Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Moonlight Hike

Saturday, November 15: Devil's Punchbowl
4,740' elevation

1 mi loop trail [300' (down and back up) elevation change]

A drug I was taking in September and the first part of October ended up causing undesirable side effects in me, including making every single muscle in my body ache and giving me a pounding headache. Not the ideal condition for hiking!

And while I was trying to get medications straightened out and dealing with the awful side effects, I'm sure my muscles were atrophying, which makes them ache, too. I got off that medication, and have been slowly coming back from both the side effects and the symptoms we were treating. I finally decided it was time to go try out the muscles, as the aching was definitely reduced.

The perfect opportunity arose to stretch my muscles again. A rugged and amazing county park that normally closes at sunset was holding a moonlight hike on the one-mile loop trail. Although only one mile in distance, the trail drops down 300' into a canyon and then climbs back up. The terrain is sandy and rocky, perfect for training to climb more mountains. To cinch the deal, the Leonid meteor shower is starting to show itself more and more, as we'd seen a beautiful and brilliant blue-green falling star on the Wednesday night before the hike. Hmm...this hike sounded too good to pass up!

Click on map to enlarge.
You can also click on any photograph.

So we went. When we arrived, Venus was just setting behind the mountains rising up to the south, and Jupiter was shining just above them. The ranger's son, Jonathan, had a small telescope set up through which we enjoyed viewing Jupiter. We wandered around, visiting the animals there while people were arriving for the hike.

Horned owl.

Barn owl.

Shy boy. He never would show me his face.

My daughter was thrilled to see a scorpion almost identical to her former pet one. She really misses hers since it died.


Jonathan led us all on the hike, while a young lady brought up the rear. There were something like 95 people on the hike! We started off with no moonlight at all, as the moon had not yet risen. After a short way down the trail, we all turned off our lights and let our eyes adapt to the darkness. Although it's a sandy trail over rock with lots of places to slip and slide, my feet could feel the trail easily and my familiarity with the terrain helped. Of course, I had the purple stick with me! I only slipped once the entire time; no big deal. But I notice it still makes DH catch his breath!

We paused to let the column of people behind us close up the gaps, as the trail was still quite dark, especially passing through brushy areas. I was just standing there waiting when all of a sudden, my thigh muscle pulled. I hadn't even shifted my weight! What's up with that? OUCH! It was very painful. I can't believe I'm still having this much trouble with my muscles after taking and getting off that prescription.

Nothing to do but walk it off, especially since walking is the only way out of this place...unless you want to call in the rescue team. Not me! Just another nuisance, like so many cancer and treatment side effects. Painful though the injury was, I knew I could still get myself out of here no problem. And the pace of ninety-something people is a pretty slow one, since we're all just out to enjoy a moonlight hike.

We stopped at the very bottom of the Punchbowl, a little off the trail, to continue admiring the stars.
The Punchbowl Creek had run dry long before now, leaving behind sand and rock dropoffs where waterfalls normally are. Perching on the giant boulders, we all craned our heads skyward. Cassiopeia was visible, as was Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper), the North Star, and the Pleiades.

After enjoying the stargazing, we hit the trail again and began the climb up. As we crested an incline near the cables by the witch/devil in the rocks, the glowing orange, nearly full moon was a breathtaking sight. Sadly, I hadn't felt like carrying a tripod to get the picture; so I can't share the vision of the moon with you. It was definitely one for the memory chips!

The moon lit up the trail such that it was like daylight to our night-adjusted eyes. We climbed slowly up, pausing often to let the howling hordes behind us catch up. It wasn't long before we were back at the top, and crossing the picnic area toward the parking lot. The ranger station provided hot chocolate, which we happily drank while chatting with Jonathan. Thanks for loaning my daughter the jacket!

We ended the night with a late dinner at a restaurant in town. Too bad we couldn't return two nights later for the meteor shower party, when the ranger station planned to have its bigger telescope out for stargazing. But something tells me we'll be back again before too long.

