Day 22: Kennedy Meadows

Start: Mile 689.2

End: Mile 702.2

Miles Hikes = 13.0

When Donna and I started this section hike over one month ago, our goal was to reach Kennedy Meadows. So this morning, I was excited to hike the final thirteen miles and complete the southern most 702 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Donna, despite her knee problems, completed almost 400 of these miles.

I knew today would be a relatively easy hike – it was downhill for the first few miles and with some minor up and downs for the last nine miles.

I again was up early and on the trail as the sun slowly rose higher in the clear blue skies over the southern Sierra.

At the bottom of the morning’s descent is Manter Creek where I met a nice young couple from Belgium that are also section hiking the PCT.

Their names are Augustine and Clementine. I started singing:

“Oh my darling, Oh my darling, Oh my darling Clementine”

I thought I was being so clever by introducing them to an old American western folk song.

“I’ve heard that so many times” said Clem.

So much for being a clever.

I continued hiking towards Kennedy Meadows and enjoyed the scenery in Rockhouse Basin and caught glimpses of the South Fork of the Kern River.

Eventually the trail got close enough to the river that I could see and hear the water cascading down the canyon.

Eventually I passed the 700 mile marker!

Soon I arrived at the General Store at Kennedy Meadows. As I approached the store I received the traditional applause from the hikers on the deck.

Several day’s ago, I arranged for an Uber driver to pick me up and drive me to Ridgecrest where I could rent a car and drive home. Shortly after arriving at the General Store, I received a text from the driver stating that he had hit a rock on the curvy road up to Kennedy Meadows and now his car had to be towed. Hmm???? I asked around and nobody knew anyone that I could hire. Also, there was no cell service, only weak WiFi at the general store. So, I decided that my only option was to try to hitch a ride. I didn’t like my chances – there had not been many cars go by on the main road down the hill.

No sooner had I walked out to the road and put my thumb out, I got a ride! Foy and Heather offered to take me down the hill and incredibly ended up taking me all the way to the Enterprise car rental office in Ridgecrest!!! I couldn’t believe my luck and how kind and generous they were to go out of their way to help me out.

There is a saying that “the Trail provides”. Maybe there is some truth to that but Foy and Heather just proved to me that there are damn nice people in this world that are willing to help people in need. Thank you Foy and Heather!!! You guys are amazing Trail Angels!!!

My only option is to be thankful for their kindness and find a way to pay it forward.

A few hours later I was home.

Thanks for reading.

Day 21: An Uphill Day

Start: Mile 668.7

End: Mile 689.2

Miles Hiked = 20.5

I camped at Spanish Needle Creek last night and slept well. As is typical, there were many other hikers camped nearby because of the water availability. I was up at dawn and hiking by 6:30. The skies were clear and it was cool, probably in the mid-40’s.

Usually I have an Pro Bar or Bobo’s Bar for my breakfast but when I was off the trail last week I picked up a Blueberry granola freeze-dried breakfast that I cold-soaked as I hiked. About two hours later, I stopped for a rest and ate it. It was OK – I think I put a little too much water in it. I’ll go back to my breakfast bars when I resupply.

I knew today’s hike was going to be challenging. I wanted to go about twenty miles so that I would have an easy hike tomorrow morning into Kennedy Meadows. The first five miles today were a steady uphill climb of about 2000 feet. Later this afternoon, after descending 1500 feet, I would have another climb of 2500 feet.

As I hiked this morning I enjoyed the views to the north and west – it was starting to feel like the Sierras.

When I reached the top there were nice views to the east.

Just prior to reaching Chimney Creek, where I would stop for lunch, the trail passed above a pretty meadow

I wasn’t looking forward to the 2500 foot climb this afternoon, but my legs felt felt stronger today and the afternoon’s hike went well. I stopped for water at Fox Mill Spring and filtered my water as usual, despite the warning.

Clouds rolled in but there wasn’t any rain today.

Finally I reached a nice place to camp which was about 2000 feet higher than yesterday’s camp, set up my tent and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Thanks for reading.

Day 20: Back on the Trail #3

Start: Mile 651.3

End: Mile 668.7

Miles Hiked = 17.4

One of the nice things about being a section hiker is that you can hop off the trail and not feel the pressure to grind out miles everyday. Several months ago Donna and I had committed to dog sit for my sister and her husband while they vacationed. They had taken care of our dog while we were on the trail so it was our turn to return the favor. Here I am with Tater (he’s from Idaho) – he thinks he’s a lap dog! Ellie is the little white furry dog and then there was Beau, our beagle.

