the remainder of the journey as i recollect…

Because I waited so long to write of my journey, the rest of this blog will be as my memory recalls…the order may very well be off…but ..at this point it is what it is…
I left Tuolomne meadows early morning..My head lamp on…coffee and oatmeal in my belly…
It was really cold…I had layers upon layers of clothing adorning my body. A frost covered Lyell Meadow and the steam rising off the creek added to the beauty…looking out over the meadow I thought to myself…I will remember this when my head feels about to explode with too many thoughts…I will remember this solitude..this wide open space..this beauty
I felt so happy…I got into a rhythm…my poles…my stride…my body working so well…A deep chill penetrated my bones.. I felt so alive in the elements…all anxiety I felt at the beginning of the trail had dissipated..I felt I was where I should be…..
It was to be a very long day..Never really feeling the need or want to stop except to eat and rest my feet..The first pass of the trail…Donahue Pass at 11,050’…then Island Pass 10,000′..where I had cell phone reception and made a quick call to my daughters…Coming down I passed a man…he said..” are you Laura?”I met him on the JMT facebook page, his name was Peter. It was fun to run into him. I jammed along my way, anxious to get to a campsite as it was nearing early evening…
Thousand Island Lake…Ansel Adams Wilderness..breathtaking…I had a beautiful campsite along the lake…it was cold..really cold..but I was stoked…I had just met three cool people who I would continue to meet throughout my hike.Marie, Michelle and Nathan…such fun kids and always super happy to run into me, Marie and Nathan would go on to have a trailmance…
A father and daughter came over to talk..so impressed were they that I was making this journey on my own…Actually I was having a little problem setting up my tent in the wind and the dad offered to help…I was so exhausted that I didnt even cook dinner…Got my water for breakfast..washed up a bit and enjoyed the setting sun…..As soon as the sun set…I found myself ready to go to sleep…

I arose before the sun…this would be my norm for the remainder of the hike…I love the briskness of the early morning.The meadow where I camped was frozen….frost on my tent, but, to wake up to this beautiful place..this splendor and grace…deep breaths in sincere gratitude…I had a bit of a headache..perhaps some dehydration…Once I begin hiking I kind of forget to drink., a habit I learned to correct. Hiking out of Thousand Island Lake I see my friends Sara, Dan and Pat….But since they were just taking down their tents I continued on my way..
On my way to Reds Meadow..
What a beautiful section of trail…so many lakes with such romantic names…Garnet , Ruby,Shadow to name a few…The crystal clear waters…so many hues of blues and greens..sparkling as the sun gleams across the surface, like diamonds in the rough

Many people on this section
of  the trail….
The trail down into Reds Meadow..was intense..I began the climb down…I was hiking with a young man I had met along the way..his name was Tun and he was from Burma…He was attending San Jose State…his funds were depleted so he decided to hike all summer so he didnt have to rent an apartment…I do wonder a little as he had all the coolest ultra-light gear…and when we arrived at Reds Meadow he wouldn’t leave it…he carried his pack totally packed back to dinner that night….anyway..Tun and I were hiking down..My legs started running and we departed company…I thought I was hiking through the rainbow fire area…it turned out to be an area whereby 200 MPH winds came though a few years ago…
Trees were uprooted..death was everywhere…it saddened me deeply..but as I looked closer I saw all the new growth and it furthered my interest in impermanence and how it is a fact of life…and that indeed as one life is taken…another grows…it became a very spiritual journey down the hill…it was also..the only place on the whole hike I asked someone how far to the bottom…my knees were beginning to scream….

Devils Postpile..My mind started playing games with me…so much dust…no water…the gnarled trees reminded me of grandmothers and grandfathers and all their wisdom..

Feeling depleted in  many ways I began the slight ascent up to Reds Meadow. It was a lot longer than I anticipated. Looking back…it was funny …I got to the store..dropped my pack..walked back to the cooler and bought two IPA’s….After paying I realized I had dropped gear all over the place…I was tired to say the least…the spiritual and physical energy with which I used on this section wiped me out..
Once I retrieved my re-supply I realized I once again had too much food… and began giving it away….Before I knew it…all my friends were there…Sara, Patrick, Daniel, Tun, Peter, Greg, and Jake!!!We had a big family dinner…so much fun…hamburgers, salads, milkshakes beers and Tuns 1/2 gallon of milk!!!I love the trail life so very much….
Camping in Reds Meadow truly sucked though and I wont go back!!!

