PCT miles 689.6 to 702.8 – Long Valley Loop Road to Kennedy Meadows General Store – Total PCT miles 702.8
A general rule of thumb for thru-hikers is to make it to Kennedy Meadows, CA at PCT mile 702.8 by June 15th. Getting to Kennedy Meadows around this date-and departing soon after-typically means that hikers will be in the Sierra after the spring snow has consolidated and finish the hike north (home!) before the snow starts to fall again in the North Cascades (We ❤ the North Cascades!!!). (Okay, enough parentheses for the moment.)
Well, it’s June 15th and here we are in Kennedy Meadows!
By 6:45 this morning the sun found us walking along the east facing hills of a burned slope and descending down into Rockhouse Basin. Already the day was warm, without the usual refreshing cool morning crispness. We breakfasted on a shady granite boulder looking over a grassy pine meadow and granite domes. Landscape features that hinted we have indeed entered Sierra country!
After hiking 13.9 miles, Gabriel and I arrived in Kennedy Meadows a little after noon. It was one of the hottest days yet. Per weather reports, it may have only been around 80 degrees (F), but walking through an exposed section of “desert meadow” and under open sagebrush and pinon pine forest indeed had us sweaty, sticky and even more dusty than we’d been in the last 7 days.
To cool off and clean up, we had intended to take a refreshing plunge into the South Fork of the Kern River, which we’d been told was the largest body of flowing water that the PCT crosses between Campo, CA and Kennedy Meadows, CA. We were so delighted to see the riparian vegetation of cottonwoods, willows and rose shrubs that suggested water, but hid the river from our view. At last, glints of the sparkling dark water were in sight. Refreshingly tempting to a hot and sweaty hiker, but the water was moving swiftly with snow melt from up high and we couldn’t find an ideal river bank to wade in from. So after assessing several wishful watering holes we headed onward to Kennedy Meadows (KM). Which may have been just as well, evidence upstream indicated that this stretch of the Kern is also used by cattle.
KM is a small mountain village (~200 people at 6,400 feet) where PCT hikers come to resupply and stage their entry into the High Sierras. Much to our delight, we arrived to many friends enjoying the shade, ice cream, beers, burgers and other food offered at the general store. Gabriel and I may not have taken a refreshing river plunge, but we did get to load up on calories and avoid walking in the worst of the mid-day heat!
Tomorrow we will take another of our beloved zero days to get our gear in order, figure out what we’re packing (i.e. carrying up high snowy passes) for our first six days in the Sierras, eat lots of food and play in the Kern River.
Also, a note on a change to our Sierra plans:
After picking up our 62 pound-plus(!!!!!!*) resupply package full of needed gear and 12 days of food, we decided that we don’t really want to go through the Sierras straight from KM to Vermillion Valley Resort (~180 miles) carrying all that weight up high snowy passes. Instead, we will be heading into the Sierras and detouring to Kearsarge Pass, just 90 miles north of Kennedy Meadows. We’ll get off the PCT at Kearsarge Pass and go down to Bishop to resupply. This means we’ll only have to carry 6 days of food…which is MUCH lighter than carrying 12 days of food. It also means we’ll be hiking an extra 18 beautiful miles to get to and from a trailhead down to the Town of Independence.
*The woman in the KM general store was impressed that Gabriel’s mom had carried this box into the Post Office. Her hat-and our hats for that matter-are off to Boni, our super hero supply package shipper. Thank you!