Then I hurt my knee and told Rig the trip might have to wait for another year. The more I thought about it, the less fair I thought it was that Rigdon would miss the highlight of his summer for my bad decision. So I decided I would have to man up and take him this year. If Rigdon was that eager to venture up Whitney I could risk the fact that my knee might not be 100% yet.
Rig is ready for action. I should have had him commandeer the mysterious boots in the picture because his Nikes became a major liability on the slippery snow.
We were lucky to be there for some fall foliage.
Still all smiles probably 2 miles in.
The logs were no doubt one of Rigdon's favorite parts of the hike.
Rigdon asked if I thought we could take home a Christmas tree.
"Dude, I know I'm already carrying gear and food for both of us on an injured leg but I do have my limits. Plus I think there might be a rule against that."
The hike was full of surreal scenery as you will see in the pictures to come.
The massive white granite walls never get old.
Rig is like a little Ansel Adams. He takes in all the beauty of the outdoors and loves every bit of it.
Most of the hike was under cloud cover and light sprinkles. This was the first time we saw the sun so we decided to take a picture.
Finally at high camp, 12,000 ft.
View from the tent.
Mt. Whitney was yet to show us her face. She hid it under a veil of clouds the whole day.
This is as the sun sat before a restless night of lightning and thunder that would scare the heck out of both of us. I had never been that close to lightning with only a tent as protection, it was at least a little disconcerting for me and I think may have brought some 9 year olds to tears. Luckily Rigdon wasn't one of them. We both laughed it off by morning when the sun came out.
Rig is looking about as well rested as I felt.
Luckily mom made us bring toothbrushes or we wouldn't have had anything to eat with.
The weather made for epic scenery in every direction.
This is the last place to pump water before the summit. The best thing about backpacking with a 9 year old is they beg to pump the water. (Notice Whitney still veiled in the background.)
Seriously, you couldn't photoshop more epic scenery.
Finally, just for a moment, Whitney unveiled her wretched face to try and intimidate the little guy.
As we approached 13,000 ft, it started to be a struggle for Rig. I hadn't gotten him to eat much of a breakfast off the toothbrush, neither of us slept much, and he was trying to go from 1400 ft that we live at to 14,000 ft. I was starting to wonder if I had gotten him in over his head. I began to doubt if he would make it.
It was a struggle but Rig made it to 13,500 and we got the view into Sequoia National Park. With 3 miles and the toughest 1000 ft left, Rig said he had a headache and felt like he might throw up (Altitude Sickness). I had someone take this picture of us together in case this was as close as we got to the summit. I asked Rig if he wanted to turn around and go back, but he said he wanted to keep going.
This was the last view we got before the weather turned almost instantly nasty.
(As a side note I have a picture of Rocky in front of this exact piece of scenery and Rocky looks much more worn than Rig.)
Snow started to fall and Rigdon's treadless Nikes put him at another disadvantage.
Rigdon slipped and stumbled up the increasingly rocky trail. He banged his knees and ankles over and over. It was painful to watch. I asked him if he wanted to turn around at least five more times, and a couple of the times I almost hoped he would actually take me up on it. But every time he told me he wanted to make it.
The conditions continued to deteriorate which just made things more miserable. The snow started to fall fast enough that it was hard to follow the footprints of the people who were just minutes ahead of us. My watch said we were getting close but with visibility at almost total whiteout conditions we didn't see the hut at the top until we were probably 20 yards away.
When we stepped inside the hut there were about 20 people already in there trying to warm up. When they saw tiny Rigdon had made it to the top they all applauded and cheered. My eyes swelled with tears I was so proud.
Unfortunately the hike was only half way over. It was still a struggle back down especially the next 3 miles until we got below the snow line that was getting deeper by the minute. As I watched Rigdon labor back through the rocky snow, banging his knees and ankles just as many times as he had on the trip up, I continued to be more impressed with what Rigdon had shown me that day. I'm sure other 9 year-olds could have made it look easier, but the fact that Rigdon struggled like he did and still wouldn't quit, spoke volumes to me. I couldn't help but remember earlier this summer when I had given Rigdon a hard time because he wouldn't do a flip off the side of the pool and Livi would. What a fool I felt like now as I had watched Rigdon display such courage and toughness. Because of some mixture of how proud I was of him and how foolish I felt for my comments earlier in the summer, I just hiked behind Rigdon in silence and cried like a little girl.
Rigdon made a believer out of me. I will never doubt his spirit again.
P.S. Don't tell Rigdon about the crying part, he thought I could have really carried a christmas tree out.