Today's miles: 25
Total miles: 698
We were not visited by a bear last night, as far as anyone could tell. Sansei, Katie and I were awake at first light and left camp before Milkman, Irish and Pickles. We had no intention of suffering through another hot day like yesterday. We were a mere two days from Kennedy Meadows and the desperation to be in the mountains was greater than ever - it was ironic that the final 100 miles of desert could be worse than the combined 600 miles before it. It was as though the desert was trying to play its final trump card, to wipe us out once and for all when we had come so far.
The "cool" of the morning lasted barely a few hours, and then it was hot again. Still, we were determined to race through the day. We sweated as we climbed mountains, trying to fixate on being out of the desert. We came across a trail register a few miles in, and flipped through the pages to see who we were behind. Focus had come through yesterday, and the Chain Gang a day before that. My favorite entry was from a hiker I had never met, which read simply:
"Fuck the desert!!! Actually... just kidding. The desert is like Chuck Norris. You don't fuck the desert, the desert fucks you."
It seemed we weren't the only ones excited about entering the Sierras.
After ten miles we came across a water trough with a spigot running into it. It seemed like a great place to take an afternoon siesta, but Katie was determined to push on today, despite the heat. We stopped for lunch and had a relaxing moment washing our dirty, sore feet below the stream of water. It was the simple things often that made us so happy.
After a mini nap beside the trough, we pushed on. Kennedy Meadows was now a mere 19 miles away, and mountain fever struck us. Still, I was wary about hiking in the heat after yesterday's experience. But we were rewarded with a small miracle this afternoon: clouds began to cover the sun. Usually Southern California has no clouds to speak of; I have never seen such pure blue skies as I have out in the desert, but today a thin line of haze blocked the sun's rays and a cool breeze began blowing through.
We jumped at the opportunity and blazed down the trail. For a few hours we were able to walk in unshaded areas with relative ease. As the sun slowly made its appearance again, we took frequent breaks, including an impromptu-nap under a single shade tree. The trail began going downhill into a valley and landed us near a small creek at the base of the mountain.
At this point it was 5:00pm and we had already covered an impressive 20 miles. As we made dinner we debated our situation: the stream here was small and overrun with ants, not a good choice for camping. The South Fork of the Kern River, a milestone we had been counting down to for days, was a mere five miles further down the trail, and Kennedy Meadows was only four miles past that. We decided it was entirely plausible for us to make it to the river tonight. Wocka Wocka and Giddyup joined us for dinner and they decided to push on with us.
The final five miles were flat, though my feet were incredibly sore and I hobbled my way along the trail in exhausted pain. It was a delight to finally reach the Kern River - it was the biggest body of water we had seen since the Mojave River 300 miles ago, and it was a sight to behold. Green grass, flowing water, stretches of flowers and granite. We stripped down and jumped in, washing our bodies and clothes, and then found a flat space beside the river to lay our sleeping bags. Wocka Wocka and Giddyup soon joined us, and we lay listening to the sound of the water as we talked giddily about the Sierras and what awaited us beyond.