Mile 712.76: 36.14393 N, 118.14433 W, 7962′. This is where the High Sierra begin. You come over a pass, make your way through a small pine forest, and then, as you exit the forest, you’re suddenly in a spectacular High Country meadow like only the Sierra have. It goes on for miles and miles, grass filling the basin, rock and mountains surrounding it, and you’re just in awe.
After days of feeling the desert slowly start to give way to the mountains, it happened all at once today. Yesterday we were in the blazing heat; tonight we’re snuggled deep in our sleeping bags. Yesterday we were barely a mile high; tonight we’re sleeping at 10,000 feet. Yesterday we were surrounded by dust and prickly desert bushes; tonight it’s all soft pine needles and mountain grasses. It’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for, and it is so wonderful to finally be in it.
In early afternoon, we stopped at the South Fork of the Kern with Rally and Clint (attention: now to be known as The Dirty), which is a river that slowly meanders across the meadow and lazily drifts past mountain after mountain after mountain. It was about as idyllic a scene as you can imagine — a dozen hikers hanging out, some dipping in the water, many lounging on the banks, eating, sleeping, talking, or just soaking it all in. This is one of the reasons people hike the High Sierra — rivers and mountains just like this.
As we get closer, too, we’re seeing increasing views of Mt. Whitney. Compared to our very first sighting, it thankfully has a lot less snow on it. But it still has a beautiful capping of snow going down a couple thousand feet, and the anticipation builds when we realize we’ll be on top in just a few short days. Each time we turn a corner and get another glimpse, it’s exciting.
Our climbs today were brutal; we gained four thousand feet in elevation, and that’s after going down and having to re-climb a thousand of that en route. We’re left absolutely exhausted. But it doesn’t matter, because we’re here. No, it’s not that the entire PCT is about getting to the Sierras — but after spending seven hundred miles in the California desert, being in the mountains feels so, so very good. Now, when I’m exhausted or thirsty or hot or cold, I’m still elated, because of everything around me. My heart leaps at the mountains everywhere.
The best part of all? We have something like five hundred more miles of this to go. Bring it on, bring it all on!