There exists a place where all of your dreams come true (and yes, you have to hike 700 miles of Pacific Crest Trail desert to get there).
A place promised to hikers the one true god of the trail. A place where the heatwave of the desert ends and cooler temperatures prevail. A place that marks the finishing of long, dry, waterless Pacific Crest Trail stretches and the beginning of a land where water is plentiful beyond imagining.
This place is Kennedy Meadows.
For 700 miles it is on the lips of every hiker: “when we get to Kennedy Meadows all of our problems will melt away, and there will be water everywhere“. But try not to get too excited, because with all the greatness also comes danger: the bears have arrived (although I saw a bear in the desert – desert bears are real, people).
Kennedy Meadows is also the place where hikers must begin carrying their bear canisters. While some hikers struggle with the logistics of getting their food into their canister and then their canister into their backpack, others enjoy the bountiful selection of food and drink at the Kennedy Meadows General Store (which is also the only business in the entirety of Kennedy Meadows).
For being in the middle of nowhere to store is reasonably priced (note, this does not translate to inexpensive, but I wouldn't call them Disneyland prices, that's all I'm saying), and it offers a solid variety of beer (very important for maintaining hiker business).
I arrived at Kennedy Meadows after sunset with Mr. Banjo (a gentleman and a scholar) after completing 30 miles for the day (at the time, this was considered a big day).
We made our way up to the store, which of course was closed, and scouted for an area to camp. A sign indicated that PCT hikers could camp by “the amphitheater”; however, the sign gave no indication of said amphitheater's location, and we found no such place in our half-assed survey of the area.
A little confused we made our way over to Tom's Place, the local trail angel (and also a haven for all the trail's marijuana enthusiasts). We were greeted by a blitzed crew of hikers who were approximately zero help in our search for a place to sleep for the night (they were all sleeping in trailers provided by Tom).
After becoming decidedly confused at Tom's as to how things worked, we made our way to the store once more. We found what we believed to be the amphitheater, pitched our tents, and went to sleep.
It is now three in the morning. I wake up sweating. I feel nauseous to the point of being delusional. I try to fight it, I try to fall back asleep, but after ten minutes of struggling I crawl out of my tent and vomit for what feels like another fifteen.
What a way to start the Sierra.
The Road Ahead
Will the Sierra bring all the fortune, water, and happy times promise to hikers by the tales of hikers pass? Would my sickness pass or was I in for weeks of horrible altitude sickness? It would seem that bear territory may offer up obstacles comparable to the grind that was the desert.
Fun times are ahead.