Chloe said “arrive any time,” but I knew she’d be packed and ready early. Like, really early. I’m the middle sister and Chloe is the youngest. She packs fast, travels light, and leaves early. I struggle to keep up, dragging my gear, burdened by the need for “choices” in clothing, books, and food.
I got to Chloe’s house by 8 a.m. It took about 3 minutes to load her gear and then we skimmed the freeways across California, followed by the clearing remnants of a summer monsoon storm that sprinkled us with large drops and urged us onward to the peaks. We drove directly to the Whitney Portal area for a quick hike up the Meysan Lakes trail.
I warned Chloe that I’d need some time at the picnic area to transfer gear to my daypack, change clothes and put our food into bear boxes, but I was still amazed that she was ready and waiting at least 10 minutes before I tied my shoes, pocketed the car keys and said “OK, I’m finally ready.”
From the picnic area, a trail crosses rushing Lone Pine Creek, brimming with icy white water, and descends steeply. We breathed deeply the rarefied air of 8500 feet elevation, after the thick coastal air we’d come from. Tall White Fir and Jeffrey Pine trees shade this narrow canyon, carved through glowing granite cliffs that reach 4000 feet above us.
Suddenly my brain nagged: Did you lock the car? I thought of the trail behind me, a mile of steep uphill, and decided I definitely did lock the car, the car with all our gear and purses and clothes and IDs and CDs. Yes, I locked it. I did. But you cannot actually recall the act of locking it, can you? Can you? demanded Brain, who ironically is the responsible party when it comes to acts of memory.
We had now descended to a campground where Meysan Lakes trailhead is, and I gave in to Brain. Chloe stayed with my daypack and hers, making photographs, and I returned one mile up the main road, walking hard because it was now after 3 pm. I would pay the price for my rapid pace with sore legs for the rest of this trip.
The car, when I reached it, was locked and undisturbed. A little OCD moment, folks. You have them too, I know you do.
Finally we got onto the Lakes trail, which leaves the Lone Pine Creek drainage and crosses south into Meysan Creek drainage. We climbed southwesterly through the late afternoon twilight, the sun now hidden behind gathering clouds.
Standing dead snags loomed like golden candles through the misty air.
Chickadees rang their 3-part notes against the cliffs. Chinquapin, late wildflowers, small pines perfumed the air. Higher elevations induce euphoria and a sense of wild freedom. The trail was pristine, like many Eastern Sierra trails. Not one shred of litter, not one forgotten water bottle cap. Clean damp gravel crunched underfoot, in sharp contrast to the dusty trails of home, now furred with prickly grasses that fire their barbed seeds into shoes and socks relentlessly.
After a fast four miles up the trail I begged for mercy, citing our promise to meet Z at the Hotel W . . . . and best to get there before dark as we would find. Reluctant to stop, Chloe said “Let’s just go to the next corner” . . . which became the next . . . and the next. I finally bribed her with chocolate and we stopped for a snack before trotting back down, through mystical shafts of light striking a final glow from the granite walls beside us.