We left the tent set up and hauled out our sleeping bags, heading over to sit at the true summit of the mountain, looking east across the Owens Valley to where the sun would rise.
Dan was anxious to get to the summit as the sky was already starting to change colour. As he rushed over, he stopped suddenly, staring at someone who looked very familiar. We both had the same reaction upon seeing our friend Joe, saying, "What the #&%$ are you doing here?!"
After the initial shock had worn off and we'd shared our greetings and hugs we learned that our original ride from the trailhead had fallen through. Joe & Kristie had been somewhat in charge of making the arrangements for us and had felt rather guilty and worried about perhaps leaving us stranded. So instead they had decided to make the long drive up from San Diego and meet us. Kristie was unable to hike to the summit and stayed the night in a hotel while Joe hit the trail around 11 p.m, reaching Trail Crest with plenty of time left over to reach the summit before sunrise.
We settled in together to watch as the sun made it's slow climb above the peaks of the distant mountain ranges.
It was really great to have company for the hike down. We had lots of catching up to do, even though it had only been a week since we had last seen Joe.
I felt so good, with a nearly empty pack and the knowledge that a shower and real bed were at the end of the trail.
As we descended we were treated once more to amazing wildflowers, including wonderfully fragrant sky pilots and alpine mountain sorrel.
The next section had us descending a rocky, staircasy, granite trail alongside Lone Pine Creek. I slowed down a bit, letting the guys get out ahead of me, as I navigated my way down the big steps.
I was so relieved to reach the tree line that I almost hugged the first foxtail pine I saw. Unfortunately the shade they offered was pretty sparse, but I took the little bit that I could!
I met up with Dan and Joe again around beautiful Mirror Lake. Joe reassured me that the trail would get easier, and that we were halfway down from Trail Crest. Only 4 more miles to go!
The last couple of miles involved long, easily-graded switchbacks through less familiar vegetation, including fern bush, mountain mahogany, corn lily and currants. I don't really remember much from that section, as I had to maintain a pretty narrow focus to be able to continually put one very sore foot in front of the other.
Needless to say, I was rather overwhelmed, emotional, and teary-eyed as we reached the parking lot. I had been through so much over the last 9 months of fighting off depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. I suppose I had never truly believed that I would reach the trail, let alone finish it.
I certainly couldn't have done it without the amazing and unconditional love and support that I received from my husband, my parents, my sister, my in-laws and all of my friends near and far. They were my cheerleaders through this journey, and I'm glad that I've been able to share it with all of them.
Lisa & Dan