Before my first backpacking trip, I watched 127 Hours in the theater. Most outdoor adventurers have informed me that doing so might not have been the best decision; there are plenty of other movies that depict adventure athletes in a more inspiring light. However, by watching 127 Hours, I learned how not to adventure, which was a very important lesson.
One week ago, as we walked to Kennedy Meadows, Pine Nut and I enjoyed a long conversation about the portrayal of outdoor adventurers in the media, and 127 Hours was brought up. I mentioned how that story had impressed upon me the importance of carrying the “ten essentials,” of informing someone where I’m adventuring, and of sticking to the plan that the point person knows.
When Ant, Pine Nut, and I parted ways at Kennedy Meadows (the cause of which is another story in itself), we planned a loose itinerary. Doing some rough calculations, I figured that it would take me 6.5 days to walk from Kennedy Meadows to Lone Pine. I told my friends that I would summit Mount Whitney on the fifth day and be in Lone Pine on the seventh, at which point I’d have enough reception to call them and arrange a meet-up. Until that time, I would be cell service-less.
There was just one problem: The first day out, I realized I was going too fast. For a few moments, I considered getting to Lone Pine a day early and surprising Pine Nut and Ant; however, in the end, I decided to slow down and stick with the itinerary. I suppose there are certainly worse problems to have than needing to spend an extra day in the Sierras!
In any case, two days later, I was glad I’d slowed down and followed the plan. I was sitting on the side of the trail in the sunshine, drying out my gear from the night’s condensation and eating lunch, when I heard a voice shout, “Rainbow Dash!”
Now, being nearsighted, I’m not good at recognizing people at a distance, so I greatly appreciated the helpful hint I was given: “It’s Pine Nut!” the voice said.
I was astonished to be seeing Pine Nut again so soon — and even more so once I heard the full story. She and Ant had been able to figure out logistics in such a short time that she’d decided to jump back on trail rather than skipping this section. She’d taken a side trail to the PCT (after having, serendipitously, been given a ride by one of Trail Angel Teresa’s friends) and started heading north only a half-mile from where I was eating lunch.
Had I Rainbow Dash-ed along, Pine Nut would have spent days hurrying after me, and I wouldn’t have known she was behind until I got cell phone reception in Lone Pine. Instead, we got to walk together from mile 745 to the PCT’s Independence “exit,” from which we headed to Lone Pine.
And, thus, I got to stand on top of the contiguous United States with someone who, somewhere in the last 500 miles, went from being a “trail friend” to “my PCT hiking partner” and “good friend.”