Last Sunday I hiked up to Lone Pine Lake on Mt. Whitney as a remembrance hike for my beautiful sister, Lorrie. My son, his girlfriend and grandpuppy #2 Canela, all came with me. It was a great day from beginning to end. We left at 3:30 am. I was surprised that we all just woke up and were ready to go with no yawning or complaining. We were all excited. Miss Whitney is my favorite mountain, holding wonderful memories for me. The kids have never been there before, so it was their first time seeing the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. As we were driving up the mountain, I kept hearing the word "Wow" and "Oh my gosh" coming from them. Miss Whitney is quite the mountain, full of rugged beauty that can take your breath away. It was exciting to see them enjoying it as much as they were.
The hike went really well. Neither my son nor his girlfriend had ever hiked in elevation before, and they both did really well. It's a tough hike. 1700' in elevation up to the lake. It's like a constant stair stepper on the way up. At the beginning of the hike, I had them look up and pointed to where we were going. Their eyes got really big. The lake sits at 10,050'. It's a ways up there. The streams we had to cross were not difficult this time around. Last time I hiked this trail, those streams were gushing rivers. Not so much this time.
We hiked for 3.5 hours and made it to the lake. Grandpuppy #2 is a toy poodle. That little munchkin hiked the whole way! She even wanted to go through the water, though my son picked her up and carried her, in spite of her kicking to go play in it. Once at the lake though, she ran towards it and jumped right in. Only to quickly swim back because the water was sooooo cold. We sat and enjoyed the gorgeous view of the lake and mountains. I took some time for myself and thought about my sister. I miss her. I wish I had spent more time with her before she died. At one point I looked up at the mountains and noticed it was clear blue skies. My son decided to climb some rocks and I looked towards him and took his picture. When I looked back, I was surprised to see a cloud suddenly sitting right above the mountain I was just looking at. I thought it was oddly shaped and took a picture of it. It wasn't until I got home that evening, that I looked at that picture again. I happened to turn my head to the side and to me it resembled a heart. I cried. When I took that picture, I knew she was there with me. I could feel her.
We made our way back to the trail and started down. As we approached a waterfall, suddenly a female deer came bursting through the trees and bounced up and down the trail right in front of us, then bounced up into the grass to our left and just stopped and stared. I was shocked. In all of my hikes, I have never seen any wild animals. Only chipmunks, squirrels and birds. She just sat there staring at us, then ran away. We excitedly took off on the trail again, and about 20' later the deer came back and took off down the trail in front of us. Then a few more came out and all of the sudden the bushes and trees were shaking from all of them bouncing around in them. At this point I was a bit freaked out, but enjoying it, too. Then it all just stopped and off we went again.
As we got to the end of the hike, the kids were trailing behind me a bit. I quietly walked, lost in my thoughts. I felt happy to be there and to be celebrating this woman whom I had spent my entire life with. It does feel like a new life for me now, with a new identity as someone who no longer has a sister physically with me. I do feel her presence though. I'm lucky enough to be one of those highly sensitive kinds. I feel things intensely. And this hike was intense for me emotionally for sure. As I stopped to see how far the kids were behind me, I took another look around at the majestic mountains of Mt. Whitney, and the beauty of everything around me. Then I looked down and found another feather just laying there next to my shoe. I looked up and smiled, grateful that she came along with us that day.