The Day the Sierras Broke Me…

The day came. The day that I was so over everything: the trail, the weather, hiking-life – essentially it all. I was in a foul mood, and it wasn’t a good place to be in when I had to go up and over Silver Pass.  It was like the mountain knew.

I wanted to name this post, “A Tale of the 12,000ft Passes – Part II,” but the title doesn’t seem appropriate anymore.  Rather, Sierras- 1 … Janine- 0 seems more appropriate.

They won. The mountains. I’ll tell you how…

I went into this 80+ mile stretch slightly cocky, feeling strong, with a healthy dose of fear of the numerous passes that I would take on: Bishop, Muir, Seldon, Silver.

Bishop: I knew what to expect. It was hard, but doable.  What concerned me most that day was the oppressive smoke that began to blow in.  The next day, Muir: the smoke had cleared and it was actually quite beautiful.
Seldon Pass: I was behind the mileage-marker I had for myself, so I decided, “let’s do 20+ miles!”  I don’t know how I did it, but I did; 25 miles, up and over Seldon, hiking well into the dark.  I was feeling oddly good. Boom!

I went to bed that night feeling so empowered, like I could conquer anything the Sierras threw my way, and I felt that way until the following morning.

If I had done it one day, I believed I must be able to do it again, right?  On I went. I embarked on the day – Silver Pass the goal – with optimism.

Well, the optimism didn’t last long. Reality set in.  My body ached. My legs felt like lead. The uphill was tortuous.

Maybe I am not one of those PCT hikers that can hike 20+ miles day-after-day!?  I could feel the pangs of negativity start to set in.

At first, they were subtle. I could push them away from focus. But as the miles dragged on and I climbed the 3000ft of elevation, I was down for the count.  The uphill never seemed to end. The rocks, or should I say granite boulders, seriously, why were they so high and so many!?

I was losing it, and it happened fast.

Tears started to well up. My legs were giving out. They were tired. I was tired. I was so over this pass. I was over it all!  Seriously, why are there so many Passes!?  How can a person do this?  Why won’t this smoke go away?  I hate the bear can!

Point being: nothing was exempt from scrutiny.

For the first time since Washington, I wanted out.   I was done. It was a good run, but the Sierras won. The mountains won.  They’re too much for my body to handle; what superhuman could!?

Tears were flowing, and profanity was screamed out loud, literally (thankfully no one was to be seen).

But something happened about .3 from the pass itself.  I had my music playing and the song “Everybody Hurts,” as performed by The Corrs, came on.

At first I got annoyed that a slow song came up, but as someone who believes that nothing is an accident, I decided to let it play out. I listened to the words. I got it.  I kept on.

Then, what happened next was so surreal that if it didn’t happen to me, and I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d have trouble believing it: the smoke cleared. The sun shined through; the blue sky was seen for the first time all day.

Perhaps coincidence? Perhaps not.

Well, from the actual Pass (on Guthook), you still have .3 to the high point.  Onward I went.  At this point, I’m laughing, crying – point being I was smiling.  I wasn’t as foul and ugly as I had been all day.

As I drudged on, (I swear it!) the song “Everybody Hurts,” as performed by REM came on.   I was freaked out at that point!

I finally stopped once I got to true top. I bent down, stretched a little, and as I looked to the ground, this is what I saw:

The little rock, all by its lonesome, just like me, full of heart. I picked it up, tucked it away, and decided that I needed to call it a day and find a place to camp.

I pulled out my phone and saw the time: 3:33pm.

As we used to say amongst my trail-family:

Never Quit On A Bad Day

I won’t. I didn’t. I’m not.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 8

  • Aaron : Oct 8th

    Met you on your way to Muir Hut, we’d just left it. You were such a positive Force of Nature headed back up what we’d just walked down.
    You were VERY inspiring to my group, we were the 50 yr olds you fired up with your positive words & enthused disposition… thank you “Sofa Queen”

    Keep on Trekin!

    You left us impressed & inspired; thank you!

    Your Fans from L.A & Wisconsin ????

    • Janine : Oct 9th

      It was so nice to meet you guys! And I’m happy you found me here! Stay in touch, bc I would love to support you on your future endeavors, too! Hope this hike was as epic and awesome as you all were to me!
      Janine/Sofa Queen

  • Brock : Oct 25th

    “…hiking well into the night.” How do you find a good campsite at night?”

    • Janine Abdallah : Oct 25th

      I rely on Guthook to tell me the camping spots, and I always check the comments beforehand to see what ppl say about it, to make sure it’s good or not. Other than that, I’m judging the area to find the flattest and secure locations, but I can also handle less ideal locations for one night, too

      • Brock : Oct 26th

        Thanks Janine. I did the JMT in July but never had the energy to hike into the night. Maybe part of it was a concern over finding campsites; or setting the campsite up after dark. Or walking 50’ feet to the river in the dark. The whole backpacking thing was new to me but I can imagine that with experience comes a greater comfort level pushing the boundaries a bit. Also, I used Guthooks too but with time found that the App understated campsites by a factor of 10x or so. Toward the end of the trip I just started winging it. On the other hand it was nice to have other campers nearby …. but not too near!


What Do You Think?