Saturday, June 9, 2012

Adios Desert!

As any PCT thru hiker would know, reaching mile 702 means time in Kennedy Meadows, packages full of food that have been prepared and sent weeks ago, stuffing bear canisters full of food, and weighing your pack crossing your fingers that it doesn't push a weight greater than the person weighing theirs before you. Thru hikers like myself gear up and prepare to bring on the Sierras! Goodbye desert, hello big mountains. In two days I'll be consistently around 10,000 feet or greater hiking over passes like Cottonwood and Forester praying that there isn't a ton of snow. Because of the lack of snowfall this past winter, we have all been repackaging our microspikes for our feet and ice axes. It's bittersweet knowing that I am not going to have to post hole for miles in the Sierras but the 'epicness' and experience navigating without a defined trail through snow was something I was looking forward to. Honey Bear and I plan on going slower through the Sierras so we can spend most of our time relaxing along alpine lakes, swimming as much as possible and I know I will definitely be eyeing up potential climbing spots for the future.

Right now we are at Tom's place, a trail angel, in a small mountain town called Kennedy Meadows. The trail is .7 miles from the 'downtown' which is composed of one General Store that fortunately takes packages for hikers. Tom has a bunch of thrift store dresses and hawaiian shirts for hikers to wear while we are doing our laundry. Yesterday was definitely a scene out on the porch of the General Store with 25 hikers, all clean but dressed like they belonged on Little House on the Prairie or were prepped to attend a Jimmy Buffet concert. At one point I told everyone that I felt like I was on a cruise ship as we were all drinking Miller High Life and laughing with the southern Sierra wind in our hair. It feels great to have reached this milestone on the trail.

So the other day, about mile 620 ish, my mouth dropped to the sight of a cloud in a sky. WHAT, a cloud!? There aren't any clouds in southern California. Big cumulus nimbus clouds rolled in around 3 pm and continued to cover the typical blue sky into the evening. Honey Bear and I were still about ten miles from where we wanted to make camp and didn't have many options before the cache we were hoping to reach by dinner time. We kept pushing hoping we would make it to Bird Springs before the rain started dumping on us. Winds were pushing around on the ridge at 50-60 mph which made the hike exciting. I absolutely love the wind and kept laughing at myself walking like a drunk, stumbling over with each step. We finally made it to the road around 7 pm and set up camp behind a joshua tree. This tiny desert tree offered very little wind protection and we paid for it the rest of the night. Around midnight I woke up and could feel grit in my teeth and sand all over my face. I rubbed my face and it felt like a back country exfoliating rub.

We woke up the next morning and I quickly packed up my stuff because the wind was still consistent and gust were still up in the 60 mph range. I took off without Honey Bear and hiked up about 2000 feet and continue for about 11 miles without her. It was nice hiking by myself while passing other friends on the trail like Weebee, Pounce, Pnut and Spork. I only had 2 liters of water for the entire day because the cache where we camped was empty but fortunately it was a cool day. I passed one spring that was 'nasty' according to the water report and decided to skip it. Just a mile past the spring I was briskly moving along listening to a playlist Ryan had made me and met a black bear on the trail. The bear took off the moment I yelled at him but I decided to sit on the trail to wait for Spork who I knew was a few minutes behind me. It was definitely exciting having my first bear experience! I decided to walk with Spork for the next few miles just to be safe.

Weather lately has been unpredictable which is expected as we enter the Sierras. Spirits are still sky high and through the roof. Mind, body and soul feel great and  I cannot wait for Mt. Whitney. My birthday is in four days and we are going to be summitting Mt. Whitney the day after. The evening we hike up, I am going to hike down to meet Ryan and climb the East Face the next day. CANNOT WAIT! In the Sierras contact via phone and internet will be sporadic and unpredictable but I still want to send my love to you all.

Much love,