(I just got back from vacation! We hiked, camped, stayed with family and friends, and generally had a fantastic time running around Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. I'll tell you about some of the hikes we did later.)
June 2nd, Monday
670ish to a 690-something
It was a day of more desert, but we knew that if we booked some miles today, we’d be within easy striking distance of Kennedy Meadows the next morning. We passed the spring where we’d refilled the night before, and continued on. The desert felt monotonous, even with trees occasionally breaking things up. Zach and I stopped at a road that led to a campground, and followed the road half a mile in search of water. We found none, but did find an outhouse, which was always a welcome surprise. We cooked our food on a picnic table, trying to shield it from the wind.
We met a curly-headed guy and his sweet blonde-haired girlfriend there. I think their names were Phil and Ashley. We also met an older German couple who were driving into remote campgrounds and day-hiking as much of the PCT as they could.
Back at the road, we discovered a cooler full of beer. Zach drank some and said it wasn’t very good, but it was better than water (Zach hates water). There was a nice shaded pool of water there (which we had managed to overlook on our way in), and I soaked my feet and was able to do sock laundry.
|I told Zach, "Look drunk."|
I was in a sour mood, but we continued plodding along. Near the end of the day, we entered a vast burned area. I figured that we were almost done with burn areas (HAHAHAHA! I was so naive). But with the setting sun and the cool air and the burnt blueness of the sky, I began to feel a bit better. Zach and I sailed through the miles as we wove through the deep shoulders of the burned mountains.
At last, we decided to camp. We scoped out some places, trying in vain to get out of the wind. At last, we set up our tent in the lee of a squat pine tree. We didn’t want to battle the wind to cook, so we just cut up summer sausage and ate it plain.
We knew that by this time, we were in bear country (though they weren’t likely to be hanging out in the burned woods). Still, it was probably a really bad idea to eat summer sausage in our tent!
Despite the trials of the day, I felt excitement and peace as we bedded down for the night. Tomorrow we would get to Kennedy Meadows. The end of the desert. The beginning of the Sierra. Tomorrow, we would be done with the first leg of the trail.
That night, I woke up in the middle of the night, and the Milky Way was so bright, I could see it through the mesh of our tent.
June 3rd, Tuesday
That morning we continued walking through the burn area, which seemed less friendly in the sharp morning light. The trail taunted us, skirting the very edge of the live forest while still keeping us among the blackened, shadeless trees. I felt hot and grumpy again.
At last, the trail delved into the cool shade of living conifers, and soon we were walking beside an honest-to-goodness creek. Not a trickling spring, not a pipe sticking out of a block of rock, but a creek that wound, deep blue, among banks covered in willow and vines. Despite our determination to get to Kennedy Meadows, we paused at this, the Kern River, and soaked our feet. It was cold and refreshing.
Before long, we continued on. We got to the road, dusty but paved, and turned to the right. A sign welcomed us to Kennedy Meadows and told us to drive slow. It was a tiny mountain town, where every trailer and shed was run on a generator or solar energy. We walked along the road and saw, perched on a nearby hill, the infamous unofficial beginning of the Sierra, the Kennedy Meadows General Store. It was a ramshackle building of dark wood with an expansive back deck stuffed to the gills with hikers.
“Hikers!” someone shouted, and everyone clapped us in, cheering for us, making us feel like stars. We waved our trekking poles in the air and gave victory woo-hoo!s.
We had made it to Kennedy Meadows— and, by extension, the most difficult, terrifying, and character-building part of the trail: the High Sierra.