Day 49: The Sierras

I have been waiting for this moment for months — the moment when the desert transforms, as if by magic, into the Sierras.

I visited Mount Whitney and Yosemite to pay my respects and give over my humble hiker offerings to the Sierra gods last September. They awed me. The granite spires, so cruel looking in the distance, the endless evergreens, the myth and legend that overlays every vista. I bowed before their greatness.

And thus this entire journey has been a prayer to those same holy landscapes.

“I am not worthy, I am not worthy.”

Through windstorm, snowstorm, and deep sand I have honored them, cleansing myself before entering their temple. 

 “May I gaze upon you?”

I had been told to not expect a sudden change at Kennedy Meadows — to know that the desert keeps going on and on, despite hopes otherwise.

But, like almost all I have encountered on this trail, that was not true.

We were slogging through deep sand, up and up and up into brown, uninhabitable desert all afternoon. Switchback after switchback transformed the highway that normal, sane people take to Kennedy Meadows into a thread in the fabric of the desert.

I was feeling especially low because I was hoping cell service would be a thing near a highway. Alas, Verizon has forsaken that highway, and left me with an entire week without any service — the first week in my life where I could not make a single call. 

 We reached the top of the long, dry climb in the afternoon. The sun was hot against our skin, and dirt had made its way into every uncovered pore of my body.

Then we turned a corner around the mountain we had been struggling against.

We stopped in our tracks.

There were granite peaks stretching their glory out as far as the eye could see. There were the trees nestled next to their brothers and aunts and sisters and fathers. There was the holy land. 

 “Am I worthy?”

I felt light with joy. The hideous blisters on my right foot stopped hurting. The pain in my left knee vanished. I floated along the talapus. Talapus! Who would have thought loose rock could be so welcoming?!

We collapsed on the trail for dinner (a single serving of peanut butter and a few Ritz crackers, as I am running out of food), and I turned on my phone, out of habit. There was 1X, then 3G, then I was calling Ant and it rang, and then Ant was on the line.

My joy bubbled over, incomprehensible waves of happiness overtook me. Here I was, on top of the world, in front of the promised land, talking to my sweetheart (who is in Mojave for the doctor … still the feet … ). It is, as always, the little things that feel the biggest.

And so now, after hobbling down all the elevation we had climbed for the views and popping my blisters as best I could, I am settled in my bivvy, watching the sun put the Sierras to bed.

I am not yet worthy … But soon I will be.