The night at approx 8000ft was chilly, but I slept well in my zero degree bag. I slept well, that is, until the pack of boy scouts came tramping in super loud around 12am. These little brats decided to set-up camp practically on top of my tent. I was still up early; I wanted to summit and get back down and be on my bike back to the train before dark.
I got packed up and was on the trail before the OC guys. The weight of my pack was wearing on me and I was starting to feel the altitude. It was not affecting my head yet, but the thin air was making it hard to breath. Being a Saturday morning each viewpoint was (nearly) filled with day hikers and the rest of us who had camped at one of the three campsites. The sites were beautiful and the effort needed to keep climbing was extraordinary; both of which I was looking forward to. But, I really don’t like hiking that much. It is so slow! On a bike you can coast or speed up with minimal effort. Not so with hiking! About 6 years ago I was talking about hiking the Appalacian Trail. Boy am I glad I am over that nonsense.
Near the top my pace is slowing considerably. I am being passed constantly. At a fork about 300 vertical feet from the summit I decide to leave my pack. My head is aching a bit and I know it is going to get worse the longer I stay up. Picking up my pace, I soon arrive at the busy summit. Maybe hiking is more about the destination than the journey? I was happy to be there and look down in every direction.
Going downhill is not much easier than going up AND it is harder on your knees. I am going slow, being passed, etc and then I took a long break at one of the viewpoints. The OC guys ask me if I am feeling okay and I respond honestly. They say I should hike with them just to be safe. It ends up they are training for a climb up Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in California. We are chatting away about gear, etc and they tease me about my antiquated water purification method (iodine tablets). I should also mention that my feet are destroyed! Hiking in cycling socks is not a good idea. By the time I am back in LA I’ll have 6 blisters, some of which are quarter size.
Meanwhile I am being challenged to stay on pace. When I am cycling it is hard to push myself to where I am uncomfortable. But I was at this point hiking down this mountain. Crazy thoughts start to go through your head about motivation. ‘Why would anyone do this?’ ‘What the hell was I thinking?’ Looking back I understand better the importance of mental preparation. When this type of situation arises I bet most people talk themselves out of things they are capable of. Amazing!
Eventually we get down to the parking lot. I am stoked that my bike is still there. I hadn’t mentioned that I had ridden my bike there. Suddenly these guys thought I was the macho one doing ridiculous feats. I laughed and told them how riding was the easy part. Then they laughed at me when I unloaded my pack and panniers, bike shoes, and a pump came out.
I cruised the 25 mile downhill at dusk and then into dark. I went back to Jen’s since I missed the last train to LA, but it was probably for the better. We cooked some food and I crashed out. Next day back to LA and then back to work…..