Well if you are reading this we are on my third and final installment of my White Mountain journey. If you haven’t read the story up to this point you are missing out and can get caught up here White Mountain 1 and White Mountain 2. Now where was I, oh yes? After having said our good byes and a lot of the participants having headed down the hill I saddled up my day pack stashed my gear and stepped out from Barcroft Station.
I don’t know about you but I’m one of those hikers that take a little bit to get warmed up and start to enjoy the hike so the first little climb after a semi sleepless night and an busy morning was kind of a slog and the funny part it isn’t even that big of a hill to get up to the observatory, I was just tired and looking down the barrel of a twelve mile hike. I like to set little goals when I’m on the trail and my first stop was the observatory for a break and some water. While they couldn’t do the White Mountain summit there where a few of us that had headed up for some great views and a little hike before the long drive back, so it was nice to stop and chat for a bit.
Now for the fun part and what do I mean by the fun part, well from the observatory you have a commanding view of the trek ahead of you and it can be both impressive and easy to underestimate at the same time. Essentially you will be able to see the summit for the majority of the hike and you can even make out the building on top of the mountain so it is easy to say this looks easy… The other part is the sweeping landscape and it is a very large expanse but very easy to underestimate the distance and terrain since there is very little vegetation or points of reference that can give you some scale.
Well that’s kind of the down side but there is an upside in here too, the trail is essentially a jeep road and this is a popular day hike so you will see people and bicyclists along your way. The grade is pretty easy and you enjoy an easy downhill walk to the straight away before heading back up the hill. I know it sounds totally easy and it would be without the altitude and exposure. I was trying to be mindful of my pace so I didn’t wind myself with the ease of the trail so it was kind of a math problem for me. I like to give myself a mile an hour when I am in the mountains that has been a good pace and rule of thumb for me to plan for time as well. I also have fallen victim of coming off the line to fast or smelling the barn so for a good trip the right pace has helped me enjoy the trip. The other consideration with this area is the exposure and it is a consistent issue. Wind, cold, heat, sun, snow these can all be factors and all in the same trip. Take a look at our Facebook header that pic was taken in June. This trip I was there in the end of August and was getting cooked. Lucky for me I had my Outdoor Research sun hat and shirt so I was covered (no pun intended) that are pretty awesome. What I failed to do though was cover my legs and I am sitting here right now with burnt legs peeling as a reminder that I need some hiking pants and at least some sunscreen.
Well back to the hike right, like I was saying you head up a hill that is almost there for no reason other to have you navigate down a steep and slick trail with loose rocks all before starting the switch backs. Now Like I said the summit is in sight the entire time and it appears to get closer and closer but not by much. And here we are at the bottom of the hill looking up at White Mountain proper and you lose sight of the summit and you begin the transition from straight easy trail to switch backs.
I don’t care for the switch backs, like at this point it is my fourth time here and I am asking myself why I’m here. I was a little tired and grumpy, it happens. The trail zigs back and forth and it starts to feel a little monotonous. Like there are some pretty amazing views but I was just looking down until I got to my next milestone for a break. Eventually I hit the snow line and I could see the summit again and I had a second wind of motivation and was ready to push to the top and I got to run into some more of our new friends from the weekend. I finally pulled around the last turn and was totally stoked to be at the top, I was able to take a break and grab a few pictures. Another kind of cool thing was having reception with AT&T so I got to call the wife and go live. I took a little break but I was looking at the clock and realized that it was time to head back down.
The hike down was a lot like the hike up in reverse the major stand out was spotting some sheep and making decent time out. Other than that it was rather uneventful and I was happy when I finally made it to the observatory since that little hill I sauntered down earlier was a lot bigger than I remember it, ha-ha. I came down the trail and headed over to Barcroft and grab my gear. It was cool as the next set of science types where moving in for the next project. I was stoked to be there and I did the hike in about eight hours so I beat my timeline but I still had to grab my main pack and head the two miles down the dirt road to my car so I really didn’t hang around for too long. It took a little under an hour to get to the truck and I had plenty of daylight left. The thing to remember though is just how long these days can be, I lucked out staying at Barcroft, it took two miles off of my hike but the reality is I just didn’t have the hike to do. Yeah that took time and I was tired but I still had a two and a half hour drive down the mountain then an hour to Lone Pine. These are all important things to remember to take into account when trip planning the trip isn’t over until it’s over. Luck for me I stash an energy drink for a little pick up and headed out.
Like I said it’s always fun being done but not really that’s why I was glad I made arrangements to stay in Lone Pine and I took Monday off so I could have enough time to safely get back down to San Diego and unpack before going to work. I appreciate you sticking through the three separate posts and it was a long weekend but a great example none the less of what we can do in a weekend if we want to. Hopefully this gave you some pointers on planning your next trip and we can’t wait to hear about it!