Day 57 – Bubbs Creek to Independence – 12 miles

Up before the sun today – we were aiming to get to town before the post office closes since it’s Friday. It we manage to hit the PO we’ll also be able to make the last bus to Bishop and save ourself a 40-mile hitch up the highway. It was a good motivator and we were ready to go in about an hour. That’s really quick by our standards!

The first section along the floor of the canyon was level and fragrant as it took us through the pines. It stayed cool long enough for us to hike a few miles in our jackets. Normally we have to stop after a couple minutes and pack them away as we warm up. As the sun rose it started to paint the western walls of the canyon with the same glow as last night. We trailed the creek for about 3 miles before peeling away and tackling a ridge. The trail switchbacked up more sharply than we’re used to. The steep terrain and the density of green growth around us reminded me of the Wonderland trail. After a mile of this we reached the Bullfrog Lakes junction and left the PCT for town. This new trail took us past the picturesque lakes it was named for and gave us a glimpse of the scenery behind the Kearsarge Pinnacles, which make up the eastern wall of the canyon we’d been hiking through since Forester.

We traveled east across the floor of this drainage, heading for the pass. Before long we started to climb up the wall towards the pass and we were once again trying to guess where the trail would take us. It was a steep climb topped off with a few tiny switchbacks and at last we were at the top. The view of the Kearsarge canyon was incredible. I took more pictures here than I have any previous day in our trip. After one last shot of us at the summit we started down the other side to the trailhead nearly 5 miles away and 2500 feet down. This will be a tough climb when we come back to the trail weighed down with 7 days of food. The trail took us down past more lakes and streams and little cascades of water. We kept passing dayhikers heading the other way and thruhikers returning to the trail after their days off.

After a few hours of easy hiking we reached the trailhead and all its luxuries – clean pit toilets, trash cans, and a bear box full of soda. With surprising ease, we stuck up a conversation with a really nice couple and they offered us a ride into town. In about 20 minutes they dropped us right outside the post office in Independence, 5000 feet below the trailhead. Suddenly the mountains we’d been hiking in were just huge hills on the western horizon. It made our heads spin.

We’d gotten to town much earlier than expected and had plenty of time to eat and buy some snacks before we needed to catch the bus. We picked up our packages – including our new gaiters! – and found a place to stay in Bishop. Keith also took care of an important gear issue. His pack has been failing around one hip support, with the metal frame tearing through the webbing. This seems to be an issue with this type of Osprey packs. If it tears completely through he wouldn’t be able to support his pack on one side – already it was causing it to lean to one side as he hiked. He called Osprey and explained the issue, and before we knew it we had a replacement waiting for us at an outfitter in Bishop! The rep even called the other store to confirm they had the right size and model to set aside for us. All we have to do is pay shipping for the outfitter to send the old one back, which would be cheaper than is we shipped it ourselves. His old one wasn’t even purchased new for this trip. It’s a few years old and they still replaced it for free with no hassle. What awesome service! We’d been worried about it failing during our next stretch and not sure how we’d get a new pack to our next resupply in time, but they took care of everything.

Finally there was nothing to do but wait around for the bus. Since we had a few hours we decided to try for a hitch and after a while someone actually stopped. We hopped into Bob’s truck with another hiker, Black Hat, and we were off to Bishop and a few days off. As it turns out Black Hat is from Duluth and went to school near Ely. Small world! We’re looking forward to some time off to catch up on our sleep and calories. It’s been tough to make ourselves eat over the last week and we think that being at a lower elevation and resting will help our appetites.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 788

Day 56 – Crabtree Meadows to Bubbs Creek – 18 miles

It was another early morning today. We had almost 13 miles to go before crossing Forester Pass at 13,000 feet. In a normal snow year this would put us in a tough spot. Hikers try to cross passes early in the day so the snow leading up to them is still hard enough to walk on. In a normal year we would be slogging through soft snow for a mile or more before the pass…but this year virtually all the snow has already melted.

