Started: 09:30 @ MM 702.2 Kennedy Meadows (Elevation 6,149ft)
Finished: 16:30 @ MM 716.5 Monache Meadow (Elevation 7,832ft)
Miles: 14.3 + 0.8 on Sherman Pass Rd
Elevation Gain/Loss: +2,971/-1,147ft
Food: Rehydrated pretend eggs (never again), Protein Bar, Trail Mix, Jerky, Dates, Coconut Rice & Black Beans
Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 1, Days since laundry 2
Kennedy Meadows wasn’t such a tough vortex to escape. The temperatures were edging ever upwards, a new delivery of Ben & Jerry’s had arrived and the Porta-Potties weren’t coping well at all. A noxious smell was starting to waft through the campsite and things were becoming a little, shall we say … unwholesome. It was definitely time to head to the mountains, the cooler air and the fresh flowing snow melt. I had miraculously managed to squeeze all of my 7 day food supply into the silly bear can. I only needed a few days worth but I didn’t want to just ditch the extra and it as a pain in the butt to send it on. The can was heavy but without the need to carry gallons of water, things balanced themselves out and my pack was acceptable … just!
The plan from here was for myself, Spreadsheet and Turbo to walk three relatively easy 15 mile days and then exit into Lone Pine. Butterfly was off trail with really bad shin splints. He would meet us at Lone Pine and hopefully jump back on trail there. Once we finally got going, I was a little disappointed to discover that the desert had not been suddenly and dramatically transformed into a lush green fertile oasis. Much to my dismay, I was still trudging through sand, it was hot and water was about 5 miles away. Hmmmmm, I thought to myself!
Slowly but steadily I became aware of subtle, almost imperceptible, changes. As we started to climb the green patches grew and grew and then I herd the most delightful sound … clear, cold, flowing water! At first it was hard to let go of the proclivity to hoard water. However, one 2,000ft climb later the excess was swiftly ditched. From this point forward we would be ascending above 9,000ft and rarely dropping back down until we were out of the Sierras. I was acutely aware of the debilitating effects of altitude. I knew from my time in Nepal, hiking to Everest Base Camp, that I didn’t do so well above 10,000ft. I needed to be light and slow. I’d made a few kit changes for the Sierras, nothing major, but they weren’t working so well. My new black hat was too hot, my new blue shirt was too hot and my trusty shorts were starting to give out on me … holes were spontaneously appearing faster than I could repair them. I’d also noticed a tiny tear in my pack. This confluence of small issues, together with an unshakeable anxiety about the snow conditions ahead, were weighing heavily on my psyche. I tried to get my mind back into the now and enjoy the moment … right now everything was perfect and the trail was gradually teaching me to not worry about stuff until I really needed to!
Just before 5 o’clock we reached the stunning Monache Meadow. There was a little herd of hikers enjoying a paddle in the Kern River. It was a picture perfect spot and we were happy to kick off our shoes for the day. I set up my tent in the trees above the river and started to make my dinner. I was immediately joined by “mini-bears” … very cute but a real danger to my dinner! Now I saw the sense in the silly bear can. The Sierras were certainly going to provide a whole bunch of new challenges. I hoped that I was up to it …