I guess you could call this my last night of my trek. Yes, I made it to June Lake, finishing the 24th day of my trek, Sunday, May 4. Wow, what an experience and an adventure!
I finished the last leg, 12.71 miles, in 4 hours and 17 minutes, but that include a victory lap around town since I thought that they would have a parade or banner for me. I actually did walk to a friend’s office in town and past our house. Yes, that was the fastest time per mile since I started, but I wasn’t trying to set a record. It was just that I felt very enthusiastic and was full of energy because I knew it was the last day. My total miles trekked were 352.62 miles, which doesn’t include my extra walks around the various towns and other places once I stopped.
Yesterday were my longest miles trekked in one day and it sure felt like it. While I am walking, I think of all the things I want to include in my blogs, but when I have a long day like yesterday, I am so fatigue at night that I forget almost everything. I did not mention that along with the all those miles yesterday, I hit 15-20 mph steady head winds, with 25-35 mph gust. This was from the McGee Inn to about the Mammoth turnoff. That was one of the reasons I had thought of going on the old highway, to get out of the wind. Today was a totally different story, as I had the wind to my back.
I woke up this morning with the temperature in the low thirties and I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. Even though I knew it was the last day, I felt a little sluggish. I was just about packed up when Mindee showed up with a hot breakfast burrito and a fresh piece of hot coffee cake just minutes out of the oven from one of our local shops. That was a pleasant surprise that got me going.
I lighten the load a bit, which help me physically and of course, physiologically. I started out going uphill as soon as I hit the road, but it was short. I then hit the dreaded thing, a 200′ downhill stretch. I don’t understand it, but why is there always a downhill before the steep uphill? Then I hit the steep 600′ uphill climb in a two mile stretch, Deadman’s Summit.
But before I hit Deadman’s Summit, I passed the rest stop. Just as I was going by, a man on a bicycle came riding out. We crossed paths and we both stopped at the same time. We exchanged hellos and I asked him where he was going. He told me some Dome (?) campground on the way to Reno. He had been working in Mammoth and was going to look for work in Reno. The bike was a heavier, and not a fancy mountain bike. The front tire was a typical big knobby tire and the rear one was a skinny tire. He looked a little disheveled so I wasn’t sure if he was maybe a homeless guy or just an adventurer, or both. I shouldn’t question that since I have been looking a little disheveled and was probably mistaken for being homeless myself.
He told me that he couldn’t get a bigger tire for the rear but having the larger one in front would help on gravel roads. I noticed that most of the time his eyes were on my Wheelie and not really looking at me. He then told me, “that’s a nice looking rig, can you backpack with it?” I noticed a little drool coming from the corner of his mouth, and he hadn’t taken his eyes off of my Wheelie. For some weird and unfounded reason, I feared for my Wheelie and lied to him. I said, “no, it’s not good for backpacking because the tires are too skinny, and it wouldn’t work for you.” I noticed that his smile was gone, and I am not sure if it was because my stupid answer. I felt so stupid I thought of giving him my Wheelie, but my senses came back to me. We both said our goodbyes and have a good trip and went our way.
Just below Deadman’s Summit, I stopped to look at a monument that I have seen many times whizzing by in a car but never stopping to look at it. It was a very interesting plaque that explained the history of Deadman’s Mountain. Apparently in the 1860s a prospector was found dead, without a head. His head was found later in the creek. His partner was questioned about it and he told the authorities that it was an Indian attack. By the time they suspected him, he had disappeared. Years later, two more miners were found dead in the area. And then even years later, in 1879, a postal worker delivery mail in the winter to Mammoth disappeared and was found dead later in the same area. Hence the name, Deadman’s Mountain. It was a little disappointing for me because I had it in my head that it was named that because somebody had died pulling a cart, or Wheelie, to the summit. Oh well, the true story was very interesting.
I was rather surprised when I started up Deadman’s Summit how much energy I had. I think I only stopped a few times to catch my breath because the altitude. It was cool, in the sixties, and I had a really strong wind to my back that I could actually feel pushing me. It even lifted my hat off of my head a little. I almost felt liked the Flying Nun, for those of you old enough to remember her. It was really an exhilarating feeling, but I am sure part of that was my enthusiasm knowing that I was so close to the end. But it sure felt like someone was helping me. I looked down and found a lucky penny. Wow, near the end, like the lucky tarnished dine that I found at the beginning of the trip on The Old Ridge Route.
