Tales From the Trail -Onion Valley, Showers and the Defeat at Glen Pass

We had a great campsite at Kearsarge Lakes. So quiet and peaceful. We heard coyotes howling on this night for the first time.img_5182

We left our tents and packs and slacked-packed over Kearsarge Pass down to Onion Valley to meet D (K’s hubby) for our first resupply. As we descended into OV, we could see him, waiting at the trailhead into the campground. I was already so overly emotional because of the pain I was in and for the first time in seven days I was able to get in communication via cell phone with G back home while coming down off of the pass. This trip was one of the longest times we have been apart without communication. (We’ve been apart longer, but always within communication) It was hard. Talking to him made things much worse! I sobbed on the phone to him! I was hurting so terribly and told him I thought I needed to be done. I had hit the wall. He was surprised. He is not used to me being in such a low spot. He has supported me through some pretty crazy endeavors and I think my crying out made him nervous and uneasy. In his usual fashion, he spoke gently and listened to my lament. This man always has a way of talking me off any ledge and he has our entire 23 years together. He knows exactly what I need to hear. He’s honest and forthright with me, and knows how to motivate me! I cried for a good 10 minutes, talking to him. I am talking SOBBING! That gross, ugly, real, hurt-your-heart kind of cry. When the time came, I told him I couldn’t hang up. I just couldn’t. I knew it was going to be about 10 days before we could have any communication again. I just could not hang up the phone! I was miserable and he was the only balm at the moment making me feel ANY better. We eventually hung up and when we saw D, I was so overjoyed! Just the site of “familiar!” Of home. He greeted us with big hugs, and when we got to his camp, home cooked breakfast burritos (be still my starving heart) and a cold, cold beer. What a reward!


Top of Kearsarge Pass 10,750ft. We had to stop and take a pic for our friend FG back in Idaho.



We sat and reminisced with D about our experience thus far. The trials and the complete and utter beauty this country has bestowed on us. I had already decided that I was going to skip the Immediate Care. I was in way too much pain for anyone to be able to clean out the area of my feet that were torn open. If anyone was doing it, it would be me! At least I’d know what was coming. We did, however, have to go into town and find a pharmacy so I could grab the additional supplies to take care of, clean and wrap my feet. It had reached beyond what our first aid kits were capable. While contemplating where to go, us girls (while K was in the fancy restroom of the campground, i.e. meaning he wasn’t digging a cat hole) decided that since we were going into town that m a y b e we should grab some lunch and m a y b e spend the night. Just maybe! This was met with a little struggle, but our begging sealed the deal and K gave in. We were devoted to the cause when it meant shaving our legs and eating a fat, greasy burger and fries after days of dehydrated meals. I don’t know if K stood a chance. He was a great sport about our whining and we loaded up and made our way down, down, down into town. First, stop FOOD! Real bona fide food! In seats. With other people around! Oh sweet Jesus, were we ever thankful for this diner. Possibly the best-tasting food I’ve ever consumed. So satisfying in every way! After eating and hitting the pharmacy we quickly found a nice, quiet place in Lone Pine…..WITH A SHOWER to spend the night. It’s the little things, right? We hadn’t showered in seven days. (My apologies to the people in the diner trying to enjoy their lunch) This was lesson one on appreciating the small, creature comforts we have grown accustomed to. A shower.! How it changes a person. Clean water….give that some thought.


At our resupply in Onion Valley. Looking pretty warn out, but just had the best breakfast burritos on the EARTH!

We slept like kings and queens but had to rise early to leave at 5 am to start our way back over Kearsarge Pass.
One of the sweetest things about picking up a resupply for me, other than the food, of course, was knowing that in my buckets were notes. Notes from my sweet, husband. I also added my own notes, written by myself, for myself over the few weeks before we left for this trip. They were priceless and irreplaceable and as we continued on this journey my heart ached for them and they became to me, just as valuable as my food supply. Just the smallest of interaction with my hubs set my heart on fire! Those of you that know me well, KNOW that besides my all-loving and radically fervent God, there is NO ONE to me like my husband. He’s my north.


What happens when J says “ACT NORMAL!”

