Tales From the Trail -Amazing Grace

We got up early to head up Glen Pass. We summited and it took forever to descend the other side. What a pass! I must have said this 50 times while going up and over this pass. Covered in fist-sized chunks of granite rock, it was unrelenting. I thought about how this pass would compare if you were on a southbound or SOBO hike because this downhill side was merciless. Glen ended up being the pass that was most difficult for me.

img_5222Of course after waking in the morning, I had decided to continue on the hike. As I laid in my mummy sack the night before, I prayed and I listened. I laid it out there “God, if you want me to continue, allow that to be so. Bring healing on my feet and renew my desire to continue” I smiled remembering the great send-offs that I had with family and friends.Their encouraging words to me. They swirled around in my head. They were so motivating, so soothing, so inspiring. I knew I had lots of people praying for me, for us, every single day. For our safety and our well-being. I felt a sense of refilling when I woke up. My feet were still sore, but they felt that they were taking a turn for the better. Even the blisters that had popped up didn’t feel as sore covered in blister band-aids (Y’all, these things are AMAZING!) There were so many things God was waiting to flood me with on this journey and I knew this morning when I wok up I needed to continue.fullsizerenderimg_5223

I need to side-bar right here for just a second to tell you the power of prayer is so far-reaching, profound and real. What I did not know at the time, was the night before, after being able to talk to Greg on Kearsarge Pass, he was with our worship team at rehearsal, they always take time as a group to pray for one another and the needs of those around us. He explained the situation with my feet and as a group, they prayed for me. Of course I did not know this, but know now beyond a shadow of a doubt, THIS is why I was able to get up the next morning and continue on this hike. What a testimony of God’s healing, and his love. His promises and his mercy, grace and provision. I am SO thankful for those friends that prayed, daily for us.fullsizerender

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We camped at Woods Creek after descending Glen Pass. It’s a gorgeous area with a stream and a beautiful suspension bridge right out in the middle of the JMT/PCT. We soaked our legs, and filtered water. This was starting to become routine and we joked about “our nightly chores” Get to camp, set up our tents, have a snack, roll out our beds, filter water, wash our clothes in the creek, bathe in the same creek, eat dinner, laugh a lot, talk about the day, yoga, howl as the sun went down…and to bed! Most nights we were in bed by 7pm. Trail time changes your sleep patterns and hiking in the 90 degree heat all day at altitude takes a lot out of you. We slept when the sun went down and rose when it came up. img_5237

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Found a little trickle of water to filter.

We were packed up and left Woods Creek over the suspension bridge by 6:30am. We had 7.7 miles of climbing ahead of us to the top of Pinchot Pass. Pinchot was long with so many variations in landscape. Reds turned into grays along the way. The terrain was volcanic and Mars-like. We stopped to filter water in a spring (really just a trickle of water) before descending. We had decided that we would stop for a break and lunch at Lake Marjorie. Descending these passes would split us up a bit. Each of us descended at our own pace. We usually always stayed within eye-shot of one another, but the switchbacks along this pass didn’t afford that. K, K and I stopped at Lake Majorie and waited for J. And waited. And waited. We started to get a little concerned as we knew she wasn’t that far behind. She was nursing an injury from a few days prior and had a hard time descending due to the pounding it takes on your body. We made a plan. K would stay put at Lake Marjori, she could be a lookout along the trail lakeside and K would walk back up the pass, I would walk down looking out for J. With the steepness of the terrain it’s so easy to turn an ankle or even worse, slip off the edge. We were really concerned for her safety. We came back together and not one of us had seen her. We asked hikers along the trail if they had seen her, giving a full description of our lost hiker in either direction and no one had seen her. We saw a SAR helo flying overhead to where we were sitting, which made things much worse, but we tried to not allow fear to take root. We quickly made a plan; we knew J was smart, she’s been  hiker and this was not her first rodeo. She knows what to do in situations where we would get separated. We were however concerned about her injury and the steepness of our decent. Even the most experienced hikers can fall. We decided that K and I would hike out to South Forks Kings River together (our next campsite) and K would stay put at Lake Marjori. We decided that if we got to SFKR and she wasn’t there, we would radio SAR to start a search for her. We were pretty concerned as K an I hiked at break-neck speeds to SFKR. You cannot imagine the joy that enveloped us when we got to camp, and heard her calling out to us! She had somehow passed us on the trail as we were sitting at the lake. Thanks be to God is all I could say. Thanks be to God! We had a girls night at camp this night. SFKR is an amazing site. A wide river flows over flat rocks that fill bathtub-like pools. We were surrounded by pack horses and a mule train. The river is swift and camping next to it, with it’s sound, lulled us right to sleep after dinner.

The next morning after K joined us, we hiked out of South Forks Kings River and headed over Mather Pass. My feet seem to be healing better as I have changed up some of my routine in caring for them. No more soaking my feet at lunchtime and puting them back into my boots! We all felt like the hike was getting easier as we knew we must be finally getting our trail legs. Mather was still exhausting! It greeted us at the top with it’s gorgeous views at 12,100 feet.I wore my iPod most of the time today, just needing to drown out some noise in my head. img_5284

