PCT DAY 37: Mile 681.5 (Chimney Creek Campground) – Mile 702 (Kennedy Meadows)
Friday May 20, 2016: 21.5 miles (34.4 km)
So excited to be finishing the desert section and to be moving onto the next chapter of our PCT hike, the snowy mountains of the high Sierra. For the 2 weeks all the hiker chatter has been about the level of snow pack in the high Sierra passes. There is still a lot of snow in the mountains and since we have been on the trail more snow has fallen.
This morning as we left Chimney Creek Campground we were reminded of where we were headed. There was an icy cold headwind blowing. It was so cold it brought tears to my eyes and cut through the clothing I was wearing. I could not wait to get out of the wind to start our 6 mile long 3,000 foot in elevation gain hike and then to get onto the downhill run into Kennedy Meadows.
All morning we weaved in and out of exposed sections of trail. In the distance we could see the snow covered peaks. Trying to make the most of our last day in the desert, I reflected on how absolutely amazing it has been. The desert landscape has certainly been surprising. It has not been flat as I imagined. It has not been brown and baren as I imagined. The stunning spring blooms which lined the trail and carpeted whole mountain slopes were so breathaking in their beauty that I am sure I have ended up with hundreds of photographs. We are the beneficiaries of a much cooler and wetter spring in the desert this year. I am sure our experiences would have been much different had the weather been any warmer.
At around midday we were passed by another hiker “Climbing High” who seemed to be flying. I can certainly appreciate the hurry. We are done with the desert, bring on the new.
About 4 miles out from Kennedy Meadows we found a sheltered, sunny spot to stop by Kern River. After weeks on the desert it was fantastic to be alongside a wide and flowing river. Hammer could not resist and went in for a swim. The water was not as cold as he expected.
By mid-afternoon we reached Kennedy Meadows and were greeted by loud cheers and applause at the General Store. Wooo hoooo. …we did it. We are more then a quarter of the way to Canada.