I got a late start out…this is what greeted me on my first ascent..More destruction..this was the site of the  Rainbow Fire. But as you can see…it is very beautiful…..the lingering charred  remains of an old forest…yet new growth in abundance..My camera died in here..I was truly bummed..but realized that the intensity of the day would stay with me..
there were very long switchbacks , yet mellow enough to cruz along…I left before everyone else, but I knew I would see them later that night..
After stopping to go to the bathroom I felt quite the happy hiker…about one hour into my spunky forward momentum..i realized I was lost…another hour of analyzing the maps going forward..turning back..wondering where in the heck my friends were when I saw a sign…Reds Meadow…Iwas taking the high road back to where I just came from!!!
Once I found my mistake I was a little off kilter…I treated myself to a Justins Almond Butter Bar( a healthy version of a snickers bar!) and surged forward. I truly couldn’t rid myself of the anxiety of making another wrong move…I caught up to my friends…We were all headed to Virginia Lake..I found a super cool campspot on a knoll overlooking the lake. I was camped next to a great young woman from the Santa Cruz Mountains! Megan was a bear biologist and had graduated from Cal. She had hiked the JMT with her husband for their honeymoon…She was out again..the next year because she wanted to know the trail…Another cool guy Fernando from Brazil shared the knoll with us…It was a fun night..my friends came over and we all sat around talking…blessed be this community…blessed be this trail……

Meghan and Fernando got a head start on me this morning…As did Sara and Patrick…Jake in his loveliness was still fast asleep…we were all heading to Vermillion Valley Resort…A german name Johannes told us how the beer was amazing..we were stoked and ready for a fun night!!!We met up at the entrance to Vermilion. About 8 of us ventured out to the dried up lake where the boat was supposed to pick us up….Walking across the lake felt like walking across the Mojave Desert…it was dry..and very windy…we kind of felt like pioneers of sorts…crazy..an american flag..a large american flag was lying there..we hoisted it up and carried it with us…i got a really cool movie of it…but, it has disappeared…The boat arrived and took us across the remaining water…we set up camp..retrieved our resupply and downed our free thru hiker beers!!! i once again shared my food with all!!!
that night we had a good time eating fish tacos and drinking various beers…it was strange though for me…at one point I realized I was looking at a television..what???? I dont watch television at home and I was just staring at the screen….it took me back to reality and I didnt like it all that much…I realized the main difficulty of the JMT is that while immersing yourself in the splendor of the back country..civilization comes bursting through serenity rather quickly..and strangely at times I am unaware it has reared its head…..

a shuttle ride and 10 of us began the trek out of VVR…i didnt like traveling with so many folks…so I lingered behind…this part of the trail was my least favorite..it was not the JMT….there were about 8 or 9 miles until I was able to rejoin the JMT…following the river was nice….but it was kind of tedious somehow….i met a lovely woman from japan…Keiko…her pack was bigger than she was hence…her pace was excruciatingly slow…but i enjoyed chatting with her for awhile..she was averaging about 8 miles a day!!..

at one point during this day..I realized I had traveled this same trail before…with Michael on his 40th birthday..it was a beautiful memory…one that reinforced why I was back on the trail…I decided to make more distance between myself and the others…a decision that turned out to be a good one…yet one that made me realize how very much I did enjoy the group..
at times…as I am walking along..I realize there is no thought..I am just where I am…the negative chatter that has for so long invaded my awareness began to dimmer…my senses became more alive as I delved into oneness with my surroundings…and the thoughts become…thoughts about the trail such as where i will find water…rattler or cricket?…bear or rock formation?? stop to eat or push forward??…

Finishing another day…Marie Lakes…a beautiful destination..my campsite…along the waters edge…fish jumping…i met a guy as i was climbing up into Marie Lake…his name was Trent..he had just finished the PCT and came back to do a section he hadnt finished…we walked and talked together…then i ran into a couple whose sister lives down the street from me….small world….i love the trail!!!it was a tough day for me…my knees started hurting…my mind grasped onto it and started playing games with me..i started envisioning being helicoptered out…it was crazy…

gazing at the reflections in the lake as the sun is setting…mirror images of our physical being…as i gaze deeper below the surface however and the reflection is broken up into millions of little particles and beneath that a vast..open space…

Today…my mind…my knees..played complete havoc on my psyche…I truly thought it was over…it was a very long switchback down to Muir Trail Ranch…it was hot and extremely dusty….I hadnt seen folks in awhile…

