PCT Day 165, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 84

September 24

Mile 719.2 to mile 702.2, 17 PCT miles + .7 miles off-trail to the Kennedy Meadows General Store, 17.7 miles total
PCT miles: 1738.2
Running total: 1892.2

We knew that Bluejay and Gravity were early risers, so we had hoped that their rustling about would encourage us to get moving earlier than normal, and it did!! We were still the last to leave, but we were up and hiking by 0730!
Our morning began with a short downhill stretch. I couldn’t resist a “last day in the Sierra” selfie…or two.

I was enjoying my morning solo, lost in thought, when I heard a loud cry coming from the distance- was that somebody calling for help??? I knew Gravity wasn’t too far ahead of me- was it him?? I stopped short and turned off the thoughts that had been occupying my mind, and it was only then, when I silenced my thoughts, that I realized that I also had music playing in my head! I hadn’t realized how noisy my head was until I mindfully quieted it. With thought and song turned down, I listened intently.
I waited for a few moments before I heard the call again. I looked around and realized that it was actually NOT a person calling for help, but instead “moos” from the field of cows I was approaching!! Oops!!
I continued on through the field, stopping briefly to take my puffy off. When Matt caught up to me I told him about my “oh shit” moment and he said, “was it really the cows you heard mooing? Or was it ME mooing AT the cows?” Omg, Matthew!! What I had heard was TOTALLY Matt mooing to the cows, which is why what I heard sounded so human!! Weirdo! 🙂

We continued on, passing Gravity as we started our one small climb of the day, a whopping 500 foot ascent in 1.5 miles! From there, it was all subtle rolling hills with an overall descent into Kennedy Meadows, the official end of the Sierra.

I was very much enjoying the change of scenery from mountains to desert (I was psyched when I saw my first cactus!) but it was a very short-lived enjoyment- I eventually ran into Matthew, who was NOT a happy camper!!! Matt had become increasingly grumpier as the terrain became rockier and more difficult to walk on, the trail became more overgrown with meaner, scratchier plants, and the bees became more abundant and daunting. AND, it was getting hotter and we were running out of water…fuck.

Cacti in the forest!

We decided to bypass the first water source we passed, as the creek seemed quite difficult to get to and we knew another source wasn’t too far ahead. Unfortunately, when we got to this second source, we found an army of yellow jackets guarding the creek- shitttt!!!

While sticking around the creek long enough to collect water was certainly out of the question, we unfortunately had to cross the swampy creek to continue on the trail.
We looked for ways to bypass this section, but found no other option. We decided to cross one at a time, with a few moments in between, figuring that one person would be less threatening and less likely to aggravate the yellow jackets vs having both of us attempt to cross at the same time.
We decided that Matt should go first, with the hope that if the yellow jackets don’t attack us both, they would more likely attack the second person who walked through their swarm.
I held my breath as Matt maneuvered across the creek on thin, slippery tree branches in a sea of wasps. Once on the other side of the creek, Matt disappeared from my sight. Not hearing any expletives, I finally exhaled and prepared for my own crossing. We managed with no stings, phewww.
Matt took the lead while we continued south.

With about 4.5 miles left to go to Kennedy Meadows, we came to the South Fork Kern River.

After crossing the bridge that spans the river, we both filled, filtered, and chugged a liter of water, filled and filtered a second liter, and then Matt filled and filtered yet another liter. (In hindsight, I, too, should have filled just one more liter…)

I spy with my little eye, a tiny lizard!
We took some time to relax and enjoy a snack by the river before continuing on towards Kennedy Meadows.
While Matt’s mood improved, I became a total, miserable, grump- why the fuck was I suddenly surrounded by 482937 gnats?!? Eewww!! They swarmed my head and kept pace with me for miles- I had to continuously wave my hand in front of my face in order to breathe bug-free! Ugh.
Thank goodness there were some pretty desert flowers, fun bugs, and really, really tiny lizards to take my mind off of those damn gnats.
What is this lil fluffer?? He was scurrying around like crazy!

The lizards were no bigger than my pinky !

The “wildlife” was a good distraction, yes, but holy hell did I have to pee! And every single time I thought I found a good place to pee, a day hiker popped up out of nowhere…good grief i was having an afternoon!

The last mile of trail was the most challenging of the day- it was flat, sandy, completely exposed, and HOT…and I definitely didn’t have enough water. I was so. damn. thirsty, my mouth was incredibly dry, and I was starting to feel off in the head- yeah, in hindsight, another liter of water would have been smart…ugh!!

Matt and I walked that last mile of trail together- not because I was dying, but because we did a thing, together. You see, up until that point, even though we had hiked for 100-something days and 1738 miles, we had yet to finish an official section of the PCT; the end of that mile meant that we had walked every stinkin mile of the Sierra Section, and we were gonna finish it together.

Once we hit the pavement of Sherman Pass Road (the end of the Sierra section and the road to Kennedy Meadows South!), I was flooded with memories from just a few months before, when we emerged from the trail directly across the street- it was so different then…we were so different then. The first time we stepped foot on this road we were tired and defeated, simply relieved that we had survived 50 of our most difficult, frustrating, and overall shitty miles on trail. We couldn’t even celebrate our arrival at what is normally a huge milestone for PCT hikers, as we didn’t officially finish the desert- it was a terrible, terrible day.

