Hooves on the Ground: Mount Whitney

I'm a buck who believes in the ability of members of different species to transcend their differences. But there are some impulses that are present in other species that I just cannot wrap my furry head around. One of these is the human desire to undertake perfectly irrational pursuits for some intangible psychological reward, and along the way risk one's tail. I thought Homo sapiens were supposed to be a knowing species. But after witnessing E+J's latest harebrained outing (and here I apologize to all hares and members of the genus Lepus), I'm beginning to think that all the knowledge collectively held in this bossy, 7-billion-strong bunch doesn't amount to much. 

The idea seemed simple: dayhike up the highest mountain in the contiguous US. But let's break that sentence down.

"dayhike" = hike 22+ miles in one day, starting and ending in the dark

"up" = starting at 8,300 ft. and then climbing more than 6,000 ft.

"the highest mountain in the contiguous US" = Mt. Whitney. At 14,508 ft., there is 43% less oxygen at the peak than at sea level, where we live.

Needless to say, this is no place for buffalo to roam, or for deer or antelope to play. As a rule of thumb, I don't go where trees don't grow. Trees stop growing at about 11,000 ft., so after accompanying E+J on half their journey, I bid them adieu and waited for their return. And I waited. And waited.

E's travelogue below tells the story of what happened next.

The morning following the hike, E+J broke down camp and headed down to Lone Pine for breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe while I snacked on local foothill vegetation. Lone Pine is one of the Owens Valley's four main towns, and with its Wild West topography, provided the background for many Westerns. It just so happened that we found ourselves descending the mountain as the 25th annual Lone Pine Film Festival parade took over Highway 395. Residents and tourists lined both sides of the street, sitting on hay bales and camping chairs, cheering on Western movie stars as they passed in classic convertibles and on horses.

On the drive back home, we stopped to check out a few of the abandoned buildings that litter Highway 395. We also stopped to visit Fossil Falls, which is neither fall nor fossil, but rather a unique geologic formation created when glacial waters were diverted over volcanic basalt flow, shaping and polishing the rocks.

Hooves on the Ground: San Gorgonio Mountain

With summer winding down and higher elevations soon becoming inhospitable and inaccessible, we set out for an impromptu trip to Southern California's tallest peak, San Gorgonio Mountain. "Old Grayback," as it's nicknamed, is in the San Bernardino Mountains and is part of an expansive wilderness (home to many of my deer relatives) about 10 miles southeast of Big Bear Lake and 20 miles northwest of Palm Springs. 

There are many different trails to the summit, which is a popular destination with hikers training their legs and lungs for Mt. Whitney. E+J and I did an overnighter and decided the shortest but steepest route was the way to go. But enough of this buck's prose. Following is how E experienced the mountain (as recorded in her travel journal), and how J saw it (in photographs). 

We hope you get inspired to hike this classic. And if you do, make sure to check out the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association's website for information about trails, camping and obtaining a mandatory hiking permit, 

Hooves on the Ground: Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra

Summer is the perfect season to visit the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The famous Range of Light, as John Muir called it, is 400 miles long -- from Tehachapi Pass in Kern County to the south, to Fredonyer Pass in Lassen County to the north. The Sierra is home to three national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon), 20 wilderness areas, and many notable features, including Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney (highest point in the contiguous US). 

For a buck like me, exploring the Sierra is like going home. Much of the range is mule deer habitat, so traveling around the mountains with E+J didn't turn any heads -- though I did have to pack away my smoking jacket for this trip. 

Read More