Sierra Salad (And Other Defunct Trail Challenges)
JUNE 26 – 12 miles VVR to Seven Gables junction
Left Hospitality HQ after breakfast with Goodsnacks (a musical theater performer from NYC) and got a lift to the Bear Creek trailhead from the kind folks at VVR. Specifically, a guy who looked like he’d just walked off an episode of Friday Night Lights where he was working the ranch until Coach saw him throw a perfect spiral with a chainsaw.
A few miles into Bear Creek Trail, we found what we came here for (ok, what *I* came here for)…the perfect swimming hole paradise.
…and then we paid for that luxury the next 5 miles. I mean, you haven’t really lived until you’re chased by a swarm of mosquitoes into your tent to eat spicy ramen pants-less (don’t judge me), cursing yourself for trying to fit 10 days of food in a bear can and deciding to ultimately let the marmots do as they please with the overflow. If there’s one thing that sends me totally off the deep end, it’s a constant horde of mosquitos. After I freaked out, I put myself in time out by laying in my tent until I was ready to stop using swear jar words at the situation and behave myself like a lady.
JUNE 27 – 15 miles Seven Gables Trail to Muir Rock
Bailed camp at 7am covered head to toe in order to get away from the bugs, but the day just got better from there: climbed back up to breezy cliffs and breakfast at Marie Lake. Then up over Selden Pass and another delicious lake swim at Sally Keyes, before descending to Muir Ranch and a footbridge of PCT hikers who were conversing about Frankensteined town meals, bless them. One of the best was the “Sierra Salad Challenge” where you spend $20 on fresh produce, stuff it all in a bear can, and eat it in the parking lot.
I can definitely imagine that maw of hunger because we’ve only been out here 8 days and I’m already having to exercise all my self-control not to tear through the snacks that need to last another 8 days. *You* trying telling your dehydrated body no, you’re going to need that jerky when you climb to 11,000 feet tomorrow.
At dinner, we had a family meeting and talked through the mileage needed to make Mt. Whitney by July 5. We still don’t know if the fire is contained. If we can do at least 12 miles per day, we’re golden. And of course, this could also be a flop if Caitlin can’t pick us up. We watched the sun set over the river rapids and were reminded yet again how little control we have out here.
JUNE 28 – 8? miles Muir Rock to Evolution Meadow
When we got to McClure Ranger Station, we saw this sign posted:
Which we kind of knew already, but seeing it so officially (written in HAND by a real life NPS Ranger!!) it sunk in a little more. We’d made one other attempt on Mt. Whitney back in 2016 and had to bail due to a hailstorm. This was to be our redemption, but nature doesn’t care about your Insta.
I can already hear my grandnieces and nephews groan and roll their eyes, “We KNOW, Aunt Kate, you made it *one* mile from the top and had to turn around, and then in 2021, there was a wildfire and you had to get off trail, find a hot tub, beer, and 15 tacos for survival. We get it, now drink your Ensure.”
Ranger also warned of lightning storms and those very storms kicked in around 3pm. Getting caught out on a switchback in a thunderstorm at 10k feet is ill-advised, so we hunkered down to wait it out. But the rain didn’t stop. Fortunately, we made some new friends. Sara (heretoforth known as Lightning due to her fear of it), Olivia (heretoforth known as Toots due to her fear of it), and Jacob (Mr. Clean or Polo Sport, depending on who you ask) are about on our same route and timeline, so we got to know each other as the thunder rolled in.
At this point in every trip, I start missing home and I think to myself, “maybe just 7 days next year.” The news of Whitney Portal potentially being closed has me both relieved (cut it short 2 days and see my wife sooner? Heck yes!) and slightly disappointed for the prospect of not completing the route as planned. But truly, I worry about the wildlife caught in all these fires and I wonder whether we’ll ever do enough to disrupt our part in all this.
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