Jackrabbit Hikes: Day 51-52 – Mt. Whitney
Day 51: Crabtree Meadows (mi 766.3) -> Mount Whitney summit -> Wallace Creek (mi 770.3)
When you look at a mountain range you can’t help but feel small. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, fast or slow, old or young. You are minute and insignificant in the face of a giant. The amount of biomass you represent is negligible to the life fostered by one side of a single peak.
Summiting a peak is not just about a conquest or beating the ascent. You get to know the mountain and the route you take. It could be calm and serene or windy and perilous. Sometimes you get the mountain’s everyday behavior but sometimes you face its wrath. You endure the power of a behemoth thousands of feet tall compared to your measly single digits.
You are stranded. Alone, even surrounded by a group of friends. There’s no one there but you and the rocks and dirt leading you upwards. Like rivals, a mutual respect for the challenge and the challenger. You bow at your opponent and respectfully challenge them to a battle. You know the mountains every move and it knows yours, yet the outcome can vary on any giving day.
I’ve never met a mountain I couldn’t climb. They are out there though. Tons of them. Hundreds, if not thousands of summits waiting for their next visitor. I hope I get to introduce myself to all of them when the time is right.
When you summit the peak, you see why the mountain stands as it does. Why it stands where it is and how it fits into its landscape or range surrounding. Some mountains are treacherous and want nothing to do with others while others invite life with water and fertility.
As you ascent a route to the top of a mountain you begin to understand a lot about yourself, too.
“Why am I doing this?”
I think the people I gravitate towards most are those that can answer this question the best. None of them may share the same answer; in fact, none of them do at all. There is no right answer.
But they know why. And it burns in them like coal in a furnace. That fire – that’s what takes them up the mountain.
We share that fire with the mountain. We don’t have to understand each other’s fire. It may be a spark or an inferno. But it burns. And it burns.
Mt. Whitney made me ask why I’m doing this. But I know my answer and it burns every second, of every day.
Day 52: Wallace Creek (mi 770.3) -> Lake Kearsarge (mi 788.5)
I cried today.
Not the ugly crying when you’re overcome with emotions but a stoic, silent stream of tears down my face. The kind where you just think so much about something that brings emotion out of you. Like watching a movie that inspires you or delivers a sad truth.
I sat down in a meadow and gazed out one of the most amazing scenes I could imagine. If there is a creator out there, he handcrafted the landscape that sprawled in front of me.
I cried because of where I was and how I got there. I thought of where I had been and the boy who hated the path he was on. I thought of the boy who doubted himself and his capabilities. I thought of the times I wanted to be more and could never get out of my slump. I thought of the boy who didn’t think he could do it.
I cried as the man who can.
I thought of the man who loves a challenge. I thought of the man who knows he can do anything. I thought of the man with no limits. I thought of the man with no doubts.
I smiled because I had become him.
Forester Pass was magical and the descent down gave me some of the most chilling views yet. My introduction to King’s Canyon National Park was overwhelming. I wrote the section above as I sat in the meadow. I watched the pristine water flow around me and listened to the bird’s song.
After a while of observing my surroundings, I got the feeling that everything in my life had lead me to that point. It’s one of the strongest feelings I’ve ever felt, like a deep love. It overcame me and it still does as I think about it.
As always, I’m grateful for every moment out here. Optimism and determination. I wrote those words in my first journal entry on the AT. They ring inside me each obstacle and achievement on trail.
Optimism and determination.
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