Taking a zero and two nearos at Kennedy Meadows resulted in my feet repairing themselves. It was a relaxing 3 days, filled with mostly burgers, wine, relaxing on the porch of the general store and catching up with people. There were close to a hundred hikers and behind the store it was tent city. Whitney and I hung out with momento and squints our first day and the rest of the speed chillers rolled in towards the end of the day. Such a strange place, but it was much needed rest. I spent most of my zero reading (I had found part of a book chips left in the hiker box - he also left me a letter which was a nice morale boost), and napping in the hammock. By day three at KM I was ready to go, but storm clouds kept us there until about 5 where we hiked out about 4 miles, set up camp and got rained on.
The next few days we really got a taste for the sierras, although we were still putting in roughly 20 mile days, the terrain had changed. Mountains and valleys, rivers and some day hikers! A small group of us had to go into lone pine (a small one street town) which made for a very long busy day. Being in town just for the day was super overwhelming and my to do list was long. They guys who didn't come into town had made a list for me and between their stuff, stuffing my face and running other errands, it was 5 o clock before I knew it. Time to hitch back up to the trail, which wasn't easy. By the time we (now just Whitney and I - we had to split up hitching in and never reconnected) got back to the side trail it was 7ish, and we were both too exhausted to hike. We drank and at cookies, and talked about everything under the stars.
The next morning we were back at it, climbing and trying to catch up to the rest of the crew. The whole group reconnected around lunch, just beyond a river crossing. Because of the snow levels this year, and El Niño, and probably a bunch of other stuff, most of our river crossings are on the bigger side, or at least take your shoes and socks off so you don't soak them (this isn't good form and may change as the streams get bigger). After lunchin, the crew spread out again and continued on to the junction that splits off for Mt Whitney. We all relaxed, cooked and soaked in the views of a valley right out of a painting. It was finally starting to feel like the mountains. We went to bed early, and Whitney and I woke up at 2 to head for the summit of Mt Whitney. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is the tallest peak in the lower 48, coming in at 14,505 ft. Within the first hour I fax fallen in a creek and soaked my feet. Not fun. We cruised up in the dark and the rest of the crew passed me on by one. They all hike so fast it's crazy. Watching the first light hit the mountains was crazy, and it wasn't that bad of a climb. Slow and steady. I summited just after seven and the wind was whipping. The crew all huddled up behind some rocks to try and shelter ourselves from the wind, with sleeping bags heaped everywhere. I surprised the guys with summit snickers and a few of us had summit beers. Cheese beard also flew a kite - the highest kite in the us unless someone in Alaska had him beat! After a bit, it was time to go down. The day was amazing and we cruised back to camp, where napping was a must. Later that night we did another 4 miles - just to set us up better for the next day. Bam, another 20 miles in the sierras... Why? My legs were feeling like lead and I was hungry. The hunger was beginning. We all cowboy camped in a little puddle except Whitney... The hammock makes him a bit antisocial.
As the nights get colder it's harder and harder to get up early, especially when your whole body is exhausted. Somehow thought, my body thinks it's okay to wake me up at 4 am every day and make me get out of bed to pee - I'm desperately trying to break this habit. Anyways, Whitney and I hustled to get going and ended up hiking a bonus mile - this is when you just start walking, and realize after 3/4 of a mile that your not on the pct and have to back track. Then, there were a bunch of shoes off creek crossings, where we caught up to the rest of the crew. The rest of the morning was spent cruising up, pretty causally and the higher we got he more snow there was. We cruised through snow fields and did I mention there was water everywhere? It reminded me of Sweden and Alaska. we all fueled up on snacks then crushed up the last mile (very steep) to the top of forester pass (the highest point on the pct). A collective deep breath was had at the top, and lots of photos. It was right around noon, and it was sunny and warm.
We we all chose to glissade down about 150 ft, which was pretty amazing. Then, down down down. Whitney and I took a nap/ lunch break in one of the most scenic spots I've ever lunched. Since he's hiked most of the trail before he knows the best spots to take a break, and this one didn't disappoint. We napped for a while then pressed on through kings canyon, which you should google, and try to imagine seeing in real life after a month and a half of desert. The trees, rivers and lighting were unreal. We camped with a bunch of other hikers and even had a fire, which really helped fend off the mosquitos, which are out in full force.
The following day was another pass - kearsarge pass. Up and over, then down, 8 miles off the pct followed by a pretty simple hitch into Bishop. Once a large quantity of Mexican food was consumed, I found myself at the vagabond inn with the whole crew split between 2 rooms, with gear exploding everywhere. Hiker hotel rooms smell like as cheese beard described it "old pizza and farts". I guess that's what I get for hiking with 8 guys. I've barely explored bishop but it's a pretty good sized town - it has a movie theater!
I also just just want to say that trying to keep up with this has been tricky with the lack of service so I apologize for the mass postings! Photos are below.