We left camp and came back to the junction with the John Muir Trail. Instead of heading east towards Whitney, we turned west and hiked back towards the PCT. We began climbing over a series of ridges and crossing the streams between them. It was a real change to pass a good water source every few miles and it let us carry less with us than ever before. We were climbing gradually overall and after a few miles we reached the Bighorn Plateau – a huge, open expanse above treeline surrounded by high peaks.

We headed north through the dried grass and up a narrower canyon to the left, beginning our approach to the pass. Since time was less of a factor we stopped for lunch to give us energy for the climb. We managed to find a spot out of the wind behind some boulders. While we ate we looked at the jagged wall in front of us and tried to guess which gap was the pass. I put my money on the one with a small streak of snow down the front.

Back on the trail again, we started to climb up from 10,500 feet as we got nearer to the pass. We unexpectedly came up on a few glacial lakes. They were the source of the creek and drainage we’d been following for most of the afternoon. Finally we started up the switchbacks to the right of the pass. The trail itself was well graded and I was glad it wasn’t hidden under snow as they might be in other years. Before we realized it we were turning onto a wider switchback cut into the rock face – the final approach. At the end the trail cut to the right, into the rock chute under the pass, across the back (covered in snow) and then up some switchbacks on the other side before reaching the top.

We crossed the snow bridge with no issues thanks to the deep tracks of hikers before us. It was much less intimidating than I’d expected but it was easy to see how more snow could make it terrifying. After navigating the switchbacks on the other wall of the chute, we came up to the top and stood looking into King’s Canyon national park. It was quite a view and surprisingly different from the land on the other side of the pass – a narrow, lush canyon sandwiched between towering granite ridges. The trail dropped into thick pine forest after passing through green meadows fed by wide creeks. The south side of the pass was a desert by comparison.

After lots of pictures we headed down the north side. In general there’s more snow north of the pass than south and this was true here too. In normal years many hikers slide down from the pass since the switchbacks are under snow but this year there was so little that we had to hike them. The snow we did cross was very soft, but the existing boot tracks were pretty reliable.

We dropped down away from the pass to make a few more miles. As we came closer to treeline again we started passing through beautiful miniature woods – stunted pines, tiny patches of alpine flowers, and little trickles of water. As we got closer to Bubbs Creek and our stopping point for the night the forest filled in around small clearings and lots of pale granite boulders. There were many nice campsites so when we found the clearing next to one of the bear boxes too crowded for our tastes we went another few minutes down the trail to a cozy spot further off trail.

This was one of the nicest places we’ve stayed yet. We could hear Bubbs Creek in the distance on the other side of the trail. The pale cliff walls behind us lit up with the colors of the sunset, glowing long after the bottom of the canyon had reached dusk. There were lots of mosquitos around but they weren’t biting badly and they disappeared as it got darker and colder out. We’re being extra careful about bears tonight – now that we’re getting into more popular areas they’re more likely to come sniffing around. Tomorrow is a town day. We’ll have about 12 miles to hike to reach the trailhead. Only 5 are on the PCT before we turn onto the Bullfrog Lake trail and go over Kearsarge Pass. It’ll be a steep day but it’s supposed to be incredibly beautiful.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 785

Day 55 – Mt. Whitney

We got up earlier today than we had in a long time. It was cold but dry, so we didn’t have to take the time to dry out our bags. After a quick breakfast we sorted through our snacks for the day and then packed up camp. We left lost of our gear in the meadow and hiked out with light packs.

After a successful dry crossing of Whitney Creek we joined the John Muir Trail and headed east to the mountain. Right away the views were stunning. As the sun came up it painted a line of light on the pale ridges to the south and lit up the tops of the trees. We walked along the creek for a few miles through open pine forest. As we’ve seen since we entered the Sierra, many of the trees were twisted and gnarled, their barkless wood burnished to shades of rich gold and brown. Contrasted with the deep blue sky and the white of the granite all around us, it makes for some incredible scenery. Little pockets of miniature alpine flowers grew along the trail and in cracks in the rocks. The colors out here are just amazing.

