Fully geared up and rested up, I hit the trail eager to get into the Sierra. I enjoyed Kenney Meadows, but most of my days there were spent sitting under the shade of a tree in the awful heatwave picturing what was ahead of me. I made my way along the paved road and got back to my dirt path I call home and made my way through the remainder of Kennedy Meadows. I got into a forest and something was quickly becoming apparent to me: Kennedy Meadows is NOT the end of the desert despite the fact that everyone says it is. Everything about the section out of Kenedy Meadows is very desert-esque and I was starting to feel a little cheated. Things hit a new low when I found myself walking through a burned forest which is one of the hallmarks of the desert section and to be frank I was a little pissed off. I set myself up for the disappointment and it only makes sense that I need to go a little further and gain a little more elevation before things get more like what I was picturing.
I grumbled my way through the burn section and hit a treeline which provided much needed shade to escape the heat. The treeline ended abruptly and gave way to a vast meadow surrounded by green mountains, and it was here that I finally felt like I accomplished something, that I made it through the desert and was entering the promised land of cooler temperatures, amazing scenery, and more importantly: reliable water. I stood here for a while feeling like I was about to walk through a doorway that marked the beginning of a new experience for me, then took my first step through it. I cheered my way through the meadow, coming in and out of treelines here and there and found a campsite next to a river. The sound of naturally flowing water was hypnotic and so welcome, I didn’t set up the rainfly on the outside of my tent so I could stargaze from my tent before I went to sleep.
I woke up and all my things were crusted over with ice, I sat up shivering out from under my quilt. Well this is new. It’s been so long since I’ve camped next to water, I forgot about condensation. On top of that the temperatures here are much lower, so all that condensation froze. I packed everything up and made a mental note to stop at some point to let my gear dry. I made some instant coffee and charged out of the meadow and into the mountains where things became so incredibly green. The miles melted under my feet and the uphills didn’t phase me at all, I was on the best natural high ever just so happy to be out here. I’d drop my pack every so often and go off trail to climb up rocks to get a better view of my surroundings not caring about a daily schedule anymore. My life isn’t ruled by “I have to make it to this next water source” anymore and I felt free. I decided not to do 20 mile days anymore so I could take it all in.
I made my way up a hill and ran into Exo who I’ve hiked on and off with here and there. We chilled here for a bit talking with all the other hikers, and he urged me to run off trail a quarter of a mile to go climb up a mountain. Challenge accepted. I ran up it and was smacked in the face with one hell of a view looking down at the meadows below that I’d just walked through. I chilled up there for a bit and hopped back down. My trail buddy and I decided to hike together. We hike very different paces, but I just wanted to absorb everything around me and he was totally down to scramble up piles of rocks here and there which made way for some awesome views and really fun intense moments of rock climbing.
The scenery around us still isn’t the picturesque Sierra experience, but damn is it cool. We did this for a few days and on the last night before our next town we ran into some mutual friends MuffinMan and Pokey and camped with them for the night making vague plans to stick together. The next day Exo and I made our way down to Horseshoe Meadows where a parking lot awaited us where we could hitch into town from. The meadow itself was pretty damn incredible, we wanted to camp there so bad and hang out by the streams all day, totally fixated on the sound of running water and seeing actual fish swim through it, but the call of greasy food was stronger. We got to the parking lot and got a ride from a father and son who were out here for a weekend trip. We got into the town of Lone Pine, a great town for any outdoor enthusiast. We stayed there a lot longer than expected because I wasn’t feeling too well, though in hindsight I guess that’ll happen after eating two Double Quarter Pounder burgers, four double cheeseburgers, two large orders of fries, and a couple of chocolate shakes. Lesson learned.