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What I did for my summer vacation

August 31, 2008

When you take off of work for a week, it’s an unwritten rule that the weeks before and after are, well, hell. Work has generally been frustrating for awhile, but to have project deadlines all colliding at once didn’t help. Throw into the mix that the majority of my work isn’t science-related, or requires any of the 3 degrees in engineering I have, and my motivation is at a low. But, I had a talk with my manager before I left, so maybe this time I can get onto some projects that are more in line with why I joined the department in the first place…maybe.

So why did I leave work for a week? Well, I’d already visited Death Valley this year, the lowest point in California, I figured it made good symbolic sense to visit Mt. Whitney, the highest point in California (and I think the contiguous US). Our group of 4 had a good, sensible plan for acclimating to the altitude to make this trip a success, so we went early and did a few hikes to get our bodies used to the idea of doing more (exercise) with less (oxygen).

Hike 1: Kearsarge Pass. 10 miles roundtrip, with an overall 4000 ft in elevation (up and down total). Because of the stress at work, and general lack of sleep, I started this trip off with a cold that was to be my constant companion. Which is cool, it’s nice to have company when you’re hiking.

And so, here I am, standing in the wild. Mountains, trees, water. The scenery in the Sierras is beautiful.

Knarly tree

The lake below the pass

A view of King’s Canyon, on the other side of the pass

We had by this point split our group of 4 into 2s as I was the slowest of the group, so M and I headed back down to camp at a somewhat leisurely pace. Good thing too, because my right knee was beginning to give me some lip.

Day 2: Hike to Meysan lake. We got up early to move our campsite and then drive up towards Whitney, to do some more hiking in the area. The plan was to hike from the Portal trailhead area to Meysan Lake, I think about 5 miles one way, but I didn’t make it that far. I was beginning to see just how out of shape I was and my right knee, which until then had been my good knee, was hurting more and more.

We did see a lizard. A very fearless lizard. Or very lazy.

View of Mt. Whitney from the parking lot, as we waited for the rest of our group to come back.

Day 3: Hike to Trail Camp. This day we got up even earlier to break camp and drive back up to the Portal Trailhead area. This time we were going to be backpacking, so food and other items we weren’t packing in had to be left in bear lockers at the trailhead. The great thing about getting up so early is not only that you get where you’re going earlier, but you’re so sleepy it doesn’t hit you for awhile that you’re hiking up 6 miles with all your gear on your back.

A view behind us, back towards Lone Pine


“Why are you taking a picture of me? I thought you were done….”

Finally, 6 miles later, we made it to Trail Camp (elevation about 12000 ft)

K and M’s tent, and what I’m told is Mt. Muir in the background. Or maybe some other peak. It’s hard to keep track.

Having arrived safe and sound, 3 of us settled in as M headed off to get water, for what we hoped would be a peaceful and restful afternoon.

Or not. Enter Sammy the marmot, who after trying to walk off with M’s back outside her tent made a pass at mine.

Sammy would like you to know that he’s hungry and would love to help you out by lightening your load of any food he can reach. As I sat in my tent the next morning eating a Clif Bar, waiting for M to come back from his hike up to the summit, Sammy ducked under the rainfly and watched me through the mesh. In case I decided I didn’t want the rest. I’d just like to interject here that Ellen DeGeneres’ comment about energy bars is so true – “It takes longer to chew one bite of those things than it takes to make an entire sandwich. I don’t know what they’re made from, but you could insulate a house with that stuff.”

Lake behind our campsite

Day 4: Summit and back. Well, not for me. For me it was just ‘and back,’ as M and I had agreed the day of the Meysan Lake hike that trying to do a day of 4.7 miles/2000 ft up and 11 miles/6000 ft down may be a very terrible idea.  A little disappointing, but with the knee pain I had hiking back down it was for the best.  All in all a great trip – there’s nothing like sleeping on the ground and being dirty for 4 days to make you appreciate your home 🙂  And nature – these were some of the most spectacular views I’ve seen.  And now I know what I’m up against next time!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie permalink
    September 1, 2008 1:28 am

    Some really breathtaking photos. I’m so jealous! I’m glad you had a great time, but I’m sorry your knee gave you so many problems.

    It looks like it was an amazing trip.

  2. September 1, 2008 3:48 am

    Gorgeous photos! Sorry to hear about the knee, dad-ratted joints. Sometimes they are nothin’ but trouble!

  3. September 1, 2008 9:59 pm

    absolutely gorgeous photos – you make me want to go there too! i hope it was relaxing and that your knee is feeling better.

  4. September 1, 2008 10:44 pm

    I’m glad you had an awesome time! Too bad for your knee. Well, it’s just gives you a reason to go out again!

  5. September 2, 2008 6:54 pm

    Wow- what gorgeous hiking surroundings! I’m glad you had a good vacay! Good luck on re-entry!

  6. September 3, 2008 10:35 pm

    Wowsa – what scenery. Looks like the weather was perfect too. You look so happy in that pic! Glad to see that, but not glad to hear about the cold, the knee, or the rascal-y marmot 🙂

  7. Monika permalink
    September 4, 2008 8:50 pm

    wow!!! what an awesome time!!!

  8. September 7, 2008 4:56 am

    I’ve always wanted to climb Mt. Whitney…sounds like you had a good time regardless. It’s not about the summit, but about the adventure.

    Those Marmots are sneaky! They can gang up on you if you don’t watch out.

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