Hiking, PCT 2015, Travels

Day 40: Milestones and the Gateway to the Sierra Nevada

My pack was so light today! I had only enough snacks to see me into Kennedy Meadows, and a single litre of water, knowing I’d hit the South Fork of the Kern river in under 5 miles. It is the first reliable water source in a while, and although it is slightly murky and gross where the trail first hits it, it improves as it heads into the open meadows and up the hill.

The terrain was pretty flat, with beautiful views of the mountains, and I chose to hike without poles to give my shoulders a test. Only a few yards out of camp, we saw a jackrabbit, and I saw another two as I hiked towards the river. At the river break, we met Soccer mom, who had been running because her pack was so light. It was a good vibe from everyone this morning.

We hit the 700 mile marker during the morning, and from that point could see the signs of civilisation across an open scrubby meadow.

Not long after that, the trail met the road and the Kern River again and we turned off to make our way to the Kennedy Meadows community. Kennedy Meadows is a particular milestone on the PCT, marking the end of the desert and the start of the Sierra Nevada. It is hotly anticipated and a relief to get there. Hikers base themselves at the general store where every arrival gets applause from the motley crew of hikertrash lounging on the porch. When we arrived, a group of hikers was rehearsing a dance for a music video. Any way to pass the time, sometimes!

Gateway to the Sierra

I had a loaner bear canister waiting for me at Grumpy Bear’s bar so that was my first port of call. Despite being pre-noon, I stopped for a BLT there before jumping in the back of the truck for a ride back to the general store for the rest of my nearo day. We picked up our giant resupply boxes and spent a large chunk of the afternoon divvying up the food and working out how it would all fit in the bear canisters. Short answer: it won’t. But that’s OK; the thing isn’t required for the first 50 miles or so out of Kennedy Meadows so the first couple of days’ food can live outside the can. The bear canister is going to be an adjustment. I see entirely why they are necessary: they stop bears getting your food, which stops them associating humans with obtainable food, which makes them less likely to track humans and be aggressive towards them, which makes them less likely to be shot and killed. However they are a pain: they weigh 2lb, they are bulky and don’t shrink down as you eat the food between them, and you feel dumber than a bear when you can’t open it yourself. Still, it fits in my small pack with all the rest of my stuff, so I’m pretty happy with how it looks so far. And I can sit on it if the ground is prickly, or use it as a table.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to some serious lounging. I’m not fond of Kennedy Meadows really; too many people all chattering and moving around. Sensory overload. The general store allows camping at the back, but it was too hot and sunny to retreat to the tent during the afternoon. I went and took a shower to get some quiet time in the end! Although a trickly outdoor shower, I managed to wash the desert off myself and at least my underwear and socks, which will be a nice treat heading out in the morning.

Miles: 8 + 1 to General Store
Camping: Mile 702, Kennedy Meadows General Store

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