Now it is time to find a ride into Lone Pine. I ask about Bob Ennis, but no one has seen him, “He usually checks in at the store” says the woman at counter, and make a phone call, but no one answers, so I walk the parking lot and ask about a ride. I run into 2 guys we met in the Smithsonian Hut and they agree to give us a lift into town.
At the Whitney Portal Hostel I collect my box, pay up, and go to take a shower. Jon meanwhile tries calling his friend who is driving in from San Francisco. He is worried that he won’t make it since Hwy 120 through Yosemite, the most direct route from San Francisco, is closed due a fire. No worries though. When I get back to the lobby after my shower I learn Jon has connected and his friend is on his way.
Now it is my turn to worry; is YARTS running into Yosemite? There is no status update on the website. I walk a couple blocks to a payphone and call, but there is no mention on their recorded message. And when I confirm with Mt Whitney Shuttle, they likewise have no idea. There is nothing I can do, but hope for the best. I may as well enjoy my evening in Lone Pine and deal with whatever tomorrow morning.
Jon’s friend arrives and just like that, my hiking partner is gone. Well not that fast; a minute or so after Jon leaves, he re-enters the lobby and gives me a parting gift: a stick of fennel salami; appropriate. I usually make it to San Francisco once a year. Next time out I’ll give him a call.
I go up to the room, talk to the guys there, 5 of them planning to day hike Mt Whitney tomorrow, and then walk about downtown Lone Pine. I buy a box of Benadryl at the Lone Pine Drug Store, quaint old-timey feel, and check the menus at Bonanza (used to be Bobo’s) and Season’s, but settle in for dinner at the Pizza Factory ordering a calzone and a pitcher of beer. I claim a seat near the television and watch UCLA beat up on San Diego State.
About halfway through my meal Ryan walks up with his girlfriend, Kathryn, and asks if they can join. Ryan and I recount our hikes, drink beer, talk about what gear and food worked out well, drink beer, what didn’t, and drink more beer. All the while Kathryn sits there, says a bit every now and then, and seems genuinely interested. Ryan is blessed. Man it’s been a long time since I had a woman look at me the way she looks at him. (edit: Ryan and Kathryn were married on December 5th.)
Officially full of beer I excuse myself and head across the street to get some sleep; it is almost 10:00 and my ride comes early, 4:45am, in the morning. Everyone in the dorm is already in bed, so quietly I set the alarm to 4:00 and climb into my bunk.
I wake up to a little noise and some shuffling by headlamp; the guys are up and getting ready for their hike. They don’t take long and are off. I toss and turn, debating whether I should go back to sleep. In reality I am afraid to go back to sleep, afraid I’ll really crash and sleep through the alarm and miss my ride. So at 3:00 I am up washed, packed, and pacing back and forth in front of the hostel. Finally, at 4:45, right on time, Bob Ennis shows up. I load my pack, offer the fare; “Pay me when I get you there on time,” and am on the way to Mammoth Lakes.
Bob’s been running the shuttle for a few years and business is growing. No surprise, a reliable shuttle service is a godsend; it certainly made logistics of this trip easier. Bob advises me about the Hwy 120 road closure and hands me the most recent report, but still no indication on whether YARTS is running. Just in case, he gives me the number for a taxi service I can hire in Mammoth for a ride to Tuolumne Meadows. We arrive at the Shilo Inn Mammoth Lakes just after 6:00. Now I pay and thank him for the ride.
I should be golden, but I have just $3.00 and I know the fare to Yosemite is more than that. I have a credit card for which I don’t have a PIN and my debit card is back in the car. I spend the better part of an hour on the phone at the Shell Station next door trying to get a PIN assigned so I can take a cash advance. I am successful to the point, after several dropped calls and myriad service agents, of finding the right person to talk to, but one small problem “You are not calling from the phone number associated with this card, I will mail you a PIN.” I say, but don’t mean “Thank you very much.” I do have a PIN now though.
And then out of nowhere a friend of the station attendant spots me enough cash. I am effusively thankful. I think back two weeks and Katie’s statement, “Hikers have good karma.” I think back one week and Marti talking about Trail Angels. Yes and yes, and I know that at this very moment I’ve been provided for by the hand of God.
I gather with 5 others at the bus stop and we are all pleased when the bus arrives. It will go only to Crane Flat, where the road is closed. A dad and his sons will hike 11 miles from Crane Flat to the Valley to get their car; I’m glad I parked at Tuolumne Meadows. 9:00am and all is well. I have the car, a cup of coffee from the grill, and am on my way home; and watching for hitch hikers.
I detour into the Mammoth Lakes, get some cash, and drop by the Shell Station. The attendant remembers me and I give her money to repay her friend; with interest, and thanks. From there it is on to Bishop and Schat’s Bakery for some Sheepherder Bread and then to Lone Pine’s Mt Whitney Restaurant for lunch (yes a hamburger; they claim to have the best in town), and a stop for gas. At the Carl’s Jr Gas Station I meet two JMT thru-hikers, fresh off the trail, thumbing for a lift to Bakersfield. I offer a ride to Ridgecrest, but they decline thinking they’ll have better luck scoring a ride in Lone Pine. One block down the road I see Ryan and Kathryn checking out the shops and pull over to say hello/goodbye. Now I am really on the way home.
The drive is rather uneventful. I stop for the night in Hemet, about halfway home, not so much needing the rest but to check in on my dad and take him to dinner. Usually when I have him one on one he likes to go out for a steak dinner and I have been salivating since lunch about a medium rare porterhouse. But tonight he wants a Denny’s Grand Slam. What are you going to do? You treat your 86 year old dad to Denny’s and you enjoy the time with him.
I am up early, so is dad. I visit for an hour and then it is goodbye. I’ll see him again Thanksgiving weekend when he turns 87. Five hours later I’m home. I greet my son, wish him a happy 20th birthday, kiss my wife, and ask about her last two weeks.