Friday, November 7, 2008

White Mountain, Part 1

Friday, August 1: Home to Grandview Campgrounds (driving)
including Bishop and Keough Hot Springs
~2800' to ~8500' elevation

It hadn't even been a month since we climbed Mount Whitney, but I'd known as soon as my feet recovered that I wasn't quitting now! I'm just itching to do even more mountain hiking. In addition to my lifelong love of enjoying outdoor recreation, the image of that healthy "alpine" woman is burned into my brain. I'm positive there is better health to be found at these higher elevations!

And believe me, I know from personal experience that there isn't much that makes the lungs work as hard as they do at elevations above 10,000 ft. And we know from the CT scans in May that there's a BB-sized spot of cancer in one of my lungs, so I really need that gone!

So I've been looking around for other mountains to climb. I'd read that White Mountain, east of the Sierras and near the California-Nevada border, is one of the easiest of the 14ers to climb.

Quite serendipitously, Bobcat posted to the Whitney Portal Store (WPS) message board (one of my most favorite resources) that the White Mountain Barcroft Station Open House was coming up that weekend on August 3! So on a Tuesday night, I started putting together a trip to go climb White Mountain the following Sunday.

And everything fell into place so beautifully! There were plenty of "added features" we could also do that made the trip too good to pass up. I made plans for a weekend-long adventure; and by Friday afternoon, we were climbing aboard our war wagon and heading north. This time, I was accompanied by DH and DS. [DS didn't really want to go, but we made him!]

Unfortunately for my traveling companions, I am notorious for turning trips into even longer ones, thanks to my penchant for taking tons of photographs. We were somewhere around Independence on Hwy 395 when I made them stop so I could admire the herd of elk that was grazing in the alfalfa farm alongside the highway. There were at least a hundred head. The visual was better than the photographs, though, as I didn't want to get as close as needed to get the really great shots. I didn't feel like braving the cars on the highway or the racks on the elk!

Click on photographs to enlarge.

A herd of elk graze in the alfalfa fields near Independence.

The first stop on my itinerary was Bishop, only a half-hour further north from the turnoff we actually needed to take. Since Bishop has been a traditional stop anytime I'm running up the 395, we have this drill DOWN. We made a right turn into the KFC to get a picnic dinner to go. Then we made the left turn to head back south, drove a couple of blocks, and made the right turn into Erick Schat's Bakkery. Schat's is an absolutely traditional stop in my family; I've been coming here for 40 years. Finally, we could get some of the chile-cheese bread sticks we'd been craving ever since our Mt. Whitney travels had taken us so close to Bishop (but still too far south)!

I've been stopping here for forty years---but they have seventy years in business!

Bakery delivery truck. I'm old enough to remember such things!

We made the right turn out of Schat's to continue our backtrack south, and another right turn into the parking area of Joseph's Bi-Rite Market. The store, also a traditional stop, has been there under one name or another since the late 1800s. We stocked up there on water, as Grandview Campground has none and we must bring our own. After grabbing the jugs of spring water, we made the right turn onto 395 yet again, heading south out of Bishop to the next stop in my itinerary...

Keough Hot Springs! I love soaking in the Earth's natural hot springs, and the Sierras have many. We arrived around 5:00 pm and enjoyed a nice picnic dinner and afterward, a pleasant and peaceful soak in "the ditch." What a perfect way to loosen up those muscles for the upcoming hiking we'd be doing!

Da ditch! No, it's not for flumin'.

The Keough Hot Springs "ditch" is right under the spitting high-voltage wires.

Love that Sierra water! And the temperature is heavenly.

Tranquil gazing toward the White Mountains.
We'll be sleeping up there tonight!

A ditch flower (not ditch weed!).

We stayed until the sun dipped below the Sierras and their shadows were starting to play across the White Mountains. Then we packed up the remnants of our picnic, picked up our chicken bones (and a few abandoned beer bottles and pieces of trash---come on, people!), and once again headed south on 395 the few remaining miles to the junction with Highway 168 East.

The terrain changes quickly as Highway 168 East also begins climbing quickly. We only had a dozen or so miles to go on this road, and we enjoyed the changing scenery. My favorite part was where the road narrows to one lane through carved cliffs! But by now, I wasn't nagging them to stop for me to take photographs. We wanted to get a campsite before nightfall!

