The plan was to get up and slow hike for 15 miles and stay outside of an anticipated crowd at Kennedy Meadows. Most of the morning was a downhill descent from 8,000 to 6,000. When I got to my first rest stop I realized that all the downhill creates a new problem: my left foot, specifically my left toe and its tendon. It's incredibly sore and hurts to take a proper step. When I finally made it to the South Fork of the Kern River I jumped in and took a swim, and iced my foot and knee. The swim was refreshing, and it gave me a chance to get some of the gunk and filth off of my clothes.
Unfortunately, there was no where cool to camp along the river. So I kept going, scrapping my original plans and going all the way to KM. As I walked about a mile up the river, after taking a 2 hour swim and rest break, I saw some dope sites. But I killed too much time in the day and felt like I needed to just press on. So I did.
The landscape is decidedly alpine. Massive granite peaks are all around us, and the desert environment is slowly slipping away into the newness of the Sierra. Green conifers and pine are everywhere. Dumping into the valley that gives way to KM is a massive meadow of sage brush. It smells delicious. The sky is clear and blue, and the sun is baking. It was 95 degrees when I walked into the general store parking lot.
When I arrived I got a sudden rush of emotions. I can't believe I actually made it this far. I mean, I've only logged 300 miles so far, but I honestly didn't expect to make it to the Sierra Nevada. And now I'm here. And now I'm like "oh fuck, I'm entering dangerous territory with few life lines if something goes wrong." I wanted to cry from happiness and from concern about what's ahead.
When I walked up I could immediately see dozens of hikers crowding the general store deck, drinking and eating, and general in a relaxed party atmosphere. Everyone clapped and cheered my arrival. They do this for every hiker that comes in.
All I want to do is call home but I can't. Absolutely no cell service and the wifi connectivity is hopeless.
Mowgly ran up to me with a beer and instructed me to put my pack down and relax. I followed suit. After seeing everyone and settling in a bit I checked to see if my packages that my brother mailed me arrived. All but one got here. 8 days of food in a heavy bear can, plus ice axe and crampons, plus new heavy waterproof hiking boots that to quite fit properly. I'm nervous about the weight of my pack. 20 miles north of here we will be at 11,000+ elevation. 40 miles from here we will be at Forester Pass, 13,500 ft. Yeah, I'm scared. Are these worries normal? Am I in over my head? I don't know. But I'm going to see how the next 100 miles go. My main concern is still the pain in my left foot.
After the sun went down everyone walked a half mile down the road to a trail angel's house - Tom. He opens up his yard to hikers and hosts an outdoor movie theater. We watched School of Rock, which is super corny. Tomorrow I need to grab some gear from the outfitter and figure out my food plan. The group is lobbying to leave June 9th instead of the 10th as originally planned. I guess I have to go with the flow.