PCT miles: 704.6 to 719.2
I’m the first one of the group on trail at 6am – it sounds like they tend to start between 7 and 730, but I’m slow and afraid they’ll get far ahead and I also prefer the cool morning hours. I wish I was brave enough to get on trail at first morning light, but my brain goes crazy imagining the sleepy animals still wandering the trail so I don’t ever leave that early. And anyway, today I need the extra time because I have to pack my pack differently than I’m used to because of the 2 lb 9 oz bear can I am now carrying for the Sierra.
The morning is beautiful and I’m walking under the trees next to the river. It’s so pretty that I think: this is like a day hike. My brain has decided that thruhiking is mostly business, rarely pretty, but somehow rewarding anyway. Dayhiking, on the other hand, is usually packed with pretty if lacking other rewards. So, what I mean to say is, the morning was so packed with pretty I could almost forget what I was doing.
As the morning continued it started getting warm. The trail goes through several burn areas and meadows in this area which means lack of shade. I was sweating hard and happy I didn’t have to worry about carrying too much water since it was so readily accessible in the creek next to me.
I was in one of these shade-less stretches when I saw the head of a snake in front of me. It didn’t notice me or was still too cold to care and didn’t seem interested in moving. I think it may have been a rattlesnake – the head seemed a little triangular and there seemed to be a diamond pattern on the back – but I couldn’t see its tail. Better safe than sorry, I walked a wide path around it.
There was a bit of a climb and then the shade of trees and then I walked out into a meadow with a view of snow covered mountains in the distance. I felt so, so lucky and grateful for the change in scenery, for something so beautiful. The desert tends to be stunning at sunrise and sunset, but the in between can be rather harsh and one-tone. Here this meadow was in broad daylight looking as stunning as ever.
I spotted Co sitting in the shade and joined her and shortly after LiterBit joined us too. We snacked and rested. I am really bad about packing too few snacks for the trail. I have plenty of meals but few things that are easy to grab. I think this every time but I’m still messing it up.
We continued on, hiking similar paces, for the next few miles until we arrived at the Kern River. I found a shade spot but they found a better one, so after I ate my (big) lunch, I moved my pack to sit with them. They had a pretty view of the river and tons of hikers were there, floating in the water. Megaphone blew up his air mattress and floated which worked surprisingly well. We watched for a few hours before deciding it was too good to pass up and jumped in ourselves. Plus I hadn’t had a shower in 60 miles and it was good to rinse off.
I got on trail first to head to our planned campsite. Again with walking through stunning meadows. It was still warm but not too bad. I got to the campsite quickly and set up and then the rest of the group trickled in. The mosquitos were bad and Whoopie built a fire and we sat on our bear cans, which was remarkably uncomfortable. I went to bed first and was happy to be among a big group of hikers again, their voices drifting in the background.