May 26, 2017
Bird Spring Pass – Walker Pass Campground (630.87-651.3)
The wind blasted us all night. I was super grateful for the little shelter of the Joshua tree and a little shrub I positioned my head behind, but it was a pretty restless night. But being awake through the night had its perks. The stars last night were the most beautiful we’ve had so far on trail, the Milky Way stretched across the length of the night sky above us. We slept in til past 5 and watched the sun rise over the canyon from our sleeping bags. The cold wind was still blowing, and it took a long time to convince myself to get out of my cozy bed. It was almost 7 by the time we actually started hiking.
Of course, the day started out with a massive climb. We ascended 1500 feet over the first 3.5 miles of the day, and the climb itself wasn’t so bad, but the wind made it much more difficult. The gusts tried to throw me off the side of the mountain, but I continued to climb ever higher, the views getting grander and grander. Close to the top, I stopped for my second breakfast.
Almost as soon as I left my breakfast spot, we came over to the other side of the ridge, and the moment I’ve been waiting for for several days finally happened. There, far off on the horizon, was a dark, jagged range of mountains, capped with bright, white snow. We could see the Sierras. It was exhilarating and slightly terrifying all at once. It looked like a lot of snow. At this point I’m mostly excited to be done with the desert. It’s been amazing and magical, but I’m ready for a change of scenery.
You can’t really tell in the photo, but I swear the Sierras are there…
After that exciting moment, the trail dipped down into the woods for a while. I entertained myself by listening to a bunch of different podcasts, and felt like I could hike forever. Eventually, we came out into an old burn section, and then had a very exposed, sunny road walk. We stopped for lunch at a cabin with a spring just off trail and I lay in the shade for a long time. I even read a chapter of my book. I was feeling pretty lazy after the break, and it was a bit difficult to get myself moving again.
After lunch, the trail continued through the burn area for a while, and I was feeling pretty sluggish. I think it was just a combination of lack of sleep from the windy night, and a kind of routine afternoon slump I often find myself in, but I was trudging along, feeling kind of down and in a fog. I took a few deep breaths and found a moment of clarity. The views around me were absolutely beautiful, the scrubby desert hills rolling away into the distance and the stark contrast of the snowy Sierra beyond. I wet my bandana and wiped my face, the mountain breeze suddenly cold on my skin. It felt so good. The littlest things can completely turn a mood around out here. Feeling better, I continued along the five mile descent into Walker Pass. As I passed the 650 mile mark, I realized we now have less than 2000 miles left to hike. Yay?
When I arrived at Walker Pass Campground, I found trail magic was waiting! There was a couple who had been hiking the CDT but had to leave the trail, and are now driving around the country in a van. They handed me a cold beer, and I could have cried. I’ve been dreaming of an ice cold beverage this entire stretch, and here it was, being handed to me. There was also a bunch of food someone seemed to have left there, and I sat with a bunch of hikers at a picnic table as we feasted on mini powdered donuts, crackers, and apple sauce. So good. I set up my tent for the first time in a week, somehow craving being contained within my own little bubble of space. I have a beautiful view from my front door, and watched as the sun dipped below the hills.
Tomorrow, we’ll hitch into town for a bit of R&R before we hit the Sierra. I think we’ve unwittingly set ourselves up for a triple zero, which sounds kind of lovely right now, but will probably drive me crazy before the end of it. We’re justifying it by telling ourselves we won’t spend much time in Kennedy Meadows when we get there like most people do. We’ll get in our rest and preparation now, and then blow through into the Sierras. We’ll see how this goes.