14.3 miles total: 10.4 on PCT (755.9 to 766.3), 3.9 toward Mount Whitney
Finally, at 11,000 feet and 38 degrees, with the fly off my tent, I sleep with my sleeping bag fully zipped. I’ve kept the fly off for weeks now, but I’m still not sleeping well without it. Tonight I’ll put it on and hope for better sleep. When I pack my things, I discover that I’ve eaten enough food that I can fit my crampons into my bear can. This cuts down the Junk Lady aspect of my setup considerably.
Today we find little meadows and running water everywhere. We descend through wet meadows to Rock Creek. We’re going to have to cross this raging torrent: our first big Sierra steam. Someone has spelled out “Log” with pebbles in the middle of the trail, along with an arrow. There’s a well-used side trail leading down to the creek. We decide to investigate.
Well, there’s definitely a log. A tree fell over the creek onto a large boulder high above the water. Two girls are here, one helping the other over the log. I don’t like this one bit. I hate log crossings. I’d rather wade, but this creek isn’t wadeable. I walk downstream looking for alternatives. None appear. I can cross on the log or go back upstream half a mile to the meadow where the water ran shallow over the grass. I decide to at least try the log crossing.
I scoot along on my butt and get stuck at the first branch. I have to swing my body sideways to get around this, but I only feel safe straddling the log. One of the girls from the other side comes to my aid. She’s very patient, but I just can’t do this. I’m going to chicken out and head for the meadow upstream and wade across. When I turn around, however, the other girl is back on this side of the creek. How? She crossed on a set of wet logs that I’d ruled out earlier as too slippery. Now I crawl across on my hands and knees, and it’s fine. I’m across! Smooches carries my pack across the high log. What a pal. Cucumber crosses on the same wet logs that I went over. We’re all across safely. Our first stream crossing is a success.
Now we have to climb 1,600 feet. It’s slow going. At the top, Cucumber and I stop for lunch. Afterward, we begin the descent to Crabtree Meadows. As we walk, the views just get better. I get choked up. There are no words for the beauty of this landscape. Every time I remind myself that I walked here from Mexico, I start to cry.
Whitney Creek is running high. There’s a log to cross on just below the place where the trail crosses, but I’d rather wade, and this time I can. The water comes to my upper thighs. It’s not as cold as I expected, and it’s a great opportunity to wash my filthy pants.
Immediately after the steam crossing, we leave the PCT on the trail to Mount Whitney. We cross the same stream twice. The water is faster than before, but not difficult. The trail climbs higher and the landscape becomes more overwhelming. I walked here. From Mexico. I really did. I can’t believe I’m here. I can’t believe I walked here. I can’t believe this place is real. I’m walking through a fantasy novel.
There are deer grazing in the meadows. There are marmots everywhere. There’s smoke in the air, but not as dense as yesterday. We lose the trail to snow, then find it again, then lose it. It’s easy enough to see where we need to go. We emerge on top of Guitar Lake, in which little icebergs still float. We keep going, aiming for the highest campsite shown in Guthook’s app in order to have a shorter hike tomorrow.
Then, in the next clearing between snow fields, we come upon Gilbert (Rooster) and his two hiking partners. Their tents are already set up. I’d like to camp here, too. We don’t know what we’ll find up above, and we can make this place work. Plus we can hang out with the guys. I set up my tent in the most epic campsite I’ve ever seen. Wow. I can’t stop taking pictures. Alpenglow on the mountains puts everything over the top. I can’t believe this place is real. I can’t believe I’m really here.