Soon we were making our left turn onto White Mountain road, which would take us to the remaining destinations on my itinerary for the weekend. Tonight's stop would be at Grandview Campgrounds, about five miles up White Mountain road. At an elevation of ~8500', sleeping there would afford us some acclimatization. And we were going to be blessed with a new moon! Grandview is a favorite destination for stargazers with telescopes during the new moon.

The sun was sinking quickly as we pulled into the campgrounds. Between the hikers arriving for the upcoming Barcroft Station Open House, the astronomers there for the new moon, and the normal visitors to the area, the campgrounds were FULL. Even noncampground spots were FULL. We drove around twice and finally settled in a spot that seemed appropriate enough.

We unpacked, which didn't take long since we had decided to sleep sans tent in order to enjoy the stars. DS and I pedaled off on the mountain bikes as soon as they were unpacked, going in search of the outhouses before the last of the daylight was gone. Then we decided to go ahead and ride the entire loop of the campground, which was at least one mile, if not more. I was happy with the pace I was able to keep, despite the higher altitude. I could feel it in my legs and lungs, though!

We got back as the light was fading from the sky. I snapped a few photographs of the dying light and the first stars, then turned my attention to making my bed. The temperature was already dropping fast, and my bones just can't take the cold at all anymore. Bony metastasis is painful, and cold just makes it worse!

Sunset and the first stars; Grandview Campground.

We all revisited our KFC picnic dinner, and then I climbed into my mummy bag to watch the stars come out. It was fully dark by now, so DS set out with DH to show him the route to the outhouses. I waited for them to return, enjoying the sky show as Venus and other stars and planets put in their appearance. Then I waited some more. And waited. And waited. Finally they showed up...of course, they had been sidetracked by an astronomer with a fairly large (and expensive) telescope. Stargazers just love to share their toys!

As we settled down to sleep, the sky became filled with more and more stars until there were bright and faint ones everywhere. We could see the Milky Way stretching out above us. I watched for satellites. Finally, I saw one streaking overhead.

"Look," I pointed out the satellite. We watched it as it headed across the sky. As it reached the 9:00 position in the sky, a meteor suddenly flashed right by it. Yep, even though we were at least a week away from the main shower, the Pleides meteor shower was putting in an appearance! I watched falling stars until I fell asleep. And that was the blissful end of our first day!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Summiting Mount Whitney, July 2008

The final installment of the Mt. Whitney trip has finally been posted! You can find it here.

Also, I realized I'd forgotten to put the video footage in the previous installments, so I went back and added them to each of the previously published posts.

To review the entire Mt. Whitney trip in chronological order:

The first installment is here.

The second installment is here.

The third installment is here.

The fourth installment is here.

The video from the summit is here.

The fifth installment is here.

The final installment is here.

Enjoy the view from the top of the continental United States, especially since you don't have to do all that walking in thin air!

But consider this: Grandma Whitney must've been on to something about improving one's health in those heights. After all, I had a BB-sized cancer spot in my lungs in May that was gone 2.5 months later (after climbing Whitney, White, and Baden-Powell) without any toxic chemotherapies.

So consider removing the seat of your body from the seat of your chair and taking a hike in the mountains!

With warmest regards,
Hiking for Hope

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Living Proof

I got my CT and bone scan results, and I passed them all! Furthermore, the CT scans prove (as the PET scan did) that the BB-sized spot in my lungs in May is now GONE without any toxic chemotherapies to kill it! The drug I receive stopped the spot from spreading, but my body did the work of killing the tumor. Hallelujah!

The spots in my spine and ribs are "stable" and show signs of IMPROVEMENT, again WITHOUT me receiving toxic chemotherapies.

How awesome is that?!

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Full-Time Job

I remember telling a friend of mine when he was diagnosed with cancer, "Congratulations on your retirement from coaching; congratulations on your retirement from the school board; congratulations on retirement from your job." He laughed. But I wasn't kidding.

Fighting cancer IS a full-time job
. And not just because of always having to be diligent, trying to help the body with nutrition and supplements and exercise while avoiding anything suspect or unhealthy, and researching and studying as much as you can to learn how to combat this vicious foe---simply the logistics of medically fighting cancer are a full-time job.

