Christmastime is here! Although we haven’t really had a holiday tradition, the closest we’ve come to having some sort of tradition is in the kitchen. On this year’s menu: Satsuma mandarin salad Vanilla avocado and kale smoothie with brown sugar Cranberry almond spinach salad with honey mustard vinaigrette Puttanesca pappardelle…
Having left Yellowstone National Park, we reenter the Grand Tetons from the north, passing by Jackson Lake before reaching Teton Point Turnout for sunset. Far to the east, storm clouds build; there is a faint rainbow amidst the rain spouts. I think there are more angry clouds beyond the western ridges, since the sunset colors are not what I had hoped for.
After Boston, I fly directly to Jackson Hole. The plane circles in from the north and tucks in under the blanket of clouds. Below, the valley is beautiful, dotted with golden cottonwoods and aspens in a two-colored mosaic. Upon landing and after getting the car, I rush to the Snake River Overlook for a sunset shot. The color had vanished from the sky, but the valley floor still resonates with the feel of autumn.
This has been a phenomenal hiking season. Starting with summiting one of the most prominent mountains of Southern California—Mt. San Jacinto, the peakbagging list includes Mauna Kea, Mount Whitney, and now Mount Washington. I’ve read about Washington many times. Visiting Boston for the American Society for Surgery of the Hand…
Hikers bidding for the summit trudge by our campsite. Even though it’s barely light outside, I see their headlamps and hear their voices. Then, I hear Mickey. He and Wayne are off early as well. They are going to hike down to Whitney Portal first, where they will unload and clean up, thus avoiding the second morning of wag bag use. Mark is also out of the tent. He’s gone for quite some time. I get myself out of the sleeping bag and do some preliminary packing.
The alpenglow foreshadows the glorious day this will be. Hovering above the Great Western Divide, just before sunrise, the band of orange sky washes the entire landscape in a warm hue, in absolute contrast to the nippy cold air. The color of the meadow’s grass looks a bit strange. Of my group, I’m the first to get up. Soon, the rest are up as well, and we have a quick breakfast. I lean on the backrest rock that Mark picked out—he has an obsession about finding good backrests—and have the usual morning French press coffee while watching the sky turn from orange to blue.
Like the other mornings, the routine is pretty much the same—hot breakfast, clean up, pack, and head out. We quickly gain elevation on this climb out of the Upper Kern Canyon. Before long, we are looking back down the canyon that is open to the clear blue sky. Then, we join Wallace Creek and hike alongside it. Along the trail, Wayne and I share stories of the meaning of the Sabbath and of relationship. Mark hikes ahead and loses the group. Near the campsite where Mark originally wanted to stay, just before the flat section, we step around a huge pile of bear droppings, bright red from the meal of ripe berries.
We’ve been looking forward to this mid-trip breakfast. Even though the powdered eggs turn rubbery when overcooked, the vegetarian bacon bits add enough flavor to the dish of scrambled eggs and hash browns. The little packets of ketchup make all the difference. Along with two rounds of French press coffee, this turns out to be our favorite breakfast.
I’m the first one up on this short rest day. The sky is clear, and I emerge from my tent in time to catch the first light on the distant mountains, painting the tops a fiery orange. Moraine Lake is a perfect mirror. I step onto the lakeshore to take pictures, tiptoeing between bear tracks that Mark pointed out to me the day before. Again, we have French press coffee.
It’s a lazy morning. We’ve had a tough second day, and to reward ourselves, we decide to not rush it. Mickey had slept under the stars, and that must have been beautiful. Wayne, seated on a smooth boulder, reads his devotional. I take pictures of the stark above-treeline views. Mark pulls out his fishing rod, attaches lures, and heads to the lakeshore. In his first cast, he gets a bite.
This would be our hardest day, stumbling into camp around sunset, completely exhausted. But, the start of the day is great. We set off early, climbing through thick forest along the gentle trail covered with soft forest litter. Soon, we arrive at Bearpaw Meadow. The luxury of staying there for $350 per night doesn’t seem worth the price. Mark gets water while Wayne and Mickey check out the restaurant. The chef is willing to make us pancakes. From the restaurant porch, we catch a glimpse of Kaweah Gap. We will be hiking over this pass, gaining 5,000 feet over 3 short miles. From here, it looks towering and daunting.
We’re off! Setting out from Crescent Meadow, the trail climbs a gentle knoll through carpets of fern fronds shaded under giant sequoia stands. After about a mile, we emerge from the forest and hike along the open slopes, passing Eagle View Overlook. Across the valley, Cathedral Rocks provide a steady landmark throughout most of the day.
It’s all about the luxury items. The scale is actually quite ruthless, and ever since Brad convinced me to try using it before our trip to Rainier, I’ve been letting the scale make most decisions. The pack weighs 1191 g, the sleeping bag 1038 g; and the second shirt 156 g. In total, my pack’s base weight, sans food and water, is 29 lbs. That’s including my luxury items—all the camera stuff, with the body, lens, tripod, and other accessories, making up the extra 7.5 lbs. But the scale can’t really decide our luxury items. I can’t part with my camera. Mark, third year orthopaedic resident, packs fishing tackle and extra fuel to make warm water for baths. I convince him to leave behind his pillow and the ugly pink emesis basin, which he wanted to use for doing dishes and taking warm baths.
The Western Orthopaedic Association meeting took place on the Kona Coast, at the Fairmont Orchid. The Loma Linda University group had several papers that were presented over the days of the meeting. Thursday Robert Quigley: Comparison of bupivacaine and liposomal bupivacaine toxicity in articular chondrocytes Friday Krysten Bell: Comparison of…