Showered and resupplied for another week. Storms are moving through the mountains, but back into them I go. A quick overnight in town has let me do all the needed tasks, like food, showering and laundry. After a few amazing days that included climbing Mt Whitney and Forester Pass, I enjoyed briefly feeling human once again. The High Sierra's have proven to be as amazing as everyone said they would be. Taking one mountain at a time and enjoying the beauty around me.
As the gateway to the High Sierra's, Kennedy Meadows means the start of something new - terrain changes, temperature changes, and most importantly the views change. After 700 miles of high desert terrain, I am ready for a new look. I actually enjoyed going through the Mojave, though I didn't think that I would. My enjoyment came from hiking a bit slower with a group of hikers, and that allowed me to relax and enjoy the very late nights (hiking till 2 am one time to avoid the brutal heat) and the seemingly endless stretches of burned forests, sand-box-like desert floor, and long water carries from water cache to water cache. My posse consisted loosely of the "Mojave Misfits" as we took to calling ourselves. There was "10-4" a guy from San Diego, "Badass" and "Train Monkey" two girls from Alaska, another girl "Sheepdog" from Toronto, and myself now called "Naturally Caffeinated" due to my sometimes annoying habit of waking up at 4am and immediately being ready to hike and enjoy the day. I've seen 5 bears (4 of them juvenile cubs, and two of those were brown bear cubs), a dozen rattlesnakes or so, and even spooked a bobcat yesterday on the way into Kennedy Meadows. With the temps dropping as we climb up over 8 or 9,000 ft now, I'm preparing for this very long stretch of carrying almost 10 days of food and supplies - including a bear canister. This will be by far the most I've ever carried on a long hike, and I'm sure my body won't be very appreciative. On the plus side, there will be some possible bail-out points along the way, if I eat through my food too fast, or simply need a break. I plan on taking an Aleve every morning for the 10 days I'm up in the mountains, to hopefully help prevent any altitude sickness. After just 60 miles or so of hiking, I'll be taking a day to do a side trip to climb Mount Whitney, which will be the first 14'er (over 14,000 foot) mountain that I've ever climbed - needless to say I'm stoked!
I seem to be fairly close to staying on my tentative schedule, and having left the border on May 19th, and arrived here in Kennedy Meadows on June 19th makes this first month out on the trail a rousing success! It has been nothing like any hiking I've ever done, but it has been amazing to have experienced none the less. There are certainly days where it is more of a type 2 (hard to do, fun to talk about later) kind of enjoyment rather than a type 1 (fun to do, fun to talk about), but that is all part of the experience - the great, the good, the bad, and the very ugly. Without a single drop of rain since I've landed in California, I have enjoyed many a great night sky.
My Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform I SW tent has been my second favorite item thus far (my pillow still takes the number one spot) and I've slept in it about 20 nights thus far. No condensation issues and it is very roomy for a single person that likes to toss and turn around at night. I've been using a single trekking pole for the front support, and have found that my trekking umbrella (Euroschirm/Golite chrome dome) fits the rear support perfectly. Little bit of wear on my backpack, but thus far have been very impressed with how well all my gear has worked out. A big thanks to the customer service at Sawyer Filters for getting back to my quickly and sending me out a free replacement seal for my filter after I lost it a couple weeks ago.
After a day of rest, my body feels just like when I began this journey, healthy and ready to go. I have lost about 12 lbs from when I began, but I anticipated that and sent larger food boxes to myself during this next stretch of trail. BIG thanks to the many trail angels who have been so amazing along this journey - To Ziggy and the Bear and the Saufley's for an amazing setup for hikers, for trail angels shuttling me into towns, to Layney for home-baked cookies, to all the postal employees for putting up with this smelly crowd, to Richard for the generous use of his very nice bear canister, and to the people who maintain hundreds of gallons of water in the middle of the desert so that hikers like myself don't die trying to find water. You all make this trail possible - and I appreciate it very much! Cheers from the PCT, "Naturally Caffeinated"
Enjoying my final rest before heading into the last stretch of Mojave. The elevation is getting substantial as I wind my way into the High Sierra's and my next resupply at Kennedy Meadows. I've enjoyed the utter strangeness of the desert, but will not miss the brutal heat, night hiking until 2 am, or the 18 mile stretches between water. My body has been holding up very well, and my goal is to arrive at the High Sierra without injury.
Getting a hitch past the fire area, and getting up to Hiker Town to continue this journey! Half of a chocolate cream pie and still alive :-) Food later and sleeping on a nice cot for the evening ! Desert hiking has its nice moments, but this New Englander is excited for the Sierras !
The heat and general toll on the body that hiking in the desert in summer involves is not to be under estimated. Enjoyed some nice views and meeting fellow hikers, but the overall experience of the desert is one of passing through an uninhabitable land. Looking forward to Aqua Dulce and moving toward the High Sierras! I'll update when I'm in town next. Till then, drink water and hike in the cool of early morning and late night!