Doug Harpole at Mount Whitney.jpg

Fauquier County resident Doug Harpole is over 700 miles into his extraordinary journey.

Amissville resident Doug Harpole’s steady ascent along the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail continues to go challengingly well.

Harpole, 61, a cheerful and dedicated outdoors- man with a Virginia Tech masters degree, cleared the Los Angeles area mountains last month and is near Bakersfield. Recently, he took a detour to climb Mt. Whitney, which at 14,505 feet is the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

Here are excerpts from a recent email:

“Hi all, it’s been an amazing few weeks. Today I’m in Bishop taking a true zero (mileage day), absolutely nothing to do but sit in the shade. The desert is done and everyone has had enough. The wind in the last 200 miles was brutal. Just a week into the Sierras and it’s been magnificent but cold (20s at night). But it’s been pretty physically demanding.

Mt. Whitney is a side trip off the PCT. We camped at about 10,000 feet and seven miles from the summit. We got up before dawn and our ascent was spectacular. It was beautiful to see mountains around us on the way up and then to be able to look down on them later from the Whitney summit. Many, many lakes. Most of the snow was melted.

Valkyrie (he is trekking with a Danish friend, Nadine Bruhn, 36, he met while hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2018) was not feeling well and we stopped about a mile from the summit. We ran into some friends descending and she decided to go back with them and I continued alone.

As expected the views were great but I think that more than anything I was just excited about the accomplishment and the fact that I was standing so high up. I had lunch and returned to camp. Whitney must be a special place. I know of two marriage proposals that took place the day I was up there. One at the summit and one that was halfway up because the bride-to-be couldn’t finish the climb. A day later the trail goes over Forester Pass (13,120 feet). This is the highest point on the actual PCT. I thought it was more fun and beautiful than Whitney.

We were hiking with a young German couple and treading slowly and carefully down. I noticed a little chute where people had been glissading, so without saying anything, I stepped a few feet over, sat down, and then shot about 200 feet down the mountain be- fore my friends knew what was happening.

I almost took out another hiker near the end of my ride. Before starting the trail, I had told myself that at my age, I didn’t need to risk injury glissading, but it was the best slide I’ve ever been on. I had a thoroughly soaked and frozen butt afterwards. My friends then followed.

We continued that day to a side trail that would take us over Kearsarge Pass (11,791 feet) and into town.

Physically I have felt great the entire trip. I can honestly say that I haven’t had any muscle sore- ness until this week. Right now I feel pretty beat up (sore legs, shoulders, upper arms, and back).

My feet don’t hurt like they did on the AT but my toes have taken a beating. I’ve worn the same model shoes since the AT but when I bought a replacement pair after 500 miles the new model of the shoe is slightly different and my toes have gotten really torn up. I lost a couple of toenails but nothing that has slowed my hiking. They’re not as painful as they look.

Once again I will reiterate how many international hikers there are. When we got to town yesterday we went straight to the brewery for ‘lunch.’ At our table of 10, three were Americans. The others were all European with one Argentinian.

Again, resupply has been more difficult be- cause towns are farther apart and smaller than on the AT. And many towns are miles from the trail. But at least now water is everywhere! No more having to carry six liters (12 extra pounds!).

Whenever I can find them I pack out a bag of mini sweet peppers and Valkyrie gets baby carrots and we share. Next to Snickers, it’s the highlight of our food supply. I’ve stepped on a few scales and appear to have lost 10-15 pounds. No surprise.

I feel really strong and can run up and down the trail like a mountain goat. The elevations and slopes have slowed Valkyrie but this has allowed me more time to devote to birding (over 80 species identified) and botanizing.

Birding is fantastic but tree ID has been frustrating. We are approaching an area than has some of the highest conifer diversity in the world.”

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