For me, traveling has always been a lot like chasing the white dragon-no matter where I go, no however long I go for, I always want more. I always crave more, and nothing ever seems to fully satiate my desire for seeing new places. It's truly a blessing and a curse.
After my road trip in 2016, I immediately began thinking about where 2017 would take me. Ideas started to stir and my excitement grew palpable, as I knew I would be getting married and then would subsequently be heading on a honeymoon with my soon-to-be wife not too long thereafter. We started to brainstorm potential places for a honeymoon, and quickly began to talk about Thailand, Iceland, Germany, California, the Pacific Northwest and Canada, Utah, and possibly even venturing into Texas. We soon decided that we wanted to stay in the US, and from there we had to narrow it down to where we wanted to go. After much back and forth, we knew we wanted to go to the West Coast and then head somewhere from there, but the details were still hazy. We thought about flying into LA, hitting up Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park, and then heading east to Utah and/or Texas. We scrapped that plan and thought about flying to San Francisco, going to Yosemite, then heading north into the Redwoods, and then venturing into Oregon and up to the national parks in Washington, before flying back east by way of Seattle.
And then, one day in April, I decided to go to the good, old B9 board to check in on the camping/hiking thread that I periodically will lurk. I had mentioned in there that my soon-to-be wife, Danielle, and I were thinking about heading to San Fran, Yosemite, and then trekking north along the coast into Oregon and Washington. A dude that I had gotten to know from the thread-what up scottxclean-messaged me and asked a simple question, “why not spend more time enjoying California?” The thought had never occurred to me. I never thought about how damn huge California is and how much of the State there is to see. He then suggested Onion Valley Campground in Inyo National Forest, and highly recommended hiking to Kearsarge Pass. After quickly Googling the campground, I was immediately sold and knew that my next trip would see me traveling throughout California.
As soon as I saw the lady, I shared with her what I had learned about Onion Valley and Kearsarge, and she too was hooked. California was to be our next trip and my mind was fixated by the thought of hiking to Kearsarge Pass. Everything that I had Googled about the hike made it seem like it would be exceptionally beautiful, and I couldn't wait to get on the trail. From that moment until the morning Danielle and I set out on our ascension to Kearsarge Pass, I could not wait for the opportunity to get on the trail and enjoy this hike; this was the hike I was most excited for for the 2017 season.
Fast forward to September 18th, the lady and I were now married, had already spent a week of our honeymoon hiking, camping, enjoying, falling in love with, and being mesmerized by Yosemite National Park, and we were now making the four hour or so drive from Yosemite to Onion Valley via the Tioga Road Pass. Danielle manned the wheel while I gorged myself on chips, pretzels, gummies, and probably some beef jerky, as we listened to 2 Dope Queens. We drove south on 395, parallel to the illustrious and majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range. To our right, the jagged Peaks and mountains of the Sierra Nevada's accompanied us as we trekked southward towards the deserts of Independence, California.
When were about 30 to 40 minutes outside of Independence, we quickly stopped to resupply. We were hit by heat that felt reminiscent of Satan's asshole- it was hotter than hell that day and the temperature was in the upper 90s. We re-upped on food, booze, candies and snacks, and a shit ton of water-we'd have no access to water at the campground- and continued onward to Onion Valley.
As we drove south on 395, we finally came upon Onion Valley Road and took a right. for about 5 miles or so, we drove closer and closer to the sharp teeth of the Sierra Nevada’s where we would soon be camping. We ascended up a steep and winding road that would eventually lead to one of the most beautiful places I've ever camped in my life. The road slithered and wound the more we climbed into the peaks. As we drove further and further on through, the road ascended higher and higher as the temperature outside was steadily dropping. Our car began to get battered by wind and our service was quickly dwindling, but we continued up the winding steep road towards Onion Valley. Due to the severity of the wind, the elevation we were ascending, and the lack of guardrails on the side of the road, the lady and I both started to get a little anxious-it didn’t help that we just decided to start the psychological-thriller podcast that is Homecoming-but we pushed through and eventually found ourselves at the campground.
Once there, we drove to our site and took in the scenery that encirlced us. We were completely enveloped by jagged, sharp peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that encircled Onion Valley. We set up camp and then scoped out the scene around us. Behind our campsite, there was a beautiful waterfall that provided a calming and soothing background noise that made the campground feel serene and tranquil. We took a quick walk around the campground, which boasted roughly 15-20 campsites. We soon came upon a couple that had on New York Yankees hats. Excited at the possibility of meeting other New Yorkers, we went and spoke to them, but discovered that they were British, and neither of them were Yankees fans-boourns. We also talked with a thru-hiker for a little bit who didn't have any water, so we gave him some of ours, since we had more than we'd actually need by the end of our stay in the campground. After surveying our surroundings, and letting the excitement and overwhelming emotions dissipate, we then made dinner, had a couple of beers, read, watched a comedy special on our tablet, and then relaxed before calling it a night.
We tried getting a good night's sleep, but the wind had other plans in mind. Our tent was pummeled by furious gusts of wind all evening, and all through the night I kept waking up after hearing loud bursts of wind hit our tent and thought to myself, “holy crap our rain fly is going to go any moment, and I wouldn't be surprised if we go with it." Sleeping would wind up being more of dozing off for a few minutes, waking up erratically thinking the world was coming to an end, and repeating this vicious cycle until dawn was upon us.
We woke up the next morning still there in one piece, but tired from a poor night's sleep. We planned to hike to Golden Trout Lake, which was about a four and a half mile hike with about two thousand feet of elevation gain. We set out on the trail, made our way up into the peaks of Onion Valley, ready to get our legs moving and grooving. About a mile or so into the hike, the trail seemed to practically disappear. We found ourselves amongst a large pile of talus rocks, and we were unable to find where the trail led to next. After much searching to no avail, we came up some other hikers on the trail that found themselves in the same predicament as us. We eventually just decided to kind of mess around up in the mountains, eat lunch, and then head back to camp.
The following day was to be our hike to Kearsarge Pass, so we wanted to get back to camp, get dinner made, and then chill and relax before calling it a night. The wind had settled down considerably, and it seemed to be dying down more and more as the day wore on, so we were hopeful that the nighttime would bring a peaceful respite from the pummeling maliciousness that the wind had bestowed upon us the previous evening. We were ready to experience Kearsarge, and the months and months of anxious anticipation were about to come to an end.