Olancha Peak — Page 2

Owens Valley from Sage Flat

II. Sage Flat

Dawn breaks over Owens Valley. I quit my sleeping bag and wander over a short rise to get a better view. My hiking partner Trevor and I have spent the night at the Sage Flat trailhead, just west of the town of Olancha.

This affords us a nice early start for what we assume will be a long but manageable day getting up Olancha Peak and then back down again. I wish I'd slept better. We started this trip with a classic L.A. traffic jam—an accident shut down the 405 in Sepulveda Pass, costing us an extra hour, putting extra mileage on my stress level.

Sage Flat Trailhead
Sage Flat

And it was warm all night—much warmer than I was expecting. We're right around 5800 feet, apparently not quite high enough to escape the heat of Owens Valley.

In addition to restlessness, heat poses a particular worry today: Olancha Peak is waterless. We've got to carry our full ration of water today, and the pre-dawn warmth suggests we'll be sweating right from the start.

Traffic and heat woes notwithstanding, I'm glad to be here, glad to be enjoying the spectacle of color breaking over the Inyo Mountains to our east.

The quiet of the moment—and my present serenity—stands in jarring contrast to the anxieties of being stuck on the 405 only hours ago, yesterday afternoon. There are times I'm convinced the city is killing me, minute by minute, grinding me up and wasting me away. I feel the pressure of it like a steel band about my chest, ever-tightening.

And now I am here in wilderness, feeling just the barest hint of a warm breeze on my face, watching a bug's silhouette flit against the sunrise, watching clouds glow violet across the horizon. The band about my chest loosens a bit. I take a deep breath. Is this an antidote, I wonder? Can I regain here whatever it is the city has taken from me?

There is no simple answer. Just the gentle rustle of wind across sage brush. Purple hues fade, and the sky begins to lighten. I head back toward camp to see if Trevor is awake. He is, already brewing up some tea. Time for a quick breakfast, and then we'll hit the trail and get this thing started.

next: The Cow Driveway



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