June 3, 2022
Kennedy Meadows at mile 702.2 to campsite at mile 722.2
Morning is a flurry of packing, eating breakfast out of the hiker box, coffee drinking, and using the bathroom at Grumpy’s on more time before we head out into the mountains. I manage to fit my ice axe and bear canister on my pack, and while the weight of it is much less than the pack I took into the Sierras in 2017, it’s still much heavier than I’m used to in the desert. Oof. This is going to hurt.
Catless, DLT, and I take the 7:00 shuttle back to the trail. Goodbye, Kennedy Meadows! At the trailhead I braid my hair and put on my hat. That means it’s time for business. It’s pretty easy hiking for a while through a valley that still looks very desert-y, with sage and scrub brush and lizards. Every time DLT sees a lizard he’s annoyed. “We’re not in the desert anymore! What are you doing?” He wants to see a marmot real bad.
Before long we hit a camping area with a picnic table, toilets, and a very nice PCTA trail register. While we’re entering our information, we’re joined by the group of four Belgians we’ve been hiking around for the last week, as well as Christopher aka Smiley, Raymond, and Rolls and Royce, the couple who until this point were hiking with their dog Ellie. We take a massive group photo together. Our new trail buds!
We hike in a conga line for a while, which typically stresses me out, but it’s nice to talk to the Belgians a little more. I walk with Rainbow, who tells me she works with at-risk youth back in Gent and that she’s thinking of making a game for them related to the animals she sees on the PCT. Soon we reach a crossing of the South Fork of the Kern River, where a lovely bridge spans the gurgling water. It’s still so amazing to me that we’re going to be hiking in an area where there’s water everywhere! Goodbye, long carries! The Belgians leave before the thee of us do. We just sit there next to the water eating our bars and taking in the start of a new section.
We walk over the bridge and take some photos, then the trail turns upwards and it gets drier and desert-y again. DLT seems pretty zapped; the heat always gets him. Soon we come upon a small creek in a burn area. There isn’t much shade, but we sit beneath a little bush down in a hole by the creek. I’m realizing that I’m really going to have to ration food on this stretch. I packed my bear can back at home for six days and change and bought some extra snacks in Kennedy, but I still don’t think it’s going to be enough to get me to Kearsarge if I eat like I normally do. So it’s a tuna packet and a handful of dehydrated apple slices for me today.
The trail goes up through the hot, dry burn area, then finally comes down over a pass and through the forest. Soon we enter a huge meadow, behind which we can see the gray and white of the High Sierra. It still hasn’t hit me that I’m here! We take it slow, enjoying the views. Then the trail goes up and to the right and over another hill. We’d thought about stopping at the campsite at the top of the hill, but it’s not that far now to Monache Meadow, where the South Fork of the Kern meanders again. So we just decide to keep going. Meanwhile, DLT and I discover that we have two more shows in common that we love: Gravity Falls and Adventure Time. This conversation makes me want to watch them while drinking a beer and eating salt and vinegar chips.
Soon we arrive at the meadow, where we meet up with our trail pals again. It is a beautiful spot. The river slowly wanders through green grass and beneath the bridge, where tons of swallows have made nests. I lay my tyvek down and take a nap in the sun. I absolutely pass out. It’s delightful. When I wake up, most of the people are gone and DLT looks like he’s on the move to get going again. I filter some water and get ready to hike, then two other hikers tell us that they saw a pair of marmots upstream. DLT’s eyes go so wide I think they might pop out. We rush over, and sure enough, there are a couple of marmots on the bank of the creek. We’re really in the mountains now!
We start walking again over the bridge and through the other side of the meadow. Far Out says it’s going to be uphill, but it’s pretty pleasant and rolling for a bit. I feel pretty good until we enter the trees again and the trail goes steep. Then the hunger hits. My body notices I’m eating less, and it’s mad. But I can’t eat any more snacks because I’ve run out of rations for the day. I scrounge around and eat some candies that have been hiding in my hip pack, which helps, but not for long.
I lose DLT the minute the hill starts getting serious. I’m entering that 100-step trick mode. I decide to put on a podcast, but I can’t really focus on it. Catless and I leapfrog for a while, wandering around rocks and semi-switchbacks and blowdowns. At one point, I give up and sit on a rock and pull out the half-empty jar of peanut butter I got out of the hiker box this morning. I’ve already been snacking on it a lot today, so I only give myself two spoonfuls. Catless is ahead of me now, and I only have half a mile left, but it feels like the longest distance I have ever had to hike. I’m shaky and weak. I am so hungry. How am I going to make it through this section? I should have brought more food.
After what feels like an eternity of taking step after slow, painful step, I reach the little creek where we decided we’d eat dinner. DLT is already there in his purple hoodie working on a dinner. I plop down, get some water from the creek, and dive headfirst into the most calorifically dense meal I have: a Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai. It even has separate packets with peanut butter, peanuts, lime, and sriracha. It might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten. By the time I’m all the way through those 800 calories, I feel a little better. I finish off dinner with a tea, get more water, and then trudge behind the boys for 0.6 more uphill miles to camp around a pile of rocks in a conifer forest.
This is the camp where Beetle said they were going to be, but they aren’t here. The Belgians are, though, and they tell us that they’re going to adopt us into their tramily. Hooray! Catless sets up for cowboy camping, as usual, and DLT and I tent it. It’s cold, I’m tired, and I’m a little scarred after this first hungry, difficult day in the Sierras. But I’m here with my friends and our nice, friendly new international trail pals, and we are doing the thing.