Day 39 – 5/30/16
Fox Mill Spring 683.10 to Kennedy Meadows 702.23
Total miles: 19.14
I woke up today at 4:45 and laid waiting for 5 Star to start getting ready. 5 came and past and he still wasn’t up. 10 minutes later I reached over and tapped his foot. He woke up and looked at his watch and then started getting ready. We packed up got some more water and took off. We still had another 4 miles and 2,000 feet of climbing to do. Then it was down hill for awhile before flattening out.
After we reached the top of the climb we could see the snow capped Sierra Nevada. I can’t believe I’ve walked this far!
We begin the downhill portion along the side of the mountain. I was engrossed in my audio book and just walking. Not particularly pushing myself, just a normal pace I can maintain without tiring myself out. I later find out that we did 3.5 miles in an hour. 5 Star checks our position at the top of every hour. He said we did a 3.5 mile hour and a 3 mile hour that included a short 5 minute break. I remember having to push myself hard to maintain a 2.8 mph on my practice hikes. I guess I really do have hiker legs at this point. I wonder what I could do without my pack. The funny thing is once the pack is off I can barely walk. The hiker hobble is still real.
The trail winds down around a mountain heading towards a meadow surrounded by rocky hills. As we get closer it’s amazing.
We finally drop down into the meadow and cross over a creek. We take a break in the shade of a giant tree’s trunk. I eat almost all of what is left of my food while flicking ants away from me. I drew a half circle in the sand around me. If they cross my perimeter then they meet the full force of my finger. Which doesn’t faze them in the least. I get charged by some black spider looking thing. I flick it back and he charges right back. 5 Star and I call him Bob. I tell Bob that I’m going to flick him if he crosses the line. He gets closer and closer to the line but stops right at it. I tell Bob I’ll smite him with the stick of truth. Bob toes the line and I decide to be a merciful god and leave Bob to rule the sandy domain full of red ants.
We continue on and the trail skirts the edges of the meadow and base of the hill. I turn around to 5 Star and ask him what he thinks. If Kennedy meadows is the gateway to the Sierra Nevada then we are at the driveway.
We walk though some trees before going up hill a bit. We peak and there it is. The Kern river. The most amount of water we’ve seen yet. We walk along the river bank for a mile looking for a good place to stop and put our feet in. We walk until the trail takes a right turn while the river curves left. Luckily there seems to be a path down to a spot to get to the river since there is brush growing all along it.
We take off our shoes and put on our flip flops and walk to the river and find a place to sit down with our feet in. The water is pretty nice. It’s cold but not too cold. I wash my feet and legs. I’m dying to get in so I can wash my underwear since I’ve been wearing them 7 days straight. I don’t since I don’t want to wait for them to dry nor do I want to expose myself to the Asian family looking at the river from the trail.
We get up to leave and that’s when I slip on the wet rock and slowly fall while grabbing branches. The 5 minute fall. But the damage was done. I hurt my left ankle. I walk back carefully and put my shoes on. We pick up our packs and head out. Only 4 miles to the road to Kennedy Meadows. My ankle is sore but manageable. For almost 2 miles. Then it starts to really hurt and ibuprofen isn’t helping to dull the pain. I’m starting to get frustrated by the pain and the fact that I keep tripping over rocks the second I try to look anywhere but straight down at the trail. I hit a rock and it’s extremely painful. I almost toss my poles. Even though I’m in pain I’m still keeping a good pace. Fast enough to pass day hikers and weekend backpackers. I probably should have slowed way down but I just wanted to be done. We pass the 700 mile mark and I quickly take a picture. I’m frustrated that after 700 miles of desert I twist my ankle in the last few miles and on the day I’ve been looking forward to for the last month and a half.
We get to the road and it’s about a mile to the general store. All I want to do is sit. It’s the longest mile ever.
We round the corner and see some hikers walking down a dirt driveway away from a building with a big deck. They ask us if we are just getting in. We say yes. They start cheering and the two girls each put a trekking pole up as if we are knights walking under raised swords. The guy stands in between and back some so he can give us high fives. Awesome. We walk up the driveway and everyone on the deck starts cheering. It’s tradition to cheer since almost everyone who walks up that drive way just completed 700 hot and dry miles. Quite the accomplishment. We walk onto the deck a day set our packs down and sit at a table. We don’t know anyone and it is super crowded. With hikers and non hikers.
5 Star goes into the store and gets me an Arizona Iced tea. Definitely hits the spot. We sit for a while cooling down and taking in the overwhelming amount of people. A lot of the hikers are of the dirty hippie smoking type. Definitely not our crowd.
We decide to go set up our tents and then come back to pick up our boxes. We walk behind the store where we are allowed to camp and it’s full of tents near the front. We walk about 0.1 miles back and it starts to thin out and we find a place in the shade barely big enough to fit our tents. We set up our tents and then I start to take all the cap out of my pack and take off my side pockets and other things I have attached. I contacted Zpacks, who made my pack, over 250 miles ago at the Acton KOA and told them about how the carbon pole broken through the nylon strap. They said they would send a pack and asked where I would be on or after May 27th. I asked them to send it to me in Kennedy Meadows. They said it would be there and to just send mine back and they would include a return postage. Awesome!
We pick up our packages and I open up my box from Zpacks and there in the box is a brand new pack. Nice and clean. Not covered in sweat stains nor does it smell. I slide in my old one, tape it up and hand it back for it to be mailed back.
I open up one of my other boxes which has has my ice axe, microspikes, new shoes, and some food that doesn’t fit in my bear cannister. The other box is just my bear cannister with almost 7 days of food. It weighs more than the neutron star worth of food I carried out of Tehachapi. And it’s not all the food I’ll be carrying. I’ll carry another 2 more days of food. Probably a bit more than that. In the box with extra food not in the bear can was also a bag of my mom’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I knew they would be in there. I was pretty happy.
At this point we were pretty hungry so we waited in line to order a double cheeseburger. There was a 40 minute wait. About 30 minutes my burger is done and I run in to get a soda and get 5 Star a Snapple. The burger is decent. I’m sure it would have been amazing had it not been for the amazing trail magic from yesterday.
We talk to a few hikers and I go in to the store to get a pint of Ben and Jerrys. Americone Dream. One of my favorites. I look at my Half mile app and for fun I want to see what the distance is from Kennedy Meadows to the Mexican border as the crow flies. The trail is 702 miles to get here yet it’s only 254 miles if we went in a straight level line. So ridiculous.
We hangout on the porch until somehow our table gets stolen and we get shoved aside so others can play jenga. On an unstable patio table. They are all dirty smelly smokers and so 5 Star and I grab our stuff and head back to the tents. We sort through our boxes and I put my accessories back onto my pack and put my extra food into my food bag. I’m not sure how I will be able to carry all this extra crap. Day 1 of 9 to Vermillion Valley Resort is going to be brutal. 18 poundd of food plus an extra 4 pounds of gear. 180 miles. Over snow-covered passes. Staying above 10,000 feet for most of this trek and crossing over Forester pass which is the PCT high point of 13,200. I’m also planning on summiting Mt Whitney. 14,500 feet.
New shoes! The old ones have gone 700 miles, plus a tough mudder, and training runs.
Felt like walking on pillows! So nice.