* For some reason, I am not having any luck getting ANY photos to upload on this computer, so I will have to go back and add photos to this post at our next stop late next week. Sorry for anyone who is mostly here for the pictures – “what’s with all the words?!” Thanks to everyone for reading – to say we’ve had a spotty internet connection is putting it generously, so we haven’t had a chance to respond to everyone, but we are so excited to have people following along!*
After enjoying a restful “zero day” (no PCT miles hiked) in Tehachapi, we set out at about 4 in the afternoon when Edwin’s mom dropped us off at the trailhead. We made it about a mile in, decided it was still way too hot to hike (our phone reported a temperature of 105 degrees), and took another half hour break under a Joshua tree. The heat was oppressive and the Mojave Desert landscape offered little shade. We knew we had a few very long stretches between water sources coming up in the next couple of days, so we were a bit worried about how we were going to get the miles done. Several hikers through this section do primarily night hiking, but the idea of hiking through the night and trying to sleep through the brutal heat of the day didn’t sound all that appealing to us. We made it a little over 7 miles the first afternoon before setting up camp for the night, deciding we’d do the remaining 9 miles to the first water early the next morning.
That system ended up being the one we employed for most of this section. We’d get to a water source by about 10 am and then just post up there for the better part of the afternoon when it finally felt cool enough to move again. Then we’d do about 10 miles before knocking off for the day, trying not to leave more than 9 miles or so to water for the next morning.
Our longest stretch without water had the possibility of being 44 miles. We go through about a liter every 5 miles (not including water for overnight or cooking) so this was a bit problematic. At one point, Edwin was carrying 10 liters of water (20 pounds!) and I was carrying 7 (14 pounds). The most we’d carried prior to that was 6 liters each, so we really felt the extra weight. Luckily, each of the possible sources that we’d been told not to count on ended up having water, so we “cameled up” at each source and made it through just fine. We are extremely excited to have made it to the Sierras, though – it will be so nice to see water more frequently than at 20+ mile intervals! The extra weight out of our packs will not be missed.
We passed both the 600 and 700 mile markers in this section, the latter being just 3 miles before we rolled into Kennedy Meadows. We hadn’t originally planned to make it to Kennedy Meadows on Thursday night. We woke up Thursday morning with 30 miles to go, made a light remark about possibly just pushing all the way in that day, and both looked at each other and laughed. Our biggest mileage day to that point had been 26 miles and we felt every inch of those miles the next day. But then we hiked our first 6 miles in less than 2 hours and started to run into more hikers all pushing to make it into Kennedy Meadows that day as well. What started as a joke became a sort of obsession – we were pounding the miles, knowing we wouldn’t make it before the General Store closed for the evening but determined to wake up in town the next morning.
We limped into Kennedy Meadows at about 9:45 pm Thursday night, so just under 14 miles from when we started that morning. Every step of the last few miles was tough, but when we heard a bear roaring nearby just after the 700 mile marker, it made us extra motivated to get those last 3 miles done. We threw on the headlamps, cranked up the music, and finally found ourselves at Tom’s Place. Tom is the owner of the Kennedy Meadows General Store and has set up an amazing oasis for hikers on his property. He allows hikers to pitch their tents there, does food runs to the local restaurant, shows nightly movies in a makeshift amphitheater, and just generally makes everyone feel welcome and rested before they head back out on the trail. It’s easy to see why many thru-hikers get held up here for multiple zero days, but we’re heading back out this afternoon after just one.
We’ll be climbing Mt. Whitney before we hit our next resupply location of Independence, so we should have some pretty amazing photos in the next update. We’re planning to hike up there in the middle of the night to catch the sunrise – fingers crossed we don’t oversleep!