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…