I bet most noncancer patients aren't even aware that "chemotherapy" means sitting in a chair for 4-6 hours getting infused with drugs at the cancer treatment center. I certainly wasn't. I'd never even heard of a portacath[eter] before I was told about it a week before I was scheduled to start chemotherapy.

Here's a day in the life of this full-time job I never applied for: yesterday, I left home at 9:30. Along the way driving into the city, I drank the first bottle of lovely barium sulfate suspension for upcoming tests. ["Lovely" is my idea of facetiousness. Is that supposed to be orange flavored? And that texture...ick.]

First stop was the voodoo doctor, with all my supplements in hand. He used an actuator on the misaligned places of my spine/neck, which I seriously needed; and tested to see which supplements my body needs and how much. I finished with enough time to jump on the TurboSonic and at least try to help my bones as much as possible. I kept it to the lower modes, though, as I don't dare jar my bones too much right now.

Second stop was the infusion center to get infused with the monoclonal antibody for the type of cancer I'm fighting. The oncology nurse got the IV plugged into my portacath and I got to read a little of my newspaper as I drank my second bottle of the barium sulfate suspension. Then I grabbed the IV pole/machine and rolled it out the door, telling the nurse I'd be back and leaving most of my stuff there; and headed for the hospital Outpatient Imaging Center (OIC), the infusion still dripping into the portacath that leads to the vena cava coming off my heart.

I checked in at the OIC, but I had forgotten my paperwork at the Infusion Center. More traveling with "Waltzing Matilda," the IV pole with the meds dripping in me. They were a little surprised to see me wandering about when I arrived back at the infusion center, but buzzed me back in so I could get my papers. More traveling...gotta love the stares, right? Especially when the wheels get stuck in the elevator door cracks and the whole IV pole thing pitches forward like a weapon at the trapped people already in the moving box. Sorry...

I got back to the OIC and they called me back soon after I took a seat in the waiting room. But they were confused--they took me to the lab to get an IV line in my arm for the CT scans. "No, I'm supposed to be getting injected by nuclear medicine for the bone scan. The CTs aren't for another hour and a half." Oops.

Back to the waiting room.
The nuclear medicine department was having a tough day, booked solid and people's veins not cooperating. I got back there half an hour after I was supposed to...I bet the infusion center was wondering where I'd disappeared to, especially since I'm always teasing them that it would be more practical if I could run errands while getting infused!

We've got one, count it, ONE, vein that we can still use. One. And it is covered in scar tissue and likes to roll. How fun for techs do you think that is? Luckily, the nuclear medicine tech is a total pro at this and is really good about getting the IV line into my vein. Thank you, Dan! Still, it took awhile. He got it in right the very first time, and we were able to get the radioactive stuff into my vein instead of my arm tissue. Hallelujah! He even left the IV line in so the CT techs could use it. I was happy about that, as the tech that did the lines for the CT lab last May could NOT deal with my veins. Glad I could skip that this time.

I headed back upstairs, as Waltzing Matilda had been shrieking ever since I was returned to the OIC waiting room (I would punch the button marked Silence to delay it for a few more minutes each time it shrieked at me--I felt like I was hitting a "snooze" alarm!). The infusion center was packed as usual, and my oncology nurse was juggling numerous patients. Another oncology nurse saw I just needed to be "unplugged" and took care of it. A bandage over the portacath and I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the OIC.

"I'm checking in for the CT scans now," I told the assistant behind the desk, who was quite confused. I explained last hour had been the injection for the bone scan, now I was here for a CT scan of the abdomen and a CT scan of the chest. "I've already turned in all the paperwork." I took a seat in the waiting room yet again, but it wasn't long before I was called back to the CT lab. Hooray, they were actually running ahead of schedule! Since I'd had to fast all day so far, maybe their running ahead and Nuclear Med running behind meant there would be time for me to get some food between the appointments! I was certainly hungry. Water and barium sulfate suspension are just not nourishment.

