsy to get back on trail and hope we can do so by this upcoming Monday, June 19th.

The forces of nature that change our plans and test us are always made better by the presence of our trail family. Glad to share in the experience with these wonderful people. Photo taken by Mrs. Tree, Giving Tree’s mother.

When we first started this adventure, I remember Bighorn lamenting over the idea of needing to rearrange our plans for a potential Sierra flip flop. He wasn’t a fan- feeling like the best way to complete this was going to be heading straight from South to North with no interruptions.

As we’ve been on the trail longer, we’ve realized the importance of flexibility in accepting the uncontrollable. There’s so much out here that we can’t change, whether it’s a bad case of weather that causes us to stop early one day or a sudden pain that slows us down and makes the day miserable. Each element is a test of patience, helping us realize how we can better handle the unforeseen, and I feel better for it when we’re able to take what the trail throws at us and deal with it like it’s nothing. I’ve learned it’s not worth having one notion of how this trip must go. There’s hundreds of possibilities as nature forces us to reevaluate and shift plans, and being able to remain flexible and think on your toes makes a world of difference in continuing to move forward.

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Comments 2

  • Patti : Jun 19th

    A good lesson for life too. Glad you are staying safe

  • Professor Oak : Jun 19th

    Gotta respect the mountains! I flipped the opposite way headed to Canada from Chester, maybe I’ll cross paths with you and your group!


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