Yesterday I hit the 700th mile of the Pacific Crest Trail. My little crew of hikers finished the Southern California desert section by dunking in the swift-flowing Kern River, our first swimmable water source on the entire trail. Not a single big river for 700 miles? I guess I’m not in New England anymore.
In the last few days we’ve seen the mountains change from brown, sandy, and speckled with occasional sagebrush to jagged granite peaks with plenty of pine trees for shade. But just because we’re out of the desert doesn’t mean there’s no sand and heat. Hopefully that will change as we enter King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Park in a few days. Kennedy Meadows, our last town stop for a while, marks our entrance to the Sierras, where we’ll be above 9000 feet elevation for weeks at a time. There’s snow up ahead, thin air, cold temperatures, and who knows what else.
Kennedy Meadows is just a small general store where hikers hang out before heading into the next big leg of the trip. There’s not much here, but it still has a similar atmosphere to Damascus on the Appalachian Trail. Out there, it was the first big milestone for hikers, where everyone pretty much knew if they would make it to Maine. Here, it’s not quite the same mentality, but everyone here is steeling themselves for the next major challenge on the trail. Most of us are going to stick around for a few days, seeing other hikers we haven’t seen in weeks, waiting for others to catch up, and generally just stuffing ourselves on cheap town food. Roast beef and potatoes for dinner last night, biscuits and gravy for breakfast this morning, and hopefully some hamburgers during the day. In the meantime, it’s our last chance for a while to do laundry, shower, send excess gear home, and do all the last bits of planning before we head for the hills.