We wake to a cold, frosty tent. I peek out to see what the day will look like. The sky is blue with white, fluffy clouds. There is a cold breeze. Fortunately, the sun is bright and warms our cheeks. We make breakfast and coffee, and soon head out for the day. There are 2 big climbs today and we better get started.
Jon’s back continues to feel better, but it’s still not 100%. As we climb out of Death Canyon, I feel a sense of worry and fatigue. I’m worried about Jon because I’m not totally sure I understand the nature of his back pain. Will it just go away? Could he “throw out” his back, 40 miles into the wilderness? The Sierra Nevada is a mighty range, rugged and hard with unpredictable weather and real consequences. That’s already a lot of variables to manage. I get angry, stabbing my trekking poles into the dirt as I climb. I am not mad at Jon, but at the situation. But to Jon, I imagine my anger looks pointed at him.
Half way up, we stop and talk. I tell him the stress of his injury is making it hard to fully enjoy the experience. In my head, I am constantly calculating how and where we could bail if he got worse. He listens, and we agree to have better communication about how he is doing, so I worry less. He decides to skip hiking the 16 mile detour to Mt. Whitney. I trust Jon and feel good about our talk. I feel the tension release from my muscles.
With the first climb done, we break for a snack which includes soup and a view of Owen’s Valley. The lake below is a dry alkali flat, white and dusty. The valley has a long and troubled history, from the Owen’s Valley Indian War of 1865, to Japanese Internment Camps in WWII, to the California Water Wars.
It begins to sprinkle rain in the afternoon. We hike on, eager to finish our day and rest. We reach Poison Meadow Spring in the late afternoon, a very cold breeze is hitting my legs the last 2 miles into camp and I stop to put on more layers.
It’s a beautiful view from our little camp, and I embrace the serenity of the evening. I feel so thankful to have Jon as a partner. I know the decision to not do Mt. Whitney was hard. He decided not to push it, and I thought that was both sensible and considerate. It would be easy to give into one’s ego and just do it, but that’s not Jon.
We eat a quick meal and then head into our tents, eager to get warm and comfy before the sun goes down.