I hadnt talked to Nicole and Chrissy in a number of days..or perhaps only one or two…time seemed to move differently out here…dropping into the ranch…I heard laughter…limping into the area where the laughter was coming from and all my friends were there…everyone I had spent time with thus far….it was fabulous…everybody stoked..re-supplies were set out and big garbage bins full of food that others had left…it was such fun!!! my knee troubles seem to diminish as we talked story and ate..Fernando had 2 beers in his re-supply and as Fernando is…he shared with all..we spent hours laughing and arranging and re-arranging..sharing food…indulging…tortillas, honey..we scored…..
there was internet connection and i was so excited to send a message to the girls…however..I forget every password I ever knew…I was deflated…big time…the young girl in the office sent messages back and forth for me on her email…once again..so much gratitude..
I recognized a guy from the JMT facebook page and introduced myself…he was really handsome..we chatted and bid each other a good journey..
about 10 of us set up camp and went in search of hot springs…we had so much fun…hot springs and a big pond..laughing and playing like children
we had a feast that night with all the food we scored…we all fell asleep with full bellies…Sara and I decided to head out early..promising we would meet up with the others at Evolution Lake..

Sara and I hiked well together….we kept our own paces and stopped to eat lunch and snack….we also stopped to cross a river, which would be the biggest river crossing….the water was quite chilly…once we got to the other side we decided it was time for lunch…the guy from Muir Trail Ranch walked up and we had lunch with him….I remarked to Sara as we were leaving..that I should hike with him because he was more my age…
It was another really long day…we got to Evolution Lake as the sun was preparing to go down….The rest of the group wasnt there…Sara wanted to wait..I wanted to push forward as I didnt see any sites that excited me….the guy from lunch wandered in….we morphed together and became hiking partners for the rest of the  trail….

We camped just below Muir Pass at about 10,000 feet…It was windy and really cold…but I felt so alive!!! It was an awesome campsite and the alpenglow was simply magical. It is fun getting to know another …..there have been so many amazing people..its like a different shade of people..a different tribe…every single person I have met(but for one) have been willing to share their experience, their food, their support and their heart to others…I have found that place that I am supposed to be…at this time in my life…and I feel so very at peace..
Early morning was the coldest yet…my fingers were so cold…i fired up the jetfoil, the coffee

was exactly what I needed…I was growing so very tired of the oatmeal…i had a few bites and was finished…ready to start the day as we were headed over Muir Pass!!! My new hiking partner was an amazing photographer, oh!! his name was Tom…we made a good team…my eye was constantly pointing out phenomenal photo opportunities and he was snapping away…..the climb to the top was very windy…being that we were already at 10, 000 ‘ we didnt have far to go to the summit of 11,995’..it was so cool to arrive at the summit and see the stone hut built…it was a good respite from the wind…we didnt stay long as it was so very cold and we began the descent down the other side.
Something was beginning to happen to me as I approached the summits of the passes…I felt an overwhelming sense of emotion..I couldnt put my finger on the underlying feeling…it was almost if I was a blank slate…yet tears would fall…at the top of each and every summit…I would simply sit and rejoice in the physical exhaustion and the spiritual connection…
I havent been sleeping too well the past couple of nights …my aching back…I hope it doesnt start giving me problems…
It was interesting hiking with another after mainly hiking alone…but we were good hiking partners…sharing life stories …laughing…an letting silence reign more often than not…    how cool it is to be okay with silence…so often in life I think we are almost threatened by the silence….it is such a gift     ….to be okay……    I am learning so many lessons..here in the mountains…she is a teacher I can listen to..and understand..I am beginning to …..

understand my body..my relationship to spirit..to mother nature…to the …impermanent nature of all living things..my body likes the forward momentum that the trail provides..

