With the start of central California and the High Sierra mountains in our minds, we set a plan to cross the remaining Mojave and reach Kennedy Meadows, gateway to the Sierra, in week. Tehachapi had been a great resupply town and we’d sent a box ahead to Kennedy Meadows too with food for a further week to get us up into the mountains and hopefully up as far as Kearsage Pass where we plan to drop down to Highway 395 and then hitch out to Lone Pine for our next rest and resupply. It’s hard to plan for the mountains however as there is still considerable snow on the peaks and passes which could take many more days to cross than in a low snow year.
Getting to Kennedy Meadows in a week meant planning to walk at least 20 miles a day for 7 consecutive days without resupply. It therefore also meant carrying 7 days worth of food which would be heavy, even based on trying to consume 2000 calories a day. In practice we are probably now burning over 4000 a day so we need to eat well when we are in town.
The initial walk out of Tehachapi was a mile of dirt bank alongside a highway, where the PCT had been washed out by a mudslide last year. We then climbed over 2000ft back into the high desert mountains. It had been hard to leave Tehachapi as we’d had the good fortune to stay with a fantastic host through air b&b. Not only was Richard a great guy, former scuba company owner and motorcycle collector, even better than that he had a heated indoor pool, 60″ TV in our ensuite room and lent us his truck to get errands done. It was a very different couple of days from our usual hiking routine. However, it was great to be on the trail and camp at altitude again. The night sky’s were exceptionally clear and not only were we getting an incredible view of the stars at night but great sunsets and sunrises too!
West at about 7:30pm:
East at about 05:45am:
Despite planning 2000 calories we were hungry all the time. This section was still desert, but we were gradually seeing more and more vegetation. On the 25th we awoke in low mountain cloud and it stayed with us all day. Only as we camped that evening did it finally clear. We’d even had to put waterproof jackets on briefly at lunch, for the first time on this trip. The lower temperature helped our hiking however and we made 20 miles before 4pm for a relaxed camp. The following 3 days were exceptionally dry however and included a 42 mile section with no water access at all. When we did finally get to water you’d not believe how excited we were about what was essentially a mosquito-infested damp valley floor revealing a muddy puddle no more than 8 inches across. Despite that we managed to magic 3 litres of lemonade from it. It felt akin to a biblical event and we were two very happy hikers!
After a brief rest we then climbed to over 7000ft to camp on a ridgetop. We almost retreated after seeing a big storm head building in the sky (lightning is major risk for hikers here), but it blew over and we had a peaceful night.
The following day saw us descend to almost 5000ft before climbing again to over 8000, only to then drop down to Walker Pass at 5000ft once more the next morning. The limited food and water and heavy packs across the week had sapped our energy and we really needed to replenish our reserves. Fortunately we were able get a ride out from Walker Pass to Weldon and we decided to have a short hiking day, spending the rest of the day doing laundry, showering and eating (a lot)!
We camped that night at Walker Pass to be on trail for an early start. Lisa had to evict a hitchhiker from her pack in the morning and we set out feeling refreshed for the last couple of days into Kennedy Meadows.
There was a lot of anticipation and excitement about getting into Kennedy Meadows. It’s an iconic outpost for PCT hikers and marks the transition from the desert of southern California into the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California. We were hearing lots of rumours about significant snow still lying on the mountain passes ahead and difficult river crossings that were swollen from snowmelt. More worryingly Lisa had been suppressing foot pain for several days with Ibuprofen. We’d always feared that a injury or illness could stop us hiking and we went into Kennedy Meadows with both excitement and concern about the trail ahead.