This is what I see when I wake up and start my hike in the morning. I can't get enough of this early morning light and experience. I managed to get packed up and started in less than 1 hour and am one of the first once on the trail. I love this solitude at this time of the day. I'll do it more often from now on whenever there is a pass to cover. The hike goes along creeks and lakes and more lakes, all different shades of blue, all above the tree line. The trail is a masterpiece of winding along the water's edge like the roads in Italy and France along the Mediteranean and the Northen Italian Lakes. I stop so often, I might as well be a snail - and loving it. No sight of altitude problems, I drink, eat and take photos.
And then a hiker comes towards me and points to the crack in the mountains and tells me - that's the pass, you can see the hut on top of it. Having the pass in plain sight is amazing and inspiring. It still takes me a long time to get there but I know it's in my reach. I come over the last rise and there is the hut and many of my fellow hikers right beside it. We shout to each other, celebrate this famous pass and our achievement and trade snacks and photo shoots. A quartet of girls, friends since college who I first met in the hot springs near the Ranch and then again last night are here. We shared a great cup of hot cocoa and watched the sunset together. A pair of young men who cover incredible distances and still hike up some of the peaks are here - they are snacking on dehydrated milkshakes - very yummy. The trio of hikers who camped near me are here, I will continue to run into them all the way up Mt. Whitney.
I take it in, go off by myself to really appreciate this big milestone and pinch myself to make sure I am really here. After all the reading and planning, now I myself am standing in this spot. I am honoring John Muir as I reflect on all he was and has done for nature and us in this country .
And then I head on as I still have a very long day ahead of me to get to the meadow I intend to camp in. Today will be my first 15 to 16 mile day. And I am ready for it. Wings under my feet, lambswool around my toes and finally, finally not a cloud in the sky!. I don't know this yet but I am through the bad weather and there will not be another drop of rain on my hike!
The descent continues on along a valley that looks like the Kaligandaki valley in Nepal, like a moonscape with ledges and gravel and small streams. Lakes are dotting the landscape after each steep descent, as if someone designed this with the intent to give us a perfect rest stop after the hard work of the many switchbacks. Eventually the tree cover comes back, pines, soem aspens and some hikers are coming towards me. I am so glad I am going downhill and not up. I do well going downhill, gravity helps and as do my poles. When I finally get to the meadow, I even have time to spare to find a good site and walk through the meadow. Lots of dear, so trusting they almost join me for dinner. A tired trio of young people walk past and can't find campsites in the dark. I invite them to join me and we end up having a really nice and fun evening around a camp fire, sharing food and stories. I go to bed later than ever around 10 pm. Tomorrow will be a slow and short day - I know I will be feeling the long hike I did today in my bones and will need to recover a bit.
(my campsite at little pete's meadow)