Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hi to Jimmy in Missouri from Lone Pine

Funny thing happened on the trail after I had just left Kennedy Meadows. A fellow hiker named Shake and Bake told me that an older couple in an RV were looking for me at Kennedy Meadows. They were the grandparents of someone named Jimmy in Missouri who was hoping to hike the PCT next year and had been following my blog. They wanted to say hi.

I did not meet them but I got the news from Shake and Bake. So hello to Jimmy and I hope you get to do the PCT. If next year isn't good, there will be a good year to do it. I have wanted to do it sine 1975 and here I am doing it the perfect year.

Anyway, they call Kennedy Meadows the gateway to the Sierras. For once the marketing matches reality. I have not dropped down into the desert again. Instead I have climbed up above 10,000 feet.

The trail began walking through the meadow, which is really a sage scrub expanse that isn't really flat. I had found a Golite Chrome Dome umbrella in the trash and had figured a way to attach it to my backpack so I wore it while hiking in the sun through this meadow and beyond. It made a great deal of difference. I wish I'd had it before. I never go anywhere without it now. Nothing was wrong with it except for being a little worn. I put some duct tape over the holes. It works great.

After the meadow the trail took me into the pinyon pine forest and then crossed the South Fork of the Kern River on a pretty bridge. There were lots of day hikers and fishermen. Then the climbing began and was in the old burn zone. The umbrella helped a lot as it was noon.

Then the old burn zone turned into the new burn zone and I walked through smoke and smoldering places and logs that had flames. A firefighter appeared out of the smoke and escorted me about 100 feet and then told me that was it for the burn area.

I emerged from the smoke into a huge meadow. A real meadow. The kind that used to be a lake and now is an expanse of grass with a meandering stream in the middle. It was beautiful. I tried to take a few pictures.

I climbed over a ridge and descended again to the South Fork of the Kern for another bridge crossing. There was a lovely grassy bank where lots of hikers were enjoying a rest and wading in the river. The water was surprisingly not cold.

I washed my feet and rested a bit and played my pennywhistle because I had to trade a tune for my shoe I had left accidentally at a previous stop. Another hiker had picked it up for me. It was one of the croc shoes I have for camp shoes. I don't wear them much except in the middle of the night when I get up to go to the bathroom. I think my hiking shoes are more comfortable, actually.

An older woman named Circle declared she would not be camping at the Kern and had decided on Cow Creek. We decided to call it Cow Crick. I like Circle. She is hiking the PCT for a 60th birthday gift to herself. I decided I would catch up to her and camp with her at Cow Creek.

I stopped along the way to Cow Creek to cook some dinner at a nice spot overlooking the meadow. I made some soup and played my pennywhistle while it cooked. It was pretty good and didn't take the whole 30 minutes to cook like the package said. I wanted to eat before I arrived in camp in case Circle was nervous about bears. This would be our first night in bear country with everybody using their new bear cannisters.

When I arrived at the campsite, Circle was cooking her dinner. She wasn't worried about bears. I was glad because I didn't have a bear cannister yet and would have to put my Ursack out instead.

The mosquitos were pretty bad. Circle let me borrow her DEET. I had never used it before. It seemed to work pretty well. I have a bug net for my head and wear long sleeves and long pants for protection, and the DEET helps with my exposed hands.

It was a little cold sleeping by the creek in the pre-dawn hours. The creek itself was really small and yet very abundant. In the morning the trail followed the creek for quite some distance as it climbed. I had this wonderful feeling of safety, of not feeling like I was going to die from lack of water, that I was finally hiking in land capable of sustaining life. Trees, water, shade, birds, flowers, meadows. It made me very happy.

As the trail climbed I passed a woman who said the altitude was bothering her. I really hadn't noticed it at all. If anything, it felt better hear nearing 10,000 feet.

I reached Olancha Pass and could see some great views of meadows and forests and the inner Sierras and the backsides of some of the famous peaks you can see from Owens Valley, including Mt. Whitney. It was spectacular. Unfortunately, my camera had decided to break. The screen just goes white and it won't take a picture or turn off.

I decided I didn't want to do anymore 20+ mile days since water isn't such a huge concern. I stopped and took a break somewhere and played my pennywhistle. A group of 3 backpackers came by and said it sounded great. We talked a little while and then they continued.

