Day 34: But I Didn’t Shoot the Deputy

Mile reached: 722.2 (+20.0 + 0.7 bonus)

High: Leaving the desert and entering meadows and forests that felt like the Sierra

Low: I saw “Poseidon” at breakfast, but his shin splints are still hurting him. So, he may fall behind.

Rainbow trout caught: 3

New shoes: priceless

I slept alright considering I went to sleep not feeling well, but I got a late start in the morning. This meant that I had time for pancakes at the General Store! It takes forever to serve everyone. If you’re not at the front of the line, you’ll be waiting as much as an hour after ordering. Anyway, I got in and got served quickly. While I was eating, a slightly surprised “Poseidon” found me. (I had been talking about leaving in the dark to beat the heat going up and out of Kennedy Meadows.) His shin was still hurting, so he’d be taking at least one zero and was going to see if he could track down a compression sleeve. After a departing fist bump, I grabbed my pack and hit the pavement.

It was still early enough that the going wasn’t bad, but it was readily apparent that down low it would be hot. Fortunately, the trail climbs steadily to high elevation meadows after leaving Kennedy Meadows. Just a few miles in, I encountered “Baby Blanket” and “Backtrack”. I knew of “Baby Blanket” by reputation (he grabbed a pair of used shoes at Hiker Heaven from the hiker box and ditched his), so we chatted for a few minutes before I finally pulled out of earshot.

Still feeling pretty deserty
The first crossing of the Kern!

Even though we were climbing, it still felt very much like the desert. Finally, the trail crested a burned hill, and there was actual forest on the north side followed by an enormous grassy meadow! Here people started taking breaks, and you could already tell attitudes were shifting toward euphoria. I took my lunch break at the final crossing of the South Fork of the Kern and laid in the sun on its grassy banks. A whole colony of swallows were living under the bridge and would comically dart overhead every few minutes.

I guess “grassy” is a relative term.
Trees and actual forest! Goodbye desert sage.
Not pictured are all the swallows.

After a little while, “Backtrack” and “Baby Blanket” showed up and immediately started commenting on how they wished they had a fishing pole. As luck would have it, an old crusty fisherman had pulled a decent sized rainbow trout out of the river 15 minutes ago and offered to cook it for us for dinner. He was also struggling to tie knots in his lightweight line. So, I suggested they go over and make a friend. For the next half hour, “Backtrack” was having a blast pulling out fish after fish just 100 yard downstream.

“Backtrack” fishing

I could feel the pull off this vortex, but I needed to push a bit further before calling it a day. So, I walked downstream to say goodbye to “Backtrack” and “Baby Blanket”, who was also heading that way. When I got to the fisherman, he pulled out this well used crack pipe and butane torch to take a couple hits of meth. He then moved to hand it to me. They say that you shouldn’t say no to anything on the trail, so I gave it a try. Just kidding, I graciously declined. Afterwards, “Backtrack” remarked that he just wanted to fish and not do meth lamenting, “You can’t just say yes to everything on the trail.”

In the late afternoon, I finished the final miles I needed for the day and camped on the side of Olancha Peak. Three section hikers, people only doing one or a few sections of the PCT, camped right next to me. The section hikers were so innocent, looking at thru-hikers incredulously and wondering: “How do you go so fast?”, “How is your pack so light?”, etc. After trading stories with them for a bit, I dozed off hoping I would escape the wind in my quilt.

Interestingly, I could see a forest fire at the end of the day. Thankfully, it was well behind me.

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