Woke up to horses!!!!!
First in the middle of the night. I woke up to a clang clang noise and saw the silhouette of a large mule in the moonlight, just outside my tent. “Hey, what are you doing here?” I asked. It walked around my tent.
When I woke up again, I heard the clanging cowbell again. A herd of horses and mules trotted down the path towards my camp. They jumped over the creek and veered towards me. I stood still and they surrounded me, soft noses lifted to smell my hand. I love a soft horsie muzzle. I touched a few of them.
Then the cute Carhartt cowpoke came to giddy up them along. There was a gorgeous paint horse, and they were all happy and kicky and horsing around. It was awesome. All my 12 year old girl fantasies come true.
Marmots are the cutest little Ewoks. And not a bit scared of people, that’s for sure.
I’m a little annoyed with the amount of nosy questions people ask. It seems competitive. I automatically don’t want to answer. I wish people asked “Have you eaten?” I ask people what they ate for lunch all the time.
Guitar Lake and all the green glens full of dashing water – so pretty! But then comes the giant pile of rocks. Somehow, Mt. Whitney is a great big tumble of gray stones. I don’t understand the geology of this.
A staircase of gray switchbacks. They go forever. I ran into Gaz on the way down. I was thrilled to see another PCTer. He said he left Crabtree at 4. My alarm went off around then but I shut it off. If I’d been out that early, I’d have missed the ponies.
Lots of packs at the junction. People leave stuff here while they walk the last 2 miles to the summit. Two reasons why I’m not going to do this. 1. I don’t have a daypack. I’d either have to carry things in my hands, or leave a pile of equipment behind. I need my hands for my poles. 2. Marmots. Cute but hungry and my rodent karma lately…. I’d rather carry the whole thing up! Good thing I’m super low on food.
After the junction, the trail is a boulder scramble and fucking treacherous at times. Because it’s so high!! All those mountains over me when i woke up – now they’re below me. And I can see secret lakes, hiding inside mountain peaks. Also I can see rain happening but far away and downwind. Still, scary. Then there are parts of the path when the other side opens up and it’s a million miles down on both sides. Lone Pine is down there. It looks like a paper map.
The last part of the trail is more gravel and not as deadly. The altitude hit me all of a sudden and my legs got so tired and heavy. It was a pretty neat moment, when i first laid eyes on the stone hut. Yet another moment on this trip that makes me think gosh , did I really do that? Anyway, I have pictures to prove it and up on the peak I got a cell signal so it’s there on instagram for the world to see.
There are tons of people summiting. It’s amazing to see so many people out here after days and days of being alone. Not all adults, and not all white, I’m happy to report. I talked to some kids about marmots and horses. I met another woman from Korea at the top. Some guy with a thick accent tried to make room for me to pass and nearly walked right off a cliff. My logbook detective work says he was from Transylvania.
On the way down, I stopped at one of those super scary ridges over Lone Pine to download podcasts. It rained a little. Then hail fell. Huh. The rain picked up later and, for the first time ever on this trip, I had to put on my rain jacket and pack cover. I wasn’t even sure the pack cover would fit. The rocky moraine got full of water in no time and I was splashing through streams and puddles. Then the sun came out and dried everything up like a blow dryer.
Guitar Lake was tent city. Skinny young men in Euro boy shorts dared each other to swim. One camp was full of regular size folding chairs. Who carried all that? Campers up here are supposed to use a WAG bag. Which means you have to shit in a bag and carry it out. Which is why I’m not camping here. Too much human fecal matter is bad for pristine alpine meadows. I wonder if all these people are really packing out their own poo.
I happened to mention my diet of peanut butter and beans to some people and got myself invited to dinner. The guys in the group were hiking out the next day and had an excess of bars. Thanks, Cowabunga!
Some of the guys in that group had sat out the trip to Whitney. One of them had talked with the ranger. He said food theft by other hikers is becoming more of a problem around Whitney. Yet another reason to haul the whole damn pack up the mountain.
I heard something else just awful. Stop reading here if you don’t want to read the super sad thing.
The Ranger had been called away to put down a pack horse. It had been bittten by a rattlesnake. That poor horse. And how awful for the ranger and the handlers to have to do that.