Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 41. Into Kennedy Meadows

19 miles
mile 683.4 to mile 702.2

Arriving at Kennedy Meadows today was an important milestone on my journey so far. This is the start of the Sierra and end of Southern California.  I'm so excited to have made it here.  I was nearly skipping down the trail today with joy.  Being here I truly feel like a PCT hiker.  I feel like I belong, that I've found my community, and that I'm well on my way to Canada.
Beautiful even through the burn area.
I spent a lot of the hike today thinking about these first 700 miles. SoCal was definitely my favorite section of the PCT so far, and it's bittersweet leaving it because I enjoyed it so much.   Of course it is the only section I've done, but I absolutely loved it. Which surprised me. When I was first thinking of hiking the PCT, I almost thought I wouldn't hike this section. I was scared of the heat and didn't think it would be scenic, and I didn't want to go if I couldn't bring my hammock. I found out I was wrong on all counts. These arid landscapes have an awesome beauty and were incredibly diverse. There was something new every day- the verdant springs and streams, the high mountains covered in pines, wonderful rock formations, the unrelenting sun, cold nights, fierce winds, and abundant wildflowers.

The desert was a good teacher and provided challenges that drew me to long distance hiking. I never knew what to expect so I had to learn to adapt.  It was hard, but the good kind of hard that makes you feel alive.  Hiking through SoCal provided me with a feeling of confidence and accomplishment.

My hiking mentor Stacy told me that the two main environmental challenges in SoCal would be water and blisters. This was so true!  The lack of water made me constantly think about water, plan our days around water, hope for water, sometimes feel more thirsty than I ever have before, and I ended up walking further than I thought my legs could carry me because I knew I needed to get to the next water. It really gave me a totally deep appreciation for water and what in means.
Slow trickle of water at the spring.
I also spent more time than I could have imagined caring for my feet.  Back east, I never needed to do any foot care. But out on the PCT was a completely different story because of the sand, dryness, and heat. I managed to avoid any blisters for the first 650 miles because I strictly adhered to a foot care regime (thanks Stacy for teaching this to me!). Feet need love to stay happy out here.  And you can't hike if the feet aren't happy.  At rest breaks, it was not uncommon to see hikers sitting around massaging (and talking to) our own feet. That might sound strange but it works!  Everyone seemed to have a different foot care regime but constant attention was a common element.  I rubbed my feet with moisturizer at night, and "trail toes" anti-friction cream twice a day. I took off my shoes at rest breaks every two hours. I changed my socks every day, and rinsed sand out of them whenever possible.  I learned to listen to my feet and pay attention when they complained.
Changing my socks mid-day.
Other lessons I learned out here were not really about hiking though. I think a lot about what it feels like to "live the dream." To actually be doing exactly what you've wanted to do for a long time. How incredible to be making my deepest wish a reality.  It makes me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to.   I am in a state of constant awareness about how happy I am to be doing something that I truly love.   Even when things are rough, like when I was slogging uphill carrying 7 liters of water in the hot sand, I said "I'm living the dream. This is what hiking the PCT is all about." And it's true. Those moments we are most uncomfortable are the times for growth, the times when I learn just how strong I am, when I discover how resilient I am.

One time Blue Yonder, MeToo and I were having a rough time hiking a rocky steep road late in the day. It felt miserable at first, but it was also an opportunity to turn our attitudes around. Blue Yonder started playing music and we danced up that road to "rock lobster" by the B52's. And now whenever we have a nasty rocky road walk, we dance through it and laugh at the "rock lobster roads." What a life lesson!

I've also learned how things just seem to always work out ok. Because out here they do. I am the type of person that likes to control thing and not take chances. But out here on the PCT, I learn to go with the flow and trust that I will be ok. I'm trying to remember this when my anxiety about the Sierras starts to get overwhelming. I'm scared about the snow, about being cold and crossing over the high passes. I remind myself that everything I've done has prepared me for this. That I am in the best shape now, mentally and physically. That it will be OK.


  1. Kennedy Meadows. My, a body does get around...

    This is my first comment here, but I've been reading your blog since your pre-PCT prep days. I've learned so much from your writing. I've lived here in So Cal most of my life, and I'm always happy when people can appreciate how beautiful our deserts can be, if you only take the time to see.

    I think I should copy this post and send it along to my son. He hides it well, but I think he gets a bit impatient when I take time out during a long hike to air out my feet or care for a hot spot. No blisters in over 600 miles? Impressive. Safe travels.

  2. Yay for the Sierra's! I can't believe you'd already done 700 miles! Time has flown by from this vantage point.

    Don't worry, I talk to my feet when I care for them hiking, too. If it was a long enough break on the AT I always took my shoes and socks off to air everything out. I think it truly did help!

  3. Hemlock,
    It was a real pleasure to meet and (briefly) hike with you and Blue Yonder . You have a beautiful smile and attitude. We hope to meet you two again.
    Good luck, good weather and safe travels,
    Mulestomper and Skypilot