Hiking Hell

Every year I promise myself that I won’t go on another backpacking trip.

I always break my promise.

Hiking up our first mountain pass. I am ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE at this point. The look on my face is not acting.

Last year, my friend Steve got me on video saying I would never do this again… as we walked out of Sequoia National Park. This year was no different. The hiking trip was murder. The first day, after very little sleep and no time acclimating to the altitude, we hiked a continuous uphill 5-6 mile trek over our first mountain pass. We finally made it, but we all felt like crap.

Before-picture. We had no idea at this point how tough the trip would be. Hence, the smiling. From Left to Right: Nobu, Peter, Steve, Mark, Brian, Brent, and yours truly.

I lied down at the top of the first pass. Not because I needed to rest... but because I needed to die.

I felt ok, until we set up camp. That’s when the altitude sickness and dehydration set in. I had a pounding headache and I felt like barfing. My friend Brian is in residency, and he made me eat “even if I puke everything up”. Good thing I did – I immediately felt better once I ate. It’s great having a medical practitioner in our group.

Me and Brian. I've known him since I was 6 months old when our parents pushed us in strollers around the neighborhood. He's my brothah from anothah mothah.

Peter took the coolest pics (Many of these are from his site). Here he is being all adventurer-man at the top of the first pass. While Peter was taking this pic, I was probably still half-way down the mountain... and crying.

After each day of hiking, we were so tired, we’d set up camp, cook dinner (aka boil water and add it to our dried food), then go to sleep. No fires meant that there was no point in staying up. It was too cold to mingle. I felt sorry for Brian… he decided to pack light and only bring a hammock. It was a cold week for him.

Nights were cold... and fires were prohibited at our elevation. We huddled around our lights drinking tea and eating dehydrated food.

One of the coolest things at night: sterilizing water with our ultraviolet lights. The nalgene GLOWS. It's so beautiful...

We spent any down time we had either sleeping or fishing. I tried my luck at fly fishing this time. $30 pole at Big 5 (where one of our church college students works!)… and about $5 on some extra flies. Worth every penny.

Here I am fly fishing! I wasn't casting at this exact moment, so it looks really boring, but I promise you it's not. I was like Brad Pitt in "A River Runs Through It"... except an ugly version of Brad that caught really puny fish.

One of my catches! I threw them all back, but it was definitely fun to catch them!

I was really excited to bring instant coffee and milk tea from Japan on our backpacking trip. I thought it’d be really cool and different… but when we got to our first campsite, I realized my friends had brought cool Japanese things too! My friend Nobu had BETTER instant coffee (strawberry latte and mocha latte)… and my friend Steve had brought a bunch of ramen. They even made a type of spam musubi for lunch!! That’s what happens when you camp with Japanese Americans…

Even Mark, the one Australian that came with us, was very Japanese. He’d been on the JET program and knew how to speak Japanese. He had a cool little chair from the 100-yen store in Japan that he brought.

Mark leads the way over a river crossing. This one was tame. Others were very scary and a bit dangerous.

Trail Marker. 3 stacked rocks = trail. We had to search for these to find our way home.

There’s no way to carry enough water with us for 5 days, so we have to stop at lakes and rivers to refill. We had 3 types of water purification: a gravity filter, a pump, and Steripens. The water up here is already pretty clean. It naturally tastes pretty sweet compared to the bottled water back in the city.

Steve and Nobu purifying water at a lake.

We decided to hike out a day early. We always do. But… it may have been a mistake.

We did almost 15 miles up and over our last mountain pass, and down a never-ending trail out to the car. We got lost a few times trying to stay on the trail. At one point, the trail was on a VERY steep mountain and shrunk down to about 18 inches wide (just enough room for you to hike). I tripped at one point and almost slipped down the hill. I was so scared I practically crapped my pants.

Talking to the Forest Ranger. These guys are intense... real mountain men. He said our last mountain pass wasn't going to be too hard to cross. LIAR. I almost died.

By the time we got out, all restaurants were closed. BOO. McDonalds became our saving grace.

Our reward meal: Mcdonalds. Best burger I've ever tasted. The dining room was closed so our car hoods became our dinner table.

So why do I go on these miserable trips? Quite frankly… for my friends. They make the trip enjoyable. The one thing I regret over the years is letting my friendship with them drift. Although I love serving God and the great people I meet at church… I wish I had spent more time in the last decade with these guys. So in the end, even if I’m miserable hiking up some insane mountain, I still consider myself extremely lucky to be spending time with these guys. God blessed me with some of the best friends growing up.

My friend Brent. We met each other in kindergarten. He was my guardian during the hike out... I hurt my ankle and he stayed with me to make sure I made it out ok. Here he is hiking through snow... in SEPTEMBER! Gives you an idea how cold it was up there.

My compadres. They are the reason I keep going on these hell hikes. I hate the hikes, but I love them.

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2 responses to “Hiking Hell

  1. Jason, I think u didn’t get the memo to wear a gray shrit on the first day 😉 And btw, i love how you tell ur stories and how you had to die a million times! HAHAHA. so funny! K keeps looking at me and wondering why i’m laughing at the computer screen. hope the rest of your J snacks back home are bringing you comfort as you chillax after ur death hike…

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