I had never been to the eastern side of the Sierras, the mighty mountains beyond the eastern gate of Yosemite. So, Juliet decided to take me there. She had recently summited Mt. Whitney (14,494’) and was keen to return to the vast stretch of mountains south of the small town of Lee Vining.
In our trips to Yosemite during the past year, I had become accustomed to the architecture of the park-that is, the huge granite massifs standing among thick forests of fir trees, waterfalls, and rivers. There seemed a certain softness and elegance to these vistas. These natural features soothed my eyes and raised my spirits.
What I saw on the eastern side was vastly different- giant walls of jagged, granite monoliths, jutting sharply upward, crowded together for miles, cold, unforgiving, unwelcoming.
We decided to tackle Kearsarge Pass, reportedly a stunning vista, ten miles out and back with a 2,560’ gain in elevation to 11,760’.
To be honest, I had trepidation about doing this hike. I anticipated it would take eight hours, longer than I usually hike, and I was concerned about the elevation gain. In other words, I was afraid I could no longer successfully do something like this. But Juliet cajoled, pushed, and encouraged me, and I finally agreed.
It was perfect! The weather was clear and calm, the temperature moderate; the trail well-graded and maintained. We climbed between the towering, angular peaks, among stunted, wind-blown trees, and frigid clear lakes. Juliet set a reasonable pace. We stopped often enough to catch our breath, drink water, and take in the views.
After four and a half hours, we reached Kearsarge Pass. It was as advertised. I sobbed with relief, gratitude, and awe. Juliet and I hugged tightly, joyful in the sharing of this moment and the beauty of nature surrounding us.