Today's miles: 8 (on Kearsarge Pass)
Total PCT miles: 789
We had breakfast this morning and checked out of the hotel at 11:00. There was a bus going back to Independence at 1:30, so until then we went to the grocery store and the bakery to kill time. At 1:30 we went to the KMart parking lot to catch the shuttle and found ourselves in good company with a whole slew of hikers: the Chain Gang, Games, Reason, Starfox and his respective gang of six (they call themselves the "Wolfpack"), Lighthouse and Sunset. We completely filled the bus when it arrived - the driver must not have known what to think. His whole trunk was filled to the brim with packs.
It took about an hour to get to Independence, and we all chatted in lively spirits as we went. The few regular passengers who were aboard seemed quite overwhelmed by the sheer number of hikers they were sharing a space with. Every time we stopped and picked up another hiker, the whole bus would cheer and yell their name. It was a riot.
Once back in Independence, we went to the post office to pick up packages for those who had sent themselves a resupply, and then we waited. We all needed a ride back to the trailhead, but hitches were once again hard to come by. Fortuitously, we met a lady in the post office who said she'd do three runs to the mountain and take four people each run. We split ourselves up into groups, but even with three carloads, there would still be hikers left over. While we waited and considered our options, our favorite trail angel Aloha showed up in town, having just dropped off his wife Toots Magoots and her hiking partner Tears for Beers. He offered to take Rotisserie, Sansei, Katie and I back up to the trailhead. We thanked him profusely, paid him for gas, and left the hot desert to returned once more to the 64 degree mountains.
It was 5pm by the time we reached the trailhead and we still had a long haul to get up to the pass. We trekked slowly - time in town always makes us lethargic on our first day out - and we were surprised by the sharp cold and the extreme wind. By the time we hiked the six miles to the top of the pass, the wind was so fierce that it was ripping our clothes and knocking us over. We hurried down the other side to escape its wrath. It seemed so strange that we were sweating this morning in desert heat and we were now bundled up in every stitch of clothing we had in the mountains.
We followed Kearsarge Pass down and passed by Wocka Wocka, Giddyup and Sneaks, who were just heading into Independence. We had a happy reunion before parting ways.
We found a sheltered tent site two miles further - though not quite back on the PCT - and set up tents for the night. The sunset over the mountains was beautiful and we had a great view into the valley below over the lakes. It was a cold and windy night.