Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Desert is behind me as the high Sierras loom ahead

Day 41:
Leaving Lake Isabella to get back to Walker Pass where I had left the trail proved to be fairly easy thanks to two different rides from Navy personnel. The first was an elderly Navy retired gentleman who told me about how he had hitch hiked across America when he was 18 years old, and the second ride was from a Navy couple who had just finished a 3 year tour in Hawaii, so it was fun to be able to talk story about home.
I was back on the trail by 1 pm, hiking the switchbacks and mountain hugging paths. 

I saw Stringcheese who was south bounding a section with a slack pack and it was great catching up with her. My plan was to camp at Joshua Tree Spring but it was a 1/4 mile off trail and when I reached the junction, it was signposted that the water was unsafe, stagnant and not flowing. 

I continued for about a mile and saw a spot under a tree that looked a little sheltered which was a bonus as it was a very windy night once again. I was all tucked in and cozy by 8:45 pm.

Thankful for:
1) Easy hitch hiking with rides from 2 different Navy folk
2) Pleasant hiking
3) Reaching my mileage goal for the day
4) A sheltered camp spot under a tree
5) Feeling loved by family and friends

Day 42;
Today was gorgeous hiking terrain, skirting the mountainsides, gaining elevation and then descending into a valley at Chimney Creek. My first source of water was at Spanish Needle Creek which was merely a trickle.

 Here I had sat beneath the trees and ate a lunch comprising of instant mashed potatoes and hot chocolate. What a combination! Today was quite chilly due to the hectic wind that was blowing which had a bite to it. I had to have frequent short rests as my legs where experiencing muscle fatigue with all the climbing. I met up with Storybook and Big Rips and kept crossing paths with them all day.

 We arrived at Chimney Creek together and sat at the spring, collecting and filtering water after which I hiked for another hour and set up camp in the shelter of the pine forest. Missing my loved ones. Tomorrow I hope to reach Kennedy Meadows.

Day 43:
Awesome, awesome day!
Started out at 7:00 am with a walk in the woods and soon reached the area on Bear Mountain that had been devastated in a fire in 2000 caused by a careless human. Part of Chimney Peak wilderness and 75% of Dome Land wilderness was burned. The hillside hugging trail was an easy gradient so it made for pleasant hiking.

 Met Storybook and Big Rips on and off all day again and we had lunch beside a stream with the high Sierras watching us from a distance as we sat under a burned tree on the beach at Pine Creek where we also obtained and filtered our water. 

After another couple of hours hiking the beautiful sight of South Fork Kern River met my eyes.

 Tangles of wild pink roses grew along the banks, as they have alongside all the creeks and streams I've come across and a family of ducks were enjoying the splendors of it all too. 

The sight of the river and mountains covered in pine trees filled me with elation. 

I really felt at this point that the desert was behind me and the high Sierras were ahead of me. A tangible change was evident. 

Arriving at Kennedy Meadows ( mile 702), a high mountain village at 6427 ft with a population of 200 and one general store was like reaching nirvana. 

I got there just in time to buy some fresh food and a beer and met fellow hikers, many of whom I had come into contact with before.

 Once again I was called upon for my medical knowledge and was called "Dr Two Feathers" which is funny. 
The entire town is off the grid and uses well water. I got an awesome little caravan room to stay in overnight at Tom's Place. 

Tomorrow I have to buy a bear canister as from here on out until the end of California, it is mandatory to use one to keep your food in.

I feel that it's so important to stop over in these little trail towns along the way to replenish not only your supplies but your mind and body as well. It feels good to be here.

Grateful for:
1) Another great day of hiking
2) Flowing creeks and rivers
3) Leaving the desert behind me
4) Arriving in Kennedy Meadows
5) A cute, rustic caravan to sleep in

Day 44:
I awoke at dawn around 05:20, as usual. Damn, why can't I sleep in? Not much happens here until 09:00 when the general store opens and the generator gets turned on. I have my name on the waiting list to do my laundry and shower.
I bought the bear canister for $70 and had the daunting task of trying to fit everything including that into the already overstuffed Purple Monster. 

