Another catch up post….I’ll be writing about Oregon soon though.
I actually ended up spending three days in Kennedy Meadows. Drippy caught up with me on day two, with Mette close behind on the third day! After hiking on my own for the past several weeks, it felt so good to see them again.
I meant to leave on the second day with Drippy, but when Mette showed up I decided to wait another day and leave with her. I joined up with her group, and we did a casual 7 miles out of KM in the evening. There was a lot of smoke in the air from a wildfire, but the trail was out of the line of fire (quite literally) and we were good to go.
Left Kennedy Meadows, camped around mile 709
We all set out from camp at different times, with a plan to reconvene at the crossing of the Kern River for lunch. It was idyllic.
We stayed there for hours. We went wading in the water, played fetch with Bandit (see picture of adorable dog below), ate food, and napped. I wished that had been as far as we were going that day, because it would have been a perfect place to set up camp.
We stayed much longer than planned, but there was a long climb ahead so finally Mette, Shades, and I took off. Time for the start of some real Sierra elevation, we made the climb up to 10,400′.
The Sierra was beautiful. Ahead of us, we could see snow-capped mountains in the distance. I would look up at them at see the beauty…only for it to be overshadowed by an instantaneous sense of dread in my stomach.
This was the day I decided to go home. As the sun was starting to set, the sky was painted with vibrant colours which splashed against the mountainsides. I didn’t understand how I could see something such unequaled beauty and yet feel so unhappy at the same time. I kept climbing the mountain, tears on my face until Mette turned around and asked me what was wrong.
Poor, wonderful Mette had been present for my two major meltdowns on trail (the pole smashing incident and then this) and she was so supportive. I told her that I wanted to go home and how conflicted I was feeling about it. It wasn’t any one thing. I just tried to write out an explanation and it was growing to be longer than the rest of this post. Rather than making you delve into that rant, it boils down to three things – physically I did not feel up to continuing my hike, mentally I was no longer enjoying the act of hiking, and I was emotionally exhausted from trying to decide whether to stay or go. I didn’t know if going home was the right decision, but I’d been considering it for weeks at that point. The limbo of not knowing what I was going to do was making me miserable. I had tried to carry on and push through the misery for weeks. It was time to make another choice.
I unloaded all of this onto poor Mette, who is a wonderful and supportive friend, and something magical happened. I felt better. I immediately started enjoying myself again. I had made my decision, and knowing that I was going home had freed me of all my uncertainty and fear. The next few days were wonderful.
Mette had a brutal blister, and my confession had slowed us down a lot. So we sat on top of this mountain (about 2 miles from camp) and watched the sun set and the stars rise. We made spicy hot chocolate and smoked a joint. It was glorious. Then we headed down the last few miles into camp.
Camped around mile 725
Usually we would wake up early. Around 5:30, 6. Sometimes earlier. Around 7 a.m. I was lying in my tent awake and I hear Nate pipe up:
Who forgot to set an alarm?
Groans and sleepy giggles came out of every tent. Waking up late certainly set the tone for the day, and we lollygagged in camp that morning. Hanging out, making tea, coffee, and breakfast. It was great. Mette and I finally left camp around 9:30, I think? Late.
We meant to do about 16 miles that day, I believe, but it seemed like most of the crew was in a lollygagging mood (Mette and I must have been wearing off on them). We descended the mountain we’d camped up the night before, and immediately climbed another (the Sierra, am I right?). A little before the second we came across the whole crew lounging beside the trail. Turns out there was cell service there (for the first time since just outside Lake Isabella). People were calling their families, dealing with resupply details, etc. I called my parents and boyfriend to tell them I was planning to come home. This is the blog post where I shout out to people who support me – I’d been calling my boyfriend in tears for a few weeks by this point. He was a rock, and I am so grateful to him. My parents have been supportive of my increasingly wild endeavors for almost 25 years at this point, and told me I was welcome to come home.* (Footnote at end of post).
We peaked that mountain…and it was stunning. We were on the very edge of the Sierra Nevada range and could see all the way back down to the desert floor. The mountaintop was really flat, so we decided to camp right there!
There was still some snow up there, so we melted it for water (which takes forever, by the way), and had a bonfire that night. We watched the sunset and the sunrise the next morning. I told the gang that night that I was planning to go home. It’s a shame that I didn’t meet up with them earlier, they were a great group and I would have loved to hike with them longer. Shout out to Nate, Bandit, Bucket, Shades, Scott, Gandalf, and Snooze for being awesome.
Camped around mile 735
We only had 12 miles to do into Horseshoe Meadows (the trailhead to exit to Lone Pine). I woke up at ten to six and wandered off to go pee and get some snow to melt for tea. As I headed away from the rents for some privacy, I was walking towards the trail. Right at that moment, someone walked up over the ridge to our mountaintop campsite. It was Chris!!!
Mette’s foot was pretty bad, so he’d come out to offer to help her with her pack. She refused, and Chris pulled out a Snickers bar to give her. Snickers has this gimmick going right now where they have adjectives on their bars that say things like “determined”, “princess”, “hot mess”. Chris gave Mette one that said “stubborn”. Too funny.
Not much else happened that day. Mette and I meant to hike together, but we got separated and went to different water sources (intending to meet up there). So I mostly hiked alone, drinking the smokey snow melt we’d made in the bonfire that morning. It was a lovely day, green and lush. I caught up with the group in Horseshoe Meadows, which is one of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve ever seen. It didn’t look real, it was so perfect. Photos don’t do it justice.
We hitched into Lone Pine and went separate ways the next day. And that is how I got off the PCT…for a while.
*so my parents said I could stay at their place but, like, not for most of the month of July because they were going to Europe and had friends staying in their house. No worries, I thought, I’ll stay with Andrew….but it turned out he was expecting to be out in the field for almost all of July/August. I’d finally decided to come home and I had nowhere to go! What are the chances? However, I called up two of my best friends to bemoan my situation and Beckie offered to put me (and Kirsten, if she wanted) up at her place in Calgary. A plan was made, and soon after getting home, Kirsten and I drove from Ottawa to Calgary. We’d intended to go to B.C. too, but it was mostly on fire by the time we got to Alberta so we spent a week with Beckie, then turned around and went home. There’s always another adventure on the horizon!