Day 55 – South Fork Kern River to Muah Mountain Tentsite – 32km

Another entry from your fave chap on the trail – Bruce of course.

Sharing a tent with Layers is incredibly stressful, although I am getting better at not stressing about things rubbing on the sides of the tent, and getting better at sharing my space with others in general (only child here). 
We woke to frost on our tents and a low mist sitting in the valley. Naturally we had forgotten to put our filters in our tents but luckily they didn’t freeze! We packed up quickly to avoid the potential heat of the day, a feeling also motivated by the fact that we were to gain 2000ft+ of elevation. 

We moved out of the valley and into the alpine hills, where streams flowed across the path at frequent intervals, a far (and welcome) cry from the desert we’d not long left behind.

We ate breakfast and dried our gear next to a tributary of the Kern river before beginning our ascent. I hiked fast and after conquering the first climb of the day I hit the snow. I can’t speak for the others but I had lots of fun, focusing my mind on making the right decisions when it came to choosing routes and walking properly through the snow. I caught up to Trout who had taken a pretty hard fall whilst glaciading. He was fine but it was a harsh reminder of how merciless the surrounding environment is.

We stopped and ate lunch around 2pm at death canyon creek. Here we met with flytrap, yeti and jitterbug. Unfortunatly as we ate and chatted were eaten alive by mosquitos (my father has since emailed me to let me know he too was bitten to death by mosquitos this weekend whilst he was cycling in Scotland).

The rest of the days hike was uphill and I enjoyed pushing myself to maintain a set speed regardless of the grade of the trail. I always try to be out of breath whilst climbing a hill to increase my cardio fitness so I can cope well in the high elevations we will face in the Sierras.

When I got to our agreed campsite at mile 736 the people already camped there had lit a fire which we stoked and ate around, again whilst being bitten terribly by mosquitos.

Princess Layers here now. Bruce has done a mighty fine job reporting in on today’s adventures. Just a few things I should add in. Firstly Bruce is 6.4 ft, his legs pretty much come up to my shoulders so when he says he enjoys the uphill just be sure to know that the rest of us shorter folk as huffing and puffing our way up the trail. Sometimes, silently cursing the ease in which he makes it up, and also do not underestimate the effort that goes into up. Luckily we were rewarded ten fold with incredible views of the south Sierra and desert. As the sun moved through the day it was beautiful to observe the way the light played with the mountains, snow and forest. Secondly, big ups to Phoebe who nailed snow hiking. She is confident and we had so much fun slipping and sliding on the snow, gearing our nerves up for what is too come. 

Ps: I don’t actually ever run the tent, Bruce just takes up most of the room so I get squished. 

Day 54 – Kennedy Meadows South to South Fork Kern River – 23km

Pinecone dialling in with my chubby fingers on the small phone key board! This feels like a huge milestone, heading out of Kennedy Meadows! I am a bit hung over from an emotional night of drinking in the camp ground but glad to be out on the trail heading to new places. We have been noticing the effects of PMS far more out here. The fatigue is one thing but also the anxiety is through the roof to the point where you start to doubt your trust in others due to a plunge in self confidence. Anyway we are all trying to understand each other through these times and give each other space to figure emotions out. Today was my day of space and walking it out through amazing scenery did the job. 

Tree stump art K Meadows South

Quiz and I leave KM general store at 9am. We have been ready for a while but Layers is having a slow morning so we head out. A quarter mile back to the trail, we continue northward up the Kern River Valley. I am trying to enjoy myself but feel really down and anxious about the High Sierra. Of course Quiz is there to hear my thoughts and totally understand these emotional mood swings. The valley is beautiful! It’s so hot though and we speed through the open space and soon find refuge in thick spruce forest. 

Kern River Valley heading north

4 miles in we cross the Kern River and head North East up a small river valley. The Kern is flowing like crazy this season. Apparently there have been many casualties with people white water rafting it this year. We are glad for the foot bridge and hope the river crossing in the Sierra are more tame. We begin the climb up Crag Creek which is hot and arduous. More burnt areas remind me of our days in the desert and I desperately hope for new scenery. On the way up I realise I’m walking really quickly. I pass lots of hikers, Quiz 100m behind me. I chat to day hikers who always make you feel really good about the distances walked and one even says I’m the fastest PCT hiker she has spoken to (lol) but I’ll take the compliment. 

Kern River Crossing

At the top of the valley the path keeps us in the suspense of dense spruce trees. Quiz and I have lunch and good uplifting chats. Eventually the path opens up onto the most stunning alpine meadow. It’s hard to put into words but the shift in landscape is so dramatic and uplifting. It feels so secret and delicate up here, tucked away in the mountains. We walk in awe through the meadowlands and up onto the next ridge which takes us down into the next meadow. More stunning views of meandering rivers and snow capped mountains! The walking is easy and so gratifying. 

Alpine meadows in all their beauty. 

We have finally reach our destination, the camp at south fork Kern River. It’s 3:30 and we have the afternoon to go swimming and wash our clothes and hang them on the suspension bridge to dry. There are swallows who nest under there and they get very angry when you walk over the bridge and try to swoop you. It’s very funny! We wait around for Princess Layers, Brucie, Justin and Perk but they don’t show. We see all the other hikers arrive who we passed earlier. Quiz and I are a little worried but then decide that it’s not worth worrying and keep positive. We swim some more with Tamika who passes by and get ready for dinner and bed. At 7:30pm the others finally show! To our great relieve they are all doing great! Slow starts and lots of river swims. 

