After picking me up from the PCT at Castle Craigs in Northern California, my parents and I headed east and crossed the great expanse of Nevada. Flat sagebrush alternating with narrow mountain ranges that extend north to south. The land has been stretched here creating this basin and range topography. By car, we traversed the expansive sagebrush plains and climbed mountains before descending again, then repeated the pattern. Our journey has a rhythm that is soothing and makes traveling at these (high) speeds much more soothing. We reached our first stop on this road trip, a national park none of us had even heard about until we started driving. It turned out to be quite a jewel.
Great Basin National Park in Nevada rises thousands of feet above the flat sagebrush plains. My parents and I drove to the Wheeler Peak trailhead at 9800 feet. Wheeler Peak Scenic Driver twists and turns with switchback that reminded me of being back on the PCT. My parents opted for the 2.7 mile Alpine Lakes Loop Trail. I set out for the Bristlecone and Glacier Trails (4.6 miles), and did the Lake Loop on my way back.
|Up to the Bristlecone Pines.|
|View down the cirque.|
|Along the Alpine Lakes Trail.|
I grabed some trail food and my hammock, and my parents left me at the trailhead while they went in search of a burger and hotel room. I added cold water to some couscous, and hung my hammock in a grove of aspen. It got below freezing during the night, but the stars were bright and I could see the milky way.
I am hiking as the sun rises, back to my old, PCT rhythm. It is jaw-droppingly spectacular when the first rays of sunlight meet the yellow leaves of the aspens.
|Starting up the Wheeler Peak Trail.|
|Heading towards that highest peak.|
|Climbing above treeline.|
|Windswept and cold, but still smiling.|
I thought I might feel disappointed in myself for not reaching the summit. But I wasn’t. The summit didn’t mean anything to me. I got to climb, to breathe mountain air. I got to watch the sunrise and to see the incredible views. I felt the cold of the wind whipping around me, the rocks beneath my feet. Those are the things that are important to me. I attempted to make it to the top, but I made a good decision to turn around.
Other people might have kept going under these circumstances, or maybe they might have not gotten as cold or been as unstable in the wind. But I can’t compare myself to others, like I always used to do. In the past, not summiting would have prompted me to start feeling like I am weaker or not as brave other hikers. But I am beyond that now. I realize this is one of the important lessons of the PCT- now I am more comfortable in the decisions I make on the trail. I know what is important to me, and I understand that the things that I value may be different from what others are out there for and that our goals and how we derive meaning are different. And I understand that’s OK. I do what I think is right for me at the time. No regrets. It is a good lesson for life.