Day 53 & 54 – Sierras, here we come!
Thursday 20 June 2019
Location: Mile 709.5
Distance travelled: 7.3 miles / 12 km
I decided to have a sleep in this morning which meant that I would not be leaving early today. Instead I had a relaxing day which was almost another zero (a nero). With all my chores competed yesterday I didn’t have anything left to do but relax, eat and harass the dogs of the general store for pats and affection.
I headed out onto the trail just before 5. The sun was still shining but had begun to lower in the sky and had lost its ferocity.
The first few miles of trail were the familiar desert scrub that I’ve grown used to over the past 6 weeks. Once I hit Kennedy Meadows camp ground the landscape began to change.
I had official entered the South Sierra Wilderness. As the trail climbed the vegetation morphed into pine forest. It was a beautiful change that has me excited to get into the heart of the sierras.
I crossed the South Fork of the Kern River via a pretty foot bridge. The river was pumping, also a sign of things to come further on in the Sierra’s. It is likely that our entry into the Sierras will coincide with the big melt of the heavy snow pack which has hit the mountains this season. It will mean challenging river crossing which we will need to take extra precautions for. It will also mean slower travel and shorter days.
It was dinner and almost bed time when I arrived into camp. It was a busy campsite so I enjoyed dinner with the company of a few friends I have been hiking on and off with over the past few weeks, Cheesus, Huckleberry and Next Level. I enjoy the solitude of hiking on your own during the day but having friendly company of an evening.
Friday 21 June 2019
Location: Mile 722.4
Distance travelled: 12.9 miles / 21 km
It feels good to be out of the desert and into the pine forest. I was up and walking fairly early this morning and it felt peaceful and quiet out on trail.
I had a climb ahead of me but had the time to take it slow and steady with plenty of breaks.
As I walked I could hear the chirping of a baby bird in the trees above me. I stopped to have a look and spotted a mumma bird feeding a baby bird in the nest of a tree hollow high up in a burnt tree. Sometimes it is the smallest things on trail which can bring you the most joy.
Mid morning I ran into the Fonz. We chatted for a while and I learned that he is planning to walk part way through the Sierras before flipping forward. Part of his reasoning for flipping forward was to avoid the crowds. We have definitely been in the hiker bubble over the past few weeks and whilst I sometimes wish for a little more solitude on trail I have come to the decision that you can’t control where everyone else is on trail and what they do, you can only control how you react to the trail being busy. I have decided not to let the crowds bother me. To enjoy the best parts of there being more people around and seek alone time when I need it. Eventually you find your people on trail and you don’t have to hang around people that you don’t mesh with if you don’t want to.
After chatting with The Fonz for a while I continued on, the pine forest opended out into a beautiful meadow. Lush grasses in the foreground and the snow capped peaks of the sierras in the distance. It was a beautiful scene.
The trail skirted around the meadow, climbing back up into the mountains where more stunning views awaited me.
The trail dropped back down again as I approached Monache Meadow. It was picturesque with a quaint footbridge crossing the river. Swallows were using the bridge to nest, swooping about eating the bugs that swarmed the area. The small flies have been driving me insane so I appreciated the birds for keeping the area bug free.
I was reluctant to leave the meadow, it was incredibly beautiful and peaceful. The trail continued on and predictably, climbed back up into pine forest once again.
Interestingly, today was hiking naked day. I had heard this before leaving Kennedy Meadows. I’m not sure if it is an international day or just an American thing. While there was no way that I was going to hike naked I was on the lookout for a bear butt cheek or two. While I didn’t run into any nudists I did run into Ian Tuttle, a photographer who was writing an article on naked hiking day for Outside Magazine. I took Ians details and eagerly await the article. I had seen some of Ian’s work previously when he did a series of portraits on PCT hikers during the 2018 season. It was great to run into him out on the trail.
It was a spectacular days hiking and my day got even better when, during the afternoon I spotted a few marmots running about in some vegetation near a stream. I hadn’t seen a marmot before, they are a bit like a very fat, very fluffy, red coloured squirrel. They aren’t as agile as a squirrel and waddle when they run. Google them, it won’t disappoint. They are probably one of the cutest things I’ve laid my eyes on.
The higher I climbed during the afternoon the more spectacular the views became and the more excited I became for the Sierras.
I found the perfect little campsite for the evening, set back amongst some boulders looking out at the mountains through the pine trees. I fell asleep looking at the stars and moon above me, feeling incredibly grateful to be out here on the trail.
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