We came upon a beautiful meadow…Grouse Meadow and decided to camp there…a beautiful stream that allowed for swimming…it was freezing cold…but so refreshing…

as we were chatting along the creeks shore I looked up to the trail and my good friend Jake was passing by..I was so happy to see him..went running to him and he swung me in the air…..”we have missed dear girl” he said. I looked to the meadow..a white deer was grazing…I slowly approached her…Jake said I was the”deer whisperer”…..the meadow was alive that night…it was definately bear territory..so we were extra careful with our food….i heard Tom moving about very early…I looked outside and the sky was alive with stars..the pre dawn show was such a gift…we lay in the meadow gazing up at stars and their magnificent display of light…..what an amazing way to start the day!!  I seem to be a little quicker packing up in the mornings…Tom quite the meticulous one as far as arranging gear…I wait patiently..and once again ..we are off…

My appetite seems to be diminishing…Nothing really sounds all that good…It has been interesting…walking in the woods…I feel as if I am part of the trail…kind of flowing with no resistance …when I dont see water for awhile though..I long for it…if I can see it, hear it, feel it , then all is well….
Every step brings something new…into my senses….I find my mind drifting every once and awhile though..to Nicole and Chrissy and I smile…I know they are so proud of me….for rising above my fears…and venturing out.
Mather and Pinchot Pass..12,080 ‘ and 12,100’ respectively..another extremely emotional summit…. i feel it building the closer I get to the top…and then like a damn bursting..yet i feel very grounded…

I am thriving up here..the altitude…the physical exertion..the spiritual moments….I am so passionate about this….these mountains….this way of being in the world..the intensity with which this experience is penetrating the depths of my existence… i describe it as raw….raw emotion…deeply intense

the feelings range from happiness, to sadness…jubilation and exhaustion…..fear and courage….but…that being said..in the moment I feel nothing…just a deep welling up of something….(starting to sound a little crazy!!!) but it was truly the coolest experience of my life…
I am digging deeper into myself than I have ever done in so many spheres of my life…i savor the moments…the breaths…

I feel such deep joy as if I have connected to a deeper source..both within and with the natural world…I have felt a connect to the divine out here and I totally dig it!!
I think about the people I have met out here..those paths I have crossed…all teachers…all for a greater purpose…

Rae Lakes brought hail the size of golf balls….it was so exciting….a beautiful spot where once again the fish were jumping..the earth was cleansed by the rains..it all was so rich..

The pass I most feared for some reason was Forrester…I didnt know why…but it ended up to be a strange type of a journey up and back down…weather was rolling in and it was a little scary..big clouds, big wind…big chill factor..rain was imminent…. and emotions ran high. Once we summited we needed to start down…the trail was narrow and the trail was loose…my hiking partner was out of sorts and I was in my strange emotional place…our partnership started to slip as the hail and thunder started…i wanted to push through..he thought we should stop and set up shelter I wanted to keep going…we pushed through..but I thought our hiking days were over…
We worked through it some how…but it had changed

A day or so later we found ourselves at Woods Creek..Tom had a resupply…so many cool people there!! It was raining as we were setting up our tents….We had avocado’s in the resupply…whoohooo…another guy had an excellent bottle of whiskey that he shared with everybody..we made a plan for the next day and called it a night…We awoke to a very cold morning..my shoes and socks were still wet from the fall i took yesterday backwards into the creek..i laughed so hard as I was saved by the bush behind me….I drank two cups of coffee..decided I simply couldnt stomach more oatmeal and decided to eat my last pro-bar…to my huge dismay..it was an oatmeal bar..the only one of the whole trip!!! i truly almost started crying until Tom shared his food with me!!!
We got a late start as we planned on hiking to Guitar Lake and hiking to Whitney with all the others at sunrise…We dried out all our gear and were the last ones out of camp…we walked along talking story…as we neared Whitney I spied a large blue box…I proclaimed”trail Angels on the JMT!!!!” to my dismay it was a container full of poop bags for the trek up Whitney…
As we were cruising along we began exploring the possibility of hiking Whitney that day…it would make for quite a push..but I found myself ready to talk to my daughters…and truly…needing some alone time…i wanted to forge ahead..
Upon arrival to Guitar Lake I knew I didnt want to summit with the throngs of others….we ran into a guy Tom had met down the trail , Ben, he asked us what we thought about climbing Whitney that afternoon…my eyes lit up..Tom agreed..lets do it….
We stopped for awhile..fueled up and prepared ourselves..it was 1:30 in the afternoon…we had a ways to go….but the sky was blue…not a cloud on the horizon..we were stoked and up we went…