We made our way back over Kearsarge, packed our tents and made another arduous hike to Glen Pass. Oh, Glen Pass. I could write a book JUST on Glen Pass, but I fear it would have so much cussing, that no one could read it. Glen Pass (for me, because we EACH had THAT pass) was so difficult. So severe and rough. So painful and punishing that this was what almost put me over the edge. I was also still hiking in sandals.
My only journal entry for Glen Pass says “we made it 3/4 of the way up the pass. Found a nice lake to camp at. Today totally killed me. My feet are toast. BLISTERS!”
Not that the skin that had slipped off of two toes to expose the rawest, most open, sore, form of skin possible wasn’t enough, now I am adding blisters. I am a runner and have some pretty impressive calluses that I love. I don’t wear socks when I run and never have. These calluses have graced my feet for literally YEARS! When getting pedicures, the first thing out of my mouth is “please, DO NOT remove those calluses.” Those wonderful, feet-protecting calluses are what slipped right off, like gloves being removed from fingers. It was some of the most unimaginable pain I’ve ever felt!


img_5188When we got to camp, I was done. I told K, K and J that I needed to be hiked out to the next ranger station in the morning, which I think was about 4 miles out. My feet looked like hamburger and I could barely stand on them. I was angry and had tried everything but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make it any further. I went to bed so defeated. So saddened and so disappointed. I was crushed in every sense of the word.img_5193

I got into my tent and read the resupply notes. One from me and one from my sweet husband.

Note to me,
You’ve made it to your first resupply. You are already a testimony to your strength, discipline, determination and straight up BADASSERY! I know in the last few days you have felt the discomfort of the trail, but this journey is way more profound than any TRUE discomfort. You asked for this and are making remarkable memories and are LIVING YOUR DASH! Happy trails Paula. Continue to be epic!

And from G-
Baby!! You are living the gift of life that God has given you. NO REGRETS! I miss you & Love you. You are amazing.
Love, your G
He added a little-printed picture of the beach (our favorite place) to the note. It said “Live Life” becasue since the day we met this has ALWAYS been our agreement with one another.


ALWAYS looked forward to a cherished these resupply notes.


I remembered God’s promises; -“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

-“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions and the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

I slept.

No familiar with The Dash that I refered to in my note to myself, chick here to read it.

Link to past JMT posts


Tales From the Trail -A Wilderness Throne and Forrester Pass

~GRATEFUL for the nights that turned into mornings with the friends that turned into family.


Look real close. See those two awesome women? K and J on Forrester Pass

*Let me start by saying if you are in ANY way squeamish with dirt, blisters, feet, skin or the likes, DO not scroll to the bottom of this post. Spare yourself now!

We left Mt Whitey and camped at Crabtree Meadows. We were exhausted by the time we got to CT and really just wanted to set camp, have a quick meal and rest. Although we had left camp at Guitar Lake, summited Mt Whitney, and hiked back out to Crabtree I was surprisingly not hungry. A through-hike phenomenon to me, as I knew the calories we burned and would need to replenish were substantial today. Also considering the next day, if I was low now, there was no catching up. I managed a few pieces of beef jerky and a small amount of cheese, but that’s all I could muster tonight.

We all thought it was funny that in the camp area at Crabtree there is one toilet. One. And its right in the middle of the campsites. Right out there, with nothing surrounding it. A wilderness throne. Trying to put your business together sitting out there is next to impossible while others just stand around and wait. Trust me on this, as I am living proof to sitting down and not 1 minute later having a guy walk right up, apologize and then proceed to go stand about 10 feet away. It was this day that I realized that all modesty, timidity, and discreetness was down the toilet. K dropped her entire roll of tp in there this morning!


This my friends is a throne with a view…..of EVERYTHING!

Leaving Crabtree we had a long day ahead of us. We hiked to the switchbacks/the base of Forrester Pass. We had a couple points that we thought we’d stop, but we pushed through, continued on and felt good about getting to the base of the pass. This country is so gorgeous, words cannot and will not do it justice. Right at the base, there is a perfectly, azure, alpine lake. Making the promise to myself, I had to take a dip. I leaped in with gusto and popped back out from under the frigid water with a scream that I’m sure was heard for miles. I proceeded to try and walk on water at this point due to the temps. Unsuccessful, I managed to swim back to shore and dried off surrounded by granite walls waiting to be explored.

Tonight would be our coldest night.


Backcountry Pippy


I had to switch out of my boots to my camp sandals today as my feet are terribly blistered and sore. Well-fitting boots are no match for calloused, running feet that are damp from creek soaking and sweat. They are really starting to get sore, and to save myself from the pain and a hope for some healing, I hiked in sandals all day. This resulted in yet another trail name for me; Backcountry Pippy. Must be the striped socks and braids!

