Thanks Jim & Jamie Dutcher for permission to use photo of Lakota.

Monday, August 5, 2002

Mt. Whitney - 1st Time

Thursday: Well, I drove up with 2 strange men, Mark and Carl (and believe me, they were in fact strange). We pulled into the base camp at around 8PM and pitched our tents. Denise (from San Jose) was already there. And, Denelle (from Pasadena) pulled in at around 10:30PM. I knew none of these folks before this trip except for Mark whom I met on another hiking trip but only talked with for about 5 minutes. I was the butt of all jokes the entire weekend. I am known as "chipmunk lover." Our leader, Mark, is known as "Turtle," not because he was slow (which he was not) but because whenever he was inside his tent (A-frame) and he would poke his head out...he looked like a turtle stretching his neck out of its shell.

Anyway, there are loads of bears. BEAR CANISTERS are required. At the base camp there are storage containers to put all of your food and toiletries in because the bears haven't figured out how to get into them yet. Ours was missing its handle and we decided a bear had it and was using it regularly to get into this storage bin as it pleased. ha ha ha. Bear hangs don't work! They have figured them out! They have learned form such pros as Yogi and BooBoo. I only heard a bear once throughout the night, but apparently (and there are pictures to prove it) there are many on the prowl. DO NOT LEAVE ANY FOOD ITEMS OR TOILETRIES IN YOUR CAR EITHER...THEY WILL RIP THE CAR WIDE OPEN TO RETRIEVE IT! For those of you hiking at the end of August, check out the photos at the trailhead.

Friday: We hit the trail at about 8:30AM. Each of us carrying about 40-45 pounds on our backs. One mile in, Denise got a blister on her heal. We stopped to put moleskin on it and continued on. At about 2.5 miles there is a spectacular lake (Lone Pine Lake)...clear blue water and rocky formations all around...a breathtaking view and man would I love to live there! (Drop your packs before hiking down to the water). Stayed there for about 30 minutes.
By the third mile at Outpost Camp, Denise had blisters on both feet and they were bleeding...NOT GOOD! She decided to stay at there on her own...she would re-evaluate her condition the next morning to determine if she could make it or not, and if not, she would camp for the weekend where she was. Which, Outpost is quite lovely...waterfall right by where you pitch your tents, plenty of trees...lovely place to camp! Convenient "Solar Houses" for human urinating....just poo! Can be difficult for the ladies to separate the two...sick joke! We stopped for about another 30 minutes to eat lunch.

Onward and upward. More lakes and rivers along the way. Smoke is visible...very haze-like, sometimes a faint odor here and there...fires are still burning! Gorgeous views all the way.
We all went at our own pace. Carl was a speed deamon. He was the 1st to Trail Camp (12,000 feet). I was the second one to arrive at about 2:30PM. I was greeted immediately by a Marmot...a weasely, ferret-type of critter. And, of course, I was ooh-ing and aw-ing, wanting to take it home with me. I chased one later on to get its picture. Poor thing. I terrorized it, not intentionally, but it was so cute I had to capture it on film. SNAP! Got it!

A while later Denelle and Mark arrived and we pitched our tents and ate dinner. There is a lake to pump water for drinking. This is the last source of available drinking water, so be sure to replenish here. We lounged and laughed and drank tea. 9PM someone emerged on top of the rocks overlooking our site and we hear, "I found them!" It was Denise!!! She made it! She met 2 men (Paul & Stuart - Stuart had type 2 diabetes), they wrapped her feet with moleskin and duct tape and proceeded slowly together to Trail Camp. She had also lightened her load by leaving her tent and sleeping pad, etc. at Outpost Camp. What a trooper! I jumped up and gave her a huge hug! She is awesome! And, let me tell you, her heals were nasty looking!
The "solar houses" became the general topic for discussion amongst plenty of other bathroom talk. Such "potty mouth!" Anyway, lines formed, and of course we all know what we are going there to is not a time to be shy. It was amusing! Sick, sick,, there was discussion about the man who was arested for hiding in outhouses with a garbage bag and taking pictures of ladies. NASTY!!! Needless to say, it is difficult not to think about it whilst in one of the solar houses. A word of caution, DO NOT THROW ANYTHING OTHER THAN TISSUE PAPER in these things, because the park rangers have to close them otherwise and clean them out...and that is unfortunate for you and especially them. I had to wait an hour!

The stars were brilliant. Weather - freezing cold at night! Warm sleeping bag nice! Oh! BEAR CANISTERS are required...the rangers DO patrol and take any food that is out!!! It didn't happen in our group because we had the canisters, but it did happen to others!
Saturday: We ate and packed all food items up in canisters...threw all of our gear into our case of rain (storms can come in suddenly)...and hit the trail at 8:30 AM. Switchbacks and more switchbacks (something like 96-98...arguments about the exact number). Up and away. Carl took off like the speed deamon he is and he summited in 2 hours. I came up 20 minutes after him. Not Bad for 5 miles...most of which is uphill and you are completely exposed to the elements. Bring warm clothing and/or rain gear...or both! WOW!!! What a view! What an awesome feeling of accomplishment! Sid knows what it feels like...and, he's gonna do it again! Incidently, if there are any changes in your plans, please keep me in mind...I'd love to go again!!! Anyway, up in 2 hours and 20 minutes...down in 2 hours to Trail Camp again. We could have gone all the way down, but we had planned to stay another night...and, it made for an awesome time. I cannot recall the last time I laughed so hard. We laughed all weekend long! A chipmunk made its way into Carl's fanny pack and ate some food. He wacked his bag and the chipmunk took off and needless to say, I became dubbed "Chipmunk lover" as a result of my defending the chipmunk! I won't go into all the details. But, there was talk about Carl getting a Daniel Boone type of hat made from a chipmunk...all joking at my expense of course! But, there was plenty of joking at everyones expense at one time or another!

Sunday: We hiked down and out and bought our t-shirts that we earned. I hiked down in 2 hours and 20 minutes again. Then, we went and ate a big meal! YUM! Actually, I brought excellent food on the trip...I brought enough for everyone, but I eat a lot, as most of you are aware. They learned my eating behavior quickly and were never surprised when I would announce, "I'm hungry!"

This group of strangers that came together had an awesome time together! Thank goodness we all got along so well! This was an incredible experience and I am trying to figure out what I will hike next! Any suggestions?

Pete, it was awesome to see you guys! Wish we could have hung out longer. Next time! Hope you had a great show in Santa Monica w/Graham Parker and a safe trip home!

Copyright © 2009 Alyssa Polacsek, Lakota Films, LLC & Natural Child Blog