PCT Day 66

June 17
Mile 687.2-702.2, 15 PCT miles, no off trail miles!!
PCT mile total: 616.6
Running total: 682.2 miles
At nearly 12:00am on the dot I awoke to find Matthew sitting up and drinking. I thought maybe he was hungry, since he didn’t eat dinner, but it turns out he woke up feeling nauseous and had wanted to drink some electrolytes to see if that helped. Fuck. He was feeling prettttyy shitty, so around 1am I urged him to take the zofran. At that point we were both wide awake: him with a terrible, uneasy queasy feeling, and me with a terrible, uneasy holy shit what do we do if I have to cut the wires in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere feeling…like, really- do we pack up and hike 15 miles in the middle of the night to somewhere we still won’t have cell service and nobody will be awake?? Do we wait until the morning? Do I just cut the wires in the middle? Like, I know for him to puke that’s what I would do, but then does he hike out with wires dangling around in his mouth? Are they sharp? Do we use the emergency beacon? Would that be an emergency? Do we wake up the doctor? What’s he going to do? Will it matter if the wires get cut sooner than the 3 weeks? And, like, what if it’s too dark and I can’t see the wires? And am I going to be able to jump out of the tent fast enough to cut them? (Hell no! The hiker hobble was back in all its glory!) So is Matt just puking in the tent??…also, WHY THE HELL WAS MATTHEW FEELING LIKE SHIT AGAIN?!? Was it his diet? The heat? The altitude?? With his diet, the lack of oxygen with his shitty mouth breathing due to his stuffy nose, AND the fact that we were up above 8,000feet for the first time in a long time- could that be it?? Will he automatically feel better if we just walked down? Are we missing something?
We chatted a bit to distract oursleves and then we tried to sleep. I fell asleep sometime after 1:30 with my headlamp and the wire cutters practically in my hands and ready to snip.
Matthew was eventually able to fall asleep himself, and then as he promised/threatened the night before, his alarm started going off around 3am. He tried waking me up a little before 0330, but I talked him into letting me sleep until 3:45, which he kindly agreed to. I knew he wanted to avoid hiking in the sun at all costs, but I also knew that I needed a few more ZZZs to function.
The moon was incredible as we were packing up!!

By 0445 we were on trail and heading down the mountain. While he was feeling better than the middle of the night, the descent didn’t noticeably help, so maybe it wasn’t the elevation?

Just before 7am we had made it 6.3 miles (20.3 min miles!) and sat down for breakfast at a tent-site next to a creek. I ended up taking a quick nap while Matthew filtered a liter of water and ate his breakfast of champions: instant mashed potatoes.

Matt said he was feeling about 90% better as we started this next stretch- but holy hell was it getting hot-hot-hot and it was still only the morning!! I was melting and was feeling blah, even though we were either walking flat or downhill the entire way!! (It was later pointed out to me that it felt like an oven in that section because there was NO air movement at all! Just a suffocating, dry heat.)

Finallllly we came to a few sections with shade and occasional breezes, which made the walk more bearable… but within minutes we heard a crazy rattling off-trail- yep, we are still in the desert!

Around 0930 we reached the South Fork Kern River, where we each decided to fill an emergency liter of water and take a short break…we set ourselves down in the shade of a big boulder, where again I ended up falling asleep.

It’s crazy- the river was GUSHING! It looked deep and scary(I’m glad we didn’t have to cross it!!), and yet it had been reported dry as recently as 2016- I don’t believe it! But I guess our huge snow years in 2017 and 2019 really helped..

While sitting under the boulder we were joined briefly by Pantry- we definitely enjoyed having a familiar face on trail!

We passed the 700 mile marker! We tried to take our mile-marker selfie but failed miserably. It’s okay, though- we are still 86 miles short!!

While we started the last 4 mile stretch separately, we ended up hiking the last 2.2 miles with Pantry, which was a welcomed distraction to the slow, silent desert death we would have otherwise been experiencing. (Can you tell that we are SO over the desert???)

