Day 45: We’re off into the High Sierra!

June 1, 2017

Total miles: 8.3 miles

Start: Kennedy Meadows (mile 702.2)

End: mile 710.5

Total elevation gain/loss: 1668.3/336 ft

**Instead of delaying our Sierra posts to spread them out, I’m going to upload them as fast as I can in case others on trail may find them helpful.  Sorry for flooding anyone’s inbox!

Despite sleeping in a hotel, there was no sleeping in for us today. We still had lots of our town chores to do, including additional laundry, blog uploads, and the ultimate challenge — fitting everything in our bags. Not a simple task when you’re trying to fit a bear can, additional clothing and gear, and a whopping nine days of food. But we did it!

Out of focus, but Michael was clearly in need of new socks.

Hard to believe that the shoes on the left used to look like the ones in the right. They held up pretty well for having about 660 miles on them!

Michael’s shoes, old (left) and new (right).

We enjoyed a fairly good hotel breakfast with my parents (made to order, not buffet) and then headed back to our room to finish our tasks. It was a frantic rush to finish everything so that we could get out the door with enough time for my parents to drive us back up the mountain and return with enough time to load supplies back in the suburban. 

My dad had brought a luggage scale and we had a chance to weigh our fully loaded packs. The good news is that we were both under 40 pounds. The bad news is that both of our packs clocked in at around 36 pounds. That is heavy. It’s also a much higher percentage of my body weight than I’d like to carry. I’d thought that by only having the short bear can (it’s basically half size), my pack weight would be somewhat lighter than Michael’s. Apparently I counteracted that size difference when I stuffed my can with all of our bars and took much of the supplemental food intended for the days prior to where the bear can regulations take effect. We resolved to move some stuff around once we got back to Kennedy Meadows.

With that, it was time to head back up the mountain. This time, we were greeted by more familiar faces when we arrived at the General Store. It’s a good thing too, because my parents had brought beer and sodas to offload 😉

The General Store

The only problem upon our arrival back to the General Store was that they couldn’t find our package (Michael’s rain jacket that we’d had to order at the last minute). My parents had to head back down the mountain, and since there was nothing they could really do to resolve the problem (other than check that it wasn’t mistakenly delivered to Grumpy Bear’s) they headed out. It was a quick visit, but great to see them and super helpful to have all of our gear personally delivered!

I spent the next hour or so hounding the folks at the General Store about my package. They were basically saying that they didn’t have it, but I had confirmed this morning (when I had decent internet in Ridgecrest) that it had been delivered yesterday. Finally the guy took me seriously and had someone go check. This time, he came back with a small package for us! It was a huge relief to have the package in hand — we couldn’t have left without Michael having a rain jacket for this next section.

The deck of the General Store was place to be!

Would you like a ride to the trail? I can drive . . .

We grabbed lunch and worked on reorganizing our food to redistribute the weight between us. My attempts to use the wifi were for naught (it’s almost worse when you see a network and it doesn’t work). But the big activity at the store was chatting with other hikers about their strategy for the upcoming section — where were they going to resupply, what gear were they swapping out, when were they planning to get back on trail, what food were they bringing? For everyone we asked we got a different response. We’re just hoping that the decisions that we’ve made will work for us!

We headed out just before 2pm when we got a ride back to the trail head from another hiker. Our packs were heavy!! For the first couple miles it wasn’t too bad, but the further we hiked the heavier my pack seemed. We’re also carrying our whippets for the first time. It’s like a cross between a hiking pole and an ice axe and it is noticeably heavier than our hiking poles. We are each using one whippet, so at least we can trade off sides. It is now abundantly clear just how much weaker my left arm is than my right arm! What a struggle!

We’ve quickly gone from a water deficit to a water surplus. Much of this afternoon’s walk followed the Kern River and then Crag Creek. My inclination every time I run across a water source is to fill up my bottles, but that’s no longer necessary (and is painful given my current pack weight). I imagine that it will take some time to adjust to this new situation. 

I’m glad I’m not trying to ford this river!

At the bridge crossing the Kern River we stopped to chat for awhile with a woman doing the JMT in mid-July. She was curious about all of our snow gear and Sierra strategy and we tried to calm her fears about the snow. A funny situation given our own apprehensions, yet she has six weeks of snow melt in front of her. She should probably be worried about the mosquitos!

Our goal of hiking 10 miles today ended up being too aggressive given our start time and stops. I found myself losing steam as we began to hike uphill. The scenery may be beautiful, but I was thinking about how heavy my pack and whippet are! We hiked until I was too tired to continue and found a place to camp a bit down from the trail. We’re camped near water, which is quite the treat. I can actually get a little clean before bed tonight!

I’m excited to see what new scenery tomorrow brings. Now if only my pack would become magically lighter…

Current ailments:

Elizabeth: sore shoulders, hips, etc.

Michael: sore shoulders and back.

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