Sunday, September 03, 2006

Whitney Summited! and other events during Wade's visit

Wade and I, as planned, returned to the mountains (about a 7 hour drive) after picking him up from the airport. Though it doesn't look that long as the bird flies, one has to go north before coming back south due to the mountains.

The first night, we camped at the Whitney Portal up from Lone Pine (not a town named Porthole, dur). A nice campsite with other hikers for the next day with a little store nearby, at about 8.5. We met a cool guy named Jack, a geologist and ecologist who works for the Grand Canyon National Park and who was in the Sierras for some serious photography on a side project.

The first day we backpacked up to about 10.5 to the campsite known as the Outpost, it was nice, at about the point the trees are thinning and near a cool waterfall, some lakes, and wetlands.

The second day we went up to about 12 to sort of the Whitney basecamp, called Trail Camp, with the uppermost peak of Whitney towering above.

Day 3 was summit day. All above treeline and quite awesome. All hiking, but some of which Wade and I traversed with slow deliberateness. After hitting the summit, which had a summit register and a little emergency lightning hut. Many were on the summit, some of which were doing the major grind of a dayhike. The communal quality of being at the summit with other climbers is something to be experienced. Strangers giving each other high-5's with no other greeting, stuff like that. It was slightly overcast with high clouds, so our view was unobscured, but it was windy and cold, so we didn't dally but for 20-30 minutes.

After summiting we returned to Trail Camp and tore down camp and decided to return (with backpacks) all the way down. It was long and tough, but we did it. It was dark before we got back down so we followed another hiker with a headlamp.

Overall it was definitely the coolest and most diverse hike I've done. With plenty of different rock formations, alpine lakes, waterfalls, etc. Unlike the central CO mountains I am used to, the Whitney summit feels way higher that the other peaks nearby, so the summit views themselves are different. Less a continuous sea of mountains and more of a varied landscape of shorter mountains, lakes, and valleys.

We treated ourselves to a cheap motel after a late night breakfast at Denny's. The next day we drove back through Yosemite and camped there. The camping was silly car-camping but the park, of course, was worth visiting. Unique rock formations and we took a little walk of a few miles into a grove of giant sequoias.

After Yosemite we made our way to Napa Valley, where we camped and visited the quaint town of St. Helena and did some tasting at the Merryvale winery. I asked our expert, Kris, a gazillion questions for about 3 hours and have already forgotten the amazing answers she provided. She ended up selling me one of their best bottles of Cabernet. I realize that this is far out of the low-budget aesthetic of the trip, but it was quite worth it.

We then returned to the San Francisco area, first going out to the coast, Stinson Beach for some frisbee and very good seafood. Then into the city for urban exploration (we drove down Lombard, went to Telegraph Hill and Twin Peaks, etc.), taking the ferry across to Sausalito, and then back for some good crablegs at Pier 39 (very touristy of course, but worth the visit).

Now, we are both sitting at a Starbucks, and I will be returning my hiking partner to the airport soon. I will then make my way down south for the surf.

Wade says: The trip far exceeded my expectations for adventure and beauty. Shawn is an easy person to travel with and his driving skills are second to none. (I'm not sure what that means) We packed in a lot of fun so I'll have a lot of good memories of this trip. California is fantastic! (that last sentence is meant to be said in a voice like Arnold Schwarzenegger)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering when you were going to make a reference to the 'sweet delicious booze' in wine country. Sounds like you are having one of those once in a lifetime vacations! If there is anybody that has deserved it, it is definitely you! Enjoy buddy!.... Your friend from the Hoosier State.

8:59 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home