The anticipation began more than six months ago. After seeing the kids hike the loop trail in Pinnacles National Park, and after having abandoned their double stroller in favor of shoes, we grew confident that they will be able to go backpacking.
Inyo National Forest permits become available six months before entry date, so for a September 3 date, we had set our calendar alerts for March 3, 7:00 am, Pacific Time. And to be sure that we could get a permit, we had another alert set for March 2, so that we could snag a Friday entry if we were outcompeted the next day.
March 2 came. At 7:01, we scored a permit for four spots on September 2. The next day, we got another four spots.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, I invited others who were able to share our extra permit: first Damien, second year orthopedic surgery resident; then Tyler, attending joint replacement surgeon; and finally Allen, senior orthopedic surgery resident. We revised our gear list. We weighed and catalogued every item down to the gram. We planned our menu. We packed.
It’s now the day of the trip, pre-dawn Saturday of Labor Day weekend. The car had been loaded the night before. The tank is full. It’s 5:40 am, and we’re ready.
The parking lot at Mosquito Flat is completely full, cars spilling out onto the road, down the mountain, and clogging up the lot below. I get out of the car and was able to negotiate with hikers coming down the trail. We unload and have soba noodles with cold dipping sauce and all the traditional toppings.
Tyler, whom I had suggested this trip to during our photoshoot on the hospital helipad, and his family arrive in the full parking lot. I spot them and get their attention.
Meanwhile, a man with a baby carrier backpack sees my grocery bag of trash and says, “Oh, Loma Linda Market!”
“Yeah, Loma Linda. Have you been there?”
“We’re actually waiting here, meeting some people coming up from Loma Linda.”
Soon, we see Allen. Everyone finds parking spaces. Allen gets his spot because someone got kicked out of the wilderness for lack of a permit. Damien would have arrived last night and should now be at Marsh Lake. Allen decides to finish lunch first, and Tyler and his family join us with their packs.
The anticipation is over; we’re hitting the trail!