Hiding from the Sun in Coffee Shops

As I write this, I’m a couple blocks from the Santa Monica Pier in one of those generic Starbucks knock off coffee chains. It’s taken me a couple days to mentally recover to the point where I could write about the backpacking trip or even think coherently. Santa Monica is recovery for me, not tourism. Not even the beach has that much appeal, although I may spend a couple of hours there later if the sun holds and my early morning stroll with the sandpipers and the photographers/bikini models doesn’t satisfy my beach needs.

Mostly, I need some mental regrouping before Mexico.

So, backpacking, generally. I’m a pretty experienced hiker, less so a backpacker. I got way better at my map navigating skills on this trip. All of our packs were too heavy. We brought too much food. We should have done the whole trip in seven days. My toes are still taped and I’m kind of scared to unwrap them. I have a sunburn along my hairline that is starting to flake in what I’m sure is in a super appealing manner. My face generally feels like it needs a break from the sun exposure, although it is much better than yesterday – the day after I shrugged off the need to apply sunscreen at 8am at 13,000 feet.

We did it. 72.2 miles in 6 days, including the highest mountain in the lower 48. There were no major incidents or hitches on the way there, on the trail, or on the way from Whitney Portal to LA via Lone Pine. No one had to be evacuated. No bears or marmots got into our stuff. None of us snapped and killed each other, although we did engage in chemical warfare as we practiced for our Backpacking Bodily Functions Band.

(I’m going to talk a lot about bodily functions in the next few posts. There’s just something about backpacking that brings out conversations about farting and pooping with complete strangers.)

I was already half planning my next trip on the trail – I think I have a couple of weeks in between things to squeeze in here or there between semesters. And backpacking, once you have the gear and aren’t engaged in the Ultralight Comparison Contest (“It’s like reverse dick comparison: mine’s smaller than yours!”), it is actually a really affordable way to vacation. Or so I’m telling myself.

Alright. So the High Sierra Trail.


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