South Fork Kern River Camp

Day 53 – Hilltop by Chimney Creek to Kennedy Meadows, 24kms

It was cold last night but I slept so well and warm, it felt very luxurious. There was ice on the tent when we got up to an excellent sunrise, clear skies and a view of snowy mountains so much closer than before. As we only have 15 miles to make today we ate breakfast in bed and I made coffee for everyone and delivered it room service. 

We had such a relaxing walk down the hill we had camped on top of to a small stream. Justin is a nutty powerhouse and ran 5miles down hill in 1 hour!!! He was long gone by the time the rest of us arrived and had second breakfast and second coffee with some new pals we just met Trout and Strider.
We hiked on through increasingly beautiful alpine scenery. We passed Domeland, a ridge chockers with granite domes and pinnacles, and walked up a narrowing valley in and out pine forest and meadows till we came to the mighty Kern River (South Fork). The Kern was swollen and rapid when we first found it, with flooded banks and a moist wet smell we had not smelt for ages; this is the first reliable water source for the whole trail, this is the end of the desert!!!

Of course at our first available opportunity we got in, how could we resist. Trout and Strider joined us and we smoked a joint on the banks afterwards relishing the heat after the icy water. Hiking quite stoned is a new experience for me and the last 4 miles of the hike flew by! We arrived at the 700 mile marker and pulled silly faces. At one stage the whole landscape seemed to be made up of blues and oranges. And before i knew it there was Goliath waiting for us at the road so as we didn’t have to walk the 1/2 mile to the General Store. What a legend!

Everyone seems to be here, as in everyone we have ever met on the trail. Pinecone got to see Randy her favourite trail ‘dad’ and Jitterbug arrived after a weeks holiday in San Francisco, we never thought we would see her again. After pitching our tents in the campground behind the store we picked up our 8 packages that we had sent ourselves or had been sent by our parents and Mia (thanks guys!). Between them we got 8 packets of dehydrated peas 🤘. Goliath, bless his hiking socks, drove us and about 50 million other hikers down the road to the pub where I struggled to finish a double cheeseburger it was sooooo big, but also delicious. Justin had managed to put away 3 burgers by the time I ate mine. 

Grumpy Bear Inn

A rattle gator

After another snow lesson Goliath had to go as he is off to the beach with his wife. We will miss him and his never ending generosity and pranks, such a cheeky guy! But he said he will come and find us again in a few weeks with his wife and pup. Goliath i know there is a good chance your reading this, thanks so much, please expect postcards and you always have a home in Australia when you come and visit. After helping Justin finish his beers and chatting on the porch we finally went to bed after our first excellent day in the Sierra!

A dad interpretation of how to self arrest

Day 49 + 50 – Lake Isabella, 0km

The problem with town is that you stay up late drinking and chatting and still wake up at 6am at the latest. The heat in the tent from the desert outside got us out and about around 11am, Harry and i (Quiz) opted to read and lounge while meg went out for breakfast. I have finished down and out in Paris and London and have moved on to Tracks. Harry and i ate cheese rolls with avacardo in bed. 
The gang returned around midday and Goliath gave us all a tutorial in snow safety, traversing mountains and how to use an ice axe. The snow in the Sierra is freaking me out and I’m still unsure if I want to continue past Crabtree Meadow/Lone Pine exit. The rest of the gang have been very supportive and are encouraging me to come and saying we will work as a team. I think we have a good team, I just need to calm down and find some courage.

This is how we travel now

After such serious chats we went to the lake for a swim. Goliath drove us and did some crazy 4Wdriving along a thin peninsula in the middle of the lake. For someone who is 64 he has such a cheeky streak, he has a good time in life. The lake was a lil filthy but so nice and cold. We jumped off rocks, chatted to a fisherman, had a handstand competition; Princess Layers was chatting to some kids who where trying to make her jump off the rock by saying “did you know kids way younger than you have done it”. Hehe that psychology did not work on psychology major Meg. We went for ice cream and a very American invention of donut sunday afterwards cos, you know where on holidays!

The Happy Haven Trailerpark are very hiker friendly and cooked up complimentary cheeseburgers. We made a giant salad to add to the pot luck and stayed up way too late again. Pinecone and Lil Spoon/Our Brucey stayed up really late playing on the exercise equipment, as we haven’t done enough of that already.

That’s a donut Sunday!!!

On Monday, which is also Memorial Day, we took a road trip with Goliath to Lone Pine to buy some more snow gear. The drive was amazing along Owens Valley with the Sierra slowly getting taller and taller and snowier and snowier on our left. Mt Whitney sits right above Lone Pine, a giant snowy bastard! The gear shop was very well equipped but like all gear shops are a bit stressful as it’s staff show you pictures of the trail looking scary and it’s impossible to know how much gear you need to buy and how much they are trying to sell you. Gah!!!

Early Sierra from the Owens Valley

We drove home via Kennedy Meadows which was in super beautiful surrounds. None of us hopped out of the car at the General Store as we all want to walk in for the first time with our packs as apparently everyone claps you, plus making it to Kennedy Meadows is a milestone on the trail as it represents the end of the desert. We have nearly walked 1/4 of the whole walk, and except for a few mountains we have climbed it’s ALL been through desert.

Kennedy Meadows

Hey When we got back to the campground we were all rather solemn after a day in our heads thinking about the snow. All the stress had made me tired and when we saw the veteran ladies we stayed with in Wrightwood we weren’t as party as they were hoping. It was good to see them though after so long (we saw them briefly in Agua Dulce). We drank up the dregs of our beer cases and hit the sack, eager to start walking tomorrow after 2 zeros…are we getting lazy!?

These ‘oafs are holding up the line