It's going to be extremely painful carrying it all.

I left for the trail mid afternoon and camped at a creek with Chappy, Two Step, The Don and Storybook. 

The wind is howling up in the mountains but we're relatively sheltered down here and the water is flowing.
Thankful for:
1) A great nero at Kennedy Meadows
2) A shower and clean clothes
3) Ice cream and coke
4) Camping at a creek with other hikers
5) Being cozy in my tent

Day 45:
I am really exhausted after a hard 20 miles / 32 km today. I didn't sleep well last night as one of the hikers started shouting out at midnight due to a nightmare about being attacked by a bear. This woke me up and I lay there paralyzed with fear for about an hour, as I did not know what was going on until morning.

Today took me through the woods, across a sage meadow and over the South Fork Kern River.

 The PCT intersected with the Haiwee Trail which follows an ancient Native American path east to the river, through Haiwee Pass and Owens Valley. 

Onwards and upwards I hiked to 10,400 ft on Olancha Peak, looking out over Gomez Meadow which was a stunningly beautiful vista.

 Many of the springs appeared dry or stagnant and I had to search upstream for areas that had trickles of running water.

By nightfall I was physically and mentally exhausted and questioning why I was on the trail at all. It was a friday night and I was alone in my tent on a remote wilderness mountain. I did not want to be there at that moment. I would rather have been back in Hawaii having a great social time. I was missing my loved ones! 

Grateful for:
1) A camp near a creek
2) Completing good mileage today
3) Water
4) My satellite phone as it is the only thing keeping me connected
5) No wind

Day 46:
A good nights rest made me feel a bit better. I think a lot of what I'm feeling is due to the sudden increase in weight of my back pack because of the addition of the bear canister which I hate with a passion.

I had been sleeping at 9000ft and today I climbed at a painfully slow crawl to 10,500 ft. I'm finding the climbing at elevation with the heavy load very difficult. Purple Monster is killing my back! I've had no phone reception for days and the solar panel is only barely keeping my phone alive and I need it for my map app.
I spent half the day climbing and the other half descending, with a final climb to Trail Pass Trail junction. 

At this point I had to decide whether to continue without enough food until I reached the next town of Independence in five days, or take the detour to Horseshoe Meadow and try to hitch a ride to Lone Pine. I decided to get off the trail here, a good zero and resupply would make me feel a whole lot better.
Crossing over Horseshoe Meadow, I saw a coyote and when I got to the campground I was able to hitch a ride down the 22 mile mountain road and was dropped off in Lone Pine right at the entrance to a motel. My spirits were lifted! I plugged in all my gadgets to recharge them, bought pizza and was able to make phone calls.

Thankful for:
1) Another day of good mileage even though it was difficult
2) Making the decision to get off trail
3) Civilization and friendly people
4) Duane for giving me a ride to town
5) A comfy bed and electricity

Day 47:
A zero day in Lone Pine, an interesting little town at the foot of Mnt Whitney. 

It has a fascinating history of both manmade and natural disasters and film making around the fascinating rocky outcrops called the Alabama Hills where many Westerns were filmed and more recent movies, Gladiator and The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp to name a few.
Lone Pine is situated in Owens Valley which had a large lake (Owens Lake) making the valley lush with orchards and agriculture. In 1924, the water rights were bought by a company who drained the lake and diverted the water from all the rivers running into the lake to the California Aqueduct to supply Los Angeles, leaving the valley barren and desert like.
My day started with blueberry and banana pancakes and coffee for breakfast, updating my blog, posting pictures, doing laundry and buying supplies.
I bought myself a gift of Native American jewelry, a pair of sterling silver and opal earrings with two feathers on each of them. This is absolutely perfect to match my trail name of Two Feathers. 

Nothing like long distance hiking in style!
The person at the front desk of the motel offered to drive me back to Horseshoe Meadow tomorrow to get back on the trail where I left off.
Thankful for:
1) A rejuvenating zero in Lone Pine
2) Comforts of civilization
3) Fresh produce
4) Stunning American Indian jewelry gift to myself
5) Feeling ready to get back on the trail 

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