The climb up to Trail Crest wasn’t so grueling…the winds though were picking up…super strong..we met a guy at trailcrest who said he had never seen the winds  so strong and he had summited many times…fear was boiling beneath the surface..big time..I tried to get out of the last 2 miles to the top..the boys basically ignored me..I am so grateful for that…because it was truly 2 miles of a lifetime…we ditched our packs and headed up….I was between the boys…blessed be!!! hahah…
the trail is so narrow..i found myself leaning into the power of Whitney to give me strength..the guys were totally into the views…i was into one step in front of the other..especially when we came to the saddles…no mountain on either side..expansive views on both sides…..flippin scary!!!! the fear was lodged in my throat…but i loved the push..i loved the exertion..i loved the challenge…i have let fear stop me in my tracks throughout my life… it was time to claim my life as mine…not under my control..i wouldnt be that naive ..but to claim my truth..my passion…and hell yeah..this was life at its finest…
we were the only 3 at the top of whitney…the guys were into the  amazing views..which were  spectacular, but I sat and  delved deep inside..it was awesome… i dedicated my hike in the book to all those I had lost in my life…Michael, Wally, Jane, Noni, Gramps, Peach and all the rest…I dedicated it to my kids and my dear friend Joey..to my family…and to my friend i met on the trail Tom..what a journey…

The hike down Whitney..to the portal..and Lone Pine was a long one. We started down the mountain at 4:30. I was determined to spend the night in Lone Pine. I am not sure what happened to me..but I was ready to finish. In retrospect…I wonder why???? but I need not know…my headstrong nature pushed me onward and down the mountain trail….There are some 100 (I cant remember exact number) of switchbacks after TrailCrest….Tom said”lets count!” I just wanted to hike…without thought..my body turned into a machine almost..one foot after another…my strength came from deep within and my perseverence to finish was strong…really strong…I didnt want to stop for food, to pee or to rest. Once dark descended upon us I relied on Tom’s headlamp and the light of the full moon…I was so tired … the physical momentum of one step then another…it came from a deeper place.
It was such a journey down the mountain. One I will never forget. The kindness of a new friend..to honor my need..to honor my journey. He was exhausted. He had some pain. I told him he could stop. I was going on. He stayed by my side. I wasnt a good partner at this point and I did apologize later..but I couldnt see it then. It was like I needed to take this challenge that I gave myself and I couldnt see anything else.
I did love hiking at night. The full moon shone her light and the trail lit up. It was a time of deep concentration and being in the moment..no space for other thought..The trail was rocky and there were many little water crossings…not to mention the animals that lurk in the night…But the intensity of hiking from 9 am that morning until we pulled into Lone Pine at 11pm was life enhancing for me….I loved every moment of it( especially now looking back)
We got a ride to the Motel….I saw a group of people at the pool…walking out to see who it was …My heart leaped with joy..it was Jake, Sara,Dan ,Pat,Christopher, Fernando, Brianna and one or two others..sharing beers…we were all so happy to see each other…My journey had come full circle…

I had met folks on the trail who had hiked it many times…at the moment I didnt get it..why would you hike the same trail over and over…Now, I get it . I miss that trail. I will indeed walk it again. It changed me forever. It opened my world and made me realize how absolutely stoked I was to be alive…As the river flows…my life continues onward..and what a beautiful life it is.

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6 thoughts on “the remainder of the journey as i recollect…

  1. I awoke early this morning and the mountains were calling, but I could not answer back. Then I found this! Through your writing and pics I was soon visiting some favorite places again and dreaming of coming adventures that await.

    Your writing is beautiful. I hope we bump into each other on the trail sometime.

    Best wishes!
    Mark

  2. Thankyou.
    I fear at times I get to personal in my writing and then I realize it’s who I am. My dream is ultimately to write even more as I feel I have a lot to share.. perhaps even inspire.
    Blessings…

    • Too personal??? No way! If I may offer just a bit of encouragement…That’s where inspiration comes from! Raw emotions…pain and pleasure…jubilation that won’t be contained and fears that try and keep us hemmed in…then facing those fears and pushing through. AND, of course, enjoying beers and whiskey! 🙂 Yep, those are the things that inspire and feed the soul. Keep writing, my friend. Maybe there’s a book in you trying to get out. 🙂

      Do you still get into the Sierra?

  3. Wow! Thank you!!! Just today, I asked the Great Spirit…am I supposed to begin that book yet?? Then I receive this message..hmmmmm
    I think I am going to re-hike the JMT this late summer..
    Thanks again

    • How’s THAT for timing?! Does that make me the Great Spirit??? Hahaha! …not so much. 🙂
      Enjoy the JMT again. Who knows…maybe when you are in Yosemite we’ll cross paths and enjoy a beer!

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