Meanwhile, down the trail at Glen Aulin, we had barely set up our tents when a mother bear and cub decided to visit. The bears of Glen Aulin are infamous for their persistence and these two had steak dinner on their mind. Each time we chased them away they came back. Over the years, I have had numerous encounters with bears and these guys were scary. A mother with a cub can be particularly dangerous. Finally I stacked up wood to build a teepee fire and waited. When the mother came strolling into our camp for the fourth time, I threw white gas on the wood, stood back, and tossed in a match. Poof! As instant flames lit up the night the bears hightailed it out of camp at sonic boom speed… and didn’t come back.
Unfortunately the bear did get Clay’s can of Guinness Stout that was cooling in the river. Clay asked me the next morning how I knew it was his beer and not mine. I told him it was easy. His was the can that had been punctured by bear teeth and was empty. Clay has kept the can forever as a reminder of his father-in-law’s sneaky ways.
The next part of my trip was from Devil’s Postpile National Monument to Bishop following the John Muir Trail. It was beautiful but without incidence. I was very careful, though. Once I was charging down John Muir Pass following Peggy and sprained my ankle. It was a long, painful 84 miles to the top of Whitney.
My nephew Jay joined me for the last section of the hike. He was 16 years old at the time and all legs. Our route incorporated a significant part of the same trail that I had hiked over when injured. It’s a lot easier without a sprained ankle. Believe me. Jay and I were zipping along by the time we reached Whitney. His youth and 50 miles of backpacking combined with my experience and 300 plus miles of backpacking made us just about equal. We caught a group of 20 to 30 year-old trail runners a quarter of a mile from the top and passed them. The runners were severely irked (or maybe it was impressed) that a kid and an ‘old’ guy beat them to the summit. They kept looking over at us and mumbling among themselves.
Reaching the top under any circumstance is a significant accomplishment. We broke out lunch, enjoyed the incredible views back along the trail, and looked down into the far-distant Owens Valley. Finally, it was time to hike down the mountain and meet Peggy and Jay’s dad, John, who were waiting for us at Whitney Portal. My 60th birthday celebration came to an end with two great gifts: a mouth-watering hamburger and a hot shower.