Mile reached: 702.2 (+32.1 + 0.7 bonus)
High: Reaching the banks of the cold, cold Kern River
Low: It was hot, and the trail almost takes active effort to avoid going through shaded trees. I might have swore a few times…
Rivers encountered since Campo: 2
I set my alarm for 4 am, but when 4 came around that was quickly changed to 4:30. Still, I did actually get up in the dark and got packed. The morning began with a big climb that I wasn’t able to finish the previous day. Gah. However, once over the ridge I was treated to impressive views of Spanish Needles illuminated by the morning sun.
From there the trail dropped more than a thousand feet to a campground at a valley below. This was immediately followed by 2,000+ foot climb over the final ridge separating me from Kennedy Meadows. Near the bottom of the climb, I met “Couch Potato”, who promptly informed me that I missed some epic trail magic at the campground the night before. They made steak fajitas for the hikers and also had lots of beer. Yet another loss inflicted due to the rain.
Despite the day warming up, the climb went by quickly as I got lost in thought. Once over the ridge, the trail seemed to be routed idiotically as it descended to the valley on the far side. The trail for some unfathomable reason stayed halfway up the hillside doing a needlessly long traverse into every dry creek coming down. If it had just gone down to the main drainage, it would have been at least a mile shorter. Lots of people would later be complaining about this stretch in Kennedy Meadows.
Anyway, I made it to the Kern River Valley where the terrain started to become impressive. However, it was quite hot out and there was almost nowhere to hide from the sun. Eventually, some stands of Pinyon pines appeared but the trail repeatedly opted to stay in the sage choked meadows when it had the choice. The topography would eventually best the trail and force it into a narrow canyon where it would have no other option than to run parallel to South Fork of the Kern River! The river was fantastically cold and ended a lengthy dry stretch.
Lots of people were splashing around and soaking their clothes for the final climb into town. I did the same and finished the final few miles to the Kennedy Meadows General Store. As I walked in, someone asked, “Wait, did you just come in?” As soon as I indicated that I had, the patio on the General Store erupted in clapping and cheering. There is a tradition to celebrate finishing the desert section of the PCT. Unfortunately, no one thrust a beer into my hand, and I had to go buy my own beer…
I got my resupply done, ate dinner, and sorted through my new Sierra gear. Then, I pitched my tent out back and enjoyed well deserved sleep. I was briefly disturbed by what I thought was some jackass coming in late and putting up a lantern while he set up his tent. Though, it turned out it was just the full moon rising over the ridge. Oops.