As a "frequent flyer" at OIC, I know the drill--no metal, even on my clothes, and no jewelry. I dress accordingly, comfortably and warm, as the rooms these machines are kept in have to be cooled considerably. So at least I can skip changing out of my clothes and putting on the horrible gowns and stuffing my things into a locker.

Okay, with all the driving and running around to appointments, lying in the machines at least affords me the opportunity to relax and get something resembling rest while I'm there. I take a deep breath and hold it upon command, several times, as the table slides through the machine. I do it automatically; my mind is always elsewhere as I use this time to do visualization. I picture my body healthy from head to toe. I picture cancer cells unable to hide from our probing tests so I can better target them and eliminate them.

I'm done with time enough to spare; I can run and get some lunch. They take out the IV line from my arm, and I finally have nothing hanging from a needle in my body. Thank you! That will save the stares.
I drive to a sandwich shop around the corner and indulge in my favorite hot sandwich while glancing through more of my paper. I still have at least an hour and fifteen minutes before my scheduled appointment for the bone scan, and I know they were running behind. That saves me a little time to stop in at my friend's office and hang out during her lunch break, so I drive a couple of miles across the city and do just that.

A little less than an hour later, she gets back to work and I head out to get gas on the way back to the OIC. The gas lines were so long, there's no way I could get through in time. I pass by the line and drive to the OIC. "I'm back, for the bone scan this time," I tell the woman behind the desk. This time, she nods; she's got it all straight now. Paperwork's done already, just have a seat.

Nuclear medicine had caught up fairly well, and I only had to wait fifteen minutes past my appointment to get called back. Again I tried to "rest" while the machines whirled around. But by now, the barium was dumping from my stomach into my intestines like bricks, and everything was gurgling, churning, and cramping. I just wanted to curl into a ball, but I had to remain motionless for an hour.

After the whole body scan, we did detailed studies of three areas...the spine, the ribs, and the skull.
Finally I was all done and could climb off the table and head home. Hallelujah! I was exhausted. I arrived home at 5:30, 8 hours after I had left to start my day of medical appointments. I was tired, sore, and had a killer headache from all the junk we'd had to put in my body in order to "see" inside it.

And today I was right back at it again, taking supplements and drinking green tea and heading off to the city to the voodoo doctor to strengthen with TurboSonic and do an EB Cellular Cleanse to get all that junk out of me as fast as possible.

Like I said, fighting cancer is a full-time job.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Them Bones

I promise, I've been working more on the post for the final day of the Whitney trip! I'm about halfway done with the text now.

In the meanwhile, the weather has turned cold here; and with it, my symptoms have increased. The pain in my bones has gone from a "2' to an "8", as has my fatigue level. I can barely drag myself out of bed and have not been accomplishing very much each day.

The doctor had already suspected that the PET scan wasn't telling us the whole story on the bones (which had showed cancer in the T and L sections of the spine in May) based on a change in my symptoms, and wanted to order a bone scan this month.

So I called yesterday and let them know my symptoms had increased. They scheduled a bone scan for me, but I won't get in for a week plus.

Meanwhile, I'd appreciate your prayers!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back With Fantastic News

I have been absent from the Internet for awhile; sorry for the delay in posting the last part of the Whitney trip (let alone the White Mtn and Mt. Baden-Powell trips -- oy, am I backlogged!). I have the pictures done and almost all captioned and have started the text, so I hope to have it posted soon. But as many of you know, I did not get a normal life; and right now, it's keeping me running nonstop.

I did get some incredible news lately -- my most recent PET scans did not show any signs of cancer active in my body right now! They even went back and compared all the PETs, MRIs, and CTs -- yep, no more spot in my lungs.

Apparently I lost that spot somewhere along the way, climbing these mountains. The rib that has been broken for over a year from cancer eating the bone is almost completely healed now. My spine still shows some activity; but they can't say it's cancer and it is probable that is the bone healing.