Around 12:30 we arrived at the intersection of the PCT and the road to “civilization” in Kennedy Meadows, where we were expecting to have to road walk one mile off trail to the General Store. We were SO excited to see a truck pull up and ask if we wanted a ride- HELL YES!! The driver, Bob, spends his days shuttling people around the two main “hang-outs” in Kennedy Meadows, The General Store and Grumpy Bears Retreat (which are about three miles apart) and to the trailhead as requested. We had been lucky enough to catch him after a trailhead drop off, sparing us an unnecessary walk!!

SO, Kennedy Meadows is a HUGE milestone on the PCT- it marks the official end of the 702mile desert section and the start of the Sierra section! Most hikers spend a day or so relaxing in Kennedy Meadows before heading into the mountains, enjoying hot food (like, the $10 hiker deal: eggs, potatoes, bacon, AND all you can eat pancakes for breakfast!!), nightly movies, showers, laundry, and beer! As new hikers arrive to the General Store they are greeted with clapping and cheering from those that had arrived before them. It’s usually a great celebration- congrats!! you survived the desert!! Now on to the beautiful Sierra!!
This year it has been SO different than years past- since the Sierra is STILL too dangerous & miserable for the average hiker (think: avalanches, dangerous stream crossings, AND spending all day with wet, frozen feet) many chose to cut out before Kennedy Meadows and will hit KM later in the year. It has also been a common place for trail families to split up this year, since everyone has varying snow experience and tolerance AND time deadlines.
For Matt and I, the idea of arriving to Kennedy Meadows was sucky for two reasons: unlike most people, we weren’t going to be greeted by any familiar faces or get to cheer on our trail family as they arrived AND we didn’t really finish the desert so weren’t going to feel the great achievement and relief everyone else was feeling! (It was cool, though, that we made it in 2.5 days! We thought it would take three full days and maybe a fourth morning of hiking!!)
As we walked up to the General Store my jaw dropped (Matt’s might have if it could…)- coming out the front door with a toothbrush in her hand was MANTRA!!!! I can’t remember the last time we saw that girl! (I looked back at my blog- it was day 25, mile 285!!) Omg it was so good to see her!!! And then wait, what?!?? COLUMBIA!!!!!!!!! Holy shit!!!! We hadn’t seen him since Wrightwood! (Day 31, mile 369!!) And oh hey! Mando! (Day 10, mile 109!) And am I seeing correctly? That’s Isaiah! (Day 16, mile 179!) What an awesome surprise to see old pals!

