We made it to Kennedy Meadows, aka the Gateway to the Sierras! I feel like all of our trekking through the desert – all 700 miles – has been preparation and training for the next 400 that we will spend surrounded by beautiful and majestic epic mountain landscapes. And we will have water. So much water. No more 20-25 mile carries across hot, desolate stretches.
After we left Walker Pass, we walked a relatively short few days across the trail where the end of the Mojave meets the beginning of the Sierra Nevada foothills. Jared and I got a ride from Ridgecrest to the trail from Jodi, a very generous trail angel in the Tehachapi area. It’s really great to have Jared back on the trail.
At the trailhead/Walker Pass campground, we found the Turtles – both Sea Turtle and Tortoise – recovering from serious dehydration…they had come through the cache at mile 631 dry. They were able to get some water from ATV-ers in the area, and a liter from Happy Feet, which meant hiking a 22 mile stretch with only 1 1/2 liters between the two of them. We left them some extra food as they continued to filter water and hydrate, and we set off for the hills around 10:30. We were able to put 18 miles under our feet – we passed some beautiful metamorphic peaks that towered above the desert, we leapfrogged with Honey Buzz and Emily most of the day (us passing them, them passing us, repeat), refilled water at Spanish needle creek (at a branch that required us to walk 700 meters upstream and then back again which meant getting back on trail after dark), and set up camp in the dark in a nook-like site at mile 670. We cooked dinner late and ate our beans and rice on the trail with Honey Buzz and Emily as HB told us tales of his epic 2011 PCT adventure – hiking in a high snow year, making 2 attempts over Forrester Pass, running out of food, and finding his father had hiked in with 100 lb of food as a surprise after being without food for two days… Which made us very happy to be hiking late in the season of a low snow year.
The next day on the trail we hiked 17 miles – waking up just past Spanish needle creek, then again leapfrogging with HB and Emily. We made a mistake at Chimney Creek, bypassing the creek and heading straight for the campground (which reportedly had water) so that we might siesta in a campsite (one of our last warm days before really getting into the mountains, we hoped). I set off in my homemade foam/bandana camp shoes in search of water at site 36, and made it a respectable mile+ before calling it – forget it I’m hot and where is this site 36? I walked back to meet Jared, passing a guy named James (the only other person at the campground) who told me the water was way back there and he’d be happy to give us a ride…great! Turns out the water was over 3 miles from the campground entrance – not walkable in camp shoes…but with the help of James and his truck we picked up 10 liters. After our siesta, we walked to the top of the last ridge before Kennedy Meadows and set up camp just as the sun was setting. Too beautiful. Tomorrow – KM here we come!!
And we have arrived! Jared and I walked those last 15 miles into KM not a moment too soon…again leapfrogging with HB and Emily, nearly stepped on a huge rattlesnake, saw a real river (the Kern River), and ate the best burger upon arrival at the Kennedy Meadows General Store (KMGS). We picked up our resupply boxes and found a care package – we can’t thank you enough, Maggie and Mark, for the food and whiskey! A handful of other hikers were there too: Honey Buzz, Emily, Happy Feet, Swimmer, Hans, James, Howle, Sprinkler, Recon, Shoe Tater, Rogue, Ryan, Lindsey, Herro, and Leandra. KMGS is a famous spot on the trail for stopping over – the porch is cozy, the food is great, camping is on the hill behind the store, Scott (the owner) is super accommodating to hikers and has been for the past 24 years, and the World Cup games were playing. We’ll be here for a few days…
The stretch to Kennedy meadows was a really gratifying one. I’ve talked before about the sense of completion on the PCT. While it’s definitely very real on a daily basis (usually), 700 miles of desert makes you start to think that maybe you’ll never actually leave the desert ever again. Scott’s general store at KM broke the monotony beautifully.
I think the first thing I noticed that was obviously different was the water. A river was running, strongly even, near where we left the trail for the store. Scott was there, watering his plants… Something you seemingly wouldn’t ever dream of in say, tehachapi.
You can also see the sierras starting to rise up from the earth. Pretty awesome sight, and a great omen. It was really hard to leave KMGS and the generosity there, but the call of the sierras was stronger.