Field Notes: Sierra Nevada Training


January, 2016: Mallory kicked her feet towards the sky and the metal creaked. Grown sisters, we were on a swing set designed for people half our size. For two weeks, we’d been on the road—making our way from the east coast to west. I scuffed my trail runners over the gravel and came to an abrupt stop. With my cheek pressed against the cold links, I gazed westward at the jagged ridge line of the high Sierra. We’d coasted into Lone Pine, California, a winter ghost town filled with the memorabilia of Hollywood westerns on empty after burning up and over the contours of Death Valley. Out of the desert, we were greeted by mountains covered with snow and our souls rejoiced.

“I want to climb those mountains,” I said.

The sun set and bathed the high ridge line in an alpine glow. Rock and snow glistened pink before the shadow of night descended. I didn’t know when, but, someday I’d look down at Lone Pine from those summits.

August 3, 2018: I followed the Braunius brothers along Gill Brook after reaching the summits of Dial and Nippletop. Four years apart, they had a twin like quality and I struggled telling them apart. A hiking group of eight, Tim had orchestrated an Aconcagua meet and greet in the Adirondack High Peaks. Some of us were fully committed while others were feeling out the physical, mental and financial responsibilities. Tim hiked behind me and we talked about his upcoming trip to California with his son Henry to hike the John Muir Trail.

“That’s on my list,” I said, thinking of the time Mallory and I had spent driving along the Sierra Nevada.

“Well, we have an extra spot on the permit. Want to come?”

“Yeah!” I jumped over a puddle of dark Adirondack mud. “Wait,” I turned over my shoulder. “Are you serious?”

He was serious. And so was I. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. Permits for the John Muir Trail were lottery based and hard to come by. Plus, I wanted to test my expedition systems and challenge myself at some higher altitude. Over the next ten days, I encouraged my husband Andy to be a spontaneous partner in crime and we scurried around paying bills, filing vacation time paperwork, changing meetings, and finishing coursework to go on a hike of a lifetime.

Parts two and three to come this week!

Reno Airport
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