The Dark Side of The Force

This entry jumps significantly forward to trip #5 (2009). Of my 6 attempts, this is the only one which I tried the climb as a two-day backpacking trip instead of the one-day hike. But this excerpt takes place as I arrive at the Whitney Portal Campground a mile below the trailhead. Here I’ll acclimate for two days before the hike. Checkout time at the campsites is 2:00 and I’m a bit early. In past years, the previous campers had been gone by the time I arrived, but such wasn’t the case in this instance. Arriving at 1:00, I found my campsite still occupied and just spent the last 45 minutes at the Portal Store near the trailhead having lunch. As I did on trip #3 (2005), I made the trip alone.

The view of Mt. Whitney from Whitney Portal Road



Wednesday, August 5, 2009, Whitney Portal, CA

At 1:45, I get back in my truck and drive back from the Whitney Portal Store to the campground one mile down the road and I’m dismayed to find that the campers have still not yet vacated the site. There’s a Honda Accord in the parking spot in front of the boulders that separate the road from campsite #8 (aka, Victor’s Personal Heaven). I confirm that my name is on the sheet for today, 8/5 and tomorrow, 8/6. I drive out of the campground and park on the shoulder of the road east of the entrance. Even though I’m technically early, I’m antsy as hell and finding these would-be squatters, which they will be in about 10 minutes, is a supreme challenge to my Zen-ness.

At 2:05, not yet having seen the Honda drive past, I decide to press the issue and ask the campers when they plan on leaving, just in case they aren’t aware of the check-out time and that the next camper is nearby, chewing on his steering wheel as the seconds tick by. When I drive back in and pull up to the site, I see a young slender man placing bags in the car. I have my window rolled down, so I ask him how much longer he thinks he’ll be and as diplomatically as I can, I remind him of the 2:00 checkout time. He apologizes and says it’ll be no more than 10 minutes. Not wanting to seem like a stressed out, impatient flatlander, I abstain from offering to expedite his packing. Instead, through a jaw clenched so tight that I can almost smell enamel burning, I say, “ok” and drive back to my spot on the road. From my front seat, using my telekinetic powers, I endeavor to extract the lead from the campers’ asses.


About victorvolta

I am a freelance photographer/writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the very suburban city of Santa Clara. Education: San Jose State University (class of '84) BA degree in Journalism with concentrations in Photojournalism and English. Favorite Foods: Ribeye steaks and Stan's Doughnuts (separate plates, usually). Favorite Drinks: Strong gourmet coffee and Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda (separate cups).
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