Though I was in a good rhythm, I realized that I wasn’t really in a hurry and slowed down to look around. While most of my trek was in the desert, I tended to look out in the distance and mostly down because it was mostly flat and there weren’t many trees, but I found myself looking up more often once I got in the mountains. I found that this was also great for my neck and I realized that I was paying my chiropractor too much for something I could get for free. I did have to remind myself to stop and smell the roses and not fall for the same thing I do when I am driving in a car. It was funny because just as I was thinking that, a truck loaded with hay went by and I could smell the strong scent of a mixture of hay and pine trees.
I have to admit that the closer I got to the June Lake turnoff, the reality of how far I had come started to sink in. As I said before, I just went day to day and never counted the days to the end or really thought of it being an accomplishment. Thinking about it all, where I started and where I was now, I got a little emotional, and I think because the wind was blowing so hard, that the sand got into my eyes and they began to water a little. The winds, the winds. Darn winds!
Once I hit the June Lake turnoff, I was a stable horse, going back to the stable to rest and eat. Wow, the lake never looked so good! It all struck me when I saw the sign for June Lake and then walked to the front door of our house. I made it door to door in 24 days and 352 miles!
It felt strange to stop my day at 1:30 in the afternoon and sit down for the day. For so many days one of my biggest concerns usually began about this time, when I would started to think about where I could camp for the night. I never set too many goals for predesignated spots because it was so dependent on how I was feeling, how far I could go, or what circumstances might change them. Once I made more or less miles in a day, it would throw off any future plans anyway.
Finding a spot to camp every night, and the winds, were definitely my biggest challenges. I knew of the winds, but underestimated how much they would affect me. You never think much about them when you are driving through the areas. I also underestimated how hard it would be to pull the Wheelie on lose dirt. The Wheelie allowed me to take the extra water that I definitely needed. With a backpack alone, it would have been nearly impossible to carry that much water, and I can’t imagine how much you would need later in the summer. The heat and fatigue were also big challenges.
Can’t forget about my feet. For a few days they were so painful due to the blisters that I thought for sure that they might force me to stop the trek. I think just that one day of rest helped, along with the extra mole skin, blister bandages, and of course the duct tape.
Did I ever consider quitting? I’d be lying if I said no. Yes, at least four times, and they were all days when I was very fatigued and hot. The first time, which was the shortest distance I trekked in a day, was between Swede’s Cut and Tumble Inn. The heat and up and down hills were difficult. The second time was the day after the “dude” experience on 170 Street, when I had to backtrack and then had to literally pull the Wheelie through the deep loose sand. The high heat didn’t help either. The third time was the long hot grade out of Red Rock Canyon, after the Dust Bowl night. And the fourth, on the Old Sherwin Grade Road, when I was nearly out of water and it was steep and hot.
Something usually got me over the hump. Once at Tumble Inn, it was just the atmosphere and history. On 170 Street, it was finally finding the hard packed Old Petroleum Road and the beautiful camp site. Red Rock, prayers and meditation. Old Sherwin Grade Road, hitting the first summit and going downhill to cool and water of Lower Rock Creek.
Funniest moments? Lots, too many too list, but my guardian angel that helped me with the pit bulls, that sticks out. And, if I have to laugh at myself, going to the bathroom in the howling wind.
Would I do it again? Not right now because I am going to enjoy some rest. But, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate a minute.
I started out weighing about 192 pounds, and I am now at about 185, but that’s after eating and drinking a ton today. I figure I lost at least ten pounds. Funny, but I look like I have Popeye legs. I thinned out a little overall, especially in my thighs, but my calfs have gotten bigger and more muscular, like Popeye.
I think I will start back to my regular daily exercise routine next week, but I have a little trouble thinking about it. My usual 5-6 mile walks on a level bike path at the cool beach doesn’t quit seem enough after my trek. I guess I’ll start exercising again and gain some weight back again. What a reward! But I know one thing for sure, I’ll never complain about it being too hot or windy on my beach exercise walks again.
Again, I want to thank all of you for sending me encouraging and positive messages, they made a difference.
Best wishes and blessings to all,
Once again, it’s late at night and I am tired, and I forget all those things that I thought about during the day.
I thanked you all for sending me the encouraging and positive messages, but I forgot to thank my wife, Mindee, for encouraging me a year ago when I first considered this trek. She has encouraged me and supported me through the whole process of planning and carrying it out. I would not have been able to succeed in my adventure without all her help and love.
I would also like to thank my friend Dave for helping me find the necessary things to fix my prescription sunglasses, and finding and machining the bolt that was lost on the Wheelie, and the extra food of course.
Best wishes and blessings to all again,