Eventually we came to Timberline Lake, which was still as glass except for the ripples from the trout as they caught bugs. It was a gorgeous, picturesque spot and it was easy to see why they don’t allow camping here – it would get trashed so quickly. True to its name, we soon passed the tree line and headed into open alpine meadow. After crossing over a ridge we were treated to a vista over Guitar Lake with the sheer wall of Whitney behind it. It seemed impossible that we would ever be able to climb it.

Guitar Lake is a popular spot for hikers to stay the night before summitting. Logically enough, it’s named for the shape of the lake – wide at either end, narrow in the middle, with a narrow neck sticking out the west side. This would have been a lovely place to camp. I can’t believe how green it was. In pictures taken during regular snow years it’s a barren, rocky, snow-filled basin – nothing like the paradise we saw today.

There were lots of fat marmots grazing around the meadow and they weren’t very shy about people. I’ve heard that hikers who leave their packs here risk having the shoulder straps chewed up since the varmints will go after all the salt accumulated there from sweat.

After another slight ridge we passed some small glacial pools and then started our climb in earnest. Switchback after rocky switchback, we crawled up the mountain. We were feeling every one of the 11,000 feet and we still had 3,500 feet more to gain. One slow step at a time we climbed the first section. After a few miles of this we reached the Whitney portal junction, where the trail up the east side of the mountain joins the west side trail we were on. Suddenly there was a population explosion. The east side is the main access to the mountain and lots of dayhikers come up that way since there’s a trailhead at the bottom. The east side is a steeper trail since it starts from a lower elevation, and it’s very impressive that people hike up it with little prior training or acclimation. We had 6 weeks of 20-mile days under our belts and were still struggling! It was a little gratifying to see that we moved faster than most of them, though.

After the portal junction the trail turned north and ran along the back face of the mountain. Somewhat discouragingly, we still had 2 miles and 1000 feet of uphill to do. Some sections turned into a bit of a rock scramble and we actually passed over a 30-foot traverse of snow all melted into spikes from the sun.

We passed a few slots in the mountain face that allowed us to catch glimpses of the east side and the little frozen lakes thousands of feet below us. Finally the trail hooked right and started up the last stretch. Even this was surprisingly tough – we knew it was the end, but couldn’t actually see the summit or the but there until we were nearly at the top. All we could go by were the other hikers far above us, showing us how far we still had to go.

Finally, though, we were at the top – 14,505 feet and higher than we’d ever been outside of an airplane. I’ve been waiting a long time to get here and it was a pretty emotional moment. I felt so grateful to be there with Keith, with both of us in good enough health and acclimated enough to reach the top. We signed the register and checked out the little Smithsonian hut before finding a place to sit on the eastern face.

The views were absolutely breathtaking. The cliffs dropped straight down for thousands of feet to a partially frozen lake – which was itself thousands of feet above the Onion Valley below. Far away we could see the town of Lone Pine, a popular resupply stop for hikers. It felt like we could see every peak in the entire range. We could even spy Mts. Owens and Jenkins in the hazy distance, all the way back at Walker Pass. It was an incredible reminder of how far we’ve come in over 100 miles and a week’s worth of hiking. We bundled up in our bags to escape the wind and just sat for a while, taking it all in.

We couldn’t stay all day, though, and after a long rest we packed up and started down. This took much less effort than the climb up but navigating the rocks was harder with gravity on our side. We did the whole thing in reverse and about half the time it took us to climb. It was cool to be able to look back over the valley we left that morning. The lakes looked tiny and the trail next to them was only barely visible. In seemingly no time at all we were back on the valley floor and heading west, back to Crabtree Meadow. We started passing hikers who were heading to Guitar Lake to summit the following day. One of them was Packman, who we hadn’t seen since before Chicken Spring Lake. It was really good to talk to him again since this might be the last time we see him.

