I don't know what I was thinking.
I'd never been hiking, really, nothing like the hike I attempted Saturday. For my first real hike, I chose to hike up the highest peak in Southern California, all told a 20-mile hike.
Dumb idea. Actually, it wasn't my idea as my overachieving brother talked me into it. Looking back on it, it would have been better to have done a shorter hike to get acclimated to hiking and then work our way up to the monster hike we attempted Saturday.
I'll try to keep this blog post short but here goes...
My three brothers and I got up to the trailhead at about 5:45 a.m. on Saturday and about 20 minutes later we set off on our quest. If I'd have known then what I know now, I would have turned around or told Danny that I was only going up 4-5 miles. Ah well.
Now, we started off at about 6,000 feet elevation and were supposed to gain about 5,500 feet over the course of 10 miles. The first mile seemed like it was just one constant uphill and it kept climbing and climbing. There were few parts where the path leveled out, mostly it was just going up and up and up.
I felt fine the first mile, the second mile, the third.... I was doing great by the time we got to eight miles. We still weren't quite sure if there were two more miles to go after eight miles or not, we'd hoped it was more like one mile remaining, but we had energy and were hoping to get to the top soon.
I could tell I was in some high altitude here. I'd take a few steps and I was feeling short of breath. That feeling got worse, became more amplified when we got higher than the tree line.
Yeah, this kind of was a bit unsettling. I was at such a high elevation that trees couldn't grow there. The only things around me were rocks... rocks big enough you could sit on, rocks that fit in your hand and rocks that resembled thick sand.
At this point, we'd gone for more than nine miles but every step was difficult and more challenging than the last. The air was thin and our bodies felt it. We'd been at it for well over six hours at this point and all I wanted to do was to get to the top. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was at the summit. It was an open area and there were maybe two dozen other hikers up there. Danny had gotten there first so we found a spot to sit in, waited for our other brothers and celebrated our achievement by eating sandwiches.
A friend wanted some of my sammie:
Now, I was so tired once at the top that I took my shoes off and, after downing one of the best sandwiches I've had in my life, I laid down somehow, found a sort-of comfortable spot and rested. And slept. For probably 15 minutes, I slept on the top of the highest peak in Southern California.
After about an hour, were rested and recovered enough to attempt to start our long journey down. But not before posing for a rare family photo.
We were feeling refreshed and hopeful that we could get down to the bottom in about four hours. But the thin air tried to hold me back, and it did. My three bros seemed to have more energy than I did as my steps were slow, my breathing labored. We were making good time though and stopped at around the two-mile mark. I was parched, drank a lot of water and after about a quarter-hour we were off again.
My knee was starting to speak up.
A few more miles later and were bound to beat our goal time of reaching the bottom before 6 p.m. But my knee wouldn't shut up.
Eventually, my knee was screaming and I couldn't ignore it any more. I grabbed a long thick stick and used it as a crutch. I tried to balance myself with it in order to help shuffle my leg down the path as it hurt when I put any weight on it. Had I known beforehand how beneficial it would have been to have a hiking pole, I would have bought two and taken them with me. Instead, I was relying on a stick.
I had slowed to a crawl. My knee was in agonizing pain and I was barely moving. I had no idea where I was and no idea how much longer it was going to take.
Eventually, though, my knee started to feel better. Perhaps taking off some of the pressure from my leg helped as I was able to walk semi-normally.
After about five hours, I finally made it down to the bottom. Part of me was happy that I had done the hike but most of me was disappointed that I had attempted it in the first place. It took us a few hours longer than we had planned for, so of course our families were worried. With no cell coverage and some dead cell phones, they feared the worst while we had no way to quell those fears.
Ultimately, the hike was too long to have attempted. But we did it and came out relatively unscathed so it was a difficult learning experience but sometimes those are necessary in order for us to progress.
I'm not opposed to hiking but I do want to be much more prepared next time, with hiking poles in tow and attempting a much less demanding outing than the one that slapped us around on Saturday.