PCT Mile 745-ish
Caught a ride into Lake Isabella with trail angel Root Beer Sue, who is supporting her hiker husband, Eeyore. Picked up resupply, cleaned up, charged up a zillion devices–phone, battery chargers, inReach–and made a plan to get back to the trail 35 miles east the next morning. Kevin had started hiking where Cheryl did and was going to let his thru-hiking son catch up to him in Kennedy Meadows. We caught a $1 Kern County bus to Onyx at 6:10 am. Uh huh, me, I did that. Because it was Thursday, the bus didn’t go all the way back to the trail, so we hitched. Kevin had made a very nice cardboard sign, “PCT HIKERS TO TRAIL.” I barely had time to pet the very first living kitty I’d seen since beginning this hike, when a woman screeched to a halt in the middle of the highway. My age, Beth was so excited to give us a ride that she was literally shaking with joy. Her husband always picked up hikers but we were her first. When she let us out, Kevin went up the trail but I had to backtrack 0.7 miles to restart hiking where I’d left off. Later in Kennedy Meadows, I confessed to Kevin that I gave him a trail name in the hiker registers–Hitch Bait. He likes it.
On this stretch I drank spring water contaminated with traces of uranium, spring water dripping from a broken off, rusty pipe dripping into the usual rotting concrete tank next to the derelict Fox Mill (looks like a gold stamp mill), clear water from a trickle of a algae covered creek and water from a completely empty BLM campground with a single faucet approximately a 1000 miles from the trail ( any of you tracking me now know one of the reasons I seem to wander way off from time to time).
I made it to Kennedy Meadows where I was greeted by friends Noreen from Yosemite, Jim and Tom from LA, Tom’s daughters Colleen and Maggie, and Maggie’s beau Bryson. We camped and they fed me and Jim brought my new tent, Big Agnes Copper Spur 1, and Noreen gave me food and beer, and at night Maggie and Colleen sang the most beautiful tunes as I lay in my tent, and they fed me some more. I hung out at the Kennedy Meadows General Store with lots of hikers who tend to take a day or two off to prepare for the big passes of the Sierra. Bear canisters, mini crampons, warm layers and even more calories are all shipped to this hiker friendly launch pad for the real mountains.
There were rumors and panic amongst some of the hikers. “Blue Moon and Scarecrow are hitching to Reno, and hiking north from Soda Springs. They’ll flip back when the snow is gone.” Umm, really? “Someone died on Forrester Pass.” “Wow, who? A hiker? A climber?” “We don’t know. But we’re getting a ride to Mammoth. We’ll flip back when the snow is gone.” Lots of hikers just hit the trail to get away from the tension, as others walked in, to be pulled into the rumors and speculation. No internet, no authority to set it straight. A few hitched the hour to Lone Pine to try to get facts. One of these, Bender, an AT hiker and someone I’ve known here awhile, I met in Lone Pine as he headed back on trail to tackle the biggest pass, Forrester, and maybe Mt Whitney, after getting good information about weather and snowpack.
Anyway, I said goodbye to my trail angels–thanks again guys!–and headed into the Sierra, at last! I made my first big goal, I thrived and survived the first 702 miles and am back home in, more or less, the Range of Light. Granite, water, altitude, trees, mountains for hundreds of miles. I told Dan, if I die up here, no body retrieval, roll me in a crack and save the kids from having to read “Lonesome Dove” followed by scattering my ashes along the John Muir Trail. Heh heh, seriously.