PCT CA Section G PCT CA Section H

Temperature down, elevation up: Kennedy Meadows to Kearsarge Pass

Day 1

Woke up with the sun again to head down to the Grumpy Bear’s deck to plug in and figure out the permit situation. Based on Yogi’s advice, I finally found the correct web page and starting registering a permit. They gave me 20 minutes to guess where I would be spending the night each night for the next three weeks, so I flicked through the map making wild guesses. But I got it submitted and paid for. Promptly at 8, I called the forest service agency and got the verbal rundown of all the rules, after which my permits were emailed. I forwarded them to Yogi, hoping she notice the email and print them before she came to open the store.

Then it was breakfast time. I got the breakfast burrito this time. A much better choice. And it came with another beach Frisbee-sized pancake, and this time I made the wise decision to eat only the one. Taylor ate there too, but the Midnight Crew were too busy packing up to leave to arrive before 10, when the kitchen closed to prepare lunch. They were extremely disgruntled about missing breakfast, and decided to stay there in the restaurant until lunch was being served. So we all sat together at the window bar, plugged in. I finished and published the last blog post and downloaded some podcasts.

At 10, I left to see if Yogi had brought my permits. She had. Which meant I could leave that day. I started packing and purchased a couple more items I had just learned I would need.

All packed, I went back to Grumpy Bear’s for a strawberry syrup topped mini sundae, and Taylor and I arranged a ride to the trail together.

And then I realized the season finale of a show I was following had released, so I pushed back our departure a half hour.

Finally, Wayne (again) drove Taylor and I to the trail in the van to start about 2pm. Putting my pack on, I realized I couldn’t find the belt I’ve been using as a substitute sternum strap. So Taylor hiked out and I rode back to Grumpy Bear’s to search around there and TCO again (and we picked up a new arrival on the way). No luck. Yogi wasn’t selling anything I could use as replacement either. Tore my shirt while searching. Gave up and rode back to the trail.

The hike started through more flat sandy desert scrubland. Lost the trail for a bit. Saw tons of car campers all over including right next to the trail. On the other side of KM campground, the trail followed the Kern River to a bridge. Yogi had suggested I acquire my water here, so I stopped. There was also a swimming hole that looked just like the kind of thing a water park would try to emulate, with a cave and a waterfall to stand under. There was a group of four young hikers and a very skittish dog camping here and I sat with them while filtering water. One offered me whiskey. I declined.

At the same time, MC showed up again. They had hiked out an hour or so before me, but I had passed them while they were swimming in a different hole. They stopped to collect water here also, and we would end up hiking close together the rest of the day. Of course, I was usually chasing them because they hike much faster, but they would stop and I would pass them.

They decided to pass up the campsite 2 miles in and put in an extra 3 to the next area. So I went along. Bad idea. The next three were extremely rough, climbing straight up the side of a creek lined with what I can only describe as rough grit sandpaper bushes. They soon stopped and I past them, keeping well ahead by following the trail in spite of the dying twilight. We were nearly at the campsite before I stopped to get out my headlamp and they caught up.

We made camp nearby one another, and after cooking and doing all the things one must do before going to bed, it was nearly midnight. The Midnight Crew strikes again.

Also, when I unpacked to make camp, I found the missing belt. Woo-hoo.

Total distance: 11 miles

Grumpy Bear’s Retreat
A nice swimming hole on the Kern

Day 2

MC and I left camp together but they stopped soon after and I didn’t stop until I reached the swallow bridge over the South Fork Kern River. There were lots of golden trout here. I had a snack and got some water and talked to a lot of people hiking by. Eventually, Taylor, who had stayed not too far from our camp, caught up to me. I went ahead and left him there.

Taylor passed me when I stopped to cool off in a creek later, but I caught up to him at the top of a long annoying hill climb, where he had had to stop to led a herd of cattle pass. They had really chewed up that section of trail, but it improved a little ahead. We walked roughly together to the top of the hill before I stopped to get some water and lunch. We saw our first marmots in the meadow there. MC also caught up to us.

I passed them making camp together later that evening, but hiked on another three miles to a nice protected campsite near Gomez Meadow. The last mile I was about to collapse and had to really struggle through it.

