Backpacking Shepherd’s Pass: Day 2 & The Hike Out

The second day of our trip was my favorite. We did a whole lot of relaxing, marveling and appreciating of the beauty surrounding us.

We set out to day hike up to Shepherd’s pass, which was a little over 2 miles from our campground. It was a pretty steep hike though, with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

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I was pretty sore from the previous day’s hike in. I found the fast gaining elevation challenging and the increasing rocky terrain difficult to scramble over:

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The views grew even more astoundingly beautiful. I felt an insane amount of gratitude to be experiencing this. The challenge of the course was well worth it:

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We finally reached the top! Here I am at 12,000+ feet:

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We found a nice spot amongst the rocks to have lunch and relax. We stayed here for over an hour to take in the amazing opportunity to experience this sacred space:

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We arrived back to camp in the early afternoon. The rest of the day was spent napping, reading, talking and appreciating the gifts of nature. This trail is not widely travelled, we saw only 2 other hikers while we were camping and there was no one else camping anywhere near us. I basked in the solitude and silence.

The next day, we woke up early, tore down camp and re-packed to set off on the 10 miles out:

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The hike out was definitely less difficult, but still by no means easy. Still, our packs were much lighter and we headed downhill for most of the trip.

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It was pretty mind blowing to look up and see how far up we had come from.

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The saddle, from about 1.5 miles below

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still a ways to go

We moved pretty quickly. We were all motivated by the prospect of a shower, a big meal and our hotel’s swimming pool. The valley kept growing closer and closer:

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4 hours and 10 miles later, we were done! I have to share this picture, it is of my 8 year old step-son. I do not share a lot of pictures of him here, because I am overly cautious of children having an online presence, but I have to say how insanely proud I am of him perserving on this difficult trail. He is an avid hiker and has trained right alongside us, without complaint. Suffice to say, he was also proud of himself!

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I was so happy to see our car and even happier to see my flip-flops! I was elated to take of my hiking boots and free my aching feet:

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We said our good-byes to the trail and drove back to civilization. It was pretty incredible to think we had just hiked down from this:

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After the world’s greatest shower, we celebrated with ice cold beers, loads of chips, salsa & guacamole. I also ordered a bean torta. All much deserved!

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This was a fantastic experience. On this trip, I finally felt like an experienced backpacker. I think talking about all my anxieties helped. I acknowledged them and moved on, once my feet hit the trail, they subsided (for the most part) and I went for it. Even on the most trying sections of the course, there was never a doubt that I would not conquer this trail. It definitely humbled me, and reminded me to once again respect the great expanse around me.

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Backpacking to Shepherd’s Pass: The Hike In

I finished my third backpacking trip last week up to Shepherd’s Pass. In 3 days, we did hiked a total of 24 miles, gaining over 6,000 feet of elevation.

This was a tough trail. 

I like to consider myself a pretty good hiker. I like intense trails, I do not mind elevation gain and I wear my 9 marathon medals as a mental badge of honor. But, this trail was not at all impressed with all the miles I have run, the number of medals I have, my fancy trail running shoes or all the dirt on my hiking boots. It kicked my butt . I am sure carrying a heavy pack and the higher elevation upped the difficulty factor, but it definitely made me doubt myself a few times.

We drove out to Lone Pine the day before we hiked out. We wanted to get our wilderness passes early, get a hotel and go to bed early. We did a little sight seeing around the quaint town, I even stopped to see Manzanar.

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I packed my backpack all up the night before, so we could get an early start in the morning. This was everything that I carried (warm night clothes, sleeping bag, food, toiletries, books, pancho)

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We started just after 6 AM, at around 6,000 feet, with the sun already shining bright. I got a nice view of what was ahead of me:

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Very soon, I was met with the stream crossings. Guys, I did a lot better than I have in the past. I was still scared, but I felt a little more sure of myself. I think the trekking poles helped me more psychologically than anything:

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The trail was pretty much uphill, the whole time, save for a few (very few) downhills:

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It was often difficult to stay focused on the trail because the views were INCREDIBLE:

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We stopped for lunch at the saddle, which was about 4 miles in, 8,000 feet. I already felt like I had done a pretty good trek, but knew there was more to come:

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After the saddle, the trail got much steeper. As the elevation increased, I found it more difficult to breath freely and was getting winded faster. I was taking smaller steps and was all too aware of the weight of my pack. Still, I put on my fake smile and carried on:

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I did not take a lot of pictures on this portion of the trail, because I was mentally fighting with myself to push forward. I was hot and tired, the elevation and the weight of my pack were getting to me. I went in to a state of meditation that attempted to rid myself of the negativity and keep positive.

Finally, we arrived at Anvil campground, this was about 10 miles from the trail head, around 10,000 feet.

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We unrolled our mats and laid around for a good hour, before setting up camp. We were all exhausted and were finally able to laugh about how difficult the trail was and how were all using different mental tricks to push forward.

I was pretty proud that I set up the tent all by myself! This was my first time doing it with no help.

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We finally started refilling our water (filtering it from the nearby stream) and preparing dinner:

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After we ate, exhaustion hit me like a train and I was in my sleeping bag even before the sun was completely down.

It was definitely trying, but gratifying day. It felt great that the hardest part of the trail was behind us.

End of Day 1, check back for Day 2 and the hike out…