Thursday, March 5, 2015

High Sierra Trail Part 8 - Trail Camp to Whitney Portal

Day 8: (Last Day!) Trail Camp to Whitney Portal - 6 miles and 3,700 feet elevation loss

Top o' tha mawnin', to yah! Seems an appropriate greeting enough coming from 12K feet and about to head down to 8K feet elevation.

Wish we can say we've had an undisturbed night's rest and only waking up to the sunshine trying to penetrate through our tents.

Sleep was intermittent for most of us. The busyness of Trail Camp does not end when light disappears, nor does it start when day light starts.

Clocked in the first hikers to startle at 3:00 a.m., with everyone's headlamps pointed at our tent. At first I thought it was a cause for alarm, but the moment I made the act to zip open the tent to see what's up, they finally found what they were looking for.. the pond to refill their water supply. Luckily, going back to sleep was never a problem for me. But take heed for the light sleepers!

IF you aren't being chased by pelting rain/hail to pitch your tent, strategize your camp spot. Keep clear from the only water source, unless you don't mind crunching footsteps constantly by your ear as you lay in your sleeping bag. Be wary for already existing spots declared by others as the bathroom - safe to say more than enough people are using the spot for you to be able to just ignore it. Signs of civilization is becoming apparent, means we're close to the end!

It was only 6 miles to go and all going downhill, we took our time to have breakfast and dry out our tents completely before packing everything. Then we started the trek down. Much as my knees hates it, I really do love going downhill. Suffice it to say, I'm looking forward to our hike.

The trail is easy to follow despite that it is basically made up of rocks that.. just. Look. Alike. If you tend to be on lalaland while hiking (but then you shouldn't be anyways unless you don't mind rolling an ankle 'cause of a wrong footing) and by some unknown force feel like you've lost the trail, don't worry. The trail has enough foot traffic in both directions that other hikers can be used as landmarks!

To say the trail is steep is an understatement. We're just glad we're not the ones climbing up on it today. The trail is quite rocky or gravelly so, again, best to keep a presence of mind on where you step, safety first!

Continuing on coming down, a small patch of a meadow comes into view with a stream flowing in the middle. Such a picturesque scene that epitomizes water is life.

The trail is completely exposed from Trail Camp but trees started to appear as it approaches Mirror Lake. There is no camping at Mirror Lake, though it looked so inviting to make a quick jump in it, but I only took a few pictures and carried on. For the first time in a week, we had a set time that we needed to be somewhere: Whitney Portal, where Kari, if I know her all these years, would already be waiting for us long before our agreed meet up time (for which I'm glad so I won't have to wait for since 1 week away from her is my quota! Not a minute more than necessary!).

Not long after passing Mirror Lake, the trail leads to Outpost Camp, another area along the Whitney Trail where established camp sites are concentrated in. There were several campers breaking up camp when we passed, including the Italian couple we met since Precipice Lake (5 days ago!).

The trail has more shade now, crosses a couple of small streams and then a mile more later, finally took us out of the Whitney Zone, a.k.a. The No Wag Bag Zone!

The spur trail to Lone Pine Lake follows the Whitney Zone sign immediately. Our original plan from before we started this trip was to spend our last night at this lake, another lake to add to my "Lake List". But as all plans do, they change. Noting to self to make just a special trip just for this lake!

Continuing the trek down, the trail reaches the junction to the North Fork Lone Pine Creek Trail, or also known as the the Mountaineers Route to Mount Whitney. We're close to the end of our trip!

We reached Whitney Portal with Kari sitting by one of the rocks just off of the trellis covered area where a weighing scale is hanging, waiting patiently for us. Happy tears were had (as always - trips like these are awesome, but I still do get to miss her) and loads of happy hugs! 

We commemorated the day with ginormous bacon cheeseburgers and beers from the Whitney Portal Store before wrapping up and scoring a hot shower down by an RV Park in Olancha. We scoured for public showers that are open in Lone Pine after lunch, and failed.

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