For months I have been looking forward to this date. 7/10. July 10th. Tuesday the 10th. 10 days before my 34th birthday. The day we enter the Mt. Whitney Trail to explore and summit the tallest mountain in the lower 48.
Today would begin the journey of a dream I have been chasing, researching and planning for 2 years.
Yesterday, as Turkey and I were descending from Kearsarge Pass (we were hiking the 11,760ft pass to acclimate) we ran into a JMT hiker and chatted with him for a bit. He was coming back up after a resupply. He asked if we were just day hiking or on the JMT. We told him we were planning to hit the Whitney trail tomorrow (today.)
He looked dumbstruck. “…Good luck!”
You see, Sunday we had been following weather reports and we were expecting monsoonal rain flow on the mountain. That devastated us, as we were certain a summit was off the table in isolated thunderstorms. But, we would still be able to get on the trail and camp for a few days even if it was in the rain.
“Yeah, I know the weather looks pretty awful…” I said.
“Oh no…you haven’t heard? The Portal is on fire. Like 2,000 acres around it are lit up and they haven’t been able to contain much of it. You could get on at Horseshoe Meadows but I think that adds on like 22 miles. That sucks you guys, I’m sorry.”
We thanked him for the info. We hadn’t had phone service for about 2 days. There’s no way we’d know. He let us know at that point, last he heard, Whitney Portal road was closed but people were still able to enter the trail. We kept our hopes up a little. I was so distracted by the information I didn’t even notice the 4.5 mile hike down. When we got back to the campground I had Turkey drive us down the mountain a little so we could get service and check.
Sunday, Whitney Portal was struck by lighting and caught on fire. A 2,500 acre fire is still growing. By now, the area has been fully evacuated and the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor’s Center tells us our permits are null. We excitedly picked them up on Sunday. The trail won’t reopen this week probably.It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m feeling a lot of things.
We drove here. From Illinois. We have already spent a week on the road with this day in our sight.
We won the permit lottery. An overnight lottery at that. On our first try ever. On the dates we wanted. That is SO rare.
We left our campsite yesterday in Onion Valley. We had one more night there but decided to bail because the smoke began to drift over and cause some allergy issues. It was making everything hazy. We woke up today in an outdated hotel instead.Today we’ll go back to where our camper is being stored. You can see Mt. Whitney from the parking lot. I don’t know if that’ll soften the blow, to see it. Or if it’ll just pour salt in the wound.
I feel so stupid. Crying off and on like I’m mourning the loss of a person. An experience. A once in a lifetime experience. I’m angry. I’m sad. And I feel like an idiot for that because it’s out of my control. People are risking their lives to contain this fire and I’m pouting because I can’t hike it. It’s not all about me.
I don’t know. This whole trip has really been amazing, and we have seen and done some incredible things. But Whitney was the icing on the cake. Supposed to be.
I try to always be positive, and everyone has been so encouraging and uplifting and I appreciate it so much. I am a huge believer in everything happening for a reason. It’s just a bitter pill to swallow.
I’ll be blogging later this week to catch up on the days I’ve missed. I’m sorry, we are just so, so bummed right now. I know we will be alright, and maybe this will actually be funny some day. But, ugh.