Last Friday, my wife and our home-from-Montana-for-the-summer son made an early evening escape 300 miles up Hwy 395 to Mammoth Lakes. Due to the reality of too much work and not enough vacation time, our stay was limited to the weekend. Still, we managed to come back to the Crescenta Valley Sunday night filthy, sunburned, sore, bug-bit and thoroughly exhausted.
If a getaway to the mountains ever really needs an excuse, ours was to get in a fast, high-altitude hike to help us prepare for our upcoming hike to the top of Mt. Whitney next month. We have our permit for the mid-September attempt to reach the 14,505-foot summit and have been trying to take as many hikes (as high up as geography allows without driving to Katmandu) as we can before the big day. I’ll write more about that crazy goal next month.
Our training hike this past weekend was to a stunningly beautiful, above-timberline glacial pond in the John Muir Wilderness with the less-than-dignified name of Barney Lake. The actual hike was only seven miles, but the training value was in the elevation of the destination – some 10,000-plus feet above sea level. It was a breathtaking hike, not only because of the scarcity of oxygen.
On the way to Barney (I can’t write that without thinking of Fred and Wilma) Lake, the trail winds its way past other dazzlingly blue, Jeffery pine-rimmed lakes, through verdant mossy meadows, below shear granite cliffs and over crystal clear streams flowing from under snowfields still impressively large after a record winter. I’m sure we added hours to our sunrise hike with all of the times that the three of us rounded a corner or crested a hill to see revealed a panorama of such exquisite beauty that we were simultaneously stopped, speechless, in our tracks.
I have no idea how many times I said to my wife something along the lines of, “Tomorrow, when we’re both sitting in front our computers with a week’s worth of office work ahead, remember this view and where we were only 24 hours before.” Of course, it sounded more like, “Tomorrow (pant! pant!), when we’re (wheeze! pant!) both sitting in front of (pant! gasp!) our computers with (cough!) a week’s worth of office (pant! gasp!) work ahead, remem-(gasp!)-ber this view and (gulp! gasp!) where we were (pant!) only 24 (gasp! cough!) hours before.” I’m pretty sure our shadows shifted slightly underfoot in the time it took me to utter that simple sentence. But it was worth it.
Fast forward to the next day when, in fact, my wife and I were both in our respective offices basking in the glow of our respective computer screens. I opened up an email from the too-tired Mrs. expecting to read that she desperately wished we were back on the trail dodging fresh road apples, swatting suicidal mosquitoes and sucking scarce oxygen into our lungs instead of the slogging through the mundane meanderings of our day-to-day jobs. I know that’s what I was thinking, at least.
So, imagine my surprise when I read in my wife’s email that we are richly blessed to be able to enjoy the outdoors at anytime, anywhere. Even right here in the Crescenta Valley. She was referring, I knew, to our recent discovery and frequent use of hiking trails not 300 miles from here – but more like three to 30 minutes from our driveway.
She’s right, of course. Over the past few months, many of our training hikes have been done (and thoroughly enjoyed) as close to home as the Cherry Canyon trails above Descanso Gardens, or the extreme vertical climb from Altadena up to Echo Mountain and the ruins of the old Mount Lowe Railway.
I’ll write more about our adventures in local hiking next week. Maybe I can catch my breath by then.
I’ll see you ‘round town.