*please forgive the lack of spelling, punctuation or editing. As usual, I am typing with my thumbs on an creaky iPhone 4, laying with my sleeping bag over my head so no one can see the screenglow…
Yesterday was tough… Waking at 2:00am to hit the summit of whitney – the tallest peak in the lower 48 – at dawn. So for whatever reason we decide to wake at 5am and hike 35 miles today. It will be easy after all we have accomplished, right?
In the am we pass Chicken Spring Lake – the last alpine lake on our hike. Tomorrow we descend into the desert. We seize the day and swim in the frigid water.
We decide to hike 30+ to get to Kennedy Meadows South tomorrow before the store closes. The day is a blur of hills and rocks and trees. We are told water is a problem… And the water report hasn’t been updated much lately. A mile after the lake I realize I forgot to fill up there… I have half a liter to make it eight miles. Amateur Hour. The next spring is .3 miles off trail and not well signed, so I walk right by it. About half a mile later I realize the mistake and trudge back driven by thirst. At the end of a switchback is a pile of rocks on a small rock wall. A faint line runs thru the dirt below. Oh… Of COURSE this is the water. I follow the path until it peters out to nothing and use my guthook compass on my phone to navigate the remaining .1 to the trickle of water. Some genius has situated a horse coral near the creek so everything smells shitty. I crouch by the one viable trickle and am blessed with super cold water that fills my bottle in about a minute and a half. We were so lucky with gushing water the last few weeks. This is a harsh initiation into the new normal – the descent into the desert.
I hike alone all day finishing my John Muir audio book. Then I turn up the tunes. I feel a blessed sense of aloneness. But around 5:45 dusk is coming and I speed up to find my compatriots for our last miles. I don’t like night hiking alone.
I Trot downhill and and look at my watch. I love doing math equations in my head while I walk. I figure if I If I can achieve a pace of 3 miles per hour for the next 24 minutes I’ll get to the next water source at 6:09. I think my friends will be there… 1.2 miles away. I pick up the pace and then realize I have to go to the bathroom… Trowel style. I don’t have time for this. I ignore it. But Resistance is futile. I sigh, drop my pack, find a bush, crouch behind and dig my hole to do my business. I run back to the pack and double up on my footsteps, flying down the hill. I hear a whistle and see my friends waiting by Dead Man Creek… It is dry but a spring .3 miles away is running. I look at my watch in disbelief. It is 6:05. Wait. I hiked 1.2 miles and shat in only 20 minutes? I don’t believe it. I tell my friends and general astonishment abounds. Future Dad is especially hyped and dubs this a new PCT challenge, the “OnePointPoo” He will attempt and fail this challenge three times as of press time.
Twinless joins us and we celebrate her first 30 mile day before walking another 5 miles in the dark, up hill. Our last climb of the Sierra.
We sleep in a bit, rising just barely before dawn. We ascend a quick jaunt uphill and then it’s down down down from the Sierra into the desert.
At our morning coffee break Future Dad, inspired by the 1.Poo challenge reveals he has named his poo trowel Bette Midler. Genius. I suggest we should all name our trowels after actors who have started on stage AND screen. And so we introduce new members to the Wrong Way Gang… Neil Patrick Harris, Liza Minelli, Christopher Walkin, and my personal favorite (also my own golden Deuce of Spades) Patrick Stewart aka Jean Luc.
At this point the boys take the wrong path… Twinless and I can tell because their footprints go the wrong way. We’ve all become like mythic Rangers, able to track each others footprints thru rock or dust. Knowing who is ahead, who is confused and who pulled off trail to answe the call of nature. The boys are clearly confused. And we are too far behind to inform them so we continue on the PCT into the meadow, often scanning the adjacent hill for bashful bushwackers. Finally we see 2 tiny umbrellas emerge and three humans in the far side of the meadow about a mile and a half away. I wave my umbrella and they reciprocate. We see each other and with their maps/navigation skills they can make their way this way. We break by a huge bridge over a tiny trickle of a creek, witnessing a disquieting number of Americans with guns gesticulating and confused on the way to the killing fields.
We meet up and descend into drier and drier country. The landscape, terrain, flora and fauna change rapidly. Suddenly we see lizards, flowers, yucca, yellow grasses. So much life and beauty… Mountains overhead– made of rock jumbles appearing to be held together only by hope. Rock wall striations – like crumbling cross hatched impressions in a peanut butter cookie.
By 3pm we reach Kennedy Meadows. We are parched… But KMS has a friendly store, beers, a teepee to camp in, and some amazing regulars yapping it up on the porch. They are sweet and kind and knowledgeable. We chat with George – a horseman- who used to be the captain of the maintenance team for the south 700 miles of trail. Also John, a musician, producer and contractor who lives down the street and brings us a bottle of wine later while we watch the full moon eclipse. We fall asleep late in the warm comfort of the desert.