Eastern Sierra: Day 10 – The End …for now (or, Cheeseburgers)
Day 10 brought the promise of: all downhill; a Quarter Pounder w cheese, McDee’s fries, cheeseburgers and a large Coke; no more using a shovel…and a shower!
At the thought of this, the six year old immediately went to work on mountain-guy…and mountain-guy’s only question…”What is this…cheeseburger, you speak of?”
I sat for most of the morning at Upper Pine Lake, thinking about the trip. Remembering hanging out with the squirrels on days one and two; standing at the top of the saddle, looking back and then almost breaking the camera on the third day; topping Piute Pass and then watching Humphreys change color in the sunset on day five; Knob Lake and the beautiful scenery and sunset, and then the climb down on days seven and eight; and now, at Upper Pine Lake. I didn’t want to leave…I never want to leave, but food was running low and my inflatable sleeping pad was K-I-A… and cheeseburgers…
I sat around, waiting for auto-pilot-guy to kick in, but he wasn’t having anything to do with leaving, so I got up and packed up camp on my own. I filled the water bottles, mixed the last of the Tang and headed out, toward Pine Lake.
When I got to Pine Lake, the hikers from yesterday were out, fishing off the rocks. When I got to the section of trail that led around to where they were, we sat and talked for a few minutes. We exchanged email addresses and promised to share pictures of our trips when we returned home. (which we did)
Back on the trail, I started thinking about all of the pictures that had been taken during this trip. One 8GB and one 4GB SD card were full (there was a little space left on the 8GB) plus the pics I had on my phone. My D80 battery had given out on the 9th day…so I had thought…and my cell wouldn’t power on.
A little past Pine Lake, the trail comes into an opening that leads to Pine Creek Pack Station. At this point, you can see all the way down to the pack station in the distance…and hiking the switchbacks from 10,000’ to 7,300’ becomes like walking a tread mill. It took discipline to stay on trail; the switchbacks were anywhere from 100-350M long, but some were only separated by the ones below by about eight to ten feet at some points… and so tempting to shortcut.
A ways into this, I stopped for a minute to dig for some trail mix crumbs and drink some water. I had been observing a couple coming up the trail as I was going down, and the guy stopped and talked for a few, waiting for his girlfriend to gain ground. They were going to Royce Lakes and he was pretty weighted down with gear. He said they would be up there for a few days, climbing. After about fifteen more minutes, the girlfriend caught up, and looked pretty winded and in need of a rest. Her pack was also pretty loaded, and I could see 8-9mm ropes coming out the top. They had a pretty long, strenuous day ahead of them; Royce Lakes were over 11,500’ and they were planning on getting there before dark. I couldn’t help but think about my last attempt doing something like that, and hoped that she was in better shape than I was…
While I was stopped, I put the battery back in the D80 and had one bar! The last day would not be pictureless!! That one little bar not only renewed the energy in the camera, but brought my spirits up immensely as well.
I was already kind of bummed about my Therma-Rest ripping beyond repair; I had picked it up for this trip, and this was its first time in the field, and the field won. Then, to think I wouldn’t have any shots to document the last day…
My spirits were back, and I started taking pictures again! The sun was bright and the colors were vivid.
Eventually, I made it down to the truck. I took the pack off, took my boots off and just sat in the driver’s seat for about ten minutes, relaxing.
I had a change of clothes that I had left in the truck for the drive home and welcomed their fresh smell as I put them on. Pine Creek had a port-o-potty too!
When I left Pine Creek, I headed back to Bishop…and cheeseburgers… I ate my fill and then afterward, there was one more thing I had to do. I drove back up to North Lake and filled two, gallon jugs with water to take back home. The campground was closed, but the road up was still open. I walked around for a few minutes, saying good bye, for now.
The eight hour drive home was spent thinking about the trip and searching possibilities for the next one…and cheeseburgers… I stopped for more when I had to fill up the truck.
I made it home, showered, and then while slowly transforming back into civilized Joe, fell asleep in front of the PC, looking at pictures from the trip.
This had been a great experience!