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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Contrasts

One week ago at this time, I was walking through the Sierra High Country carrying my backpack and thinking about Mount Whitney, our next high pass objective. And, a truly high pass it is. At 13,700 feet, I think it’s safe to say it’s probably the highest pass in the continental U.S. There might be one or two higher in Colorado, but it doesn’t seem likely. Weather had been iffy the previous night. More than a little. I’d sat in my camp near Wright’s Creek and watched the Sierra Crest turn absolutely black as thunder and lightning storms rolled through for over three hours. Truth be told, I was worried the storm had been so bad it might have cut off our exit route over Whitney. That’s a narrow trail and I’d opted to leave my crampons home to save weight. My husband told me not to worry. Turned out he was right, as he so often is about mountain-lore.

Anyway, last Tuesday dawned bright and clear as we made our way to just below Guitar Lake. There was another electrical storm, but it didn’t dump on us, just made lots of noise. I think what I like best about backpacking is the sense of self-sufficiency. Between the 30 pounds of food and gear in my pack and the 40 pounds in Bob’s we can live for a week. It’s life at a pretty basic level, but I appreciate not being hounded by my iPhone’s constant dings. I pulled it out to look at it at the top of Forester Pass (13,200’) and was unaccountably thrilled to notice the battery had died.

Roll the clock forward to Wednesday night. Having conquered Whitney one more time and moved on down the 99 switchbacks from Trail Crest to Trail Camp, we’d decided to continue on down the mountain. Night found us stumbling into Outpost Camp at around 10,500’. I’d remembered Outpost Camp as a pretty dreary place, but it looked surprisingly like Nirvana last week and we decided to call it a day. Or, rather, a night. We’d been moving since 6:30 that morning and it was twelve hours later. For those of you who don’t know, there are only two allowable camping areas on the east side of Mount Whitney. Trail Camp and Outpost Camp. There have been serious cutbacks in the number of Rangers patrolling, but there are reasons why the Forest Service does things like that. Over 20,000 people visit Mount Whitney each year. There have to be some rules, or it would look like a garbage dump. As it is, I hauled out a respectable wad of other people’s trash.

By Thursday last week, we were in Lone Pine eating lunch. And by Thursday night we were home. Sometimes I feel like I have two lives: the uber-simple one in the mountains and the other one where I worry about whether or not the carpet needs vacuuming. (It almost always does; that’s the penalty for having three large, white dogs.)

And then Sunday I found out that Psyche’s Prophecy, my debut novel is a finalist in the annual 2012 EPIC e-book award contest. The awards ceremony will be aboard a cruise ship next March and I started thinking about what it might mean to go. Keeping in mind that any sort of cruise-based vacation is VERY low on my radar system, I started to really think about why other people seem drawn to cruises.  What I came up with is that they are the ultimate pampering vacation where everything is done for you. Contrast that with backpacking—my favorite escape—where nothing is done for you, and you’ll understand my dilemma. It feels intrusive to me when I stay in a chi-chi hotel and the maid shows up to turn down my bed. If I’m in my room, I always send her away. Until I’m old and infirm, I can turn my own bed down, thank you very much.

So, I’m still trying to find reasons why I should go on the EPIcon cruise. I know it would be good for networking. And it might help my fledgling writing career. In any event, the jury is still deliberating. There seems to be lots of time—five months to be exact—for me to find a clear path.

In the meantime, I think there’s probably still time for at least one or two more trips in the High Sierra before winter closes in. Think I’ll take advantage of the wonderland in my back yard!




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