Started: 07:45 @ MM 1,005.9 Kennedy Canyon Creek & Camp (Elevation 9,063ft)
Finished: 14:00 @ MM 1,017.1 Sonora Pass Trailhead (Elevation 9,618ft)
Elevation Gain/Loss: +2,673/-2,118ft
Food: Oatmeal, Clif Bar, Tortilla w/PBJ and Goldfish, Trail Mix, Cheeseburger & Fries, Almond Joy, Coconut Ice Cream, Twinkies
Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 7, Days since laundry 8
I awoke with a sense of dread. I could already hear the intense buzzing beyond my bug net and the ordeal of trying to eat breakfast and pack away my home while being eaten alive was a truly miserable way to start the day. Furthermore, I was in fear of what lie between me and Sonora Pass. The climb and descent over a volcanic ridge was almost legendary amongst PCT hikers. Steep and exposed, the icy slopes were some of the most treacherous on trail. I was very nervous about the prospect of walking this section alone.
I needed to reach the Sonora Pass trailhead before 4pm to collect my resupply from the nice people at Sonora Pass Resupply, so I made an extra special effort and managed to be up and gone before 8am. It was only 11 miles away but this could take all day if things were as bad as some reports suggested. Once again I was all alone but after a few miles my lonely hike suddenly became a team effort. The Professor showed up (I hadn’t seen him since way back in the desert), then Bacon suddenly appeared out of nowhere and then I caught up to a total game changer …. Mamma Lion and Boone!Mamma Lion is a 39 year old single mum and Bonne is her absolutely incredible 9 year old son. At first I assumed that they were just section hiking but to my amazement they were thru-hiking and young Boone had walked every hard and challenging step that I had. I marveled not just at Boone’s achievement but more so at the incredible strength of character and tenacity of his mum. Not only did Mamma Lion need to feed, care for and motivate herself, she also had to do all these things for her son. All of my pathetic bleating and whining about a bit of snow and a few creek crossings suddenly seemed very trivial and self-indulgent. Comparing Boone’s accomplishments with my own, it would have been easy to feel a little inferior. However, the disparity served more as a reference to how incredible and amazing this young lad’s journey was. I was in awe of them both and there presence on the trail motivated me in ways that I had not expected.Together, our newly formed team negotiated up the steep volcanic switchbacks. At the top we all rested before pressing on. The terrain had changed dramatically in just a few miles. Instead of the smooth granite rocks of Yosemite, we were now traversing an exposed alpine ridge. Soon enough we reached the dreaded descent. Just as promised the snow cover was significant but it also provided us with some of the best and fastest glissades of the entire trail. Suddenly hiking was fun again, we were all laughing and whooping as we slid our way down what we hoped would be the last major snow fields of the trail.I reached Sonora Pass in good time and collected my resupply from Casey. He was providing a wonderful service to hikers, not only bringing resupply out to this very remote trailhead, but he also offered coffee, a place to charge electronics and he would buy my stupid bear thing and my SpiderMan shoes from me! Casey told me about the tiny pack station and resort at Kennedy Meadows North. They offered a hiker package … $35 for a bed, shower and laundry. I was sold and decided to make the unscheduled stop. I hadn’t showered or washed my clothes in week, things were getting decidedly funky!Despite a dramatic improvement in my hitch-hiking technique, it took me almost an hour to score a ride. I was eventually picked up by a very kind lady called Kate in her car called Penelope. The ride was longer than I’d expected and entirely downhill along a very winding road. Kate was perhaps not as mechanically sympathetic as Penelope might have liked, nor as skilled a driver as I would have liked. Rather than changing into a lower gear, she simply rode the brakes the whole way down. By the time we reached Kennedy Meadows my nerves were almost as frazzled as poor Penelope’s brakes. I thanked Kate for the ride and the Gods for keeping me safe!Kennedy Meadows North was absolutely amazing and one of my favorite stops on the trail. It was a real working pack station with cowboys and horses everywhere. The staff were super friendly and the facilities excellent. I luxuriated in a long hot shower, washed the funk out of my clothes and sat down to one of the best cheeseburgers yet. I shared a dorm with Mamma Lion, Boone and Gabriel. In the next room I found Stretch. I hadn’t seen Stretch since we Yogi’d a ride together at Cajon Pass. It was great to catch up with him and once again, by sharing tales of our struggles and hardships, I made peace with the trail and my journey. Suddenly quitting seemed a cowardly and cretinous thing to do. If 9 year old Boone could do this thing then so could I!