May 11, 2015

Overnight in the Inyo National Forest

Once we got down from the peak of Kearsarge Pass, we got around to setting up a fire and getting dinner going. That meant collecting water, wood, and unloading our backpacks with the abundance of food we had all brought along. We split up and got to helping prepare camp for the night -- most importantly? The fire.

So what was I put to doing? Collecting water (needless to say I would have been pretty useless when it came to the fire..though it's on my list of things to finally do for myself one of these days!). I went over to the little creek by our campsite and filled up a Platypus for our water bottles.

Those things are gold -- they're foldable bags that you can fill up with water. The nozzle is a filtration system, and it's the lightest thing ever.

Once the bottles were back to full, we all plopped down next to the fire. They don't joke around when they say that sunset in the mountains brings two gifts: sudden cold and gusts of really intense wind. We were starting to feel the breeze pick up as the temperatures continued to drop. I made sure to put on all my layers and my gloves and waited for food.

Our contribution was budae jjigae, which you know our family loves to bring along for hikes. While it was quite heavy on the way up, nothing beats hot and spicy soup when you're cold to your bones and you're exhausted.

So for me, it was worth the extra weight. But then again...I wasn't the one who carried the food. So. Maybe I'm not a good person to ask, ha!

As the sun bathed the mountains in light, we ate and joked around the fire. As night fell, everyone started to trickle back to their tents in search for sleeping bags and a little bit of quiet time before dozing off to sleep.

I waited around for hot chocolate and to take a couple of photos of the stars. Unfortunately, I was once again without a tripod and my fingers were so cold that they were shaking against the camera. I didn't get very many shots, and even fewer that were decent.

I ran to the tent after this shot (in complete darkness, mind you!) and buried myself in what I thought would be a warm sleeping bag. To my dismay, our tent was not equipped to deal with the howling winds -- and my sleeping bag was not enough to keep me warm.

That's when the altitude started to hit me as well, so I shivered against wind blowing through the tent with a massive headache and prepared myself for what may have been the longest night of my life.

My dad also couldn't sleep and was aching all over, so we prayed for our spirits and our sanity to just make it through the night so that we could make the trek back down in the morning. By the time it was 2AM, we were ready to throw in the towels and just run down in the dark.

I watched the moon bathe our tent in milky light as I waited for a sliver of sunshine.

When it came, I cannot tell you how unbelievably happy I was. We crawled out of our sleeping bags and into the sweet morning -- mountains reborn in liquid gold. I grabbed my camera from my backpack, which had earned itself a layer of frost overnight. The lens was a little stuck and kept fogging up whenever I tried to take a shot.

But who could blame it? I felt like that camera lens all night -- too cold to function properly, but chugging through in hopes of a little warmth to soothe the soul.

My dad and I broke down the tent in record time and had all of our stuff packed before the others had made their ways out of their tents. We were ready to bounce.

I went over to the creek to do my morning routine, only to find that it had frozen over with the thinnest layer of ice. That should give you a pretty good idea of how cold it was that night! Definitely not a night for camping. Not at all.

As difficult as it was though..I have to say, that morning was beautiful and possibly worth it.

The creek actually froze over! And I cracked it. I picked up pieces of ice and felt like a kid experiencing something for the first time.

Everyone was too cold for breakfast, so once the last members of our group were ready to go, we started off for the bottom of the mountain. We reluctantly took our jackets off, knowing that we'd warm up on the hike down.

It didn't hurt that the sun felt like fire against the icy wind. Day and night, fire and ice. Somebody please play me the Game of Thrones theme song, here.

Once again we all went at different paces, so we waited by the big lake again for everyone to catch up. The sun felt so good, but we couldn't stay still for too long. Or, at least, I couldn't stay still for too long. I had to keep moving to keep warm, and my main priority was to get back to the car as soon as possible.

Coming down looked like a completely different hike On the way up, we had all struggled and concentrated mostly on getting to the top and the weight on our backs. On the way down, everyone looked infinitely happier and healthier. We had a bounce in our step and took the time to actually look at our surroundings a little more closely.

In the morning sun, it all looked a little dreamy.

After a few hours, we were finally at the bottom. We waited for our group to all catch up and headed to get breakfast at a diner in the nearest town. Soon enough, everyone climbed into their respective cars and we drove back towards Los Angeles. Most everyone slept in the back, but my dad and I drove while laughing about how intense that night had been.

And how happy we were to be going home.

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