Total distance: 17 miles

There is a blurry marmot on that rock

Day 3

The look of the trail was clearly different at this point, but it looked basically the same all day. More up than down, lots of sand. Nothing really exciting. I stayed just ahead of Taylor and MC all day, then called it quits when I reached the campsite near Dutch Meadow around 6pm. I had eaten and was ready for bed by the time they rolled in and set up nearby.

Total distance: 14 miles

Day 4

MC left camp first by waking up earlier. I slept in a bit.

The highlight of the day was Chicken Spring Lake, our first alpine lake, just before entering Sequoia National Park. I ate lunch on a rock in the middle of it. Taylor took a nap on a rock next to it.

I caught up to MC in the campsite next to Rock Creek. We camped there. A park ranger was there suggesting things for another man to do (and clearing trash out of the bear box). Said fellow planned to be out in the woods without resupply for weeks just rambling around and checking things out. He made a campfire and we spent some time near it before I turned in just after 9. MC stayed up late by the fire, as expected.

Total distance: 17 miles

The view from my campsite with Benroy packing up

Day 5

As a result, I woke up first. Even so, I saw a guy cruise through camp at top speed while I was getting ready. I saw him instantly find a way to cross Rock Creek without getting his feet wet as if he’d been there before. There was a lot bridging the creek just downstream of the trail crossing.

I was ready to leave by the time MC was awake. I informed them of the golden trout in the creek and where the log was and told them I still didn’t have the food to spend a day climbing Mt. Whitney then set off without them.

By the time I reached Whitney Creek and Lower Crabtree Meadows for a late lunch (having spent an hour or more earlier doing various things around Guyot Creek), I had a crazy idea that I could summit Whitney that evening before sunset. I told MC and Taylor so when they caught me up there. So I hiked up to the PCT/JMT junction and made camp, left my pack there, and took my day pack full of snacks and water as fast as I could up the Whitney trail. Soon after I started, I was assaulted by a squirrel vaulting off my legs like I was a stunt actor in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I passed another ranger who clearly wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to try to summit Whitney at night. I assured her I wouldn’t.

I was getting winded from the altitude as I climbed the 3 miles up to Guitar Lake. By the time I reached it, I looked up at Whitney and saw the 4 miles of climbing I had ahead of me and decided I wasn’t interested in it anymore. I met some guys by the lake who had just come down and jumped into the lake myself, then followed them back down to Crabtree Meadows chatting the whole way.

I couldn’t find MC or Taylor camped anywhere in the meadow even though they intended to summit Whitney the next day. I figured I had seen the last of them and went back to my campsite. Along the way, I found Kaleidoscope setting up camp. An annoyingly optimistic type who didn’t stop for anyone or anything. We had chased him down from having summitted Whitney that day also. I’m pretty sure he was the same guy who had sped through camp that morning on a mission. Another PCT thru-hiker.

It was dark by the time I had finished supper and got to bed, but it would have been after midnight if I had gone ahead with climbing Whitney. I ended up being glad I saved my strength.

Total hiking distance: 13.5 miles

Total trail miles: 6.5

Brown trout in its own demesne

Day 6

Started real early this time. Out of camp by 6:30. Kaleidoscope passed early on and I expressed excitement about some of the things we would see that day. After another creek crossing where he pointed out the best path, I would never see him again. He did not slow down ever.

There were a couple of early ascents and descents that morning, including crossing the Big Horn Plateau, but the big deal of the day was the miles of climbing I would do that afternoon with no shade approaching Forester Pass. I took way too many pictures of the approach. When I stopped for lunch, I was accosted by a way-too-friendly marmot looking for handouts.

It was late afternoon by the time I was coming down the other side of the pass, and there were places where I had to slide to snowfields and circumnavigate 10 foot snow banks to find the trail. Apparently the north side of Forester is almost never clear of snow.

With all the climbing, it had taken me 12 hours to do 12 miles when I stopped to chat to some fellow travelers about options for getting to town. I walked on another mile and pitched my tent in a little site just beside the trail.