We camped at Palisades Lake. My most favorite of any camp on the entire trail. It’s surrounded by mountain peaks that stretch out to the sky and we all swam in the crystal clear blue waters. I could’ve stayed here for days and cannot wait to come back to this spot. It’s for us NOBO hikers, the ledge to the Golden Staircase, which we would be descending tomorrow. I felt so much of God’s presence with me today. Being out in nature and the silence of the wilderness allows for a lot of time to listen. One thing that I was hearing loud and clear was “small space, big world” I knew it was relating to the fact that G and I had decided to sell our house and downsize this year. We were ready to un-clutter and unburden our lives of “stuff” and “space” and live smaller, greener, healthier lives. We were excited to have our small space in this big world. We knew in doing so it would free up so much more time for us to be doing the things we love. Traveling more, spending less time taking care of “house stuff” devoting time to missions and music, running and yoga and just being more present and intentional with what’s important. We’ve both just felt that we don’t want to be boggled down as much to lend ourselves to whatever God has in store for us. img_5298

When we left Palisades in the morning, I was feeling so good and refreshed! We descended the Golden Staircase, which is about 600-billion (maybe not quite that many) granite stairs chiseled into the side of the mountain. We hiked 13 miles today and part way up Muir Pass before we stopped to camp. When we stopped for the night K let us know we were at 119.11 miles in, just over half way!

Passes we’ve covered so far:

Cottonwood 11,140, Guyout 10,900, Whitney 14,505, Forrester 13,160, Kearsarge 10,750 times two (up and over for resupply and back) Glen 11,926, Pinchot 12,050, Mather 12,100

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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-Guitar Lake to Mt Whitney

Into the mountains I go. To lose my mind and find my soul. img_0570

When we woke it was cold. I had smartly decided to wear a base layer under my hiking pants. I layered on a top base layer, a cold weather fleece, my down jacket, beanie, buff and my gloves. I was cold now but knew I’d warm in the climb. I put on my headlamp and unzipped myself from my tent. Immediately I noticed what appeared to be fire flies out in the night sky, which after taking a second look I realized where the headlamps of the hikers climbing Whitney ahead of us. Their lights danced in black space as they made their way up switchback after switchback in the freezing cold of the night.

The terrain of Whitney is rough and jagged. It’s granite boulders unfriendly. Sharp and serrated. As we started our way up we sludged through water running down the grassy slopes. The only green laying like a skirt at the bottom of this giant, granite treasure. My breathing was out of rythym and I wasn’t sure if the cause was the frigid cold, the accent or fear that had a grip on me. I can’t tell you why I was experiencing fear, other than worrying about altitude sickness, climbing in the dead of night or falling or quite possibly it was the fear of the unknown or the fear of failure.
As we climbed I could look out into the dark abyss below us and see the bobbing head lamps that reminded me of twinkling stars. I wondered how many would join us at the top for the sunrise.

Making it to Trail Crest was surreal. I had that a-ha moment of “I’m actually doing this!” Adrenaline rushed through my body. Trail Crest is the turn you take to the summit where the trail from Guitar Lake meets the Whitney Portal trail. It’s a staging area for the summit. Large packs are dropped and left here and slack packs are put on. The trial gets steeper and narrows at this point.

Previous to going to bed, we had packed our slack packs. Since we were returning to Guitar Lake we didn’t have to bring our big packs. We packed a small amount of food and enough water to get us to the summit and back.img_4946

Shortly after leaving Trail Crest I got ahead of K and K. J had decided that morning that she was going to skip the summit due to an injury from the day before. Being up Mt Whitney before she decided it wasn’t worth the risk to possibly take her out of the rest of the trip. At this point I was climbing alone in pitch black. No one ahead of me or behind me as far as I could see. I’m not gonna lie I was terrified! It was very empowering, scared me to death and allowed me to overcome some fears. I shook as I walked. I was cold and spilling over with unease. I had to get myself under control and allow my bravery to kick in. It was completely silent except for the wind on the side of the granite slab to my right. The other side a sheer drop. I learned right then I am a lot braver than I think I am. My entire world existed in a tiny dot of light from my headlamp. I couldn’t see further than 5 feet. As the trail narrowed I had a hard time being able to tell where I was going, a couple of times climbing over waist-high boulders dead center in the trail and watching every step I made as to make sure I planted my foot wisely. It was getting colder and colder and I was starting to get in to some snow and ice. I was anxious to reach the top and I was worried that I wouldn’t make it before the sunrise.img_0569

I prayed  and knew that God is not a God of fear. This calmed me. I was quickly reminded of all the fearful things He’s brought me through only to step to the other side of that fear and feel accomplished, free, able, unrestrained and….enough. I think moving past fear is healthy.  To do so is liberating. It changes you. You no longer feel the need to compromise or settle. And what’s funny is after you’ve smiled in the face of fear, you know you can never go back. You can’t go back into the unhappy relationship, the dead end job, the unhealthy friendship, the uneventful life, or the unloved and given-up dreams.  You won’t allow fear to trample you again. You may have the occasional whisper of fear, a hint that reminds you that you’re human, but it will never overtake you enough to disable you.

When I turned the final switch back I saw it. Silhouetted by the faint glow of the pre-risen sun. The hut! I made it. A sob choked out. Relief from my discomfort and a complete sense of joy filled me! A feeling of success washed over me. I went inside just enough to warm up a bit (the summit was in the low 20’s with a sharp, biting wind)  then I walked out to the summit table where ten others were perched waiting to be kissed by the sun. I sat alone and cried. I was overwhelmed, so caught up and grateful to be there right in this moment and as the sun rose I sat in praise! How awesomely, magnificent this gorgeous country is! How strong I am. How great our God is.

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*As I finish this blogpost I have just received confirmation of issue for another wildernesses permit for the JMT hiking southbound this time (SOBO) this July/Aug including, God willing, another summit of Mt Whitney!!

**Mt Whitney summit 14,505 feet

                                       May you always do what you’re afraid to do.