Originally we had planned to reach Kennedy Meadows (KM) prior to our dog-sitting commitment, but Donna’s knee injury and weather issues had slowed us down. So this was the third and longest stint that I had been off trail since we began this section hike almost one month ago.

I was off the trail this time for ten days and only went for one short hike. But I did enjoy the time with Donna and her home cooking and some of my favorite wine. I also got to spend some time with my 93 year old father who lives near my sister. It was fifty years ago this summer that my Dad took me on my first backpacking trip in the Sierra’s. Been hooked ever since. Thanks Pop.

This morning Donna and I were up early and headed back to Walker Pass. I didn’t get started hiking until almost 10am and immediately started hiking uphill.

My legs struggled to perform to my expectations from several weeks ago. It’s amazing how fast us “old guys” loose our fitness.

I enjoyed nice views to the east towards Ridgecrest.

Shortly after I reached the top of the climb it started to rain. I pulled out my umbrella and continued hiking. The rain only lasted about thirty minutes and then cleared up.

I met several thru hikers today that had also been off the trail for the last week or so due to bad weather. A young couple from Germany used the time to visit Las Vegas – they didn’t like it very much. So I guess our dog sitting happened at the right time.

Later in the afternoon I passed a 1/4 marker next to the trail. It took me a minute to figure out that I had just completed 25% of the PCT (Mile 665).

I struggled up the last 800 foot climb before dropping down the last two miles to the next water source at Spanish Needle Creek.

Tomorrow’s going to be a challenging day – hopefully my legs will respond.

Thanks for reading.

Day 19: Sunrise to Sunset

Start: Mile 623.3

End: Mile 651.3

Miles Hiked = 28

I slept well last night in my little camp under the Joshua Trees. I was on the trail once again by 6:30am and enjoyed the sunrise over the desert to the east.

I had 1.5 liters of water left from yesterday. The next water cache, at Bird Spring Pass, was in eight miles. As long as the water cache was stocked, as reported, I would be OK. I wasn’t worried – the most recent comments on the Guthook app reported that the water cache was well stocked.

The eight mile hike to the water cache was enjoyable and not too challenging. I was there in about 3.5 hours and it was well stocked as expected.

The next 4 miles were uphill and not as difficult as I was anticipating. The views made the climb worth the effort.

The climb brought me back into the forest and in a few hours I came upon a really tall tree right along the trail – Ponderosa Pine???

By late afternoon, the trail merged with a dirt road for several miles. Dirt roads are often more difficult to walk on than the trail – they are commonly rutted, uneven and sometimes rocky.

My original plan for the day was to hike about twenty miles and camp near the McIver Cabin, which is at 6700 feet elevation. There is a spring there as well as plenty of camping spots. The weather report, however, was predicting rain tonight. Many of the hikers at the previous water cache were talking about spending the night inside the McIver Cabin due to the bad weather. There was a rumor that there could be snow above 6000 feet. Spending the night inside a small cabin with 10-15 other hikers doesn’t sound like fun to me so, as I hiked this afternoon, I started to think about hiking all the way to Walker Pass. That’s an additional eight miles. There’s a campground there and the elevation is closer to 5000 feet.

When I got to the fork in the trail to veer off to the McIver Cabin or continue on the PCT, I continued on the trail. Soon, I stopped for a rest as we’ll as to cook my dinner. Then I continued towards Walker Pass. The last five miles were downhill – it helps to not fight gravity! As the sun set, I enjoyed the views in the dimming light.

And, once again, I had a distant view to the south of the snow-covered Mt. Baldy shining in the last remaining sunlight of the evening.

It got dark enough that I had to turn on my headlamp for the last mile before reaching Walker Pass Campground. Once there, I set up my tent and was soon asleep. I stayed warm and dry and when it starting raining at 3am I was thankful that I didn’t have to get up in a few hours and hike in the rain.

Thanks for reading.

Day 18: Forest to Desert

Start: Mile 602.1

End: Mile 623.3

Miles Hiked = 21.2

Once again I was up at first light and on the trail by 6:20am. It was another beautiful morning and I enjoyed walking along the cool forested trail. There were several streams in the first seven miles so I didn’t have to carry much water to start with.

I met a hiker and his beagle named Coco. They hiked the Appalachian Trail last year and are now hiking the PCT. Impressive. Coco reminded me of Beau (our current beagle – Donna and I have had three). Beagles are scent hounds and are therefore guided by their nose. I couldn’t imagine Beau hiking any long-distance trail – he is usually too busy stopping to fully explore a new scent. Way to go Coco!

