Onion Valley to Kennedy Meadow

August 7

Back to the trail this morning about 7:30 and headed to Kearsarge Pass. I expected it to be a real chore, but it actually went well, and I passed a dozen people on the way up.

Coming down from the pass I followed the Bullfrog Lake trail back to the PCT. Put in a few more miles before stopping along side Bubbs Creek at a pretty nice spot. Was eventually joined by a couple of men finishing the JMT.

There were a lot of people on the trail today, including a young woman hauling in supplies for a group of hikers. At the rate she was traveling, she may still be looking for the top of the pass. I passed another guy today who had finished his deliveries, and one yesterday who was charging up the pass with a resupply. He said he made $200 for each trip. Also met a man today looking for his resupply person. Obviously a big business.

Tomorrow I go over Forester Pass and it is all downhill from there. The logistics did not work out for a Whitney summit, so tomorrow will be the high point of the trip.

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The Kearsarge Lakes are a popular destination, set below the Kearsarge and Bullfrog trails, there seems to be 4 or 5 of them all together.

August 8

I cowboy camped (without a tent) last night. And the temp dropped down to 34. I was cool most of the night. The tent is up tonight. On the plus side, there were a lot of stars to see. And disassembly of camp was easier.

Headed out this morning at 5:15 and walked by headlamp for half an hour. I have grown to like that. It gives a whole different feel to the trail, and it’s cool watching the sun slowly light up the mountains.

I expected this morning to be hard, and it was, but not as bad as expected. Forester Pass, at 13,200 tall, was 5 miles and 2600 feet of up away. I guessed I would do good to make it to the top by 9:30. I was the first one to the pass at 8:55. But I was not alone for long. I soaked up the views for a while and had a bite to eat before heading down the other side. And that took most of the rest of the day.

Camped tonight at Wallace Creek, just a few miles from the Mt Whitney trail and the end of the JMT. I reconsidered climbing it all day, until I got a report on the water ahead of me. It is pretty sparse and will prevent me from making the miles I would need to if I wanted to do it in 3 days. So up early tomorrow and try for my first 20 mile day of this trip. With no big climbs ahead that should be doable.

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Somewhere up there is Forester Pass. It’s always a guessing game with me, trying to figure out where the trail is going to cross. For the record, you can’t see it from here. The pass is hidden behind the second peak from the right.
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Looking back down on the valley the trail climbs to Forester Pass. The trail skirted the end of the lake before turning and climbing around what looks like a scree field on the left. Seems like that lake was an hour away.
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The view to the south from Forester Pass. The trail descends steeply for about 500 feet and then much more slowly for many miles.
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Look who figured out how to take a selfie.
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Dan and Jessica are a couple I met frequently the last couple of weeks on the trail.

August 9

The mountains were transformed today. Yesterday the were rugged and majestic. Today they are rounded and plain. I was surprised how quickly the transformation took.

The other thing I noticed today was the sand. It was like walking through sand dunes for much of the afternoon. With a 30 lb pack. Uphill. Not fun.

It was not very scenic today. Most all there was to see was sand and pine trees. Occasionally a vista would open up, but nothing very grand.

Camped tonight at the only water within 10 miles, a lake that is slowly drying up. And there are lots of people here. We are just a couple miles from the Horseshoe Meadows campground, and lots of people start or end their hike there, and this lake is their first/ last night on the trail.

There is a fire burning a mile east of here, but it is moving away from us. Hopefully they can get it put out before it causes much damage.

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Sunrise in the Sierra
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This is what much of the high forest’s in the Sierra, especially the southern end look like; widely spaced trees, no undergrowth, and rocky/sandy soil.
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Mt Whitney is just peaking out from behind another mountain. IMO, it’s not nearly as impressive as the Cascade volcanoes, like Mt Rainier or Mt Hood.

August 10

My neighbors were up late gabbing last night. Makes it tempting to play music or something when I get up at oh dark 30. But I was good and just snuck out instead.

Today’s trail was mostly downhill, although there was a 6 mile 1000 foot climb in the second half. Afternoon climbing continues to be a struggle for me. And, along with back pains, it made for a very long climb.

Yesterday’s fire at Horseshoe Meadows was still burning and I could see it in several places early on. The other guy camped here is heading north and said the forest service is allowing people to exit there but not enter.

I hiked for 20 miles over 11 hours today and did not see a single person. Then while prepping dinner I saw someone else had come in from the south. It came me an opportunity to talk about water to the south. Looks like I have a good source about 14 miles down the trail, which is halfway to the end. I had given serious consideration to trying to push all the way out tomorrow, but do not think I could make it without hurting myself.