We passed all the wonderful sights in reverse, gaining a second perspective on some beautiful country as we hiked the easy trail back to our campsite. At one point we passed a grouse with a bunch of little chicks. Even though we were only a few feet away she didn’t seem concerned about us. We were so close that we could hear her chirping to her babies. After a few more miles we reached the turnoff for the meadow and found our camp safe and sound. We were considering doing a few more miles today to set us up to cross Forester Pass tomorrow but as soon as we laid down we knew we would stay here again tonight. We’ll turn in early and get up early again tomorrow to hit the pass – the highest point on the official PCT at 13,200. It’ll be another day of climbing but not as steep as today was. The day after tomorrow we’ll head into town for a resupply through Kearsage Pass, which is supposed to be spectacular. We are very much looking forward to having a few days off and a real bed and the amazing scenery along the way is the icing on the cake.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 766

Day 54 – Chicken Spring Lake to Crabtree Meadows – 16 miles

We were much warmer last night than we expected, but we still didn’t sleep very well since the tent was flapping in the wind all night long. We slept in a little before packing up and heading for Crabtree Meadows. The day started with a short but steep climb that we took very slowly. We rounded one of the ridges above the lake and could see the entire bowl down below us.

From there we started a long, mostly level section across open slopes dotted with pines and enormous granite boulders. We walked alternately on sand – which was tough – and pine duff. Around us rose tall, rocky ridges and every so often we passed green meadows. One of these meadows was our lunch destination 10 miles out at Rock Creek. Along the way we crossed the border into Sequoia National Park. This marks the start of a stretch where bear canisters are required – hanging food from a tree isn’t protection enough. The park also provides bearproof boxes at popular backcountry sites but they aren’t common enough for thruhikers to rely on alone.

As we entered the Rock Creek site I saw some animal running through the woods away from us. I think it was a pine marten – weasel-like and reddish, but too large to be just a weasel. I know it wasn’t a fox or a coyote. I’ll have to ask the ranger if they have them in this area. This was a really nice lunch spot. We put our backs against a tree and listened to the creek while we ate. Afterwards we were so beat that we took a short nap. The altitude is still tough on us and we’re constantly tired. After filtering some water and doing our laundry we set off for another 6 miles to the Crabtree ranger station.

The first order of business was crossing Guyot Creek. This was a larger stream of water than we’re used to seeing and it required some careful rock-hopping to get across dry. Apparently I wasn’t careful enough because I slipped at the far end and plunged into water up to my shins. For a second I though I was going all the way in but I managed to recover ungracefully. It’s good practice for down the road when we’ll have to ford even larger creeks – there’s no getting around wet feet in the Sierra.

From there we climbed up and over a steep saddle near Mt. Guyot and hiked a few miles more to Lower Crabtree Meadow. It was an idyllic scene – a huge open expanse of green, backed by towering pale cliffs. A herd of deer was grazing in the dusk, unconcerned about us. We crossed Whitney Creek without me going in this time and then left the PCT to start up the final mile to the upper meadow and the campsites there. We had thought about going further up the trail to set ourselves up for a shorter climb, but we were tired all day and had made poor time. It might work out in our favor since we plan to dump most of our gear at the bear box in the meadow and hike up with minimal weight. It’ll be an early morning – we’ll probably be up before the sun.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 766

Day 53 – Death Canyon Creek to Chicken Spring Lake – 20 miles

The miles came a little easier today than they did yesterday. It was a cold morning – a novelty, for now – and we ate breakfast in our bags. This is something we should really train ourselves out of now that we’re getting into bear country. Eventually the sun came up over the ridge to the east and things started to warm up a little.

We started right off with a climb. It was gradual, but at this altitude we move a lot slower. It felt like how we used to struggle during our first few days out on the trail. I don’t envy anyone starting their hike on this section – it would take a lot of the fun out of it. Our morale got a boost when we took a break after a while and found that we had actually been doing better than 2 miles an hour, which I thought we’d struggle to reach. The temperature was perfect at last: cool and breezy, but the sun kept us from getting too cold. The views got better and better as the pines thinned out. To our east we could see what looked like salt flats down in a meadow. As we reached the top of our climb a whole new vista of peaks appeared in front of us. We kept hearing jets, possibly from the nearby China Lake base, and at one point a fighter plane screamed by close overhead. I hoped the pilot would do it again so I could get a better look, but no such luck.

