September 2, 2019
I tried to listen to An Indigenous People’s History of the United States while driving across the Great Basin, because you can’t help but see how inhospitable it is and the presence of reservations, casinos and brothels evince a certain history… but the history is too sad and enraging. Instead, I listen to American Wolf and think fondly of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that I’ve been privileged to live in and will be going back to.
I am driving over 1000 miles from Big Sky to Lone Pine, from the Rockies to the Sierra over dry and desolate shrublands, so sparsely populated. It’s the kind of landscape that makes you worry about whether you are going to make it to the next gas station and where the marks of capitalism and globalization, bright highway signs of McDonald’s and Chevron, simply feel welcoming and comforting and familiar.
I camp at Carlin Canyon in my car, with the windows open a crack and it is comfortable and I sleep well from 10pm to 6am. I wake up, duck behind a bush for a pee, make some coffee on my backpacking stove and am on my way. I stop at the next rest stop to poop and pick up a hitchhiker holding a gas can and take her to the next gas station.
I drive until I am tired and hungry but not hungry for any of the food I have. I pull over for a rest but it’s too hot to turn off the AC. There is no shade, just desert-y hills for hundreds of miles.
Finally, I cross the border into California and the Owens Valley. I contemplate detouring to Lee Vining, which I remember fondly from my 2017 JMT thru-hike attempt. But is it out of the way, and I will pass through it tomorrow. As I drive south toward Bishop I can barely see the Sierra due to smoke from nearby fires. At the Vons in Bishop, I get wifi and inquire on the Ladies of the JMT Facebook group and am assured that the current fire situation will not have an impact on my hike.
It starts raining as I leave Bishop. The rain washes the smoke from the valley air and reveals the peaks of the Eastern Sierra, looking harsh and intimidating shrouded in storm. At Lone Pine, Highway 395 is at less than 4000 feet. Mt. Whitney tops out at 14505 feet. It’s going to be a big descent at the end of the trail. And I am going to have to climb down to the Owens Valley and back up to the Sierra crest for my resupply in Independence.