A lot of the water here is from springs, and you often have to leave the trail to find them. Twice today, including here in camp, I had to follow a way trail to the spring to get water. The first time the way trail didn’t go to the water, I had to explore around for it for awhile.

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Another picture of my favorite time to hike.
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This is a picture of the fire burning on the road below Horseshoe Meadows. It closed access to/from the trail at a pretty popular entry point, but so far has not impacted the trail.

 

August 11

Cowboy camped last night to watch the meteor shower. It was a no show, at least the times I woke up long enough to look. The stars were impressive though. And it was cold, 29 degrees.

On the trail about 5:30 and got to the days climb, 1000 ft, pretty early. I stripped off the coats, gloves and beannie before starting to climb, and then was cold the whole way up. But that is better than over heating.

Again today, the trail was not very scenic and was very dry, but at least it was not as long. Only traveled 14 miles today and was in camp shortly after 1. I had not been here long when another couple showed up as well. He was getting back on the trail after an injury, and she just came out to spend the night with him and will go back to Kennedy Meadows tomorrow.

The camp I am in is built on a hillside with at least a dozen one person sites carved into the hillside. It actually looks pretty cool. It is alongside the Kern River, which does not look so cool. The water is low with lots of algae, and cow pies along the banks. I took a bath anyway and will see if I can get up in the morning.

Tomorrow is the end. 15 miles away is Sue and the car to take me back home. It’s been a good trip, but I am ready for it to come to an end.

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There are a lot of meadows in the southern Sierra. And many of these meadows will periodically have cows grazing in them.
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Even through the trail through here is generally dry and drab, occasionally there will be a colorful patch to brighten things up.
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The camp site at the Kern River was built on a hillside, with small sites built into the hillside. It was easily the most interesting site to camp that I have found on the PCT. Not the best, just the most interesting.

August 12

Cowboy camped again, and again saw no meteor shower; just lots of stars. Broke camp in record time and was on the trail by 5:10; some stars were still visible when I started to walk. Started off with my last climb of the trip, a whopping 500 feet. and then it was down about 2500 feet over the next 14 miles; sometimes steeply and sometimes barely descending.

Early in the morning I descended to and walked along Beck’s Meadow. The meadow had a bunch of cows. My previous experience with cows has told me that they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. As soon as a cow saw me, eating stopped and they just stared at me until I couldn’t see them anymore. Probably afraid I was going to eat them or something. I suspect they have to put them into a different meadow to graze during the peak hiking season, otherwise they would starve to death.

For a couple of weeks now I have had very little issue with bugs. That changed today. I hate gnats. They’re tiny, fast, and in your face. And today they made an appearance as I dropped below 8000 feet. I fought with them for a while before I finally gave in and put on a headnet. Then I would sometimes have 6 or 7 of them circling in front of my face and landing on the net. Still bothered me, but at least I didn’t eat any more of them.

Last year I followed the south fork of the Kern River for a while before coming to Kennedy Meadows. This year I crossed it and it was bone dry. Good thing I wasn’t counting on it for water.

About 11 I came out on the Kennedy Meadow campground; and Sue was there. Dropped my pack into the car, grabbed a Dr. Pepper and I was off to cover the final few miles. It was a fairly non-descript, flat, sandy and dry stretch of trail with no trees and lots of short brush. But eventually it passed and there ahead of me was the car. I walked across the road to make sure I had the last few inches, flopped down into the car, shed a quick tear of happiness/relief, and then drove off to the store for a burger and then a trip to Lone Pine for a shower, a pizza and a soft bed.

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I kept trying to assure this herd of cattle that I has not currently interested in eating them, but I don’t think they believed me. Everyone of them kept an eye on me the whole time I was in sight.
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There are a number of areas between the Kern and Kennedy Meadows that have recently burned, including this one at the top of the steep descent.
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After 500 miles this past month and a half, the PCT is all but done. One short section in Washington is all that remains.

39 days and 500 miles from when I started in Sierra City, I emerged at Kennedy Meadows. I walked all but 3 days of that time. I climbed over 78,000 feet, descending the same amount. I ended up with a blister under a callus on both big toes, two creaky knees, and a sore back, but otherwise healthy. I experienced God’s creation in an amazing way, and will forever treasure the experience, as hard as it was. And I could not have done it without the lovely and dedicated love of my life: thanks Sue.

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