Total Miles: 1053.2
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
—Sir Edmund Hillary
I pondered this sentiment as I began to take my first steps of the morning, thinking of how one of history's most famous mountaineers had redefined what it means to triumph, to succeed in any wilderness endeavor. Far from a rousing barroom tale of adrenaline-filled daring, each success is less a story about the outward achievement and more about the inner struggle—the transcendent experience of conquering one's own doubt, fear, and perceived limitations. Stripped of ego and vanity, it is only this story of inner triumph on mountains and trails that remains.
It's now been more than a week since I've been able to add a new post to the blog, a product of refreshing detachment from cell service, the Internet, and the world of information at your fingertips. In a way, it's been a novel change to be so out of touch since leaving Kennedy Meadows to enter the Sierra, a reminder of the world as it was not so long ago and that, yes, there was indeed life before the Internet. The fact is, however, that we all desire to be in touch with our loved ones, to update blogs, to send emails and texts to friends, and so the high points where cell service does exist on occasion briefly turn into alpine Internet cafes with hikers all staring at smartphones, frantically taking advantage of what little service might exist. I used to be annoyed by seeing the contrast of technology and wilderness, but I've come to accept it and to understand that it's driven by a desire to connect this experience with the one we're missing out on by being away from home for such a long period of time.
The trail has lost some of its bite since leaving Sonora Pass yesterday, mercifully mellowing back into the PCT we've grown used to. The snows are gradually subsiding and the wildflowers are beginning to unfold, presaging what ought to be some spectacular colors in the coming weeks. Bright green mats of oregano, among other herbs and flowers, are beginning to line both sides of the trail for miles at a time.
The landscape continues to evolve too as the volcanic peaks have become increasingly crumbled and craggy, occasionally reminding me of a mouth full of rotting, decayed teeth.
All the crowd is gathered here for the evening—Beardoh & Sweet Pea, Gazelle, Proton, XC, Dreamcatcher, Lid, Tiptoe, Weta and I—settled in around a small campfire, swapping stories of the day and looking ahead to some time off in South Lake Tahoe in 3 short days.