The trail went downhill the rest of the way to our lunch spot and we gladly ambled along, happy to not be huffing and puffing and resting every 5 minutes. Lunch was at Diaz Creek, the next potential water, and since it was flowing well it saved us from having to go another mile down the trail. The creek flowed through a nice sage meadow with lots of dried up cowpies everywhere – par for the course even in a designated wilderness area. This is why we always filter our water out here, no matter where it comes from. Packman showed up after a while and we chatted as we did our chores. As we sat down to eat the sky clouded over and it got chilly. For a while we were worried about getting rained on. It threatened, dropping first a few ice pellets and then some sprinkles of rain. We ate quickly and got the heck out of there, reasoning that if it was going to rain we would stay warmest if we were already hiking.

As seems to happen, after we got our rain gear on the weather improved. We hiked for a while with our ponchos on but got clammy quickly as we headed into another climb. After last week’s storm we’re a little gunshy about the weather so it took us a while before we were ready to take them off. We climbed gradually again for the rest of the afternoon on our way to camp at 11k feet. After 5 miles we passed a spring flowing right over the trail and took the opportunity to do our laundry. The water was ice cold and with it getting chillier out we were glad to get moving again.

We made good time but dragged towards the end as we ran out of gas. We were watching for the Cottonwood Pass junction, which meant we only had a half mile to our stopping point. It seemed to take forever for us to reach it. After a little more climbing we arrived at Chicken Spring Lake, a small lake nestled in a bowl against some spectacular towering cliffs. It reminded me a lot of Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park at nearly the same altitude. Thankfully we weren’t quite above the treeline so we might be able to avoid lots of dew on our bags tomorrow morning. All the boulders scattered around the lake gave us a few options for finding a place out of the wind. These two things are important because this will likely be our coldest night yet, with the possible exception of our unusually chilly night near Mt. San Gorgonio before Big Bear. We found a nice spot in between a few boulders just large enough for our tent – which ought to add about 15 degrees of warmth around us. That might mean the difference between a restful night and one spent lying awake shivering. I’m wearing double layers tonight. This is by far the highest up I’ve ever camped and I’m interested to see if it affects my sleep. We already have less of an appetite despite a long day.

Tomorrow we will set ourselves up to climb Mt. Whitney the following day. Our hard work and 20 miles today means we only have 15 to do to the Whitney trail junction. From there we have a few options for camping depending on how far up the trail we want to go. We’re glad to have one more day to get a little acclimated. We did well today but feel pretty pooped now that we’re curled up in our bags. I’d hate to get sick or just not have the energy to get to the summit.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 751

Day 52 – Beck Meadows to Death Canyon Creek – 17 miles

Today was a tough day and we felt like we were dragging for no particular reason. Although I thought I had slept well last night it took a lot of effort to get out of bed. Our bags were damp with dew and we had to take some time to dry them, so we were late getting out of camp. From the minute we started all I could think about was crawling back into my bag at the end of the day…not a good sign.

Our first goal was another crossing of the Kern 3 miles away. We set off under the pines, serenaded by the cicadas rasping in the trees. It’s nice to hear bug noises again after the desert. Last night we even had some crickets. The trail climbed gently, a pleasant start to the day, and before long we reached the river and the arched bridge there. We took a break to do some laundry and relax, and to watch the swallows that live under the bridge. They would all come and go at once – everyone chattering as they swooped down to find their nest, then a few minutes of silence, then a repeat as they all took to the sky again. Further down the river a fly fisherman was catching trout. It was a lovely spot to rest but we had to move on eventually.

Right away we started a climb over the grassy slopes of the meadow and up the Cow Creek drainage. We crossed the creek a few times. It was down to a trickle and we were a little worried about being able to get water from it further up. We climbed slowly under our heavy loads, a little disappointed that it was so tough when yesterday it seemed easier. My feet were bothering me a little – my insoles decided to cause trouble all of a sudden and it was causing a few hotspots. Later I would find that I got my first two blisters of the trip – big ones! We climbed and rested, climbed and rested, up what should have been a fairly easy trail. The altitude and weight of our packs were catching up with us.