Total distance: 13 miles

Day 7

Time to get off and resupply. Up early to find a layer of frost on my pack, but luckily my Sawyer filter was still wet. Not frozen. Phew.

Easy 5 miles down to Bullfrog Lake Trail. Stopped for lunch at the small lake below Bullfrog Lake, walking all the way around it and then jumping off the rock. Two hours of relaxation before the steep climb up to Kearsarge Pass.

Just over the pass, was accosted by a day hiker needing matches for his picnic. I tossed him my lighter and walked on. He shouldn’t be out without a lighter anyway and I could get a new one for 50 cents in town.

Further down from the pass, a man stepped into the trail moving quickly, so I started talking to him. He was sleeping on his truck each night and hiking up the trail to random lakes to fish, catching his limit each day. Also, he was a Marine squadron leader on July 4 break. His name was (Connor?) Stanley. I screenshotted his picture from the official marines Instagram below.

At his truck in the parking lot at the bottom, traded my last lime for a shot of a very nice Canadian whiskey. Then, he agreed to take me to the Lone Pine grocery store in exchange for filling up his gas tank. He actually went to the grocery store first and followed me around before taking me to the gas station and then the historic Dow Villa Hotel.

I went out looking for a barbecue that was supposed to be happening in town that day but couldn’t find it. So I took a pizza from the place across the street to my room. It would serve as dinner and breakfast.

A long bath, a beer, and a phone call ended the day.

Total hiking distance: 14 miles

Total trail miles: 5

I have it on good authority that the cameraman heard at this exact moment “Stop being such a vagina!”
Mt. Whitney
A city so grounded in filming western movies, it named a street after Gene Autry
An historic hotel room
PCT CA Section G

Limey Dipper: The End of the Desert

The nice thing about skipping the southernmost 450 miles of the trail is that I get just enough time in the desert to get a good understanding of what desert hiking is like and how to approach it but not so much that I get bored with it. Ah, but I didn’t leave off with hiking, did I? I had just fallen asleep in town.

Day 1

I woke up at a reasonably early hour in my motel room, unwilling to emerge from cover thanks to the efficacy of the swamp cooler. So I just got up and turned it off.

As soon as I had myself put together enough to go out, I walked across the highway to Dam Korner Cafe (the other side of Dick Weed’s, where breakfast is served) and had two full glasses of orange juice with my breakfast. Then back to the motel to pack up. Check-out was 11am, but I left at 10 because I had errands to run. The lady who operated the motel let me leave my pack in her office.

I had three goals for the day, the first of which was straightforward: pick up my package at the post office, get my new maps out, and bounce it forward. The second was to get access to a computer to put more audiobooks on my mp3 player. Unfortunately, the library was closed and the motel didn’t have one.

So I decided to continue with my third goal: to catch the bus to Kernville to have lunch at the Kern River Brewery. The motel lady gave me and my pack a lift to the bus stop, where I waited 20 minutes past the posted time without an arrival. So I called the bus company. They informed me that that route was no longer operating, but they could schedule me via dial-a-ride. Turns out the next bus that could take me to Kernville wouldn’t go for most of an hour, and the only one that could get me back in time to catch the bus to the trail would leave as soon as I arrived. So I gave up on the lunch in Kernville idea. This is how life works when you go to rural towns without a car–no such thing as Uber out that way.

So back to goal 2: walk through town looking for a computer. Strangely enough, the same company that screwed me out of a brewery visit solved my computer problem for me. A man who worked in the local office for the bus company offered to let me come inside and use his computer. I thought it would not take long, but their internet was so slow that I ended up staying over an hour downloading using my phone’s LTE then transferring to the mp3 player using the computer. The two guys that worked there were really chill and the work was light, so they chatted with me about everything from diet and exercise to current events while I waited on the downloads.

Finally, just before 4, I thanked them and left to return to Dick Weed’s for my last town food and a parting beer. One of the waitresses was the same that had served me breakfast. I had 3 pork sliders and half an order of fried green beans–even the appetizer portions were way too big–so that I was busting at the seams when I walked back to the bus stop just before the bus to Walker Pass left.

