May 15/16 – After a big pancake breakfast in Lake Isabella Rebo, Red Riding Hood, Shepard, and myself said goodbye to Bad Fish, Rocko, and javi as we headed north from Walker Pass. We got a final mile or so through the Joshua Tree filled Mojave as we began our ascent to Kennedy Meadows. Once over the ridge line and on the opposite side of the mountain the landscape completely changed into a green meadows and forests. Views of the Mojave behind us grew expansive as we went up to nearly 7000 feet before dropping straight back down to 5000. After a while, the desert views were a thing of the past and all I could see were trees and rock formations covering the giant mountains surrounding me. We stopped for the day in the thickest forest we’ve encountered so far right next to a water source. All night I could hear wildlife scurrying through the brush around me. I slept in, at least kind of, heading it around 6. It was another brutal climb until I made it to a cliff where I took my breakfast break. The views around me were incredible, and from where I sat I could hear the others talking far down below. I yelled out to them, my voice echoing throughout the entire valley. From here it was more ups and downs through the forested wonderland. Even though there were trees the trail stayed mainly exposed, I took a nap under a large oak before hiking on two more miles to the water source where I took another long break with Red Riding Hood.
From the spring the trail ascended yet again to over 7000 feet. Once I was nearing the top, I took my headphones out and found that the air was filled with the sound of crickets. Then I heard a rumbling thunder and looked behind to find a completely black sky, a lightning bolt striking down at a cinematic moment. My pace quickened as I rushed down to lower ground, forcing me to put in an extra 5 miles more than planned. Thankfully we all made it safely down to the basin of the Sierras where we watched the sun set behind mountains of marble with a rainbow stretching over the mountains we just came from. Everything is green and the vibe of this trail feels completely different. In 8 miles we will finally be at Kennedy Meadows. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made, the laughter I’ve shared, and the beauty I’ve witnessed in this first 700 mile section. Im so glad I took my time through the desert to truly appreciate it for what it is, Now let the High Sierra begin!
May 20 – After four days at Kennedy Meadows I was going stir crazy, the most majestic mountain range in the country was right ahead and I was ready to experience it. I waited for Shepard to pick up and then we said goodbye to everyone still vortexed at KM before being cheered on as we hiked out into the unknown. The trail went deep into the still desert-like valley on the other side of the road before reaching the Kennedy Meadow Campground where a sign marked the boundary of the Southern Sierra Wilderness. We signed the register and headed up into the mountains through pine and redwoods. The sand beneath us changed to rock slabs and gravel, the peaks around us giant rock columns and cliffs. The sound of running water was constant, it was a blessing not to have to carry more than a liter seeing as I had the extra weight of my Bear Can and Microspikes. Around seven miles in I encountered a burn area and sat down to have lunch. For the first time on this trail shit hit the fan when I realized I had left my wallet at Kennedy Meadows. Shepard and Javi watched my bag as I ran the seven miles back down the mountain where luckily it was still there. Then it was another 7 back to my bag, leaving another 7 to get to the campsite we had planned on for the day. The temperature dropped drastically as we hiked through another Meadow before curving into a pitch black forest that was a little unnerving. It was down to the 30’s when I got the third crossing of the Kern River where everyone was set up already. I shivered while I set my tent up and got water before crawling into my bag, too cold to even type this up so I’m doing it the morning after. Everything is frozen but the sun is started to shine. This section is gonna test me.
May 21 – We have a relaxing morning sitting around waiting for our gear to thaw. It doesn’t take long for things to warm up once the sun peeks its way over the mountains. In the morning light I can see the beautiful site we had camped at, a large Meadow with the Kern River flowing through. Around nine Rebo, Red, Cookie, Nothing Yet, Shepard, Scrapbook, and myself head out. The trail circles the Meadow before shooting up over 2000 feet. Within three miles I’m forced to take a break due to the weight of my pack, everyone else is happy to do the same when they catch up. Around 9500 feet patches of snow begin to pop up. The trail makes a final ascent to a meadow at 10,000 feet, one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever witnessed. We all stop for lunch before the chilly winds push us on over the saddle of the mountain where snow covered mountains took over the horizon. Above them all was Mt. Whitney, the tallest point in the contiguous United States at 14,000 feet. In just three days, we will attempt to make our way to the top.
The trail descended through snowier terrain on the northern side of the slope. Grand pine trees stood tall above me and boulders entrapped me in the mountains. By 5 the temperature had started to drop again so I got a move on to the campsite at Death Canyon Creek where a fire and about twenty hikers were waiting. It was a great night eating together in the warmth, and another chill morning as I type this up. No rush, Canada’s not going anywhere.
May 21/22 – The snowy mountain range in the distance grow closer as we make another 10,000 foot climb. The ridge line is clearly visible from the top, it leads straight into the snow, each peak more covered than the last. To the east is Owens Valley and the town of Lone Pine, the first reminder of the desert below in a few days. The trail winds through intricate rock formations and boulder fields while descending down to the water source. The sky begins to turn black as I cook lunch with Rebo, we still have another climb back up to 10,000 feet before the day is over. The air gets cold and the winds pick up, even while walking I was freezing. Still it was an easier ascent than the first and before we know it Shepard, Rebo, and myself are at the top of Mulby Pass where we take a side trail down into Horseshoe Meadows to hopefully get a ride down to Lone Pine. From Horseshoe Meadows the snow capped mountains including Mount Whitney tower above us. When we finally make it to the road we are pretty disappointed to find that it’s hardly travelled and end up setting up camp for the night. I wake up to pure silence: snow. We start our twenty mile road walk as it gets heavier and heavier, blowing sideways into my face. Luckily after about 8 miles the road descends back into the desert where the sky is blue and the sun is hot. For the first time in weeks I get service to call a shuttle driver for a ride and we arrive in Lone Pine where two days were spent waiting out the storms.