It was hard to leave Jacob, but there was a lot more trail to hike and after resting for two days, it was nice to head off again. Horizon, Merkel, and I were a fellowship again and were ready for anything. We climbed several hills and started getting into interesting landscapes.
We hiked 30 miles that day and camped in a beautiful campground that was completely empty.
The next day I got up early and headed out before the other two were up. I hiked the 20 miles to Kennedy Meadows alone and encountered two snakes along the way, one a rattle snake directly on the trail.
Kennedy Meadows is a small community at the southern end of the Sierras, and is one of the major resupply spots since the mountains are colder and hikers have to carry bear cans for much of the next 350 miles.
After taking two days off, I wasn’t expecting to see any of the hikers that Jacob and I fed at Walker Pass, but as I approached the general store, I heard someone call my name and I saw the whole crew there: Magic Man, Jolly, Fox Trot, Bigfoot, Tin Tin, Camel, Magoo, Magee, Kinetic and some other hikers I only knew from the trail registers: Mr. White, Barefoot, Monk, Cruise Control and others
Kennedy Meadows is like a vortex for hikers. The set up is nice with free camping, showers, laundry, and a place to charge your phone and it is hard to leave that for the cold mountains. We even had a fire in the evening and roasted marshmallows.
I had already done my resupply and gear changes at walker pass so I was ready to head out the next day. Horizon was waiting for a package and Merkel decided to take a zero, so I headed off with a group of young guys into the Sierras.
Finally, we left the desert! In the 20 miles we hiked that day, we gained 4,000 feet of elevation and camped near 10,000 feet.
The next morning, I woke up early and was packed up before most of the others were awake so I headed off by myself, thinking they would catch up later.
After just one day and night in the mountains, I was so glad for the following gear changes:
1) my 15 degree sleeping bag. It is so awesome and I would not be sleeping as well without it.
2) my new tent, which actually touches the ground and has a zipper. It protects me from the elements better than the tarp I was using.
3) my trekking poles, which have already saved me from tripping over rocks.
After a few hours, Fox Trot caught up with me and we sort of hiked together. By sort of, I mean that he hikes faster than me and that I would catch up with him when he stopped to rest.
In the mid afternoon, it started to snow lightly and by 4 pm it was pretty consistent so Fox Trot and I decided to set up camp before it got worse. The other guys never caught up that day. It snowed the rest of the day and most of the night.
When I awoke the next morning, there was 3-4 inches of fresh powder on the ground. It was a winter wonderland.
I had Christmas songs stuck in my head all day.
But snow also makes your feet cold and wet when you are just wearing trail running shoes. My feet were cold and wet all day. Sometimes my fingers were numb too, but that came and went. Despite this, it was the best day yet on the trail because Fox Trot broke trail for me all day and I just had to follow in his footsteps.
It is stunning here and these pictures can’t even begin to describe the beauty, so I won’t even attempt it with words.
After walking through snow for most of the day, we dropped low enough to find a campsite that was dry, which was a super bonus.
The next day was more of the same amazing mountains, with a bit less snow.
The day after that though, was the big time: Forester pass, which at 13,100 feet is the highest point on the PCT.
Above about 12,000 feet everything was snow covered and Fox Trot and I lost the trail several times. We got nearly a mile off trail up an incorrect valley before we corrected ourselves. And when we saw the pass, we thought there was no way that could be the correct one. We couldn’t see the trail at all and it looked like an impossible approach. But once we scrambled over some rocks we found the trail and we able to follow the switchbacks up. We only lost about three hours being lost, but that is all part of the adventure.
My phone ran out of batteries so I don’t have any more photos easily available, but suffice it to say we couldn’t see the trail on the north side of the pass at all and ended up going straight down the mountain, post holing along the way. We had orientated ourselves while up high and knew where we had to go approximately but ended up taking a different route from the trail.
Finally, we found the trail again and pretty easily followed it for another 8 miles snow free. In the last mile we climbed up 1,000 feet again and called it a day; both of us were exhausted with the climbing and route finding.
And finally, today we hiked 7.5 miles, up 1,200 feet, over Kearsage pass, then down nearly 3,000 feet to Onion Valley where we got a ride to Independence, California, a small town on the East side of the Sierras.
Tomorrow we’ll headed back into the mountains and my adventures will continue. I probably won’t be able to post again for a few weeks, but I’ll be out there, eating miles for breakfast.