Once I’d recovered from all the excitement and emotion of my arrival at Kennedy Meadows, it was time to get busy and start organizing for the Sierras. Kennedy Meadows is generally considered to be the gateway to the Sierras and it is here that the vast majority of people send their bear canister, winter gear and a big resupply to get them through to Kearsarge Pass, approximately 6 days away.
I had a very modest 5 packages to collect from the store … My re-supply that I’d posted to myself from LA, my fan mail from Hawaii, a bear canister, a pair of micro-spikes for the ice and a new shirt (the old one smelt so bad I couldn’t bring myself to wear it any more). I saw other hikers with 7, 8 even 9 boxes. People were arming themselves with ice-axes, crampons, thermal layers, warmer sleeping bags and Gor-Tex hiking boots! I was feeling a little under equipped but took great comfort from Chance, who departed without any specialized equipment, just the regulation bear thing. The trail is a hot bed of rumour and speculation. I suspected that the terrifying stories of ice and snow were mostly fictional … I sure hoped so!
Kennedy Meadows was certainly not the most well-appointed stop along the trail. Apart from the postal receiving service and good burgers, there wasn’t much to shout about. About 50 thru-hikers were scattered around the grounds out back (not much of which was flat). There were only 4 Porta-Potties to serve them and frankly these weren’t coping at all well with the sudden and copious consumption of frozen dairy products. I would rather have dug my own hole! The showers were … wet is the only positive I can think of and the laundry took forever! Nevertheless, I was grateful for it all … perhaps not the Porta-Potties!
Bizarrely, one of the more positive aspects of life at Kennedy Meadows was the lack of phone service and Internet. An amazing thing happened … people actually communicated with each other. Conversations managed to go a little deeper than the usual superficial gear talk. Perhaps we were all just getting bored of that by now or maybe we’d reached a deeper unity as a consequence of our shared struggle through the desert. Either way, I was encouraged by the improved rapport. The lack of external stimuli was more of a challenge for some. The “safety meetings” were increasingly well attended and there was also a new fun form of entertainment on the trail … Magic Mushrooms. Personally I failed to see how tripping your face off on ‘shrooms and a visit to one of those Porta-Potties could ever end well!
Between the socializing, eating ice-cream and drinking cream-soda, I organized my resupply. Getting everything to fit into the ridiculous bear canister was like a game of Tetris. Finally I created order out of the chaos and much to my surprise, my pack wasn’t nearly as heavy as I’d expected. My micro-spikes were, well spikey I guess and I was ready to face my fears. I was ready to head off into the mountains, but first there was one more detour … one more trail town, 3 days hike away and just before the real fun started!