Mile 669.5-698.0 (28.5)
Spider snoozed our alarm and I woke up when it was pretty light out. We have adopted this funny routine over the past week or two. I guess we need the rest.
It was warm and easy to pack up. Our morning routine: Spider has to get up first, stuff his sleeping bag away, toss most of his stuff (clothes, headlight, electronics) out of the tent, and then get out himself. Then I have room to pack up my stuff, though I usually linger in my sleeping bag while Spider takes his morning poop. As soon as I am out of my sleeping bag, I pack up really quickly, especially if it is cold. Sleeping bag, clothing, food bag, ground cloth, tent. Spider drinks milk powder/protein powder/instant coffee for breakfast, and I make a matcha/caffeine powder drink and stuff my hip belt with snacks for breakfast.
So we hit the trail a little past 7am. We had a few miles of uphill, which felt challenging to my still-recovering body, but the conditions were perfect. Cool temp, warm sun, plenty of shade, slight breeze. Hell yes! Perfect hiking. We created a saddle and could see these rough rocky crowns on top of the ridges around us. Getting me excited for the Sierra! Lots of wildflowers, purple yellow and white, making us feel like we’re in a fairyland.
La-la land didn’t last forever. On the descent, in a shady section of trail, I was walking in front and turned to tell Spider something, and saw him cry out and jump three feet in the air. “Snake!” he shouted, just as a fat rattlesnake began to rattle furiously. It was coiled less than a foot from the trail, well disguised in the dappled shade and low scrubby bush. Spider had just about stabbed it with his trekking pole. We backed off, gave it some room, then inched forward to look at it. What a monster! We were quite lucky neither of us got bit. Spider had jelly legs for a while. We hiked on, slightly more vigilant.
Lunch break at Chimney Creek. We sat in the shade and chatted and ate this and that from our food bags. Drank water, made afternoon caffeine drinks. Eventually hiked out. We had a long climb ahead of us. Happily, it was the sort of climb we find frequently on this trail, where it feels like you gain 10 feet in elevation for every quarter mile. This trail is so gradual. Hiking is such a pleasure out here. It got a bit hotter but the breeze intensified to a stiff wind, eventually gusting on the descent to such a degree that my hat blew off whenever I rounded the mountain.
At the bottom, the trail really leveled out and the landscape changed. More conifers, more rocky outcrops, bigger mountains. We had seen our first glimpse of the snowy Sierra mountains a few miles earlier. We were getting excited about the next section. Tomorrow morning we would arrive at Kennedy Meadows!
We walked through a small forest, heard another rattlesnake, entered a valley and finally made our way to the South Fork Kern River. I had dreamed of swimming but it was a little late in the day. We found a beautiful campsite next to the river and I did soak my feet in the cool deep current. We’re cowboy camping tonight, eating the last of our resupply, and dreaming of the Sierra.