June 16, 2019 Mile 668.7 to mile 687.2, 18.5 PCT miles, no off-trail miles!
Total PCT miles: 601.6
Running total: 667.2 miles
Matthew was a doll and let me sleep in until 0430 while he went to retrieve our food bags from the tree and started packing up. Somehow we were both packed up and ready to go by 0530!!! I feel like it used to take us nearly 1.5hours, so this was awesome!
As Matt was brushing his teeth I heard a noise VERY similar to that loud huffing/sighing noise we heard the day before. I looked up into the trees and heard another noise, kind of like rocks falling, and in one breath I said, “hey, matt? I think there’s a very large animal up there hey Matt it’s a bear!” A VERY large bear was probably less than 100 feet from us- it’s hard to estimate because he was up on a hill- but even at a distance we could tell that that fluffy baby was LARGE! As it walked, rocks fell down the hill making it sound like the bear was coming towards me! I got a bit nervous, but once the bear saw Matt he scrambled up the ridge and away from us. I was slightly sad that I didn’t have a chance to snap a pic before he ran, but I was super thankful that we weren’t breakfast!! And also super happy that we had decided to hang our food the night before despite our exhaustion- we generally sleep with our food in our tent, but since there were notes on our PCT app that said bears were sometimes spotted in the area AND Big Momma had seen a bear on this stretch weeks before, we decided to not be lazy…good call!
We knocked out the first 5.4 miles and 1900 foot climb before stopping for breakfast and before it got too toasty to exist outside.
It was another tough climb for us, which was super frustrating, but at the top of the climb we found an awesome area to rest!
We ate/drank our breakfasts while trying to figure out our game plan for the rest of the day. We decided to aim to have our afternoon siesta at the Chimney Creek Campground just under 7 miles away and then play the evening by ear- the only marked campgrounds were either 3 miles away from our siesta site (too close) or 13 miles away (too far)- both sounded like shitty options!
Less than a mile after breakfast we passed into Tulare County from Kern County! I love making progress! But ewww so. many. flies. in. my face. I was getting SO cranky about them!
As we neared the dirt road towards Chimney Creek Campground we saw a car in the distance- I wished out loud that there was trail magic, and sure enough…
It was a weird feeling walking up to trail magic knowing that we wouldn’t know anyone- we were so outside of our hiker bubble!! – but as we approached the group we heard a guy say, “wow! Last time I saw you guys was at my first trail magic!” What?!??? It was Dennis, a guy from LA that we had met on our second day on trail!! He had taken a week off here and a week off there, putting him just a few days before us!! It was nuts!! He goes by the name Pantry now 🙂
Hangtime was also there, along with the handful of hikers we had seen the day before. We also met a super cool British couple, Cricket and Roadrunner, and another dude who had JUST returned to trail after being off for 2 weeks himself- he had gotten super sick, which sucks, but it made me feel a bit better about our own return- we weren’t alone! We bonded over the fact that the weather has changed DRASTICALLY since we left trail, leaving us struggling to stay hydrated- ugh.
The trail angel, Amy, was amazing!! She had set up one table with fresh fruit, cookies, chips, carrots, water, and lemonade, and another table with a list of meat and cheese options for sandwiches. Amy (trail name 42!), wore rubber gloves to make the sandwiches- that’s my kind of girl!!!! There was also beer, which made a lot of hikers very happy!!
Amy had us sign a guest book so she could keep track of how many hikers she interacts with each season and where everyone comes from, and she was so excited to read my name! “Allison? Omg! I’m giving you a ride on Tuesday!!”
Omg small hiker world moment!! Before leaving Tehachapi I had written a message on the Walker Pass Trail Angel facebook group asking for a ride from Kennedy Meadows, an apparently really difficult place to escape from! Amy had responded that she could pick us up on Tuesday at 7am – done!! But that added a bit of stress, too: we had planned to roll into Kennedy Meadows on Monday night or Tuesday morning, but accepting the ride meant that we had to be at KM by Monday, early enough to pick up our food resupply that we needed for the next 5-day stretch! And have I mentioned that it’s hot? Leaving only the early am and late evening to hike…and we were NOT efficient hikers anymore. Shit.
ANYWAYS, I very much enjoyed the afternoon sitting in a chair chasing the shade around the food table and I wasn’t the only one! The majority of the group ended up staying the entire day as well- some even got there before us and left after!
Since I don’t eat meat I indulged in 2 pieces of bread (and like 4 cookies…), fruit, and lemonade, and packed out a mustard sandwich to supplement my tuna packet for dinner- Matt was again feeling shitty, so I wanted to save my last bag of instant taters for him and I was running low on calories!
Yeah, so Matt was feeling shitty again. Fuck. What the heck was going on?!? Ughhhh.
Amy packed up the trail magic around 3:30pm, and by 4:30, after a 5 hour break, Matt and I were back on the trail, taking advantage of a big puffy cloud that provided some relief from the sun. We had decided to tackle the last 2470 foot climb before Kennedy Meadows and hoped and prayed that we would come across some unmarked tent sites- according to our app there were a few dirt roads that had potential sites, so that’s what we were going for!
So, the most disappointing part of this 6point-something mile stretch: in her blog, Arc had described this climb as gradual and mentioned that they were able to knock it out fairly quickly- but yet again I found it hard…Ughhhh. I miss the “Yayy!!” from May!The least disappointing part: there were still wild flowers! It was a comfort to know that the desert was not as dead as I had been feeling!
After miles that never seemed to end, we finally made it to the peak of the climb. There we found the most stunning sunset and Pantry, who jumped up to help us find a tent site.
Matt had mentioned maybe continuing on 2 miles down the hill where there might be another tent-site, but we decided not to chance it. We took the site Pantry showed us and started setting up our tent.
Matt was exhausted and still full from his last shake, so he relaxed in the tent while I quickly stuffed my face with dinner. When I returned to the tent Matthew warned me that he wanted to start even earlier the next morning… Woof.
Matthew fell asleep while I did research for our next section of the trail after Kennedy Meadows, the 86 miles from Walker Pass back to Tehachapi. I made note of all of the climbs and their elevation gains, all of the definite water sources and the possible water caches, and figured out how far we could realistically go each day judging by that info and where possible tent sites were. I went to bed confident that I had created a good game plan AND excited that tomorrow was a mostly downhill day to KM!!