When you arrive at Kennedy meadows, everyone claps. Upon arrival it's almost like you loose 100 pounds. It's hard to explain the feeling. Mile 702.
Whitney and I left walker pass in the morning for the final stretch before the sierras. This section is where it shifts from desert to the sierras, gradually over 50 miles. The trail has been re opened despite closing it for a fire only a few days prior. I was wearing a dress and Tevas (sandals), feeling good for our last climb out of the desert. What I didn't know that morning was that the desert wasn't over, nor was the blistering heat. Within a few hours, my pack was rubbing my shoulders so badly I had to take the dress off which was a bummer. Then the heat came in and a siesta was forced upon us. Unplanned siestas aren't ideal. Whit and I started hiking at 8am, but it was too late. At 11 I could feel my feet turning to mush, and by noon we had to stop. One liter. I had one liter left for the next few hours and another 7 miles. Yuck. 5 hours later, it was almost cooling down and so we walked. My attempt to ration was alright, but the trail just seemed to be a never ending desert climb with no shade. Dry mouth doesn't even begin to explain it. When you do take a sip of precious water, you slosh it around in an attempt to make it seem like more than it is. Double yuck. As I climbed those last miles I cursed the desert out. We had been together almost 6 weeks now, why was it doing this to me? Why did it all want to kill me? Why now? I cursed it like a bad break up. We were so close to the end, why couldn't we just go our separate ways peacefully? Anyways, when we finally arrived at the water source I slurped down a liter very quickly once it was treated (which filtering has never seemed to take longer in my life). Then it was time to press on. Up up up. The stars were out and it was one of those - still hot as heck at night - kind of nights. Whitney and I arrived at the campsite and it was late, dark and there was almost no space. We took a glorified nap then got up early and cruised down, into a lovely valley, filled with trees, and big marble rocks. These rocks looked like mountains! Finally, no more sand! We climbed up and down, and the heat wasn't as bad. Finally some cooler mountain air, but once again I found myself low on water and having to ration it out. Blahhhh. Why can't there be more water? We were on the downhill, but it was a burn area (areas previously burnt by fires that basically have no shade) so when we found a small ledge of shade we stopped for lunch.
Some other hikers joined us since it was literally the only shade for miles! The decent was long, and I was honestly exhausted. My feet pounded the hot ground with the promise of a river and the end of the day, 4 miles short of the infamous Kennedy meadows. Down down down. I put my headphones in and let my brain try to drift from the monotony, but it was a long hot haul. You couldn't see the river until you were basically next to it, and man what a river it was. When I arrived, Whitney was waiting for me on the side of the trail, and found our way to the water (he hikes substantially faster than me most of the time). We soaked, washed, and lounged in the river (spice, data and tip toe all joined as well) then ate dinner and cowboy camped.
The next morning I woke up with a knot in my stomach. I knew there would be tons of people at Kennedy meadows and was having anxiety. I wasn't ready to be submersed in tons of people. The woods was beginning to feel like home, and so was walking all day. After passing mile 700, we rolled into KM, and the clapping began. I stood there overwhelmed by a massive group of hikers on the front deck of a small general store.