Sierras- Altitude Adjustment (Monday May 31)
I woke up late, with the sun shining warm on my tent, which was good because there was a sheen of frost on the surface of my sleeping bag!
I got up, packed up, and started hiking along the meadow edge, filled with light green sagebrush and edged by pretty pines. I saw several new faces of other thru hikers I hadn’t met before, throughout this day. In fact, at one point, I crossed a stream and found a group of 10-15 thru hikers sitting together there. I can’t make sense of how or why these bubbles form, it seems there are days that I hardly see anyone else all day, and other days the trail is crowded. It’s good to have that mix- to know others are out and have days of more solitude too.
In the morning, I came to a bridge over Kern River, and sat under the shade there, ate breakfast, filtered water. Met another thru hiker who said he was taking his time this morning, but when it’s so beautiful, it’s worth it. He really seemed to be in the zone, stretching, listening to music, enjoying the morning.
Throughout the day, I continued hiking along pretty meadows and pine-covered areas. Every so often you could see this significant granite range in the distance, with some visible patches of snow in crevices, and Mount Whitney. Exciting- most of us will choose to climb that mountain when we get to it, even though it requires a short side trip off of the PCT.
It was all very beautiful, but I also felt tired! Not gasping for breath, but each time I took a break and sat down, I felt a desire to sit there forever! I guess I didn’t hike fast enough to get out of breath, because of feeling weary! We’re hiking up at 10,000 feet now, consistently. (With some research, I found that my home place rests at pretty much near sea level, in comparison, so that’s not helping me, haha.)
I felt the effects of the high altitude on this day, and over the course of the next week. I’m not alone in that, one of my friends chuckled at himself, and said, “Instead of getting faster each day, I’m getting slower now! I’ve been pushing to do 20 mile days (once we all did more than that) and now, I think I’m going to have to bring it down even further, to 18s! Some days, I take three x one-hour breaks!” I laughed and told him about how sometimes I take a break, then get up to start again, then take another break 10 minutes later.
We both laughed and said that now when people ask us our start date, instead of them following that with “You’re cruising!” they’re going to respond with silence or confusion. (It’s a big thing to give your “start date” out here. Almost always when you meet someone, they ask your trail name, and then inevitably they ask, “When did you start?” and then they judge you based on how fast you’re moving compared to them.) Ultimately though, most of the time, I think neither one of us is too bothered. We expect to adjust and hike more miles in a few weeks’ time.
Towards evening the trail was steeper, climbing up higher to a pretty overlook of Owens Valley below. There were some really pretty views up there, looking down on sheer mountainsides below, the desert floor of Owens Valley, and a mountain range on the other side. Unfortunately, I had really been looking forward to having phone service up on that high mountain, and my disappointment over not being able to contact home overshadowed my appreciation of the view.
It’s been a while since I’ve taken a day’s break from hiking to rest in a town. It’s definitely time. By the end of this day I could feel that my appreciation for the views and experience are at about 50%. Different concerns are bothering me more than they need to—how to get to town, weariness, missing friends behind me, missing home. I need to rest up and bring the enjoyment back up again, to full appreciation 🙂
Fortunately, I will hike to Lone Pine tomorrow for some much-needed rest and regrouping.
Ultimately, though I feel ready for a break, it was another good day on trail, another part of the journey, realizing personal limits.
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