The bus driver clearly wanted to be a race car driver because I tried to work on my last blog post only to very rapidly become motion sick as she tried to throw me from my seat around every turn. I gave up and spent the rest of the trip staring at the horizon, gripping the edge of the seat, and breathing deeply. I was grateful when she finally dropped me off, and spent the next few minutes just sitting on the roadside and breathing.

I hit the trail around 6 with a plan to hike up the hill and camp at the campsite 4 miles in, at which I expected to arrive around the middle of civil twilight. 3.5 miles in, the huge lunch I’d stuffed myself with on the way out decided it needed some more room in my intestines, so my arrival at the campsite as soon as possible became an emergency. I barely managed to hold on long enough to reach the spot and dig the hole. (Yes, Jimmy, I know, but this event is actually significant.) A couple of minutes later, I had finished, cleaned myself up and was about to put my shorts back on when a pair of headlamps came spinning into the campsite.

“Hello?” I called.

“Hi there,” one answered.

So I hurried to put my shorts back on and go introduce myself more properly to the main other dramatis personae of this post: Benroy and his wife Segolene. He was from all over, including Japan, Washington, Texas, and, most recently, St. Louis. She was from France. Following her passing the bar and his quitting his job, they decided to head off on a string of adventures, the most recent of which would be a large section of the PCT. It was their very first night out. We both made dinner and camp. I offered them each a wedge of one of the limes I packed out and we traded apple cider for hot chocolate. Total distance: 4 miles

Dick Weed’s

Day 2

Looked like it would be a hot day so we all got up as early as we could to do the 7 miles to the first available water source. After filling up, I went down to Joshua Tree Spring to have a bath in the water trough. About 2 feet deep, 3 feet wide, and 25 feet long, it was perfect for a private skinny dipping soak on a hot day. Just me and the water skimmers. Best idea I had that day. (The worst was leaving and hiking on just as the day was reaching its hottest.)

It was so hot (110 in the sun, so I am told) that I decided to stop at the bottom of the next hill for a snack and a siesta under a Joshua Tree. Around 3, wanting to make it to my intended campsite before dark, I climbed the hill to find B&S hiding in the shade of a bush at the top. Just beyond them was another rattlesnake, this one more peaceful.

B&S caught up to me again at the next creek 5 miles on where I was having a late lunch and had already finished collecting water. Told them I was planning to camp at the next tentsite and left them to finish their collection. Walked another 1.3 miles, found the spot big enough for just one tent, set up, cooked, went to bed. B&S woke me when they came through an hour or two after dark, paused, then continued up the hill. Total distance: 14 miles

Day 3

I got up as soon as I woke up the next morning, hoping for an early start for what would be a very hot day, and the first 3 miles was a hill climb I very much wanted to do while the sun was on the other side of the hill. I succeeded. I left camp just after 6 and reached the top of the climb by 7:30. I continued around the ridge 4 miles before stopping for lunch. Another 4 miles downhill to the next water source, Chimney Creek, caught me up to B&S who had already finished with their collection. Also, there had been a man who came by to pay Hiker Taxi signs and handed out Bud Lights. Benroy had saved me one. I squeezed one of my limes into it and drank it with my feet in the creek. B&S apologized for waking me–explained they didn’t make camp until midnight the night before, but felt very accomplished with their nearly 17 mile day/night. For this reason, I will now refer to them as the Midnight Crew, or MC for short. After I did my collection and MC left, took my shorts off and took a seat in the creek and scrubbed my legs, then just lay in the water with my shirt on and everything, both on my front and back. 

Caught up with MC at the next spring. They had eaten so I stopped to eat too. I figured I had enough water still and skipped collecting any more. Intended to hike on with B&S for another 3 miles or so, but couldn’t keep up with them, started losing my balance (not dizzy, just random balance), found a random flat spot way off the trail and made camp. Total distance: 14 miles

Bud Light Lime?
It doesn’t really taste like kombucha
An elephant!
Benroy & Segolene

Day 4

Got up early and out. I had almost run out of water making dinner and such the night before and it was nearly 10 miles to the next water source (all downhill thankfully). Blew right past MC’s campsite and cruised into Manter Creek by noon, having hiked the last three miles completely dry. Had already eaten lunch (including a lime, of course), bathed, and collected water by the time MC showed up. Turns out Segolene had twisted her foot, so they would spend the next several hours at the creek deciding whether to hike on.

