Sunday, August 17, 2014

As I come screaming out of the woods

So yeah, I'm home.

A week early.

Because even though I planned, trained and packed for a two week backpacking trip to hike the John Muir Trail with Bubba and our Super Nice Neighbor, my knee had other plans.

Twisty plans.

So, we're hiking along on Day 2 of the thing, all stuffed full of Chili Mac and Nutella and then some things that are actually healthy food items, passing amazing scenery and not getting rained on yet (YET I SAID) and we come to our first set of steep rock staircases coming up to Evolution Meadow.

When I say steep rock staircases, what I mean is switchbacks constructed entirely of foot thick giant granite blocks stacked a few feet apart all the way up the muther fucking mountain in the soul-crushing shape of switchbacks.

Like this.
Like, blow me.


But, being the Hey whatever, I'm totally in shape and I can do this even though my pack weighs two tons and I'm not so swift with the trekking poles yet gal that I am, I totally went for it.

Like one might just go for it with, say, a certain ill-fated workout routine.


And, like a certain ill-fated workout routine, I busted myself.

Now, I'm not going to continue aligning shitty shit Crossfit with amazing awesome beautiful LOVE IT SO MUCH backpacking because that would be unfair to backpacking, but my approach to extreme exercise like my attitude when I was a teenager, in the words of my mother, "has got to stop".

It's time I learned a few things, like:

  1. I am not 10 years old even though I act like it
  2. "Forcing It" should maybe not be my personal mantra anymore
  3. One should never twist while lifting
If I'd embraced these things before this trip, perhaps I wouldn't have twisted my knee to the point of nearly tears and before that even maybe I wouldn't have wandered off into the woods with a backpack just shy of 50 pounds (49.5 said the scale).

Hi! I'm fucking retarded.



Now, the fun part about this (fun is just not the right word here, but I'm moving on), is that I did sort of embrace #2 back there as I continued to march on through the pain for another two days. What I mean is that after two days of being all, "Oh, I'll be fine. I'll just take some more Aleve and try not to be such a vagina about it." I finally gave in to the reality of things.

The reality being that the first pass we crossed (Muir Pass, 11,995') nearly put me in the ground and it being the second lowest pass we were going to cover meant that HI STUPID perhaps my knee isn't going to make it over 4 more passes that are higher, steeper and just full to the fucking brim with sunuvabitching granite block steps, monster gravel, boulders, massively steep descents that would press my right knee into action every other step and, you know, evil gremlins out to eat my feet and knees.


Also I was going terribly slow because it's hard to hobble at a normal hiking pace and OH YEAH my boots were consuming my feet at the rate of one blister per mile.

Or so.

It was getting ugly on my feet and knee, I was getting progressively pathetically slower and I had only crossed one of six passes. 

Oh yay me. Way to go.

Then it started to rain. And then snow. And then hail.

Not super encouraging.
Also, bizarre halo effect courtesy of hail on my camera lens.

So as Bubba and I sat out the hail/rain/thunder and lightning storm for 14 hours in our wee "2 person" tent, we got real.

This is Bubba's Get real and stop arguing with me because you know I'm right face. It's convincing, I'll admit.

Also, I had no escape, so that helped.

Ah, hail. Just what you want on your backpacking trip.

As in, if I tried to man up through five more high elevation passes, I was going to destroy my right knee forever, probably ruin my left knee compensating for my shit ass right knee and my feet were going to become one giant blister as soon as all of my toenails fell off. 

"Manning up" for 70 more miles wasn't an option. 

Instead, because Bubba is a wise Eagle Scout and good husband aware of the realities of backcountry injuries, his wife's stubbornness and the remaining available outs on the trail, convinced me that we should bail out over Bishop Pass (11,980') and thumb a ride into town so that we could hopefully get a rental car to drive my hobbled ass back to the Bay Area. 

He is very wise, this one.