Now, today, we had reason to celebrate! We earned our picture at the Kennedy Meadows sign, a picture that cost us a ride to the General Store! (It was MATT who turned down a hitch so we could take a picture…surprised?? I was!) {We also earned a nice feast at the general store, something neither of us could fully enjoy last time, with Matt’s jaw wired shut and all!}

NOW, all that stood between us and a cold drink and real food was a 0.6 mile road walk and a quick photo shoot…

On the side of the road, dead. Cause of death unknown.

Arriving to the General Store was so surreal- the first time we arrived, back in June, this place was buzzing with hikers who cheered as other hikers arrived from the trail. This time, though, we arrived to a ghost town- we were the only two hikers there! It was really bizarre. As we ate lunch, Matthew worked to secure us a ride to Grumpy Bears, where we had planned to meet Amy the next morning for a ride to Ridgecrest.

We had spotty service, so it was a bit frustrating, but Matt was able to contact Triple Crown Outfitters, an outdoor gear & resupply store owned by famous thru-hiker Yogi, who agreed to come get us asap.

While we were waiting for Yogi, a father/son SoBo duo, Ski Pole & Tumbler, arrived at the General Store. I asked the two men if they had seen Gravity, as I was a little worried that he hadn’t shown up yet, but the men said that they last saw Gravity back at Forrester Pass…um, not helpful! And how was that possible?? Where were you, Gravity?! I was keeping my fingers crossed that Gravity would arrive before Yogi did, so he could catch a ride with us.
When Yogi arrived, she apologized for being late- it turns out that on her way to get us, she had passed a hiker on his way to Grumpy Bears and offered him a ride- she didn’t know his name, but thank freaking goodness she described Gravity!!
We all piled into Yogi’s car & headed over to the few miles to Grumpy Bears, where Matt, Yogi, and I all indulged in a drink- geesh, one margarita got me feeling 🤪!!

Pet therapy in Grumpy Bears! A local got a new puppy and I got some snuggles!

When I mentioned to Yogi that Jaws & I had met her in June, Yogi got excited- she remembered us and was amazed by the fact that we were still out there hiking! She called over to her boyfriend saying, “do you remember the guy with the broken jaw? This is him!!” Yogi and her boyfriend Matt (who have hiked more than 50,000 miles combined!) were blown away by the fact that Matt hiked with his jaw wired shut AND were impressed that I gave up my thru-hike to stay with him. (To me it was a no-brainer: how else was my water gonna boil? And who was gonna set up our tent? I HAD to stay with Matt! 😉 And also, this was OUR hike, I didn’t want to do it without him!) BUT to receive such praise from somebody who has hiked the whole PCT THREE times & has more or less seen it all {except a jaw wired shut!} was pretty neat!
Although her store was closed for the afternoon, Yogi agreed to open it for us later that day- we were happy to support her, and recruited Gravity, Ski Pole, and Tumbler to shop, too.
Before heading over to do our resupply, Matt and I ate second lunch/early dinner with Gravity. I ate a veggie burger, onion rings, and a massive strawberry milkshake- woof!!

As we were finishing up, we were shocked to see Pathfinder walk in- he had hiked killer miles to catch up, arriving a day earlier than we all expected. We also chatted with Bluejay, who was busy running around prepping for her departure back to the trail the next morning.
After resupplying at Triple Crown Outfitters, we spent the evening hanging out at Grumpy Bears with Gravity, Pathfinder, a handful of locals, and a bunch of firefighters who were working on a local fire. The restaurant closed to the public at 5 so they could feed the firefighters, but they allowed us to sit at the bar and drink;)
It was super entertaining to chat with the locals- Kennedy Meadows is totally off the grid, so you can imagine that the people who live there year round are total badasses- I heard some pretty crazy stories!!
One of the firefighters had just turned 21 that day, so they brought out a huge cake and lucky for us, THEY SHARED! I was still full from second lunch, BUT there’s always room for cake!! Yum!!
It was getting late (like…8pm…) so we decided to head to our tent. I realized that I hadn’t peed since 1pm and STILL didn’t have to go…I definitely didn’t drink enough water!!
The stars were absolutely amazing, so I set up my tripod & camera to try and capture the night sky…I need more practice and lens that will focus!

Finally tucked into my sleeping bag, I was just about to put my phone down to fall asleep when I started to feel nauseous….the fuck?!? Nervous that I wouldn’t make it out of the tent in time if I needed to throw up, I started the process of shimmying out of my sleeping bag and liner and crawling out of the tent, mumbling, “are you fuckin serious??!” I started walking away from the tents but didn’t get far before I threw up…again, the fuck?! I stayed for a moment, hunched over with my hands resting on my knees, but then, fearing that I was in prime mountain lion prey position, I stood up tall and fast-walked back to the tent. Feeling better, I crawled back into the tent and drifted off to sleep, Matt never even stirring…

Happiness is: officially making it to Kennedy Meadows!

One thought on “PCT Day 165, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 84

  1. Guess there really wasn’t room for cake, eh? So happy for you that you completed the whole Sierra segment and that you got to reunite with some extremely cool sounding people that you met when Jaws was wired! You may wish for better camera lenses, but the shots you took are astounding and have me jonesin’ for a trip to the Sierra. Given that it’s January, though, it’ll have to be a low altitude visit.

    Like

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