PCT 2019: Day 139, Whitney Creek to Dutch Meadow

And I can't tell my pillow from a stone

Burnt trees

I didn't sleep well last night. I awoke at about 2 a.m. and realized my inflatable sleeping pad had lost a lot of air. I was almost lying flat on the ground, so I blew more air into it.

After about an hour, it was mostly deflated again, so I re-inflated it.

By the third time, I knew there was a leak in the pad. Predictably, the rest of the night didn't go well.

DateSunday, September 22, 2019
WeatherMostly sunny with a high temperature in the low 60s
Trail ConditionsRugged climbs with sand and rocks, then a smoother descent
Today's Miles23.3
Trip Miles2080.9

Finding a leak in an inflatable pad is easiest when you can immerse the whole pad in a bathtub of water. Bubbles will appear around the tiny pinhole. Unfortunately, I didn't have a bathtub handy at the time.

I listened and felt around the pad for several minutes as I squeezed air from it. When I thought I had found the leak, I applied a patch. Then I rolled it up and hoped for the best for tonight.

My departure from camp was delayed further when I thought I had lost my camera.

A backpacker doesn't have many possessions, and when in a tent, they are all confined to a small space. It shouldn't have been difficult for me to find my camera. Still, I spent several minutes frantically looking for it before discovering it in a pocket I normally don't use.

Mt. Whitney and a meadow at Whitney Creek

Bluejay and I planned to go a little more than 23 miles today. That was a stretch from the distances we have been hiking lately. Looking at the trail profile, however, it seemed doable.

That decision was made before my difficulties in getting packed, so when Bluejay left, she had a big head start on me.

When I finally left at about 7:20, the temperature was hovering around freezing. Our campsite had been near a large meadow. When I walked by it, the grass was covered in frost.

The meadow provided a view of Mt. Whitney, and I wondered if Pathfinder was now on his way to the top.

Climbing from Whitney Creek

Minutes later, the trail passed through a gate and began a climb. It was jarringly-steep at first and I found it more difficult than usual.

When I reached the top, the trail made a few more ups and downs. The elevation remained above 10,600 feet for the next three miles. One short climb went nearly up to 11,000 feet on the slope of Mt. Guyot.

Low sun shining through trees

Despite the high elevation, there were not many views along this section of the trail. It mostly remained in trees.

A log crossing a creek

After leaving Mt. Guyot's shoulder, the trail descended and crossed two creeks. The first was Guyot Creek.

Both creeks had fallen logs across them, which allowed me to cross without getting my feet wet.

After crossing Rock Creek, the trail began another climb. This one was longer but not as steep, climbing about 1,500 feet in 4.1 miles.

Near the southern boundary of Sequoia National Park

The trail climbed to the boundary of Sequoia National Park and entered Inyo National Forest. From there, the trail continued five more miles above 11,000 feet.

There weren't many streams in this section and the trail was sandy. As I noted yesterday, this part of the Sierra was more like the desert that I remembered from the first part of my hike.

Most of the trees were Jeffrey pines. The foxtail pine tree is a similar but much rarer tree in this part of the Sierra.

A view of Kern Peak

When I did get a chance to see mountains in the distance, nearly all were below 10,000 feet high. One that was higher was Kern Peak. It stood 11,510 feet in elevation and about 12 miles away.

Besides views of mountains, hikers were also few in number today. For much of the day, I only saw two. The JMT had split from the PCT before Whitney Creek, so I was back to walking only on the PCT. Most of the hikers now on this part of the trail are not thru-hikers.

Sandy trail

The descent from the ridge was annoyingly sandy. A northbound hiker told me the descent would get much smoother. When I told him where I was heading, he said I would have no problem getting there before dark.

I was skeptical because I knew Dutch Meadow was still several miles away.

Descending trail

The hiker was correct about the trail. It became smoother as the gradual descent continued, but I didn't make up as much time as I hoped. This was partly due to more stops I made on the way.

One was when I met a talkative hiker named Pecos. A short time later I met a group of five section hikers who wanted to hear about my thru-hike.

It was nice to talk to these people, especially after hardly seeing anyone for most of the day. All the same, stopping to talk to them was burning the last of the daylight.

A view of Mt. Langley

The temperature turned colder at 6 p.m. as the sun began to dip below to the tops of mountains. I stopped to put on extra layers of clothing.

The 14,026-foot Mt. Langley was catching the last of the day's sunshine about 6.8 miles away from me. It is the southernmost 14er in the U.S.

Sunset over a valley

Sunset came an hour later, but I still needed another hour past that to reach our campsite.

This day turned out to be a little more of a stretch than I had counted on. Nevertheless, I didn't consider stopping earlier. That would have made tomorrow more difficult as I tried to catch up to Bluejay.

The last 45 minutes of my hike required wearing a headlamp. When I reached the campsite at 8 p.m., I had difficulty seeing where Bluejay was camped. She then turned on a light to help me find her. She also gave me some water for dinner so I didn't have to search for the stream in the dark.

As I re-inflated my sleeping pad, I hoped the patch I put on it this morning would hold and I could get a better night's sleep.

It didn't and I didn't.

When the last rose of summer pricks my fingers
And the hot sun chills me to the bone
When I can't hear the song for the singer
And I can't tell my pillow from a stone

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
Sing me a song of my own


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.