Day 51 & 52 – Kennedy Meadows, a milestone

Tuesday 18 June 2019
Day: 51
Location: Mile 702.2
Distance travelled: 19.1 miles / 31 km

After waking up to a spider on my shoes yesterday, this morning I woke up to a spider web built on the top of my shoe.

I wanted to make sure I got up and over the steep climb into Kennedy Meadows before the sun came out and the heat developed so I was walking by 5.30am this morning. I hate waking up early but love walking at first light. The day is cool and it’s peaceful and quiet out on trail.

I was camped at the bottom of the hill overnight so I was climbing as soon as I set out on the trail. The views were beautiful in the early morning light and only got better as I climbed.

When I reached the peak of the mountain I had views out the high Sierras. I could see Mount Whitney and where we would be hiking over the next few weeks. I had a rush of emotion and excitement all at once. After a beautiful 6 week adventure I was ready to be finished with the desert, the dust, the heat and the now somewhat repetitive views. I felt excited for the Sierra’s, despite the high snowpack and unquestionable conditions it would be an adventure and a challenge and I’m looking forward to it. On top of that I would be meeting Adam in Lone Pine in under a week and am looking for to having him join me on trail.

I took a break to take in the view and have a snack before I began my descent into the valley.

The views on the way down into the valley were just as spectacular as the views on the way up. I could see right down into the Kern River.

The further I descended and the closer I got towards Kennedy Meadows the more excited I became. The miles were flying by. I’m not sure if it was the early morning, the cool weather, the spectacular views or the fact that I was almost done with the desert.

The Kennedy Meadows Valley was spectacularly beautiful, surrounded by rolling hills and covered with wildflowers. It felt so good to be here.

I was elated when I hit the 700 mile mark, just over 1,126 km. It is a solid achievement and although I’m only ¼ of my way through the trail. I feel proud of making it this far.

I had a couple more miles along the valley floor, soaking in the views until I hit the road and the turn off to Kennedy Meadows.

Kennedy Meadows represents a milestone on the PCT. It marks the end of the desert section and the start of the Sierra Nevada. Stopping by the general store has become an institution among hikers. The store has resupply options and allows hikers to camp for free behind the store. They have cooked food, burgers for lunch and pancakes for breakfast and on weekends show movies on an outdoor screen.

The store has a large wrap around porch where hikers relax and hangout. It has become a tradition that hikers welcome each other in with a round of applause. It was a busy day at the general store when I came in, there were over 50 people out on the deck so I was greeted with a huge round of applause, hooting and cheering. It is a beautiful tradition. I felt emotional, from the cheering and from reaching this epic milestone.

Having slowed down over the past week or so many of the people I had been hiking with were ahead of me so I wasn’t expecting to see any of my friends at the store. I was pleasantly surprised to see some familiar faces, Sofari and Sam, Sarah and even Jeff. Kennedy Meadows is known to be a bit of a vortex where people get stuck for a few days and it sure felt that way when I arrived. The place was teaming with hikers.

I had a relaxing afternoon catching up with my friends and enjoyed a burger and an icecream, because you have to endulge while you can. Even though I’d got into KM early, around 1.30, it was a big morning walking through the heat of the middle of the day. Without my mid day nap I was feeling tired and opted for an early night.

Wednesday 19 June 2019
Day: 52
Location: Mile 702.2
Distanced travelled: 0 miles / 0 km

It’s always exciting when you wake up on zero days knowing you have a big breakfast ahead of you. After a sleep in I caught a lift to Grumpy Bears Tavern where they do an egg breakfast with all you can eat pancakes. The pancake came out first and was larger than the plate, and my face. I gave it a red hot go and got through most of the pancake and all of the eggs and potatoes. It was a solid effort, I was proud.

Next on the agenda was buying some gear I would need for the Sierra’s, an ice axe and warm gloves. I had already bought my spikes in Wrightwood for when I climbed Mt Baden Powell.

We are lucky that these days there are outfitters located on trail, I checked out Tripple Crown Outfitters who are situated right next door to Grumpy’s and then Two Foot adventures, a mobile airstream situated back at the Kennedy Meadows General Store.

I will also need a bear canister for the Sierras. It is basically a big plastic, supposedly ‘bear proof’ jar used for storing food that is required for the stretch of trail from Lone Pine to Sonora Pass. Many people pick these up in Kennedy Meadows but given it will add an extra kg to my pack and I’ll be going into Lone Pine anyway to meet Adam, I will be buying mine in Lone Pine.

The remainder of the afternoon was chilled. I enjoyed my first rootbeer float and organised my bulging food bag ready for my departure tomorrow.

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