Miles today: 5 (on PCT) + 8 (on Kearsarge Pass to Independence) = 13
Total PCT miles: 789
Now that we were in the heart of the Sierras, it would be more difficult to resupply our food. We would go for longer stretches without towns and have to take significant detours in order to get to the towns that are available. Our last resupply was Kennedy Meadows, a week ago. Our next stop was the small town of Independence, at the base of the Sierra range. To get there we would have to take Kearsarge Pass, an eight mile detour to get down from the high mountains and catch a ride into town.
We tried to get an early start, since we love getting into town early in the day, but the mornings have been so cold that it's hard to get out of bed. We were on trail by 8:00 and hiked the five miles to Bullfrog Lake, which would connect us to the Kearsarge Pass trail. Here we departed the PCT and entered into some more stunning scenery - gorgeous blue lakes, mountain vistas, and a high trail leading straight up to the pass. The climb was very steep and not very well graded, so we were huffing and puffing and very glad to be at the top. We met some dayhikers at the top of the pass and chatted with them about the PCT. It was also the first time we had had cell phone service in a few weeks, so we stayed at the top to make some phone calls before descending a very steep six miles to the trailhead. I did not look forward to hiking back up the pass on the way out of town.
When we reached the trailhead, there were plenty of parked cars, but no people. Unfortunately, there was a 15 mile trek to town down very windy roads, so we needed a ride to leave the parking lot. We sat waiting for dayhikers to return to their cars, and soon the two men we had met at the top of the pass joined us and offered us a ride into town. They only had room for Katie, Rotisserie and I, though, so Sansei stayed behind to wait for another hitch.
As we descended into Independence, I watched the temperature gauge on the car dashboard go up. It was 65 degrees in the mountains, but by the time we hit the valley floor, the dash read 95 degrees. We were leaving the beautiful Sierras and descending again into familiar territory: the desert. I was having mini panic attacks as we passed by Joshua trees, tumbleweeds and desert sand. I desperately kept the mountains in my rearview and kept telling myself that this was only temporary.
We'll be back in the mountains again soon! No more desert hiking, promise!
We were dropped off in Independence, a very tiny town with not much to its name. The town of Bishop, thirty miles further, promised better resupply options, so we decided to try and catch a hitch there, instead. So far this journey we have had no trouble catching hitches into town. Being women, we look less threatening to drivers and they usually have a soft spot for us and pick us up within minutes. It also helps that many of the towns we pass through are used to seeing PCT hikers this time of year. Apparently this wasn't the case for Independence, though. We stood smiling on the street corner with our thumbs out for ten minutes... twenty minutes... forty minutes. Every car that passed by sped up and left us in the dust. We made signs saying "hikers to Bishop" and tried to look as adorable as possible, but no one wanted to stop. It was ghastly hot outside. We stood sweating and faint on the curb, desperately watching the minutes tick by and no ride to speak of. We tried looking up taxi companies to no avail. It seemed we would never get a ride into town. Then, finally, after more than an hour standing in the heat, a large van pulled over for us. We practically kissed the ground with delight. Our rescuers were four family members from Eugene, Oregon, who were in California for a wedding and road trip. They were a fun crew and they shared fresh mango and lychee fruit with us as they shuttled us to Bishop.
Sansei had caught a ride directly to Bishop from the trailhead and had gotten a hotel room for us while we were stuck in Independence. We joined him there and soon discovered that our old friends the Chain Gang were in town, as well, plus Starfox, Chik-Chak, Happy Hour and Squeaks. After showers and the usual gear-explosion in the room, we all went out to dinner together in town and had a great time catching up and laughing over good food.