It is good to be home.
With Dan, with Myshkin, with the garden tomatoes, with cotton clothes and a couch and a water tap and all these objects imprinted with a sense of me. It is good to be home.
At the same time, transitions can be hard. I get confused that the value ratio of my possessions has now inverted: what used to be extremely high value of very very few objects has become relatively low value of an abundance of stuff all around. The clarity of such simple living in the wilderness, where there are few decisions with clear consequences, has now become a convoluted, messy life of many low-stakes choices. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. But this is all standard re-entry stuff. Transitions are confusing. Transitions are hard. Transitions mean change. If there’s an emergent theme in this last hike for me, it is the richness found in the unknown, the terra incognito not just of the land itself but of our understanding: how we understand the world, ourselves, our past and future, and how it all converges on the very moment we stand in. Transitions, between any two things, capture the quality of the unknown too. Approached with care, we can find the unknown anywhere, everywhere. It reminds me of the real number line: almost entirely made up of numbers we know little about, and we only have to squint a little beyond the familiar ones–1, 2, 3, but also 1/2, 2/5, etc.–to realize that those we know are almost invisibly small islands afloat in a sea of those we don’t.
For those of you who have read along and shared this trip with me, THANK YOU for your companionship. I will mothballing the blog for the time being, and if you subscribed, you’ll next get an update when I reactivate it for my next long hike. At this point that seems to be once very couple years, so maybe you’ll hear from me in 2019! I’ll probably post some smaller hikes here in the meantime, so if you’d like to read about those check back in on your own time. (Case-in-point: I’m heading back out tomorrow for a week-long traverse of the Bailey Range in the Olympic Mountains of Washington. Gotta get it while the weather holds.)
About this particular sequence of high routes in the Sierra Nevada, my sense overall is that this was an effective way to link up some beautiful and challenging cross-country hiking. I had hoped to take advantage of my acclimatization by hiking them all together, and as the days passed I definitely felt I was climbing faster and more easily. There’s also something to be said for extended stays in the wilderness, for attempting to transition from visiting to inhabiting. I often find this takes at least a couple weeks, sometimes much longer. I’m actually not sure if I successfully made that transition on this trip, and perhaps it would have taken the extra ten days I had originally planned for (I had a fifty day itinerary but ended up finishing in forty).
For future hikers of this long-high-route, consider looking for some cross-country passages to connect Cottonwood Trailhead (end of the Southern Sierra High Route) with Lodgepole (beginning of the Kings Canyon High Basin Route). I took three trail days to go from Cottonwood to Lodgepole, and while I enjoyed those days (especially the amazing High Sierra Trail from around the head of Big Arroyo Canyon, west to Lodgepole), there are probably some great cross country options that would be in better keeping with the spirit of the rest of the trip. Another consideration is the awkwardness of rehiking a few sections of the JMT, since all three of the high routes make use of the JMT to detour around technical ridgelines or subranges. While I think you could pare down the overlaps and make an overall more efficient route, I found that I wanted to experience the high cross-country sections of each, which mostly don’t overlap, and that meant a few times revisiting parts of the JMT a second time. I was able to hike the entirety of each route except for the Sierra High Route from Upper Basin (just south of Mather Pass) to State Lakes, around 12 miles. Overall, I really enjoyed all three high routes. I found each to have a unique set of challenges and character, no doubt partly due to the particular temperament of the author and how (and when) they choose to divulge information. Each one was great and would be a fabulous hike in its own right as well.
If you have any questions about the route, feel free to contact me. Happy trails to you!