Today's miles: 7
Total miles: 705
Since we were only four miles away from Kennedy Meadows, we had no reason to wake up early. We slept in until the late hour of 6:30, and then took an easy two-hour stroll into town. The miles leading up to Kennedy Meadows were something of a precursor: the terrain mellowed out, the sand changed to soft grasses and rocks, and glimpses of the gray-blue mountains in the distance were enough to peak our interest and raise our excitement. By the time we reached the 700 mile mark, we were practically jumping up and down.
We made it! We made it! We made it to the end of the desert!
We soon came upon a road and took it to reach trail angel Tom's place, a hiker haven that looked like a huge junkyard but was actually a backyard full of old trailers for sleeping, an internet cafe, an amphitheater to watch movies, and a large kitchen full of trail angel volunteers making a pancake breakfast. There were more hikers here than we had seen since kick-off, and we slowly wandered among them, trying to find our way. Then one of the vintage trailer doors opened, and Focus, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and patterned skirt, stepped out.
"FARCUS!!" Katie and I yelled, giving him hugs. "Farcus" was a name we often called him in jest. It stemmed from his Aussie accent, for when he introduced himself to new people as "Focus", they often misunderstood him and thought he was saying "Farcus," instead. He had embraced the joke and often signed his name in the registers now as Focus/Farcus.
Focus gave us a little tour of the place and said there was general store just down the road to pick up our mail drops and buy supplies, but other than that, Kennedy Meadows had nothing. It was a very desolate area, plopped right between the desert and the Sierras, and catered almost entirely to thru-hikers.
Sansei, Katie and I walked down to the general store, where we happily reunited with Rotisserie, who was waiting for us with a bowl of fruit, chips, and homemade guacamole. We rehashed our horrible experiences between Walker Pass and here, and promised her that she had missed the worst part of the trail so far.
We picked up our mail drops in the store and took over one of the picnic tables outside, spreading all of our food out so that we could repack it. One of the major changes about gear once you hit Kennedy Meadows is that every hiker is required to carry a bear vault. A bear vault is a large, plastic container with a twist lid that is made for carrying your food so that a bear can't get into it. It's meant to protect the bears (after three strikes stealing human food, they have to be killed in the parks) but it's an unfortunate addition to our packs because a bear vault weighs 3.5 pounds when empty. We had our pack weights down to a science by now, but adding another 3.5 cumbersome, ill-shaped pounds was going to be a hassle.
Bramble, Honey Bunny, Rotisserie and Sansei playing with fake mustaches
We spent the afternoon packing and repacking, trying to find the best way to make the bear vaults fit in our packs. We stuffed them full of food, but since thru-hikers have such large appetites, the vaults really only fit three days worth of food, and the remaining four days would have to be shoved into whatever remaining spaces the pack held. Katie, Rotisserie, Sansei and I all went through our packs and mailed home any extraneous weight that we could afford to lose. I sent home my town clothes, which, although handy to have when doing laundry in town, would be a heavy luxury item through the Sierras.
We showered, bought extra food, had lunch, did laundry, and prepared ourselves for our next adventure. We considered staying the night in Kennedy Meadows, but we would have to camp regardless if we hiked on or stayed at trail angel Tom's, so we decided it would be more advantageous to hike on.
Sansei, Rotisserie, Katie and I left around 6:00pm, our packs bulging with food and new gear, and we continued north, trying to grow accustomed to our new pack weights and balance. We made it three miles to a campground and decided to stay the night there. We played games at the picnic table, pitched our tents for the first time in weeks, and dreamed about the Sierras.