Finally we reached the final creek crossing, which was still trickling and not too gross. Even though this wasn’t yet the halfway point for the day we stopped for lunch and for another long rest. We sat down to eat and couldn’t keep our eyes open. I actually dozed off with food in my mouth. We couldn’t figure out why we were so tired, but we didn’t need any more reason to take a nap. This wasn’t as restful as hoped, between the hot sun and the bugs and ants stopping by to check us out, but it was much better than just pushing on.

Eventually we gave in and hit the trail again. Our resolve was helped by the fact that we only had 500 more feet to gain before starting a descent that would last the rest of the day. We climbed to Gomez Meadow, another stretch of green, and from there slowly headed towards the saddle in the woods that would be our high point for the day at over 10,000 feet. From the top we could see sharp Sierra peaks to the north…and very little snow. Whitney lay to the northwest, just a few days away. I had taken out my insoles at lunch and my feet felt much better.

We started down towards Death Creek in an easy descent through open pine forest. Some of the trees were twisted and snapped off from some epic long-ago windstorm. One lying on the ground had long since lost its bark and we could see that the grain was corkscrewed along the entire length. When we reached the meadow and the creek we found that Death Creek looked like death warmed over. The reddish water was scummy and stagnant. Thank goodness there was a spring nearby. The area past the creek was open and gravelly with a bunch of boulders scattered around. It was tough to pick among all the nice spots.

Once we got our groundsheet down we dropped our packs and went in search of the spring. Once we found it – very little flow but way better than the creek – we also found Packman, who was camped there and had the place all to himself. We seem to be in a strange bubble between groups of hikers because we’ve hardly seen anyone since we left town. We chatted with him for a while as we filled our water bags. He’s from South Lake Tahoe, which we’ll reach in a few weeks as we end the Sierra. Tahoe is on the border and there are casinos across the state line in Nevada. The reason this is important is because said casinos have all you can eat buffets, and hikers coming out of the Sierra could probably actually eat a horse. Weeks away and we’re already thinking about them.

Water in hand, we said goodnight to Packman and headed back to our own camp where I could at last crawl into my bag like I’d been craving all day. Before I could rest I had to do a little foot doctoring. The worse of the two blisters was under the now-concrete callus at the base of my big toe, sticking out to one side. No wonder it had been hurting. A sterilized needle and some leukotape fixed everything up and hopefully it won’t cause me any more problems. I’d hate to develop foot problems at this point in our hike. Hopefully we’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight and have an easier day tomorrow.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 731

Day 51 – Kennedy Meadows to Beck Meadows – 12 miles

We slept in a little today and took our time leaving town. I made good use of the coffee while it was available – it’ll be another week before civilization and my next cup. We chatted with some hikers for a while and grazed on the breakfast stuff we bought yesterday at the store. Turns out the Huskies will be staying another day – Matt caught a stomach bug Jamie had yesterday and it showed up right as they were packing to leave this morning.

We packed up all our gear and food and cleaned out our trailer. My bear canister doesn’t fit very well in my pack so I tried putting it on the top of the outside, lashing it down with the top strap. It felt pretty unwieldy but I decided to give it a shot until lunch. Keith can fit his canister horizontally in his pack, which is better for filling space and carries better. My pack is just a tiny bit too narrow for this. Fully loaded with food and water, our packs weighed 37 pounds each. This was more than I expected but we were carrying nearly a gallon of water each on such a hot day.

After our last goodbyes we set out back up the road to the trail. Right away we missed the umbrellas we’d sent home, but our wet bandanas and hats helped to keep us cool. We headed back to the open scrub and started north through a nearly treeless expanse, stopping to take a break under a tall cedar that offered the only shade around. We crossed numerous ATV roads and meandered closer to the river as we hiked the few miles to the forest service campground. Once we passed through the parking lot we started into sparse pine forest and wound gradually up and down as the river disappeared again.

