PCT Day 55 & 56 – Over ‘n’ Out!

Started: 09:00 @ MM 788.5 Bullfrog Lake Trail Junction (Elevation 10,525ft)

Finished: 18:00 @ MM 788.5 Onion Valley (Elevation 9,204ft)

Miles: Zero PCT miles … 8.0 exit miles up and over Kearsarge Pass

Elevation Gain/Loss: +1,592/-2,914ft

Food: Oatmeal, Nakd Bar, Cheeseburger, KFC, Lots of baked goods, Popcorn

Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 5, Days since laundry 6

After yesterday’s seemingly miraculous achievements on Forrester Pass, it felt somewhat fitting that we should now be heading into town for a much deserved zero, copious amounts of food and a long overdue shower. However, there was just one sizeable obstacle standing between us and the paradise that is Bishop … Kearsarge Pass!

These were ready for some town luxuries!
The High Sierras are incredibly remote, once you get in amongst them it can be pretty tricky to get back out. We hadn’t seen a road of any description for 5 days, there is zero phone service and apart from a few wooden signs and the very rare bridge, there is absolutely nothing man made out here … Just cogitate on that for a moment! Sadly, many people never get to dive this deeply into our natural world and experience life this far detatched from the fabricated world. I do consider myself to be exceptionally fortunate to be out here … but after 5 days in the wilderness I was ready for a few luxuries; hot running water and a toilet that I didn’t need to dig myself were on the top of that list!
The beautiful Bullfrog Lake.
Getting back to civilization meant a long steep climb over Kearsarge Pass, which at 11,760ft was no small undertaking. The very worst thing about it though … I would have to come back the same way. The Kearsarge Trail is not actually part of the PCT, merely an 8 mile side trail and the only way in and out of the Sierras for over 100 miles. Nearly all PCT thru-hikers have to exit along Kearsrge to resupply. It’s just no feasible to carry enough food to get through to the next potential resupply point … 5 major passes away. Although Kearsarge Pass is a bit of an inconvenience, it at least redeems itself with some spectacular views!
Butterfly and Turbo on the final switchback of Kearsarge Pass.
Motivated by what was on the other side, I was at the top of the pass in no time. Then began the long hot descent that seemed to go on for ever. With every step I began to dread the return the journey more and more. I saw the occasional thru-hiker heading up and back on to the trail. Without exception they all complained bitterly about the heat, the climb and the weight of their pack. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I popped out at the desolate Onion Valley trailhead parking lot. Hitching was not going to be an easy task.
Hollywood at the top of Kearsarge Pass!
We finally managed to yogi a ride from a Forest Service Ranger on his lunch break. He very generously agreed to take us all the way directly to Bishop, a ride of almost 60 miles! Just like Lone Pine, Bishop is a desert town and we were ejected into 100 degree heat at the Von’s parking lot. After a fair amount of sitting around like proper Hiker Trash, we finally committed to a couple of nights in the Motel 6 … I got the floor!
Hiker Trash in the pool (left to right: Curious George, Deluxe, Butterfly, Turbo and Bison)
The next 36 hour was the usual town stop orgy of junk food, interspersed with laundry, resupply shopping and a little bit of sleeping. Zeros always seem to be so busy. Rushing around eating, resupplying and catching up with fellow thru-hikers. We had breakfast at the awesome Schat’s Bakkery, lunch at KFC and dinner at Denny’s. In between the eating we swam in the pool, browsed in the plethora of outdoor gear shops and went to the movies to see Alice.
The legendary Schat’s Bakkery!
I organized my massive resupply and somehow managed to squeeze 6 days worth of food into the silly bear thing. It was ridiculously heavy and I thought despairingly about the climb back up Kearsarge. As I settled down for a final night on the hardwood floor beneath the aircon unit, Coronel Saunders refused to do the same. I tossed and turned for what felt like forever and vowed that I would never eat KFC again! 

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3 thoughts on “PCT Day 55 & 56 – Over ‘n’ Out!

  1. “The High Sierra are incredibly remote, once you get in amongst them it can be pretty tricky to get back out. We hadn’t seen a road of any description for 5 days, there is zero phone service and apart from a few wooden signs and the very rare bridge, there is absolutely nothing man made out here.”

    I’m a Calif native, and have really only hiked in the Sierra, so I’ve always thought of backpacking as a physical, solitary, remote & self-sufficient activity. Some years ago, I met a PCT hiker on top of Forester; while I may have previously heard about the trail, it had never really registered.

    As we were talking, I had assumed that he had somehow hiked from Mexico to the Sierra just like one hikes in the Sierra ie all on your back. So, you can imagine my surprise (actually, astonishment), when he told me about hitchhiking, town stops, trail angels & magic. The last one completely blew my mind – I couldn’t process why some random people would care to help out hikers, or that you would even be hiking anywhere near civilization.

    It took a little while to gain an appreciation on the effort required for the PCT from a mental stand-point. When you live in Calif, you can get to the Sierra pretty much whenever you want. You can go on a short, medium or long hike, but at the end, you can drive home and resume your civilian life.

    To have to constantly hike for 3, 4 even 5 months seems like quite a challenge. So, you can marvel at how remote the Sierra are, and I’ll continue to admire the tenacity to make it to Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

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