Monday, July 18, 2005

Forester Pass- 13,200 ft.- our last and highest pass before Mt. Whitney. July 7, 2005. Posted by Picasa

One Step at a Time...

It's a crazy paradox to love and hate something at the same time--to do something that takes you through the whole spectrum of emotions and fills you with dread and then elation moments later. Mark and I just finished hiking The John Muir Trail in Central California about a week ago. It's 220 miles stretching from Yosemite Valley, through the High Sierra's, and ending at the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states (14,497 ft.)...deemed one of America's most beautiful hiking trails. Every pass and valley opens up into another incredible view that leaves you breathless (partly because you just climbed 2000 feet, but mostly from the beauty). Mark and I decided a few months ago that this was the section of trail we wanted to trek, and we even knew before we went that the snow levels had hit 200% of a normal season this year; however, we figured that if we started in Yosemite and headed south, by the time we hit our big passes, much of the snow would be melted out. So we went, ice axes in hand, sights set high. I was excited for my first "longer distance" hike--little did I know what I was getting myself into! I went, never having used an ice axe, never having hiked on snow, never having really done anything I was doing all day, every day...and boy was there snow! For our first week we barely saw the trail! Mark grew to be quite the navigator with a topo map and compass, and we both grew in our ability to spot about 6 inches of trail under mounds and mounds of snow. We could go most of a day only hoping and praying that we were headed down the right valley or climbing the right pass (only to be rewarded with the spotting of trail as we headed into lower elevations). About five days into the trip, moving slower than we'd hoped due to all the snow, we hitched into the mountain resort town of Mammoth Lakes, a bit discouraged, surrendering our hope of finishing the trail before our flight left LA on July 10.

Luckily temps hit the 80's for our second half of the trip, and the snow started melting like mad (making our creek crossings more like "raging river crossings"), and we started seeing the trail at higher and higher elevations. We were able to make up some time and some miles, and we actually finished a day ahead of what we thought we'd do! It was amazing! We summited Mt. Whitney on July 8 at 9am, reaching our goal with amazing views and, what I like to call "a celebratory snickers" (I'd been saving that for the summit as we ran low on food toward the end). Ever ate a snickers at 14, 497 ft? I'd recommend tastes way better up there!

Looking back, I'd do it again in an instant; but I've also never done anything that made me want to cry, panic, and quit time and time again. Luckily both Mark and I are determined people and he was an incredible encouragement to me. He kept me moving one step at a time over the snow and steep slopes when I was overwhelmed; I couldn't have done this without him, that's for sure. It was a time of great growth for the both of us, and a unifying experience that will hopefully be a metaphor for our marriage and life together. Thanks to everyone who was praying for us!