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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

PCT - Day 40: 5/28/2018 - Kennedy Meadows

Trail miles 26.0 : from 676.2 - 702.2
Miles hiked: 27.5

Kennedy Meadows 
Today is Memorial Day. On the PCT it’s just another day. Out here, I often do not even know what day of the week it is unless someone tells me. Last year on Memorial Day weekend, I spent a memorable weekend with my good friend Kate climbing couloirs in Chicago Basin deep in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. Other years, I might be at home planting a garden in the morning and cooking BBQ ribs in the afternoon. And some years, I was in Las Vegas getting ready to play World Series of Poker. This year I’m hiking the PCT. This year is much different.

I started today by shaking off a wet tent from a soaking rain the night before. When I started hiking, I was trying to decide if I wanted to hike the full 26 miles to Kennedy Meadows, or to have a more relaxing day and just do 18 or 20 miles and roll into Kennedy Meadows on Tuesday morning. I had just enough food to waffle on this decision for part of the morning.

I left my camp early, just before 5:30 am in hopes of catching up with my friends, but honestly I expected they were probably already in front of me again. I stopped at Chimney Creek and filtered three liters of water. When I was walking away from the creek, I was surprised to see Ziploc and Opera walking from the Chimney Creek Campground towards the creek to go get their own water.

Tapeworm caught up with me and we hiked together for a couple miles. We talked for an hour or so which helped bring my head out of the dark isolated area it had gone to the previous day. When Opera and Ziploc caught up, we talked about the previous day where they had walked past me. Apparently it was just an honest mistake. They were just very focused on the trail. I felt bad for letting my brain manufacture falsehoods in my head based on this. Each of us reassured each other that we are family. We decided to hike to Kennedy Meadows together today. I was elated to be hiking with these great friends again.

We climbed 2500 feet in elevation through an old burn area. When we reached the top we could see the snowy Sierra in the distance. This was very exciting! It was the first time seeing the finish line of the desert. We stopped and had pack explosions in order to dry our wet gear and eat an early lunch. I was so happy to be back in the company of my trail family. I sat in the sun sharing a bag of chicken teriyaki with Tapeworm and just smiled.

back explosion or drying party
When our break was over we started hiking down towards our next water source at the Kern River which was still 12 miles away. During this segment, I learned just how interesting of a guy Tapeworm is. He was born and raised in Afghanistan before moving to Australia and he’s gained so much wisdom and perspective through his experiences and education. He’s really wise beyond his years.

The whole hike down to the river was hot. Sweat poured off my head. None of us had showered in six days, since last Tuesday. All we could think of was swimming in this river. Although, we did have detailed discussions about food too. Questions like “What would you eat for brunch?” floated around, and the answers were thoughtful and in depth. When one person thought of something that another person had not, it was a let down. I remember thinking “how could I not think of a smoothie?” after hearing Tapeworm’s detailed breakdown of the fictional brunch he would eat.

After what felt like an eternity, but what was really about four hours, we arrived at the Kern river. This was the biggest body of water we had seen in 700 miles. Within minutes, we were all in the water submerging ourselves and splashing each other like kids in a pool. It was a fitting way to end a 700 mile desert section of the PCT.

In the Kern River

Walking the last 4.5 miles to Kennedy Meadows felt even hotter, but maybe that was due to having been in the cool water of the river for an hour. The torture was briefly interrupted when Opera sang, per request, an “over-the-top Super Bowl rendition of the national anthem”. It had me in fits of laughter and she carried each note excessively long just for the added Super Bowl dramatic effect.

We passed the 700 mile marker and continued slowly to mile 702.2 where we reached only the second paved road we’d seen in 136 miles since leaving Tehachapi. We walked the one bonus mile down this road to Kennedy Meadows four wide taking up most of the road. It was an emotional and moving moment for all of us. Hugs were shared, love for one another communicated openly with words, but also in one another’s eyes. I realized again that this trail family means the world to me. I believe, without each other that none of us would have made it this far.

Circus Act at mile 700
When we walked up to the Kennedy Meadows General Store, a crowd of thru hikers and locals on the porch cheered loudly and applauded us. I choked back tears again but the proud moment was brief, since I realized I was now in a place where I could buy things that I’d been dreaming of for 136 miles. I walked in to the store bought two Mountain Dews, one Gatorade, a six pack of beer, a banana, and an ice cream bar.  

Civilization Food!
After each of us ate a bit, we setup our tents behind the store. Joy and happiness was on everyone’s face. While setting up our tents, I told Ziploc and Opera that I loved them. They told me the same. We hugged each other and I caught a glimpse of tears in both of their eyes which made me feel better since my eyes were not dry either.

The 'Walk"
We ran into Gandalf and we all sat on the porch and ate dinner. We talked, laughed, and cheered on a few late arriving hikers.

We have only known each other for just over a month, but the bond between trail family is real and it is strong. We’ve shared misery together. We’ve experienced things together that cannot even be described accurately with words or pictures. We’ve also shared fun times and great laughs, sometimes those laughs are from just reading (and re-reading) comments about a large rusty pipe. We’ve also openly talked about how we feel for one another and poured our hearts out to each other. We’ve grown individually. We’ve also helped each other grow as individuals. Lastly, we have grown together, just as trees with roots in close proximity do.

Next Chapter
We’ve hiked 702 miles from Mexico to the Sierra Nevada. I encourage you to just think about that distance for a minute. A continuation of this adventure awaits us in the high Sierra. It’ll be a new chapter to the most memorable time of my life.

1 comment:

  1. I’m pleased you four made it together to Kennedy Meadows. I can just visualize you four wide walking down the road, proud as a peacock in a turkey farm. Do you have any news on HoosierDaddy, Socks, or Chilly Bin? I look forward to reading your update daily. I like you being so open and honest. Takes a strong person to do that.