I met them again at Death Creek. Death Creek was another tiny yet abundant little creek. It was so narrow and so deep and very full of mosquitos. I stopped and talked with Wheeew. She said she wanted to start doing big 20+ mile days. I told her I was sick of those and my goal was 15+ mile days. The 3 backpackers were there and they were impressed by that comment for some reason.

I put on my pack with my umbrella attached and the 3 backpackers just thought that was the coolest thing they ever saw. They declared me their favorite thru-hiker. I told them I was going to Horseshoe Meadow and they said that's where they were going and that they would give me a ride to Lone Pine if we were there at the same time. So they became my ride and I decided I should keep an eye on them. Also, they said they had some instruments in their packs and I thought if I could camp with them we could have a jam session.

I hiked all day without my guide book. It was difficult figuring out where I was and how far I went. In the end I ended up doing another 20 mile day, and camped at a turnoff to Diaz Creek. I didn't investigate the creek until after I set up my tent.

I saw the 3 backpackers approach and knowing they were hurting for water I told them they'd made it to the water. What water? they asked. And I pointed to the faint little trail and the note someone left that the water was worth a visit. They went down to the water immediately.

After I cooked my dinner and ate it in my tent in order to stop the lemming-like rush to suicide in my soup that the mosquitos were doing, I walked the 1/4 mile down to the creek. They had camped there. There were lots of nice places to camp and the creek was just right for washing yourself in. I had blown it as far as picking my camp site, but it did seem kind of cold down there. I didn't want to go pack up and move so I filled my water bottle and went back to my lonely campsite.

On my way back up, the 3 backpackers told me that when I set off in the morning I should look for an older man named Chris Rios. He would be our ride.

In the morning I tried to dawdle because I tend to get going early and most people don't. But I still got out at 7AM. On the way I saw an older man and knew it was Chris. He was really friendly and he described his minivan and said to wait there for my ride.

I took the Mulkey Pass trail instead of the Trail Pass trail. I got lost on the Mulkey Pass trail at the bottom where the trail ended. I ended up at least a mile or more from the parking lot for Cottonwood Pass and Trail Pass. I took a guess and started walking up the road. I found the parking lot and the minivan and waited.

Chris showed up right away so we waited and drank a beer for a couple of hours. Then the 3 backpackers showed up and we picked up another thru-hiker and went to Lone Pine.

We stopped at the Pizza Factory. "We toss 'em. They're awesome." I had a pizza with the 4 of them and a different thru-hiker who happened to be there. This thru-hiker, named Daily Special because he kept getting a new trail name every day, is from Florida. He was surprised that altitude can slow a person down. He said hills were a little hard at first for him since Florida is so flat but he was used to them now. He said he hated hiking with a passion, had never backpacked before and when his friend suggested the PCT he thought it was the Pacific Coast Trail and he'd be walking on the beach everyday. When they started with the Aqueduct portion he was pissed because that definitely was not the beach! But he said it was all worth it when they stopped each night and he was enjoying his first backpack trip.

I decided to stay at the Dow hotel in a room that has no bathroom. The hotel has a lot of character. I don't know if there are any other hikers staying there. There were several leaving a little after I arrived.

My plan is to stay here a zero day because I have a lot to do to prepare for the next sections and then hitchhike back to the trailhead again. I think I will buy less food this time. I didn't eat all my food and when I get into town lately I'm not really hungry at all. My big dream was to arrive in Lone Pine as a thru-hiker and eat a whole pizza at the Pizza Factory. Silly dreams I have, eh? I ate a whole pizza but it was a small one and I'm too full to have dinner.

I hope to catch up on the Internet again soon. My next stop is Vermilion Valley Resort. They'll probably have Internet but you never know. My new shoes will come (if the address the guy on the phone put will work -- silly computer engineers don't allow you to enter addresses that don't fit their systems) and maybe I can get a new camera sent there, too. My goal for tomorrow is to find a huge bug net I can eat under. I don't think I'll be successful but you never know.

Well, Internet access here is expensive. I better go. Thanks for reading and enjoying my journal everyone.


  1. Be careful with the DEET: it's known to be bad stuff. I have found that the natural bug repellents work just as well but not for as long as DEET. Good luck.

  2. You are approaching some very scenic parts of the Sierras. I am enjoying your reports greatly. Keep on trucking north.

  3. Safest and most effective bug repellent is Lemon Eucalyptus - available at KMart.

    Enjoying your reports.