04 Jun Walker Pass and Kennedy Meadows
I descended on Friday morning from the brutal winds to Walker Pass. I was without water and looking forward to resting for an hour or so. When I approached the trail to the campground I see a sign reading “Trail Magic. Come on down.” Don’t mind if I do.
Walking down to the camp area I was greeted by some amazing trail angels. Meadow Ed, Jackalope, and Yogi were running a canopy full of cheeseburgers, Gatorades, water, sodas, milkshakes. It was amazing. The angels I mention are trail famous. Yogi writes the ultimate guide to the PCT. I was starstruck to say the least.
Stars and all, I’m not one to get pulled from the trail for too long. After scarfing down my share of cheeseburgers and sodas, Birdman and I were off!
Off getting lost in the heat of the day. For the first time on the trip, I was lost. We crossed the road and took the wrong trail. It was a total lapse in judgement and I blame the sodas. Roofies. Making matters worse, we were both without maps for this section. So, mapless, once we decided we weren’t on the PCT, we began to bushwhack in the direction we thought the trail was straight up the steep hillside. After 20 mins and no sign of the trail, Birdman remembered he had a set of Forest Service wall maps of the PCT. We pulled them out and quickly realized we were going up the wrong side of the mountain. Back down to the road, an hour wasted, and our excitement tempered a bit.
We would put in 11 miles that evening settling in just as the last light waned. The next day would be a haul. We both felt good and had some significant climbing ahead of us. In the early afternoon we had already tackled 20+ miles and found ourselves at a cache of Tecates, Orange Sodas, and water supplied by a past hiker named Bandit. I had one of each (maybe two Tecates…who’s to say really). We decided with plenty of day left, that we’d climb another 2000ft over 6 miles.
We made quick time and before we knew it we were in the midst of an old burn. No good spots for camping. We joked just as we entered the burn zone that we weren’t sure when we’d end up walking 30 miles in a day and that when we did we probably wouldn’t realize it. Well, you can guess what happened next. We stumbled through the burn in search of camping. Finally coming out of it, exhausted, we found a spot and set up camp. Consulting other campers (with maps) in the morning, we’d find out we had put in just under 31 miles in the day.
That morning, Sunday, we’d stroll a casual 8-9 miles to mile 702 of the PCT, into Kennedy Meadows General Store leaving the desert behind us for good.
At the General Store, awaiting me were packages of food I’d sent myself, new shoes from home (thanks, Ma), and a care package from Kevin (thanks, Bub – I had to forward from Mojave cuz I was there on Memorial day). But, something was missing.
Kennedy Meadows is the gateway to the Sierras. High elevations with ruthless marmots, bloodthirsty Bears and treacherous snow passes supposedly await me. And so, I had planned to receive a Bearvault and some snow gear. Nothing of the sorts was there for me though. A call home cleared it up. Through my sporadic mix of texts and email instructions, somehow, the pre-packaged box of supplies never got sent. I spent the afternoon trying to figure out a game plan – while still doing laundry, showering, eating three meals in as many hours and polishing of at least 4 Sioux City Sarsaparillas.
After a few phone calls, I got a hold of the amazing guy at Bearvault (on a Sunday, mind you) and convinced him to let me take one of the bear cannisters there that was reserved for another hiker. He’d ship another promptly for the other person. With regards to the rest of the package, I decided to face the Southern Sierras without much warm gear and without Microspikes or crampons. Time will tell how wise that is.
Either way, after a frantic afternoon, I was able to feel ready to set out the next day towards the Sierras.
As I write this, I’m camped at almost 11000 feet. We’ve climbed 46 miles into the Sierras from Kennedy. Tomorrow, Wednesday, we’ll position ourselves to summit Mount Whitney on Thursday morning for the sunrise.