The wind grew fiercer as we approached Bird Spring Pass, and the morning was icy cold. We stumbled up the trail wearing rain jackets and gloves, but my fingers and toes were still numb with cold. Climbing with the wind to my back, my sleeping pad acted as a kite, catching the wind and propelling me forward. Gusts felt like a person behind me had just given me a hard shove.
But heading into the wind was infinitely worse. I tried to hunch over, compacting my body as low to the ground as possible. With my hiking poles, I became a new four-legged animal, keeping at least three points of contact with the ground at all times. Even the pinyon pines were swaying in the wind. Strong gusts picked up sand and gravel, and then pelted us with the tiny pieces blowing in the air.
I expected to be stunned by my first view of the Sierra Nevada mountains. But the distant blue hills visible from the ridge didn't really resemble the rugged, often snow-capped mountains near my home.
We continued through a pinyon pine forest with large granite boulders and an occasional oak. And when we reached our second view of the Sierra Nevada mountains, with blue hills and mountains stretching out as far as the eye can see, the mountains began to feel more familiar.
We reached Walker Pass (elevation 5,246 feet) in late afternoon, excited to be entering the mountains tomorrow.