There are a lot of marmots running around here, just eying us and waiting for anything to drop onto the ground for them. I am chasing them away while eating my reheated, dehydrated Chili Mac by rocketing chunks of granite at them. I’m sure they are harmless but know they will eat anything they can get their little paws on. I shortly realized after pitching, the opening of my tent is in their zone. Right in front of a den! I sit and stare out of my tent door to a fat little fella across from me. He blinks and sniffs at the air, as we make a truce. I will keep ALL of my belongings inside my tent tonight, away from his sweat and odor loving fatness, and he will….well he won’t try and get into my tent to devour the handles of my trekking poles.

We camped at 12,500 feet tonight and covered 13 miles.

Dawn was upon us as we packed up camp and left the base of Forrester Pass and made our ascent of the steep switchbacks. Seeing the sun rise over the mountain ranges is spectacular and the most majestic thing I’ve seen. What a gift! I have to pinch myself! It was slow-going as we descended the other side. Definitely a steep pass to maneuver. We came through some gorgeous wilderness today that smelled of mint and wild onion. This section had quite a few waterfalls that were just incredible and so life-giving to me. I needed this! Second to the ocean, waterfalls nourish my soul in such a deep and profound way. I decided that Vidette Meadows is a MUST for a camp on my next trip.

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” John Muir

We had a longer day than expected today and it was definitely a low day for us. We were tired and had a lot of unexpected vertical. It was rough on all of us. We knew going in this was not a cake walk and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that not all days would be sunshine and rainbows. Going into a hike of this magnitude we’d be fooling ourselves to think otherwise. It’s in the agony that you can realize what you’re truly made of. Your potential. The laying down of egos to allow for a helping hand. We tried to support one another any way we could, but it was just an off day. It happens, and that’s why I consider these friends family now. We have seen ugly together. We have seen pain and fatigue and the bruising of our minds as we fight for the last few miles in a day.

This is the second day I’m hiking in camp sandals. I’m not sure how well they are going to hold up over the sharpness and ruggedness of the land and granite. They are not supportive and I am watching each step as to not roll an ankle. Quite frankly, it sucks, but I don’t have an alternative at this point. My toe is not doing good, the skin has completely de-gloved off of my pinky and its probably some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. J is worried I will get an infection at this point.We are headed into Onion Valley over Kearsarge Pass tomorrow for our resupply and I’m going to have to go to the Immediate Care.

Join the start of our journey HERE Tales From the Trail

And Guitar Lake to Mt Whitney HERE Tales From the Trail-Guitar Lake to Mt Whitney

Tales From the Trail

*My next few entries are straight out of my JMT trail journal. They are unscripted and raw, but exactly what I was feeling at the moment.

~A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. The plan backed by your action makes your dream come true.

As we rode the elevator down from my sons apartment in LA I could feel everything inside of me tingling. He and his fiancée would be driving me to San Bernardino to connect with two more of our group heading to Lonepine to start the JMT. My son, stood in the elevator staring at me. He said to me “Mom, I cannot believe you’re doing this! But then again I can!” He explained to me that within the last few weeks anyone with an ear to listen was hearing from him about this adventure I was about to embark on. He said his friends sat slack-jawed as he explained the journey I would make over the 230 mile John Muir Trail. He hugged me. Tight. And told me he was so incredibly proud of me for what I was doing. “You gotta have big dreams, Kid. Dreams that are so big they are frightening, but you dream them anyway.” They dropped me at a Starbucks in San Bernardino to meet the rest of my group. I tried not to make too much eye contact with my kids. I knew they were having a little anxiety over all of this. We quickly explained that the itinerary that we had given to the family was going to be off after the first day as we had decided to make a slight adjustment. I asked if he could call dad to let him know. We hugged quickly as tears choked out of my throat. And I threw my pack into the back of a SUV heading for Lone Pine.

We got to Lone Pine to pick up the golden ticket AKA our wilderness permit and to meet with our fourth hiker.  From the office where you obtain your permit you can see Mount Whitney in the background. There she was. Jagged, ruthless, uninviting but one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever laid my eyes on. She stood out, but how could she not, being the highest peak in the contiguous US? I whispered a silent prayer asking for an able body, to be able to stand on her summit in a few days.

That first night we were dropped off at Horseshoes Meadows after a farewell pizza and beer in Lone Pine. We made camp at Cottonwood Pass Trailhead. The night was already cool as we met some fellow JMTers. I slept like a rock and was so overwhelmed and grateful for the fact that I was finally out here. It’s been a long time coming.