A short while later I almost stepped on this baby rattlesnake in the middle of the trail. It was only maybe 15 inches long. I tried to scoot it to the side with my trekking pole and it went into a defensive “strike” position.

So I took its picture and walked around it.

About six miles into this mornings hike I stopped and filtered two liters of water. The next natural water source was something like twenty-eight miles away. There was supposed to be a Trail Angel maintained water cache in about eight miles. I was counting on that water being there.

In any event, the trail soon left the cool forest and re-entered more of a desert environment.

After a couple more hours of walking I reached the road where the water cache was supposed to be. I came around a bend in the trail and there it was.

Thank you Trail Angels!

I stopped and filtered another couple liters of water and had lunch. Guthook (the trail app) indicated that there would be another water cache in sixteen miles. I wouldn’t get there until tomorrow morning but again, I was counting on it being there. I only took what I needed for the rest of the afternoon, evening and next morning.

Soon I was back on the trail and hiking up a steady incline for the next several miles.

Late in the afternoon I set up my tent amongst the Joshua Trees and enjoyed a nice evening and sunset. It was nice to camp alone and not be surrounded by a bunch of other hikers like the previous two nights when I camped at water sources.

Thanks for following.

Day 17: Onward

Start: Mile 583.3

End: 602.1

Miles Hiked = 18.8

This morning I was up at first daylight – about 5:30am – and was on the trail at 6:20. It was a beautiful morning. Mornings are my favorite time on the trail. The temperature is cool, my legs are fresh and I’m ready for the challenges that the day will offer. Late afternoons are always the most difficult, particularly if there is a significant uphill hike, because my legs and entire body are getting tired.

Within a few minutes of starting my hike today I saw a few deer, maybe three or four. They were the first deer I had seen this year. As soon as they heard me they moved away from the trail and were gone. I didn’t have time to get a photo. I assumed that they were close to where I camped because of the nearby water source.

The next water was at Robin Bird Spring, 18.8 miles ahead. That was my goal for today. I left camp this morning with three liters of water. I probably only needed two for the day, but I always carry an extra liter, just in case. You never know exactly how warm it will be (warmer means more water consumption) or if you’ll run into a problem that prevents you from reaching the next water source.

I took my usual morning break and enjoyed the views of the surrounding hills and distant wind farms.

I passed a really pretty pink flower that several bees were enjoying

And continued on up and down the trail.

I had lunch in a nice cool grassy area under some trees

In the afternoon I passed mile 600

I reached Robin Bird Spring by 4pm. It was nice to stop and set up camp a little earlier than usual and have time to rest before dinner.

Thanks for reading.

Day 16: Back on the Trail #2

Start: Mile 566.5

End: Mile: 583.3

Miles Hiked = 16.8

Donna and I had spent the last four days at home waiting for the inclement weather to pass through Southern California. It was great to be home and sleep in my own bed and enjoy home-cooked food and city luxuries. Every time I walked up the stairs, however, I could feel the fatigue in my legs – they definitely don’t recover like they did when I was 30 (or even 50)! But it was time to get back on the trail.

This morning we were up at 5am and on the interstate by 5:45. Twenty minutes later I realized that I didn’t have my iPhone, so we turned around to retrieve it. I’m usually very organized. Apparently my mind, just like my legs, does not work as well either!

In any event, we were back at the trail near Tehachapi by 8:30 and I said my goodbyes to Donna and Beau.

The trail is flat and runs adjacent to Highway 58 for the first mile or so

and then begins a steady upward climb of about 2500 feet over the next five-plus miles. My legs felt strong and I passed several other “mature” hikers. As I hiked up the hill I watched several trains rumble by below in both directions. I enjoyed the views down towards the highway and the adjacent train tracts.

As I neared the top of my climb I looked back in a southerly direction, back towards where I started several weeks ago in Wrightwood. I was amazed that I could still see snow covered Mt. Baldy and nearby Mt. Baden-Powell. The photo below doesn’t really do justice to the view but they are there in the distance under the clouds.

I continued climbing higher,

descended for a while

and then hiked uphill again.

And that’s how the trail goes – up and down and then back up. Over and over. Mile after mile. Then I passed through another Wind Farm.

I started hiking this morning with almost three liters of water. My goal today was to get to Golden Oaks Spring, the next water source, over sixteen miles up the trail. By late afternoon I was there.

I decided to camp there for the night. It was a popular camping site because the next water source was another nineteen miles up the trail – that would be my goal for tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.