It was just a few miles down to South Fork Kern River and I was eager to get there quickly. I found an easy access about a half mile up from where the trail started following it, which turned out to have a nice, deep hole for a dip. So I stripped and plunged into the cold water and chilled for an hour or so. Then I collected some water, ate some lunch and hiked on.

A few miles later, the trail passed an even better section of the trail for swimming: a beaver pond! So I stopped for another hour long swim.

Finally, I got moving and got to the shortcut to Grumpy Bear’s Retreat and sent a text for a ride as soon as I found a shady spot. I must have gotten the wrong number because I never got a reply. Around 6:30, I decided to start walking again, and just as I got to the main road, Wayne drove by in his truck looking for people like me and gave me a ride in. I got in at 7, just as the restaurant was closing, but that was no problem because I still had some food (as the previous section had been shorter than expected).

Taylor was already sitting in front of Triple Crown Outfitters trying to download maps on the slow satellite wifi. He had camped at Manter Creek the night before and arrived before me and already set up a tent. I made dinner and chatted with him. There was a scale there and I weighed in as 20 pounds lighter than when I started. I didn’t believe it, but someone later confirmed the scale’s accuracy. Then I found it alarming. I do have the weight to lose, but 20 pounds in three weeks would seem to indicate I should be eating more. It’s just hard to want to eat most things in that dry heat. A signal to mix up my food options.

Eventually, MC arrived as well, having delayed a long time at Manter Creek owing to Segolene having injured her foot and their considering spending the day there to recover. We all set up tents around TCO as well and then toured the area around Grumpy Bear’s as the sun set to locate the shower and bathroom. I ended the evening with a hot tea and a lot of rearranging of gear, ready to hit the ground running on acquiring permits during my zero day. Total distance on trail: 17 miles

Day 0

I woke up at sunrise and went over to Grumpy Bear’s to plug in my devices. My main concern was figuring out how to get permits for the next section. Much floundering was done on the web looking for information and no conclusions were reached.

At 8, Grumpy Bear’s opened, and it was time for a Hiker Breakfast. The eggs weren’t great, but the pancakes were truly cake sized. Or pan sized. They were all-you-can-eat pancakes, and for any normal person, all you can eat is two.

Then came showering (one at a time–MC went first) and laundry (free at Grumpy Bear’s including soap).

Finally, TCO opened at 10 and I got my shopping done. Got some sun gloves. Got some new shoes and socks that would clear up my blistering issues over the course of the next week. And even got information from Yogi about which permits I would need.

Several more hikers arrived in the afternoon, including Jeff, who was taking a trail vacation when his wife arrived that night, and who was having eating issues because he seemed to be losing weight he didn’t have to lose. Meanwhile, I ordered a small case of beer and ice to put in a bucket and carry up to TCO to share with the other hikers while we passed the hot part of the day under the awning.

A trail angel from Ridgecrest (Paula?) brought in some hikers and later took me over to the General Store, which didn’t seem to have much to offer compared to Grumpy Bear’s or TCO, but I got a turkey wrap there for lunch. When she drove me back to Grumpy Bear’s, MC had a pizza they’d just been gifted and offered a slice. I took it, of course, even though I’d just eaten, and ordered a margarita on the rocks to sip while I uploaded pictures for this blog.

Later, just before they closed the kitchen, I ordered a half dozen chicken wings for dinner. The whole restaurant closed soon after and the hikers moved onto the deck. After my blog post was posted, Taylor and I moved back to TCO to continue finishing off my bucket. When the darkness had fully settled, we started getting ready for bed, leaving one beer in the bucket for the next day.

I went to bed with no permits as yet and still no idea about how to continue my hike. Everyone else had PCTA long distance permits and would certainly be leaving the next day. Taylor said I should just hike on and risk it without a permit. Yogi said the rangers had been known to turn hikers around and make them walk back to Kennedy Meadows for having no permit. So, needless to say, I was buzzed but uneasy as I went to sleep around 11pm.