"Well, that's not good." I had just felt a strange prickling sensation on the side of my flip flop clad foot. I suppose those words were an understatement to Rob as I pointed out the scorpion running away from my shaking toes. He was on the picnic table before I was. Rob, not the scorpion. We were tired and hungry after a long drive from L.A. to Lone Pine. Our goal was to find a campsite near town instead of driving up to the walk-in backpacker campground for the Cottonwood Lakes trail we intended on tackling the next day. We had circled around the desolate campsite searching for a site with even a little shade. Finally, we parked and pulled out the food so I could make lunch before setting up the tent. The scorpion was the first I've seen. Rob laughed later at how I didn't miss a beat, kept making our Tofurky wraps and calmly told him we would not be sleeping there that night or probably ever...as if he wanted to after catching a glimpse of what he reported to be a very large scorpion (he saw them as a kid in Georgia and this one beat them out I guess). We ate sitting on the top of the table and then packed it all back up for our steep climb up the mountain.
Inyo National Forest is an elusive creature. The desert valley floor stretches for miles at it's feet as these granite mountains jut straight up daring adventurous souls to tackle their rough outer layers. Mt. Whitney looks condescendingly down on it all. You have to have a ticket to go on that ride. Cottonwood Lakes campground is at 10,000 ft. As the road snakes up the side of the mountains and sneaks into the trees, you're rewarded with not only magnificent views of the valley but peeks into the alpine wilderness that is to be your temporary refuge.
Rob and I have been there before. A few years ago we made this same trip but were much less prepared and in no shape for the hike to the Cottonwood Lakes. This time around we were able to spend the night before that ten miler which meant we were acclimated and ready to go earlier than if we'd stayed down with the scorpion. Up there, we only had to worry about bears.
We spent that first night just relishing the nearly empty grounds and the quiet. Living in Los Angeles can wear down the nerves. The only time I enjoy total silence in the city is at night when I put my earplugs in, and even then I still hear the wailing of the police siren and the hot rods squealing by at all hours. Rob and I sat in our camp chairs just listening to nothing and watching the sun go down. That first night was a hard one. My toes refused to get warm! I tried everything but it was just too cold. As usual I had to wake Rob up to walk me to the bathroom in the middle of the night (vault toilets are better than nothing) but it was worth the walk because I'm quite certain that the stars are prettiest between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. I believe it's because it's always darkest before dawn.
The next morning we excitedly prepared for our day of hiking and hit the trail before ten. I regaled Rob with show tunes until I couldn't sing and hike which was very disappointing for him. He loves playing my favorite game "name that movie". I promised him we could watch The Music Man and The Sound of Music as soon as we got home. In the meantime, we hiked, and oh what a glorious day for a hike! The sandy ground and sparse tree cover soon turned into meadows and streams and then the prettiest lakes to soak our tired feet in. We had lunch by the biggest of the Cottonwood Lakes and spent a while just absorbing it all. We wanted to stay forever, but the sun would set and we wanted to be back at camp before the cold hit. Even though I'll post pictures at the end of this post, they won't do any justice to mother nature in all her magical wonder. That second night was made quite comfortable when Rob remembered his toe warmers. We both stuck one down in the foot of our sleeping bags and were perfectly warm all night (except when I woke Rob up to go look at the stars at three).
Okay, you're wondering about that title now aren't you? A little bit? You know about the scorpion but what about that "peeing standing up" part? The short answer is, I peed standing up. If you don't want to hear the long answer...skip to the end. If you do: I am the owner of an interesting little invention called "The Freshette". It's purpose is to allow women to pee as the boys do. It revolutionized my hike. I won't go into detail, but I will say that for the first time I wasn't holding it until I was in pain. I used my new device whenever I felt the urge to go and for once I was able to enjoy the entire hike! The first time I used it, I was at a loss for words to explain to Rob what it felt like. All I could say was that lots of girls always wonder what it would be like to pee like a boy (it's not just me right?) and now I know. Ladies, it's way easier. No more waiting until my bladder is about to burst and then trying to find a very hidden spot where I have to bare it all and try not to splatter on my shoes. Hey you were warned to skip to the end...