So how awesome is that report????!!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Monday, July 7: Day Three of Zone Permit (Last Day)

Trail Camp to Whitney Portal (Point 4 to Point 1)
~12,000' to ~8300'
~6 mi (~3700' elevation change)
Left Trail Camp (Point 4) ~0805 hr
Arrived at Whitney Portal (Point 1) ~1430 hr

Backpacking Notes: A leisurely paced hike that was a really lo-o-o-ong walk, mostly downhill on switchbacks on rock, loose decomposing granite and sand---but with all that lovely scenery to enjoy. Breakfast break at Trailside Meadow 0910 to 0940; small break at Outpost Camp (Point 3) 1120 to 1130. Lots of little stops for my sore feet. Happy to see Trailhead at 1430. Dropped gear and headed over to the Whitney Portal Store for those incredible burgers and fries. DougSr & Family rock! Home by dusk.

Click on map to enlarge (or any photograph, for that matter).

Even with all those layers, the wind had dropped the temperature enough---and was cutting enough---that I slept cold in my bag. DH and I tried to huddle together as best as we could, but the wind was relentless. I finally fell asleep just as the stars were starting to fade in anticpation of the predawn glow. DEEPLY asleep. Yet something kept nagging at me, trying to wake me up, as the sun crested the Lone Pine Lake lip and shone into the entire valley. I refused to wake up, knowing I needed more restoration from the previous day's exhaustion. I fell back into sound sleep.

And woke up yelping. Something was burning my ankle something fierce! What the heck? Had some of those giant ants managed to find a way into my bag and under all those layers? I peeled everything off. And would have laughed, if it hadn't hurt so much. Both ankles had deep, purple indentations in them where the elastic of DH's sweatpants cuffs had been pressed even further into my skin by the rocks on which I was sleeping. The right ankle was literally losing circulation to it, the indentations were so deep and purple. No wonder it was stinging so!

As it turned out, I ended up with purple bruising marks around my ankles for several days...looked like I'd been tied up with ropes!!
How humiliating! My worst and most visible injuries sustained on the trip were the scrape on my chin and the purple circlets on my ankles, all incurred while sleeping. So obviously, lying around in bed is much more dangerous for me than any of these little walks in the outdoors!!!

Well, at least the sun was up substantively enough now to take the chill off the morning. I peeled off the extra (third) layer and returned it to DH; then we headed off for the morning pit stop (a walk to a deserted area of boulders).

That moonscape view from Trail Camp, one last morning.

We came back and began breaking camp. DH filtered our day's water from the little lake, and then we put the packs on and began the climb down. Groan!!! Boy, were those leg muscles stiff and sore. They'd only loosened up slightly from the limp up to our "third-floor walkup" the evening before. I sure hoped I'd get my walking legs soon, or it was going to be a slow and painful walk off the mountains.

Breaking camp. We used no tent or mats, lending even more
to the '
Planet of the Apes' appearance of Trail Camp.

Looking down at the "second floor" from our "third-floor walkup" site
(filtering our day's water from the Trail Camp lake in the background).

As we left the "Planet of the Apes" stone camps, a yellow-bellied marmot chased after us to make sure we really weren't going to offer any food. Sorry, fella! Just not my practice.

Saying goodbye as we leave Trail Camp

Yellow-bellied marmot.

We set off at a decent clip; this part of the trail went quickly. I settled in to a good rhythm and enjoyed the changing scenery as we descended into the alpine beauty.

Headwaters in the Sierra are snow!

One last look at Consultation Lake and the moon-crater-ridge-like saddle above it.

Stone bridge.

Yay, more flowers! I love this part!

We had skipped breakfast when packing up at Trail Camp, as I never like to eat in the morning and my normal lack of appetite had been even more reduced by the high elevation. We had instead planned to eat at Trailside Meadows, which had been such a beautiful rest stop on our way up. It wasn't long before we could see the meadows below us, and soon we were breakfasting on a large, flat boulder streamside. No pictures could begin to show how beautiful the abundance of flowers really is, let alone the wonderful light scent of them on the wind!

A good overview of Trailside Meadows below us.

The flowers grow where the snows gather and melt.

Rocks and wildflowers.

Headwaters of the Trailside Meadows stream.

Picnic/Breakfast spot (we're on a nice flat boulder).

Probably red phacelia.

Leaving Trailside Meadows.
First glimpse of the beginning timberline below.