"Why you no listen to Bubba? I KNOW THINGS, CRAZY WOMAN."

So I gave in. I came to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to finish the last five passes of the John Muir Trail with him and our Super Nice Neighbor like I'd set out to. I dealt with the oppressive feelings of failure and suckiness and not getting to swim all the live long day at Rae Lakes during our zero day as planned. I let go of my dreams of fishing high mountain streams and lakes for trout. I gave up on Eastern Sierra sunsets and waterfalls and pee-pee inducing views and seeing fuzzy creatures bouncing their fat butts over granite boulders and chasing frogs through the creek crossings and all of the things that I had stuffed my brains with as we'd prepped for this trip.

Because he promised that when my knee was better and my one thousand blisters healed, we'd come back. 

And he picked me some flowers so that I wouldn't be sad.

And I'd only carry a 30 pound pack, wear trail running shoes (MISSED YOU, BROOKS ADRENALINE ASR GTXs!) and never lift and twist again.

That was enough to convince me to scratch at Bishop Pass Junction, a scant 30 or so miles into our hike. 

What I didn't know, and what probably would have helped me over the hump had either of us realized it was ahead of us, was that the Bishop Pass Trail from Le Conte Canyon IS FUCKING GORGEOUS.

Hello, Eastern Sierras. AREN'T YOU THE LOOKER.

Oh, and YOU over there - not too shabby.

I'm a sucker for trees with sexy bark. There. Now you know.

I'm afraid I'll have to take a break from hiking to STARE AT THIS FOREVER YES.

Smiling even though bleeding. The sign of amazing views.

Monster waterfall? Yes, please.

So many pack outfitters. So much horse and mule poo. Still - never got old.

Nice going, Bishop Pass.

We were, uh, into it.

Now, yes, the trail is steep and switchbacky and knee-wrecky for three miles as you eat up a few thousand feet of elevation and there were definite moments of desperation as folks would be hiking down the trail from Dusy Basin all fresh looking and not swearing loudly at every step they took like some people BUT, like the book said, the views are distracting enough to keep you moving.

Like, as you're hiking the switchbacks to the south you're looking at an enormous gorgeous waterfall and as you turn back and hike the switchbacks to the north, you're looking at a span of the Eastern Sierra that busts your eyes with its hugeness.

Also Cal Fire helicopters.

So, I lived to see the glory GLORY I SAY of the unfortunately named Dusy Basin.


Yeah. It was incredible. So beautiful and peaceful and not full of hikers racing from one campsite to the next talking endlessly about their calorie consumption and Ultralight packs and even with a meandering stream chock full of trout feeding from the surface that I could hardly strip down to my skivvies and go swimming and fishing before putting my pack down.

Happy now. Even with fucked up feet and knees.

Well, it was exactly what I needed. 

And what Bubba needed. 

Plus, it didn't rain, I got to fish and swim, we watched the Super Moon wander across the sky and light up the basin and when we finished the pass and then descended into Bishop the next day, a very awesome couple gave us a ride into Bishop so that we could get my peg legged ass back to doctor-having society.

Which was a bit of a task.

I won't go into complete detail about our return to civilization, so will just say that it involved finding no available rental cars in Bishop, so instead orchestrating a near Planes, Trains and Automobiles transportation bonanza from a dive bar while people came out of the fucking woodwork to interrogate us on where we'd been and how was the hike and how long have you been in the woods and oh that's OK that you smell so rank since you've been "on the trail" and whatever.

Bishop is a cool place, y'all. Because after being treated like scourges as we hiked the JMT (no bathroom access for thru-hikers, no hot springs for thru-hikers, etc), suddenly we were in the land of Hey, Backpackers! Your sodas are on the house! Have a razor/shampoo/king size room at no extra charge! Put your big smelly dirty packs anywhere! Of course we deliver to your hotel room! Certainly you can pay with a credit card on board and stow your disgusting packs on the bus no problem! Let me lift your staggeringly heavy backpacks into the cab! How cool that you're doing this that I'm not judging you for your foul dumpster-like odor!

