Day 43 (09/05/2018): Joshua Tree Spring to Fox Mill Spring at Mile 683.1 (19.2 Miles)
What a crazy way to ﬁnish off the desert section. Really chill day with a little uphill to start, then downhill towards numerous water sources. After lunch I stupidly began hiking with both ear buds in and damn near stepped on the ﬁrst rattlesnake I’ve seen so far on trail. It was about three feet long and sun bathing behind a sage bush. Luckily it saw me, freaked out, and took off up the hill rattling like crazy. They are really beautiful reptiles, just that one was too close. After the rattler, I came upon another Racer Snake, and a few Horned Lizards before almost walking right by the second rattlesnake of the day just before the turn to Fox Mill Spring. This one was about two feet long and didn’t rattle at all until I poked it with my trekking pole to get it away from the trail. I think it was asleep in the sun not bothering anyone, but it was at knee height and way too close to the trail. The campsites at the spring are really good. There is a really cool old Chevy truck that is all rusted out and taken apart. Should be some excellent stars out as it’s a new moon tonight.
Day 44 (10/05/2018): Fox Mill Spring to Grumpy Bear’s off Mile 702.2 (19.1 Miles)
Each day seems to surpass the previous one. I didn’t see a single person today while hiking. I did however see the biggest rattlesnake so far. As I push into these ever rising mountains, the rivers and water sources are becoming more frequent. This change I welcome wholeheartedly as it means no more long water carries. The highlight of the day was walking up to the general store at Kennedy Meadows where I received an ovation from fellow hikers sitting on the porch relaxing and drinking beer. What more could I have asked for after finishing seven hundred miles of desert? It feels like such an accomplishment even though so many others have done the same thing. Somehow it feels so much more personal, this whole experience. Just up the road from the general store is Grumpy Bear’s, which is apparently the place to be this year. With a full bar and restaurant plus outdoor seating, free package pickup, free camping, and a propane ﬁreplace. Deﬁnitely the spot. Going to sleep tonight with about twenty other tents around. Ear plugs are a must.
Day 45 (11/05/2018): Grumpy’s to Kennedy Meadows Campground at Mile 704.6 (2.4 Miles)
Big day, let me tell ya! Actually I chilled all day, got my food in order for the next six days, and…forgot my socks at Grumpy’s. Damnit. I ran into “Tang” again today which was really nice to know she is doing well after suffering a foot injury just before Lake Isabella. I broke down boxes at Grumpy’s in exchange for a Lagunitas IPA. Worth it. Had a few extra suds at the KM General Store and enjoyed some free snacks during their “Happy Hour” before hiking a couple miles over to the campground. Deﬁnitely tasty for being free! Beautiful clear night tonight, the stars are out and Karen’s (we gave her the name “Night Light”) friend Matt hooked it up with a beer at camp. Thanks Matt!
Day 46 (12/05/2018): KM Campground to Seasonal Stream at Mile 728.1 (23.5 Miles)
Chilly morning to start with, hiking in the shadow of mountains until about 9am. Had lunch at monache meadow which was lovely. The scenery and elevation has dramatically changed. Hiking up to about 10,500 feet today was a welcome change of pace. I lost my beanie somewhere along the way today though which sucks because it is getting colder, especially after I stop hiking and set up camp for the night. Tonight should be right around freezing. As everyone (“Heidi“, “Seeker“, “MC Camel“, and “Ruffles“) was sitting around eating dinner, tiny snow ﬂurries began to fall. I hope this isn’t a precursor for the weather to come.
Day 47 (13/05/2018): Seasonal Stream to Chicken Spring Lake at Mile 750.8 (22.7 Miles)
What an interesting and challenging day. Walking through ancient bark-less Ponderosa Pines and gigantic granite towers of rock, to getting snowed on heavily during the approach to Chicken Spring Lake. This day was pretty crazy. My ﬁrst time going over 11,000 feet and ﬁrst time camping over 11,000. Tonight will be freezing to be sure. I’m writing this as I’m waiting for my ramen to cook while the wind blows snow off of my rain ﬂy. There are roughly fifteen other people camping up here tonight. A frog just started ribbiting, I have no idea how that thing isn’t frozen solid.
Day 48 (14/05/2018): Chicken Spring Lake to Crabtree Meadows Ranger Station off Mile 767 (16.2 Miles)
The morning started off perfectly. Slept in a bit, the sun came out, and I even got to dry off my tent and rain ﬂy before hitting the trail at 9am. Heidi and Seeker jumped in the semi frozen lake. Crazies! It began snowing around 10am in snow pellets, eased during lunch at Rock Creek Ranger Station, then began really coming down in the afternoon. Tonight our group is camped just south of the ranger station at Crabtree Meadows. There are probably twenty others camping throughout this meadow tonight. A bunch of us are waking up super early to attempt a sunrise summit on Mt. Whitney. Hope I make it up!
Day 49 (15/05/2018): Attempt to summit Mt. Whitney (~10 Miles off PCT)
I woke abruptly to my alarm at 1:45am after a restless couple hours of sleep. Got going quickly because it was well below freezing. The crew (Heidi, Seeker, MC Camel, and Ruﬄes) all met up at the bear box and I led out onto the pitch black trail from Crabtree Meadows with only our headlamps to guide us. We got lost almost immediately. The Milky Way was stretched across the entire sky overhead. Camel tried to get us all to take a long exposure shot, but it was just too cold to stay still for that long. With a combination of altitude, cold temperatures, and sleep deprivation I somehow managed to make it up to 13,000 feet before calling it off. The highest altitude I’ve ever personally hiked at. After taking a long look at the last snow traverse and another 1,500 feet of what I assumed was increasing quantities of snow I ﬁgured it was unwise to keep going without crampons and an ice axe. Heidi was very relieved that I decided to call it. I think I gave her the out she was looking for, haha! Although the views from 13,000 were some of the best I’ve ever seen in my life, I’m bummed out I didn’t get the summit. It’ll just have to wait until after I ﬁnish the PCT then I’ll hike this section SoBo! The afternoon was spent lounging in the sun and reading. Just lovely. Tomorrow will be another early start at 5:30am to make it up and over Forester Pass before lunch.
“What’re you lookin’ at?!”Perfect BalanceThey blend in so well!Lavender flowers amidst desert brownBig mountains aren’t far off nowAnd I’m officially out of the desert! Kennedy Meadows Campground clear skiesFrom left to right: unknown, Seeker, Ruffles, MC Camel, HeidiExpansive views aboundIt’s just so pretty hereReclamation of marked territoryThese “dead” trees are everywhere growing straight out of the graniteThe desert floor is still within reach although it feels like another world up hereThat is an ominous looking skyA little fresh snow at Chicken Spring LakeIf you look closely there are people right in the middle of the frameBig granite wallsHeidi looking like Cyclops on the way up Mt. WhitneyOne of the best views I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoyingBig Country (Mt. Hitchcock)Timberline Lake