The Highest Point – Backpacking Mt Whitney

August 30, 2002 at 5:57 pm (Backpacking)

I found this in an old folder on my computer. A journal entry of sorts from my first backpacking trip in August 2002.

“I was ill-equiped, mentally and physically for the difficult adventure. I had an old external frame pack that didn’t fit, new hiking boots that had never been worn, and a new outfit for each of the five days we would be in the backcountry. I also maintained the misconception that we were spending five days hiking from the east side of the Sierras, up the 8 mile trail to the base camp, spending the next three days hiking up to the top of Mt. Whitney, then spending the last day hiking back down. It wasn’t until the night before the trip that I learned we were going up the west side and down the east side. Instead of a 20 mile trip, we were doing almost 60 miles in 5 days. Pride kept me from voicing that realization and I set out the next morning full of nervous excitement. I had shoes, water bottles, and various other odd-shaped pieces of equipment carbinered to the outside of my pack and the inside was stuffed full of food and clothes. I had no idea what was in store for me over the next five days.

Five days later…Standing atop Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States, I wondered how in the world I had made the fifty mile journey to the top. I looked down at my feet, covered in a mess of mole skin and several water-filled blisters and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. It seemed as though an eternity had passed since the morning when all I could do was count my steps, sing country songs aloud, and repeat to myself over and over again, I am strong, I am happy, life is good. The truth is that my knees and back ached terribly, my feet were swollen, blistery, and bloody, and I wanted nothing more than the trip to be over. Over the previous four days we had covered between eight and eighteen miles a day, hiking slowly from before dawn until after dusk. There were many times that I wondered if I would make it through the day, or if my body would endure the beating for another fifteen miles. The numerous rewards throughout the journey, however, made the pain well worth it. Despite my previous camping experiences, I had never seen such a sky, pure topaz during the day and glittering with stars in the evening. The air was so fresh and sweet I could almost taste its cleanliness. In the heart of the wilderness, I was able to truly let go of myself and be one with the nature and landscape around me. This excursion was not only the first time that I ventured into the wilderness without my experienced parents, but also my first backpacking trip. I discovered the depth of my character, the strength and endurance of my will, and the perseverance of my spirit to help keep my body alive.”

Not only did I finish the trip, I developed a love for backpacking. There are always moments on the trips that I wonder how I ended up insane enough to enjoy the physical torture that can sometimes ensue, but then I get to the top of a peak, or a lush meadow full of wildflowers, and I know that the solitude of the wilderness is so theraputic for the soul that I crave it, am addicted to it, the way one might be addicted to pain killers. It is out there, in”the middle of nowhere” that I am able to truly know who I am.

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