Turns out Isaiah took his time getting to KM and was planning to head back to trail that night. Mando hitched to KM from Palm Springs and was waiting for the conditions to improve. Columbia was leaving the trail at KM 😦 and Mantra was going to take a little road trip with her boyfriend and then decide whether or not she was returning to the trail. (Also! Spoke to Hoops- she made it to KM and decided to leave trail as well. Soundtrack is still about 80 miles from KM and Watercolor flipped up to Washington from Lone Pine and will tag the northern terminus before hiking Sobo to Mt. Whitney- we MIGHT not be too far off from her, as we will be starting Sobo about 200miles from the northern terminus!!) So many updates!!
Matt started feeling nauseous again, which was again super concerning, so he downed 2L of Gatorade, popped a zofran, and took a little time-out away from the hot excitement of the KM General Store. I enjoyed lunch with Mantra (a spinach wrap with hummus, guacamole, spinach, lettuce, and tomato- mmm!!) & soft serve ice cream in a cone with rainbow sprinkles- my fav!!
Eventually Matt felt better and he spent the afternoon chatting with Mando while a storm rolled in. For those keeping track, I believe that that makes 14 days on trail with rain! Thankfully it only sprinkled, but I’m counting it!!!
Around 3ish we hopped back into Bob’s truck for a ride over to Grumpy Bears, where we had a resupply package waiting. Upon arriving there we said hello to Pantry, who had gone straight there instead of stopping at the GeneraI Store, AND we saw Aaron!!!! We hadn’t seen him since he was struggling on day 38, mile 472, so it was great to see him and briefly catching up with him.
I spent the majority of the afternoon sitting alone in the corner of the restaurant charging my phone and avoiding more conversation- I myself had started to feel sick again (the beginning of a sore throat and an overall not good feeling)- & Matt still had a sore throat and stuffy nose. We have heard SO many reports of people getting terribly sick between Hiker Heaven and Tehachapi- like the guy we met yesterday who needed to take 2 weeks off, a few people who were hospitalized (with one guy definitely having to leave trail), and our own trail fam members Woodpecker and She-Wee who absolutely struggled for a while! I was praying we didn’t have what they all had!
I did at one point venture over to Triple Crown Outfitters, a gear shop owned by famous thru-hiker Jackie McDonnell, better known as Yogi. After doing the PCT a few times, Yogi wrote a guidebook, Yogi’s Pacific Crest Trail Handbook, which is updated every year and is used by many thru-hikers to prepare for the trek! There are so many mixed reviews about Yogi- some people love her, some hate her- I had my own opinions based off of some Facebook posts, but I was very interested to meet her myself! She was nothing but nice to me and was impressed that Matt was hiking with his jaw wired shut- and to impress Yogi is impressive in itself!!! (She also acknowledged how difficult it is for the non-injured partner & was impressed that I stayed with Matt!! Yeah, I like her!!) Yogi immediately started brainstorming foods that Matt could eat on trail and even offered to grab some stuff for us at the grocery store when she made the long trek there later that evening! I was blown away by that!! We declined, though, ’cause we had shit to figure out…
SO, we had planned to have Amy drop us off the next day at Walker Pass so we could hike those last 86 miles of the friggin desert. I am SO thankful that we decided to switch this section up and hike the shorter piece first ’cause we realized that we need to find better nutrition for Matt AND we really needed to think about our next move….this next 5 day stretch is apparently brutal with no shade and very long water carries- there is a 35mile span without reliable water- there is often a water cache supplied by the Walkers Pass Trail Angels, but this can never be relied on.
{To put this water carry into perspective: I was reading on some National Parks page that they recommend drinking 1L of water per hour of hiking…at our current pace that would be about 15-17 hours and 33-37.4 pounds worth of water!!!!!! No way, Jose! Recently we have been carrying 4-5liters for our 10-12 mile stretches, which would also put us around 12L of water- also not possible! I asked Matt how much we would take- 6 liters and hope for a cache.}
THAT, in addition to Matt’s frequent nausea, AND both of us having colds got us thinking that maybe we shouldn’t head back into hell…but that wasn’t an easy decision we were ready to make- we wanted that desert section DONE! We talked about our options- we could, a. take the chance and hike it- it was gonna be hot and miserable, but then we would be done! Or b. we could wait until we come back southbound- it might be a little cooler by then and although there would still be really long water carries, we would be in better shape and could whip it out so much faster! Maybe in 3.5 days vs the 5 days now! or c. Make up the miles after reaching the northern terminus- it wasn’t too far from San Diego, so it could be an easy long weekend trip.
To be honest, neither of us enjoyed the past 2.5 days of hiking- heat aside, we were miserable. With Matt’s constant nausea and feeling of heat exhaustion and my constant worry and being so damn tired, we were never truly in the moment- we hated it. And we hadn’t been able to sleep very well either, making us feel even worse. It was NOT going to be a good 5 days…
AND THEN we got a sign from the universe: our GPS emergency beacon stopped charging and wouldn’t turn on- under normal circumstances we might have chanced those 5 days without one, but in current conditions neither of us felt safe going out into the desert without the ability to call for help if needed- SO, we decided to have Amy drop us off in Ridgecrest the next day and try to get the GPS fixed- if we could fix it, we would head out Wednesday. If not, we would wait for Matt’s wires to come out…

We stayed up past hiker midnight chatting with Pantry before retiring to our tents.

After only 2.5 days back on trail! You better believe I crawled into my sleeping bag like this!!

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