Tuesday, 9/14 7:00 AM 0 miles DAY 23 📍 Sequoia National Park
Journal entry: I wish you could see where I’m journaling from this morning. But I’ve got plenty of pics for that. This campsite was the literal cherry on the top from yesterday’s hike over Forester. It’s also the first dry camp, I’ve ever stayed at. Glad I stopped when I did, this was amazing. At 11.4k something, still very exposed, and the wind picked up last night, not too much. I must be facing East because the sun rose right on me this morning. I was up at 6:45! 18-miles to Whitney. Will try to get to Guitar Lake today. 13.4 miles away and possibly summit tomorrow morning. Wow, that’s sad to say. My Solo JMT journey is coming to an end. What can I say? It’s been fuckin magical having this trail all to myself. I CHASED OFF MAMA BEAR YESTERDAY. I told my sis, I am becoming the WILD lol Kinda really hope I’m not the only one attempting Whitney though, but what if? I ran out of TP 3 days ago and have been using baby wipes. Not bad, I must say 😊
Still Tuesday, 9/14 6:09 PM 13.56 miles DAY 23 📍 Guitar Lake
Journal entry #2: Made it to Guitar Lake! If I’m not starring at Whitney from camp tonight, I’m starring at the backside LOL! Last full day on the JMT and my biggest mileage yet! Ha! Getting here though was not bad at all. Just took it easy and slow exactly like I’m doing Whitney tomorrow! Not going to lie, I was in all my feelings hiking up to Guitar Lake. Knowing that no one was in front of me. Not only did I hike this trail solo, but now I gotta do Whitney alone too?! And when I made it to Guitar Lake, I saw people down at the lake. I went towards them and they remembered me from miles ago, like before VVR. I told them about the closure. There are 3 of them. Anyways, I’m just happy there are people in front of me. And I’m not out here completely alone. Guitar Lake is pretty. I dipped my toes for a while. The moon is out too. Looking at this climb intimidates me. BIG TIME. But I’m going to take it easy. Pace myself. And try to enjoy my hike up to Mount Whitney!
Story: I woke up before the sunrise this morning, pretty neat watching it rise from my tent. Either way, I was up and out as soon as I could because I was still pretty high in elevation, definitely exposed and it was not only windy but a bit chilly too. Guitar Lake is the destination for today, 13.8 miles away!
I started contemplating a lot about a mile in a half in that morning. Emotions were all over the place knowing that my JMT journey was coming to an end. It was my last full day on the JMT and it felt like I was just getting the hang of things. I expected to have learned life lessons out on the trail and now with 2 days left, feeling like I’ve learned nothing about nothing and all things at the same time. The reality of going back to reality.
I passed a NOBO hiker this morning who summited Mount Whitney with a few of his friends yesterday morning. They started at 3 AM and it took them 3 hours to reach the summit, but they still made it for sunrise. Originally, I had plans to summit Mount Whitney by sunrise, but not being able to pick up my resupply from Onion Valley- which contained warmer layers for the summit, I was left having to summit later in the day. Besides, with the lack of people on the trail, I didn’t really feel safe attempting a night hike for the sake of a sunrise summit. I went on to tell this kid about the lightning storm that happened a few days ago, and he said that storm struck a few trees in the Sequoias, which was the reason for smoky skies the last few days, and the reason why the national park was currently closed.
As the views started to open up I pulled out my GPS to see what I was looking at. The Great Western Divide. It was amazing to see. Smoky skies, but the views were something else. And when I reached Bighorn Plateau I felt like dinosaurs would be popping out at any moment. This place felt surreal. I was surrounded by mountains, and views of mountain ranges I had never seen in California.
The plan was to stop at Crabtree Ranger Station and check to see if it were safe to hike Mount Whitney the next day. With the forest closures, I was not sure if that meant the trail was closed? I had no idea what to think. But first lunch, I stopped for a nice long lunch at Wallace Creek before the climb up to Crabtree. It was 12:45 PM on Day 23 when I hit JMT mile 200. Crazy to think I’ve hiked over 200 miles!
I decided to not go out of my way and head to the ranger station. I hadn’t seen or heard anyone on trail all day, so I would just continue to Guitar Lake and figure it out as I went along. I stopped at Whitney Creek for a light lunch before the climb to Guitar Lake. Still hoping I’d run into someone- anyone at this point!
When I arrived at Guitar Lake I immediately noticed people hanging out. I hadn’t seen anyone in the last 3 days, and all of a sudden there is a small group of people at the lake! I couldn’t have been happier. I walked up to them and asked if they were headed NOBO or SOBO when they recognized me from the trail. We had run into each other nearly a week in a half ago right when I first heard about the forest closure! I hadn’t seen them since that day! I went on to ask when they were planning to summit Mount Whitney, and if they didn’t mind me tagging along behind them. Not that I wanted to hike with them, just knowing that there were other people on the mountain and I wasn’t completely out of my mind for being alone out there. They went on to say that they were just hanging out at the lake for the afternoon and were planning on camping a little further up the mountain. Perfect. I didn’t really care to camp nearby anyways.
Oh, so remember the guy that poked fun about my bear canister being “too big”? Yep. That’s who I ran into on the last day on the trail. Of all people, right?! LOL. I set up camp as they packed up and got back on the trail. The sunset was pretty sweet that evening, and once again I was all in my emotions. Contemplating the last few weeks on the trail knowing that it was my last night on the trail. It would be an early night, just like I hoped for. That was until Firefox came running down the mountain because a raven got into his food.
“Hey, Vanessa Renee!” I heard someone yelling my Instagram handle from far away. Firefox? He was the only person on the trail that I talked to that knew my handle. “It’s Firefox!” he said. I nearly jumped up and out of my tent when I saw him heading my way. I was in total shock when I saw him. I imagined him to be at the very least 2- days ahead of me. Apparently, he had just summited Mount Whitney and a raven got into his food when he left his pack behind on the last 2 miles. He was out of food and needed to figure out his next step. He was at least 20 miles from his next resupply, but thankfully, I had extra food to give him.
We hung out for a few hours as the stars came out. He was the only person that kept me awake past 7 PM on the trail, and the only person I camped by besides camping with my sister on the first week. We talked about life, the trail, and the passing jets that were flying by in the middle of the night. We carried on an amazing conversation as we did the first night, but I knew I needed to get some rest for the summit tomorrow morning.