June 1st, 2017
Mile 676.08 – Mile 698.03
Waking up in the woods on a mountain is seriously the best thing ever. Life out here is the simplest kind of life you can imagine. Waking up, slinging your home onto your back. Walking, taking deep breaths of air that smells of the pine forest after rain. I felt amazing this morning, so much better than yesterday. I rounded a corner and discovered a canyon with a river of clouds slowly flowing through it. It looked so cool.
We started the day with a descent, that took us down into the cloud river. Jagged rocky peaks loomed out of the mist. We stopped for breakfast at Chimney Creek, where a trail register informed us that Cougar and Dr. McDirty were only a couple of hours ahead of us! After breakfast, we had to tackle a 2500 foot climb. I put my music on and let the uphill miles fly by. The grade was super nice, so the climb wasn’t bad at all, but I also think I’m definitely getting stronger on the uphills.
At the top of the climb, I crested the hill and there were the Sierras, now much closer than they had been last time we saw them. It was pretty exhilarating. I think I actually let out a squeal of excitement. There’s definitely a lot of snow, but I feel pretty calm about it at this point. I’m just excited to get in there. I started to descend on the other side of the ridge, looking for a shady spot to have lunch, but we were in a burn area so I eventually gave up and sat down in the sun. It was super hot, so we didn’t sit for long, but the sun did dry out my damp tent and sleeping bag super quickly.
After lunch, we hurried downhill 5 miles to the next creek, where we found Cougar and Dr. McDirty! We hadn’t been able to catch them since they left town earlier than us on Tuesday. The trail family was back together again! They were planning to camp by the Kern River, about a mile past where we were planning to camp, so we decided to tack on the extra mile so we could all camp together. We rested briefly in the creekside shade before moving on.
At this point, the landscape was definitely shifting into more mountainous terrain. It still felt like we were walking through desert, but the mountains were all around us. We caught sight of the Kern River, glistening in the afternoon sunlight. It was beautiful. The last few miles of the day seemed to take forever. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to get to camp. Finally, we found a good spot to camp right on the sandy riverbank. We all went for a quick dip in the river, which was absolutely freezing, but felt super nice after the hot day. As we were sitting around having dinner, a huge rattlesnake crawled right over Dr. McDirty’s pack, just beside where they had set up for cowboy camping. I really hope the snake doesn’t want to snuggle tonight.
Tomorrow, we only have 5 miles to Kennedy Meadows, and the official end of the desert. We’re getting up early so we can get all-you-can-eat pancakes at Grumpy Bear’s for breakfast. Super excited.