This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
Kennedy Meadows is an odd hybrid of outdoor life and tiny town. We camp in the woods behind the general store, but are almost completely cut off from the outside world. I have to hitch three miles to a restaurant, just to send a single message that I am still alive. Time to get out of this town…
We leave as dark clouds are gathering. We hear thunder boom in the distance as we hike through a burn. We make it safe to a crop of trees before the rain starts. Huddled under a pine tree, eating cold soaked beans and rice has to be my favourite way to wait out a thunder storm. And then the rain stops, the trees spit us out, and we are walking alongside a Meadow. Snow capped mountains are in the distance and we try and pick out Mt. Whitney, which we will climb in a few days. Finally, I feel like we are in the Sierra. We climb again the next day, up over 10,000 feet. The elevation makes it hard to breathe, and the views are breath taking. We drop down to cowboy next to Death Canyon Creek, when a south bounder comes past and tells us there is a wildfire burning nearby. The wind is blowing it in the other direction, he thinks, but he thought he’d let us know. I shrug and go to sleep- there’s nothing else to do. In the morning, we follow the Sierra pattern of climbing high to a pass. There, we see a lazy plume of smoke, no bigger than a campfire. Later, in Bishop, we’ll find that the fire burned a hundred acres or so. We drop down, then climb high again, to camp by our first Alpine lake. And then, the slog to Whitney. The trail climbs sharply to beautiful Crabtree Meadows, where we stage our ascent for the next day. We mean to get up early, but the morning is freezing, and it is six thirty before we are walking. Ice coats the trail where streams have frozen. We pass stunning Guitar Lake, and then the switchbacks start. For once, the altitude gives me a break and I breathe deep, passing day hikers. And then we cross one final snow field to the summit of the highest mountain in the lower 48. By the bottom, I am bone tired. We had hoped to hike on to set up for Forester Pass the next day, but all I want to do is eat and sleep. Oh well. Forester is tomorrow’s problem. I wake up still exhausted, and a little intimidated by the thought of our first sketchy pass. But as always, there is nothing to do but hike. My feet drag, but soon we are crossing Tyndall Creek and approaching the pass. You can see the ice chute coming, and it terrifies me. After a bad fall on a snow field in Alaska a few years ago, snow crossings with bad run-outs freak me out, and this is the scariest one I have ever done. Still, it is one foot in front of the other and I am across, and traversing the long snowy descent to the valley below. At the bottom, we lose the trail under snow patches and wander cross country to the switchbacks we can see far below. The tread on my shoes is bare and I slip on a rock, banging my elbow hard. Pins and needles shoot down my arm as my funny bone recovers. We hit the first campsite after the snow, and then it is the long slog up to Kearsarge Pass and our first real town in over two weeks. The hike out is beautiful, but as we drop down, we know we will have to do the long climb back up in just a few short days. Next? Glen pass, supposedly one of the sketchiest snow crossings on the trail. And the long push towards Red’s Meadow and Mammoth.