PCT Day 45: Zero in Kennedy Meadows

June 2, 2022

0 miles

I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve been behind for the past week. Usually I write each entry at night, but I’ve been so wiped every day recently that all I can manage is a brief list of notes before I pass out. So I’m determined to get caught up on my entries this morning.

Around 6:30 I roll out of my tent and down to the porch outside of Grumpy’s. I put on a white noise playlist and block everything out except words and hiking. It feels so good to get into a flow state like this.

Before I know it, it’s close to opening time and the deck is full of hungry hiker trash waiting for breakfast. The doors open and I rush in with Catless and DLT. We order the hiker breakfast: sausage, eggs, hash browns, and the most massive pancakes I’ve ever seen. They’re supposedly endless, but I don’t think many hikers have ever gotten through more than one. When we finally get ours, they spill off the plate and are topped with a huge scoop of butter. I can’t finish one, but the three-quarters that I do consume are a delight. I sit there for hours drinking coffee after coffee, writing, checking email, and being on social media. (Naturally, DLT is stoked about bottomless coffee and has at least 5 of them, into which he pours maple syrup, because he is the way that he is.)

The rest of the day is spent in a whirlwind of tasks. I finish my phone-based internet things, charge devices, and pick up a few supplies at the infamous next-door Triple Crown Outfitters, run by PCT legend Yogi. It’s extremely impressive how many useful things she has in that little shipping container. I take my goodies back to our campsite, where I find a brand-new CNOC—a type of water container that’s mega popular in the thru-hiking world and that I’ve been thinking about buying since the AT—lying on the floor of my tent. “Happy early birthday!” DLT says, grinning.

Back at the restaurant, I hang out with the tramily, the step tramily, and various other folks hanging about. Someone has produced two bottles of nail polish, one purple and one red. I still have the remnants of sparkles on mine from Tehachapi, and I paint over them with purple. It’s chunky, but it will work. Beetle gets his nails painted purple, and Andy opts for red. True fact: you must have painted nails before you enter the Sierras. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

Ishay rocking the half-red, half-purple look
Pants and Beetle are ready to go

Catless, DLT, and I are not really that hungry for lunch, so we eat some ice cream, fries, and beer. Hiking diet! Later I chat with Andy for a bit and then take a second shower, which is not as good as the first shower because the water periodically runs cold, but I get clean nonetheless.

Dinner is another cheeseburger. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually a little tired of cheeseburgers today. That doesn’t mean I won’t still eat one, to be clear.

Andy (whose trail name is now apparently Pants, but this feels very strange to me so I will probably still call him Andy for the foreseeable future) and Beetle prepare to go back to the trail with Stinger, Spice, and others from the step family. I guess they’re just a tramily now, honestly. They seem pretty tight, and they’ve now hiked several sections together just ahead of us. Plus, Petra left yesterday, so God only knows where she is now. It’s a little hard for me to accept that things are changing from how they were at the start, but I guess a group of six was bound to split up sometime, especially when there are different paces, plans, and hiking styles involved. The Group Formerly Known as the Step-Tramily seem keen to get out of Kennedy ASAP. Beetle tells us that they’re just going three miles tonight, then 17 tomorrow. So we plan to do 20 and catch up with them. We cheer them on as they leave. Into the Sierras!

I manage to connect with my mom on FaceTime for a bit despite her having a busy day. It’s good to catch up, especially since we’re about to be without cell service for a week. Also, it’s our dog Emma’s birthday. She’s 17! She can see an R-rated movie! Mom shows me Em stretching out on the bed and it makes me want to give her a little squeeze.

When I come back to the table, it’s getting dark, a very high hiker is singing songs he’s making up while he plays guitar, and DLT is off somewhere finishing up his tasks. Catless is still there, though, and so he gets to witness my reaction when I walk up to the table and see a metal headband topped with the words “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY” in rainbow letters, along with a huge pack of gold-colored paper crowns.

“What!” I exclaim. “Where did this come from?”

Catless smiles wryly. “Where do you think?”

When DLT appears again, I attack him with a hug. That stinker. The whole time I was kicking myself for not getting decorations in Ridgecrest, the whole time I was making that silly (but honestly fantastic) crown out of Sawyer Squeeze bags, he was just sitting on the secret that he’d already ordered me something. Dang. The feels. Thanks again, DLT!

There are a very large number of paper crowns, however, so we start picking out the designs we like the best to carry with us and hand out on the 8th. The table full of now quite high hikers next to us notices this and gets very excited. We give them crowns, and the guy with the guitar starts singing about it being my birthday soon and how I’m going to trip on acid and “get lei’d with a Hawaiian lei.” Nice.

It’s getting dark, the stoners are starting to dance now, and the sunset behind the mountains is tinting the sky pink. Kennedy has been a fun and necessary stop, but I’m ready to get back on trail. The Sierras are so close, and I can’t wait to see them again with my sweet friends.

I know that Beetle told us that their plan is to go the campsite that would be 20 miles for us tomorrow, but as I get ready for bed, I can’t help feeling doubtful. That group seems to be doing its own thing now. Who knows if and when we’ll see them again? Who knows what kind of mileage we’re about to do? It feels like we’re standing on the edge of a huge unknown.

Part of me misses the early days of the PCT, that first giddy week of getting to know this life and the people around me, hiking with just Andy, then Andy and Beetle, then Andy and Petra, and finally the whole group of us. It feels weird that it’s all changing now, but change is just a part of life and this trail, I suppose. Hike your own hike and all that. What happens happens. Right now I’m just grateful for all the memories made so far, all the people I’ve hiked with, and the people I’m hiking with now. Who knows who else we’ll meet? Who knows how it will all go? It’s all a mystery. We’ll see. We’ll see.

Sierras tomorrow.

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