LeConte Canyon to Upper Palisade Lake
Day: 16.1 Miles
Trip: 162.4 Miles
Throughout the night, I’m repeatedly woken up by a pulsating sensation of pain, extending from the knee to the ankle of my right leg. When it’s finally time to rise and face the day, I feel more exhausted than when I went to bed. I’m cold, my stomach is rumbling, and I’m overwhelmed by the task of packing up my campsite. I fetch my bear canister and stare through the obnoxiously heavy plastic container that holds all of my provisions. If I’m going to make it to Whitney without doing another resupply, I need to start rationing my food. It’s a shitty truism that reminds me to start digging a hole, because I need to take a shit.
I’m in a shitty mood.
It’s incredible how quickly the bitchiness can be slapped out of you, in a place like this. I’ve been on the trail for a matter of minutes, when I realize that my body is no longer in motion. The trees that I’ve been walking through have dwindled away and left me with a vista of the canyon that could lift even the most disheveled of souls. On both sides of me, mammoth walls of stone slope gently into a valley of lush foliage and trickling rivers. Above the center of this panoramic, the sun hangs gently over a cascade of mountains in the far distance. My moment of quasi-enlightenment is complimented by the sounds of a nearby waterfall and birds singing from the trees. “I’m in a Bob Ross paining,” I humor to myself. The perfection of this moment nearly brings me to tears. I’m reminded that it’s okay to have struggles, like the one I had this morning. It’s those struggles that make moments like this possible. I am so very grateful.
My sense of presence is greater today than it’s been since I began my trip. My heart is full, and I’m aware of each moment of time that I pass through. I can feel the mountains cast their immense shadows onto the trail before me, and I can smell the wind that rolls off of the granite walls and sifts its way through the trees. I’m completely content with the fact that my life is fleeting with every passing second. I may never experience true enlightenment, but I can taste its fumes right now.
I’m sitting on a fallen tree, cleaning a rock out of my shoe, when Mark and Allen come up the trail behind me. I hike with them for the better part of an hour, listening to Allen tell stories about life as an optometrist’s son, before my stomach forces me to stop for an early lunch. This is unfortunate, since we were just getting into conspiracy theories that define myopia as a preventable medical condition that exists to stimulate the job market. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll see them again at some point. I take a seat next to a river, rest my feet in the cold water, and consume as many calories as I can afford. After lunch, I’ll be climbing the Golden Staircase, a 1,500-foot accent that leads to the base of Mather Pass
I’m sitting next to a waterfall, wiggling my toes in the frigid water of a stream that feeds Lower Palisade Lake. My tent is set up a few yards behind me, and the massive walls of Mather Pass are two miles ahead of me. Their wrinkled texture resembles the skin of an old man who’s lived through many long winters in a small New England town. Above the center peak, offset to the right, hangs the beginning of a crescent moon, an albino banana painted onto an ocean blue canvas.
I’m willing to bet there’s going to be a pretty sweet sunset here tonight.