South Lake to North Lake: Pretrip

On and before August 31

The sliding glass door at Clark’s once again opens and closes. I feel as if the checkers are looking at me, wondering why I am back. I had gotten the wrong package; there is no reason that Pad Thai should have fish sauce in it. I walk back in the same Asian food aisle and settle for a different entrée—Thai Peanut Noodles.

It’s Monday evening before the trip, and I’m putting the final touches on the food plans. For the upcoming backpacking trip through the Sierras, no one wants to carry too much food or end up with too little over six days of hiking, so the best way judge quantity by calories. This has been affectionately called “The Grid.” It works, but that means weighing out peanuts, crackers, and repackaging everything into rationed portions. And the weighing isn’t just for food; it’s for every piece of gear and supplies, including toilet paper. My longtime friend Brad Wilson inspired me to shave ounces, and the result is shed pounds.

My text pager goes off. From Phoenix, Brad texts me Tuesday afternoon, “At the airport. No turning back now.” In less than two hours, I pick him up at Ontario International Airport and make our first stop at REI to buy two small fuel canisters and a battery for my camera remote. Except for a minor hiccup, the trip to Bishop is uneventful.

Brad and I organize the food, putting each meal except breakfast into separate bags and lining them up according to The Grid. All the bags go into bear canisters that we will be getting from the ranger station when they open at 8.

After packing, we drive up toward South Lake and turn in at Rainbow Pack Outfitters. Mr. Allen and his assistant make us breakfast: coffee, bagels, eggs, and potatoes. Then, I follow him to park the car at North Lake’s overflow lot. He shuttles Brad and me back to the South Lake trailhead.

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