The sunlight was upon us now in full earnest, taking any memory of the night's chill with it. I peeled off my layers, but decided to keep on the long pants (instead of stripping to the shorts) due to all the dust I knew lie ahead of us between the meadows and the Portal. From here on out, it was just going to be a long walk down (and up and down) on a dry dusty trail on a hot day, but at least the scenery would entertain us. Sure enough, it wasn't long before I was grabbing any shade I could find while I sipped on water and admired the view.

Ahh! Grabbin' shade.

Heading down the rocks above Mirror Lake;
Lone Pine Lake visible just above center.

Mirror Lake visible left; Bighorn Park just right and above center;
Lone Pine Lake just right and above Bighorn Park.

Coming down into the Mirror Lake area.

Check out THAT peak! I believe that one's Thor.
It took me four or five pictures just to give you an idea
of what it looks like coming down by Mirror Lake.
Peripherally to my right is still that Bighorn Park/Portal distance/Lone Pine Lake view;
plus we're climbing down all that intense rock.

Climbing down the rocky trail above Mirror Lake, the jarring was really starting to take its toll on my knee. I'd already felt tight when I'd awakened, but now that knee just wanted to give me the same type of trouble it had when we climbed Saddleback Butte. Nothing I could do but slow my pace and try to control the jarring. Downhill was faster, but not much!

Mirror Lake reflecting a bit of the stone face above it.

Finally starting to reach timberline.
Notice how short and dense the conifer's needles are?

As we climbed down the rocks, we were startled by a sound we hadn't heard for days---the sound of a helicopter. We scanned the sky and located it, headed for the 12,000+ heights of the peaks surrounding us. Unusual to see a helicopter at that heights, we both knew what it meant: a search and rescue for someone. A grim reminder of how dangerous an undertaking this little venture really is. I said a prayer quickly for whomever the helicopter was for, and a thank you that it wasn't for me. My rules for a successful trip meant that we had to survive and walk out under our own power, with no help needed!

On the rocks above Mirror Lake, looking down
into Bighorn Park (with Lone Pine Lake
visible in the upper right of center).

Heart-knot tree above Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake.

A last look back at the peaks, above Mirror Lake.

Tree at the last look back.

We could feel the change in humidity as the trail dropped down by Mirror Lake. Fortunately, the day was proving too hot for the mosquitoes to be much of a nuisance. We enjoyed the lovely lush green of Mirror Lake and Bighorn Park, with that peaceful stream running through it. I teased DH that this trail was like being on an interstate, it was so well-marked and -traveled. The stream crossings might as well have had signs posted, "Cross here!"; they were so obvious any greenhorn would find them. Kidding aside, it is a blessing how well-maintained the trail is!

Did I mention I like the flowers?

Flowers dot the trail between Mirror Lake and Bighorn Park.

The trail is so well-marked, the stream crossings
might as well have signs saying, "Cross here!"

Looking down into Bighorn Park, Mirror Lake end.

Rocks and reds.

Applegate Paintbrush

Scarlet wildflowers beautify the trail.

Scarlet penstemmon, close up.

"Cross here!"

Little waterfall at the stream crossing;
between Mirror Lake/Bighorn Park and Outpost Camp.

Outpost Camp.

Outpost Camp waterfalls.

We stopped for a bit of a break, about 10 min, at Outpost Camp to bask in the waterfall -spray-cooled shade. I hadn't really developed an appetite since eating at Trailside Meadows, though, so we opted to push on more.

Darn near a neon sign: "Cross here!"
Outpost Camp

Bighorn Park: A stream runs through it.

What would Freud say about my sense of humor?

Ya think there's some minerals in there?

Flowers grow in a billabong.

Leaving Bighorn Park.

Leaving Bighorn Park behind, we dropped down toward Lone Pine Lake---and soon reached the boundary of the Whitney Zone. Yep, we were officially "out of the zone" now! But still a few more miles to go...

Lone Pine Lake and its lovely infinity edge.

Why I don't like digital zoom.

As we passed the cutoff that leads to Lone Pine Lake, I debated stopping there. I could really use a bathroom boulder and also refill my water. But it didn't seem like it would be THAT long before we would reach the trailhead. I opted to keep pluggin' on down the trail.

