From Kennedy Meadows General Store back to the last crossing with the South Fork of the Kern
I’m irritable and out of sorts. J is too. I want to get an early start, but the elusive pancake breakfast at the Grumpy Bear finally materializes, and we can’t pass up eggs, bacon, hash browns, and all-you-can-eat pancakes. It’s already warm outside when we get back to our camp and start figuring out how to pack our bear canisters. I load mine up and slide it into my pack, where it lands with a thunk. It takes up almost the entire bottom half. My pack is too narrow to fit the canister sideways, and too narrow to fit much around the canister in the bottom either. I take my spare clothes out of my clothes bag and shove them in around it, and manage to fit everything on top. I’m full up. J tried to get me to order the ULA circuit to replace the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, but I’d been infatuated with the ULA Ohm 2.0 – a smaller pack. I regret it now. J is upset because the packet of maps for the next 200 miles is missing. We manage to piece together about 150 miles from maps in the hiker box.
We finally, finally! get out the KMGS vortex and on the trail. It’s almost eleven and I’m grumpier than ever. We don’t even make it half a mile until I throw down my pack in exasperation and pain. The bear canister! It’s implacable, hard, black sides are bright seas of pain in the small of my back and across my hip bones. Try number two with the packing situation. I have a bright idea and remove the clothes packed around the front of the bear canister and move them around to the back, to the side where the bear canister actually hits me. Duh. It still sucks but it’s bearable.
We cross the South Fork of the Kern again – I just can’t shake my rotten mood. “I want to be here,” I tell myself. “I’m having a good time,” I try again. Nope. We stop to water up – J swims, does his laundry – really?? Can we just go already? (What is my deal today?) We grump back on our way, through sagebrush that I detest, and burn areas that I resent. We’re huddled in the shade of a juniper when J discovers he’s lost the maps again. We sit there in the shade, in twin foul moods, sweating. “Our only hope,” says J, “is that Bluesman will find the maps on the trail, pick them up, and bring them to us.”
“Not too likely,” I think to myself, “considering how the day is going…”
“Did you two fools lose a set of maps?” booms a familiar voice.
“Bluesman!” we cheer. He hands the maps to J, who hugs him. Bluesman to save the day. He had been walking over a fallen snag when something caught the corner of his eye – he bent down and spotted something – some maps. Here they are. “I almost didn’t notice them,” explains Bluesman. “I don’t really know how they caught my eye – they weren’t obvious.”
“Maybe the trail is looking out for us after all.”
We continue on with Bluesman, our blues lightened a little. The burn area we’re walking through turns a brilliant green with lush grass and wildflowers, and then finally trees. We cross over into Monache Meadows, the biggest meadow in the Sierra Nevadas, and it’s a spectacular sweep of sage between the forested peaks. We can see Mt. Whitney, way, way off. We cross up and over a ridge to meet back with the South Fork of the Kern one last time, a shining meander through the meadow with sandy banks.
It’s dusk, and we stop to cook. Bluesman wants to walk till dark, so he continues on. He wants to climb Mt Whitney on the Summer Solstice and sleep on top – catch the sunset and the sunrise on the tallest peak in the lower 48. That sounds like a great idea to me, but J doesn’t seem that interested in the push. I’m not interested in pushing anymore today either, although I’m a little upset we didn’t make more miles today. There’s a whole pack of hikers coming out of Kennedy Meadows today, and we’re going to get stuck in a bubble, where every time we stop for water or to hang out or to camp there are going to be ten more people there. If you can get just a few miles ahead, you’d think you were the only person in the world…
The South Fork is beautiful, but this is open grazing land, and we’re more worried about cows than about bears tonight. The water tastes like cows even after getting pushed through our Sawyer Squeeze.
We’ve also lost Bluesman. But Teal catches up to us, and we camp on the hillside next to him and Katsumi (aka Too Young), a Japanese man in his fifties on a solo-hike. I imagine it’s tough to do a solo hike, and probably much tougher when you barely speak the language of everyone else you meet, but he’s self-contained and cheery. Tomorrow is a new day. Probably no chance of catching Bluesman, but we’ve got Teal again. Onward and forward.