Our goal was the next river crossing, where we planned to eat lunch and take a long break while the rest of the afternoon heat passed. We got there just as our shoulders were really starting to complain. We dropped our packs in the shade and went for a dip in the river before anything else. It took a few days longer than expected, but we finally got our swim! After soaking for a bit we got out and had lunch while we dried. I wasn’t happy l about how top heavy my pack felt with the bear canister on top, so I readjusted my gear to fit it vertically in the pack body. I can’t quite get the thing all the way closed but I’ll get better at it as we go along. After this we finally set off for a gradual climb up to our first Sierra meadow.

The pine was nice to hike through and the trail was very well-graded. Even with full loads we made good progress up the slope. Both our packs felt more comfortable after the minor readjustments at lunch. Eventually we reached a burned area and were put right back out in the sun, but by this point in the afternoon it had lost a lot of intensity. We climbed nearly 2000 feet, heading past the novelty of actual grass towards one particular saddle we couldn’t see over. When we reached the top we saw a long expanse of green stretched out before us, ringed by distant ridges. We had reached Beck Meadow. As we walked into the green and up the valley the sun was setting, treating us to an amazing blaze of orange and purple as it shone through some clouds over the ridge. It’s a shame that it will never come out as beautifully on camera.

Our goal was a small spring and trough a mile or so up the meadow. Our water report wasn’t clear on if it was still flowing but it would save us a few miles that night if it was. Once we got there we were disappointed to see that the trough was empty. Just before heading back I realized that I could still hear water. A moment of looking brought us to a small spring, nearly hidden in the grass. It wasn’t much more than a trickle except right where it emerged and formed a little pool perfect for dipping from. With that solved, we set up camp and finished our chores before crawling into our bags. It’s nice and cool now and the stars are incredible since it’s so dark out here. Tomorrow’s trail will take us up to 10k feet and we’re excited to see how the landscape keeps changing. We had a wonderful couple of days off but it’s good to be back on trail all on our own again.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 614

Day 48 – near Kern River to Kennedy Meadows – 5 miles

It took us a long time to get going this morning. Everything was damp after the storm and the wet night. We waited until the sun rose above the eastern ridge and started to warm everything up. As it was our bags and clothes were still damp when we finally hit the trail .

The worst was the wet shoes. I’ve finally given in to the idea of buying a pair of cheap low gaiters like many hikers wear to keep rocks and other debris out of my shoes. This didn’t use to bother me in Southern California but it’s starting to get irritating in this gravelly section. When the rain hit yesterday and soaked our shoes, all the debris in them turned to concrete and was impossible to clean out until it dried. Since our feet are likely to be wet from stream crossings in this section gaiters sound like a good idea.

The last few miles to Kennedy Meadows ran to the river and then alongside it for a while as it crested over a few ridges. The river was impressive – surrounded by green and full of trout – but the lure of town was too much for us to linger for long. After peeling away from the water the trail crossed a some low, scrubby plains before reaching the last paved roads it’ll cross for a few hundred miles. The hike was exposed and the weather was still hot, so we were glad for our umbrellas.

After a short roadwalk into town we settled right into relaxing with no trouble. The general store was the main hub of activity where hikers got their packages, bought snacks/lunch/beer, did laundry, showered and generally lounged. We grabbed a real hiker lunch without even thinking about it – a double cheeseburger each chased with half a pint of ice cream. It wasn’t even a struggle to finish everything. We’ll have to relearn moderation after we finish this hike.

Later we picked up all the packages we had waiting for us and began sorting through food and gear for the next section. We won’t be carrying our ice axes or our umbrellas so we’ll ship them back home. We got our bear canisters and began the process of learning how to fit 7 days of food into them…but first we had to learn how to open them. Tomorrow we’ll take another day off here, maybe followed by a third. We’ll need to try to get my headlamp back before leaving since the herd of hikers tends to stretch out a little from here on out.

Lots of hikers we know are here since this tends to be a bottleneck. We saw the Huskies and the Germans for the first time since Mojave and it was fun to hang out with them again.

– Posted from the PCT

Location:Pct mile 702