Blazing neon lights "Cross here!"

The sun was really beating down by now, and I was stopping every time my bandanna dried to re-soak it in the streams crisscrossing the trail and drape it over my crown. That way, I could both stay cool AND keep the back of my neck from sunburning! The water always felt deliciously cold, but I noticed the bandanna was drying faster and faster now. Whew---that sun felt hotter than the air temperature indicated!

The waterfall below Lone Pine Lake that leads to the Portal.

By now, I dared not drink as much as I wanted, as I was running both low on water and high on need to relieve my bladder! By the time we reached the dirt switchbacks below LPL, I was pretty miserable. And tired. And hot. And so there I was, slipping and sliding more and more in my fatigued state. I twisted my other knee, so now both knees were hurting. I twisted my ankle, but not enough to impede walking. I felt like whining, but no whining allowed! Nothing to do but just keep on pluggin' away.

Portal Road, Alabama Hills, and the White Mountains beyond.

If only I had a filter, you could really see that waterfall...

I stopped in the shade of a tree and decided to give my knees and ankles a bit of a rest. I took a pull off my water and got nothing. Yep, I was now officially out of water. I got a pull off of DH's water, just enough to wet my quite-dry mouth. I stood to start marching again. And promptly sat back down. Wow, who would've thought you could stiffen up that much that fast??? Afraid I'd never be able to move if I sat much longer, I forced my aching body up. At least I had my bladder urging me on to the Portal.

We were on the switchbacks still when we were overtaken. Here it was, 12:30 pm, and we were being overtaken by someone who had already been to the summit and was almost back to the trailhead! The woman who zoomed by us was tan from the sun and had the most incredible muscle tone from head to foot. She looked HEALTHY, and she appeared to be older than me! Wow! There must be something to this alpine stuff! I want to be that healthy, too!

Still more switchbacks to go!!!

Finally we reached the final stretch, which I actually recognized. "We should be able to see the parking lot next bend," I said, and sure enough, there it was. And we could see our vehicle was still safely parked and hadn't been peeled like a sardine can by any bears. Even as close as we were, the trail still wends a bit as it leads down to the lower elevation. I had to stop and rest more than I'd like to admit on that very last stretch. But finally we passed above the Whitney Portal Store, made the last bend, and the trailhead lay just in front of us.

For those of you who don't hang out much in the outdoors, let me tell you something you probably don't realize---there are times when an outhouse is a mighty welcome sight! I was peeling the straps off my back the last feet of the trail and didn't even pause for celebration as I headed straight across the street to the outhouse. Thankfully, I didn't have to stand in line!

DH was kind enough to take care of disposing our WAG bags and fetching the vehicle while I limped over to a chair outside the store and waited for our rendezvous there. Soon, we were ordering our burgers and buying our sodas and souvenirs ("I Climbed Mt. Whitney" shirt and bandanna). Doug Sr and family are so incredibly hospitable. Good thing...my feet were so incredibly sore, I was sure I couldn't take another step. I just parked at the table inside and took a good long time eating.

We opted to just head on home and shower there rather than shower at the store. After all, we'd be home in 3 hr -- definitely before dark. We stopped at the visitor station to wash up, and I was startled when the sink came on automatically. Wow, culture shock. I really am back in civilization, including automatic flush toilets. Amazing how quickly we'd adapted to life in the outdoors.

Just below Lone Pine, the cell phone started ringing with messages. Yep, we were definitely Out of the Zone and back to our regularly over-scheduled lives! We listened to the messages and then started making our phone calls to let everyone know we were down from the mountain.

"How far did you get?" my dad asked me.

"All the way---the summit."

There was a few seconds of silence, and then quietly, not quite believing, "Really?"

Yep, really!!! How awesome is THAT???

I don't know how many other (fourth-stage) cancer patients have made it to the top of Mt. Whitney after being diagnosed with metastasis to the liver, lungs, lymph nodes, and bones (including spine, pelvis, ribs, sternum, shoulders, and facial bones). But I do know that someone has -- me. And I hope that gives other cancer patients real hope.

Back to the smoky haze at home.