And that land is called, Bishop, CA.

So, on our journey back to the Bay Area, Bubba decided to rename our trip to something more suitable to what we'd accomplished rather than what we'd bailed on.

John Muir Trail Trip turned into First Trans-Sierra Trip right there as we cruised to Reno aboard the surprisingly accommodating Eastern Sierra Transit bus.

So, yeah, all told, we hiked about 70 miles, covered many thousands of feet in elevation, busted one knee, got a dozen or so blisters, saw waterfalls, lakes, super friendly deer, marmots, toads, frogs, picas, brook trout, rainbow trout, Swamp Onions, penstemon, lilies, huge peaks, the Muir Hut, met some cool people, met some lame people, had a bear in our campsite, rode out a hail storm in our still waterproof tent, swam, fished, ate some good backpacking food and some less good backpacking food, destroyed one backpack (mine) and one pair of boots (Bubba's), bruised our eyes with beauty and went swimming while it snowed.

And as soon as Bubba got me back home, we packed him up to go back to the trail to meet our Super Nice Neighbor, which is hopefully who he's with at this very moment at Charlotte Lake

Not going to lie, here, I'll be glad when I have him back home with me once I pick him and our Super Nice Neighbor up at the Mt Whitney Trailhead on Friday so I can give him the royal Thanks For Keeping Me From Wrecking Myself While Still Making Our Trip Super Fun and Awesome treatment.

Suggestions welcomed.


  1. Dude. The fact that you didn't whine for a helicopter to come get your ass is kind of huge because I would have. I would have made Matt go forth, get me a helicopter, and I'd pretty much not walk until I was in yoga pants and my slippers. So things could certainly have been worse, and what you did accomplish is more than most people ever would. Like, I hiked for two hours on a flat trail and thought I was going to die. :)

    1. Honestly, the thought of a helicopter was in the back of my mind, but only as a faraway fantasy. An evac like that is only for severe injuries like a bear rips off your legs or something.

      Bubba kept my whining to a minimum by being entertaining as possible. So glad I married a hilarious man.

  2. That is fucking gorgeous.....but unless I can get there by plane, train, or automobile, my fat ass isn't going there any time soon (and definitely not in my current, pregnant state). I don't know if I could do it even if I were in some semblance of shape (other than round). But yes, it's gorgeous.

    Also, be careful with your joints! I hope you haul your happy ass to the doctor and have your knees checked out!

    1. I have a doc appt this week and am RICE-ing like a muther. Got to be ready to go back out there soon after all. :)

  3. Aw, boo. I mean, boo to the injury and having to stop early (although I would not say 70 miles is anything to be disdainful of), not, obviously, boo to Bubba and his strong-arming you into stopping before you permanently crippled yourself. I'm familiar with the "I am not a pussy and I WILL PROVE IT" mentality, but it's good to have sane people to talk us down from that pride ledge before we really fall hard.

    Or something.

    Anyway. I'm glad you're home safe; I hope you're already recovering; and I think a huge meal of all of Bubba's favorite foods (doesn't he have a fondness for fried chicken and gravy? don't we all?) is in order.

    1. That is a really good call, Kristin. I think a fried chicken dinner and then biscuits and gravy with chicken gravy for breakfast is on the menu for his triumphant return.

  4. time nothing over 35 lbs, well conditioned feet and worn in boots with double socks so no blisters and perhaps less passes and total mileage. As you found out it is the experience & scenery that counts not the break your feet and back to hike over hell and yonder! And your brain is always younger than your body which means you can be talked into longer, steeper hikes but your body is going to tell you otherwise!

  5. Those pictures are amazing! And you may have had to cut the trip short but 70 miles is still impressive. I'm sorry about your knee and that it got in the way of the full trip but looks like it was still a pretty incredible experience. :)


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