Day 1. We broke camp pretty early. Made a quick cup of coffee and ate a packet of oatmeal. We packed up and hit the trail by 8:15. The elevation was tough as we made our way over Cottonwood Pass. It was only a 5-mile day as we left Horshoe Meadows a day early to acclimatize to the higher altitude. My skin was already seeing the affects of being at altitude and I feared already it may never regain its moisture. When we got to camp and I sat on the edge of the first lake I realized I have NEVER in my life seen a bluer sky! I decided before we left that although alpine lakes are freezing cold, I had to submerged into as many as possible. It’s all part of the journey and I knew I would regret it if not. So I did. Fully submerged into the first lake. Chicken Springs lake. I knew had I not jumped in my husband would’ve been horrified. All in!

Day 2. Still staying a bit ahead of schedule we hiked 10 miles today from Chicken Springs Lake to Rock Creek. When we arrived I went into the creek fully submerging and then sat and soaked my legs and feet. I am SO dry! We met a guy yesterday solo hiking and we leapfrogged with him for most of the day. He is 60 years old. Jim. He is hiking the PCT. 2500 miles. He started in April. (This was now Aug) His advice “keep going and never stop!” I thought a lot about his advice and how pertinent it was for not only hiking the JMT, PCT or any other through hike but also in life.

This meadow we are camping in is gorgeous. I had a couple of views today that stole my breath. I cried a few times as we hiked totally astounded by the beauty and splendor of God’s creation. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful that it has brought you to tears? I highly suggest it. The stream we are camping next to is so clear you can see the trout swimming below the surface. I took a bath and did laundry today. Completely overcome with joy and gratitude.

Day 3. We hiked out of Rock Creek today and rested at Crabtree Meadows. I was very “into the hike today” and kind of stayed back from the rest of my group. At Horshoe Meadows we took our boots off, ate and soaked our feet before continuing on to Guitar Lake. This was our staging of Mount Whitney. Guitar Lake is our basecamp at 11,500 feet. I felt pretty good with the elevation gain so far after the first day at Horshoe Meadows only suffering from severely dry skin and a slight dull headache. This country is so gorgeous! We had our first water crossing today leaving Rock Creek and again at Crabtree Meadows. The water was low. Low enough we did not have to remove our boots. Guitar Lake is devastatingly stunning. We were ALL ready to be done for the day. The terrain was steep and rocky with no shade along the entire day. We set up camp above the water, Mt Whitney at our front door. It’s daunting. Guitar lake is like being on the moon. Completely surrounded by rock. The only way we were able to pitch our tents was to hold the guylines down with small boulders. I sat and was grateful to watch such an extraordinary sunset. I thought about my guitar playing husband and how much he would love this place. I felt an ache in the depths of my stomach, missing him. But I knew I was only a few days in to an almost month long hike. I needed to find the strength to put that ache to the side and just, Be Here. To shut off any of the outside world and tune in to what God would be revealing to me.

All of us by this time have been given trail names. A trail name is given to you by fellow hikers either from your group or others that you meet along the trail. K was given the name Under Duck by a PCT hiker he met at Chicken Springs after she saw him fully submerged and swimming in the lake. K was given the name Double Duece for her reoccurring walks for her morning constitutional. J was given the name Tadpole. When filtering our water that afternoon in a shallow pond teaming with tadpoles, she kept saying her water tasted like tadpole. And I was deemed Urban Hilary for my characteristics of loving a great metropolitan downtown (city girl) but with the heart of sir Edmund Hillary.

We had decided on a sunrise summit of Mount Whitney. I was very happy because I had really hoped to do this. Our wake time would be 1 AM to summit by 6:00AM. We went to bed early. I tossed and turned with a lot of excitement and anticipation and a little anxiety if I were being honest. Tomorrow morning we would see the sunrise from the highest summit in the contiguous United States!

The Last Supper. Pizza and beer in Lonepine California

Food and anything with any smell into a Bearcan. Check. Check. And double check!

And off we go….

Camp at Horseshoe Meadows

Chicken Springs Lake

My first swim in Chicken Springs Lake

Laundry Day

Rock Creek camp

First water crossing. Low water. Easy peasy.

Heading into the Whitney zone

Setting up camp at Guitar Lake

Guitar Lake camp. Base of Mt Whitney

When on the surface of the moon….