Mike’s Last Blog
Labour Day was the last holiday of the summer in the US this weekend. I spent it on the shores of Lake Tahoe, having reached the Canadian border and traveled back to the Sierra Nevada to finish the section I jumped over in June. There were harlequin hot air balloons over the lake and kids delighting in ice cream and swimming.
The final hundred miles of the trail in Washington state were magnificent. Unlike the Sierras, which tend to have prominent peaks, the North Cascades have craggy ridges, punctuated by glaciers that feed emerald lakes and separated by yawning valleys. For a couple of days, the weather turned wet with rain and what the locals call “aggressive mist” – not quite rain but enough to have you rummaging in your pack for a jacket. But as they lifted, the clouds made wonderful patterns with the sunlight. And soon after, mushrooms of all sorts popped out from musty places. It made me nostalgic for the Appalachian Trail.
I was sad to leave Washington and it felt odd to reach the northern terminus without finishing. But I’m excited to see the Sierra in summer and I plan to end my hike by scaling Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. There should be much less snow on it than when I last came through, so I shan’t be risking my toes to frostbite!
As I make mountaineering plans, people in Zimbabwe face daily deprivations and troubles. Please help if you can by donating to ZANE.
Part 2 – Going back to the section missed due to bad weather!
I aimed to finish my hike before the end of summer. But late summer in the Sierra Nevada can bring variable weather and in the last weeks of walking, I saw snow, hail, and sub-zero temperatures. The precipitation did not coincide with the cold, fortunately, and I had good conditions for almost all the high passes.
What a treat they were. Each pass follows a common schema – a climb up from the valley, a harder climb around masses of rock to above the tree line, passage through a series of meadows and glacial lakes, and a final scramble to the pass, ringed by peaks and crags.
Within that schema, however, there is wonderful variation. Muir Pass slaloms around several lakes, each a different size and hue, and holds a conical stone hut at its peak, extra-terrestrially. Mather Pass has little greenery but instead, rock, pocked with snow and scree, starkly beautiful. Selden Pass ascends a canyon wall, full of alcoves, rivulets, shelves, and flowers, before revealing an expanse of twinkling lakes from the top. The other passes brought their own treats and I was awash in joy throughout the Sierra.
The final part of my hike, the ascent of Mount Whitney, began well before dawn. It started among lakes and meadows before ascending above the tree line. Unlike the passes, the Mount Whitney trail continued to climb, over the crags and ridges, up and up. Dramatic slots dotted these crags and through them, the view fell suddenly away, as if from an aerie. The wind grew as we climbed and the trail crossed a couple of snowfields, defiant in mid-September. Finally, the path curled around the western, gentler side of the mountain and up to a stone hut perched near the summit. From the top, there was nothing left to look up to, for the first time in my hike.
Now my walk has ended.
Just as when I finished the Appalachian Trail last year, my legs don’t quite know what to do with themselves. My heart is heavier too, yearning sometimes to shrug free of the city, with its noise and buildings, and stride out for the mountains again. But I have learned from walking that you cannot cling to joy, just as you should not cling to sadness. So I will content myself with memories and make plans for excursions to come.
Thank you for joining me through the hike, it was a great source of motivation and gave real purpose to the hike. Thank you too for your kind donations to ZANE. They help alleviate the suffering of everyday Zimbabweans who have no-one else to turn to as the situation there continues to deteriorate every day.
Please continue to donate if you already have and if not, please find it in your heart to contribute to this important and amazing work.
Please find it in your heart to donate whatever you can to ZANE so that the important work of helping the most vulnerable Zimbabweans can be sustained.
Please help if you can by donating to the GoFundMe campaign – it may be your last opportunity to donate to Mikes worthy cause and show your support for his months of walking through all kinds of weather!
Please visit Mike’s GoFundMe page and donate!
Please give generously – all proceeds of the walk go to ZANE.
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