September 20, 2017
Horseshoe Meadow Trailhead – Death Canyon Creek Camp
23.8 miles/8hrs 15′
My entire body hurts. It’s as if it’s screaming a mutinous ‘I thought we were done’ cry at me. Seven days off trail put my body into repair mode. Today hurt. I need to numb all the nerve endings again to lessen the pain. In time. But for now, I feel detached from my body. I walk but I don’t walk. Even through this bizarre feeling of disconnection, through the hurt of the body’s revolt, I feel strong and raring to go. All good things take time. Yes they do.
I see one hiker all day. One. He is a NOBO who has come back down to complete the stretch from Kennedy Meadows he skipped because of the snow pack/melt. He scares the crap out of me as I walk in my hypnotic state of detachment. The last thing I expect to see is a human sitting on a rock below the trail smoking a cigarette uttering hello. It gets like this after hours of walking in silence and solitude. He ponders his water situation with a source nearby that’s dry. He’s only walked 10 miles and really wants to camp on a ridge close bye with views of Whitney Meadows below. He’s on a good trip and not in a rush. After some talking I continue on from the one human interaction I will have since the morning when my good friend Jeff Putman shuttled me up to the trailhead at Horseshoe Meadows before heading to his work at the Lone Pine High School: teaching, inspiring and getting through each day as teachers do. I’m so happy to be back on the trail. Little do I know I’ve left my toothbrush and toothpaste in his little pick-up truck. Oh well. There are worse things to do without.
I move into a new environment. Foxtail Pine forests dissipate. Desert rocks, sand and sage take their place. I am moving into where I’ve wanted to be, slowly moving into the desert.
September 21, 2017
Death Canyon Creek Camp – Kennedy Meadows Store
29.3 miles (including the walk to the store on the road)/10hrs 50′
My unofficial and un-welcomed alarm goes off at 2:10am. The wind. The dreaded wind. I am in it’s tunnel again. There is no hope to sleep any further, so up I am. I’m walking by 3:35am. In the dark. A sprinkling of stars glimmer above. It looks like animal eyes lit by headlamp glow up in the sky. Speaking of animals, I am definitely in cougar territory, thus I stop and scan and listen periodically. Not that I’d hear one of these big cats coming. Instead I’d feel the jaws of life crunching through my neck and skull. I can only naively hope these Sierra cats don’t fancy redheads. Right?
I walk up and down small passes that can’t even be called passes after the High Sierra. I approach the top of another gradual long ascent and wonder what I am seeing. Is it smoke? Clouds?? Rain??? There is a eerily strange mist that looks more like smoke wafting from up high. I stop and smell and wonder is this a forest fire lit and how am I going to navigate this if it’s this close? There is little wind where I’m at and I cannot figure this strange sky out in the still dark of morning. The temperature drops and the wind picks up as I climb some more. It’s downright cold so I stop and put on more layers. I tighten and cinch and continue walking up. The cold turns to rain and now I know this is not a fire but a big fat Sierra storm raging in. I’m hungry but do not dare stop. Light enters day and I am soon whipped around on an exposed lesser-Sierra ridge. I bring out my hiking umbrella I’ve never used and think I might as well test it out in these outrageous conditions. I have it more for the sun but let’s see how she works in the now gale forced winds. It becomes immediately useless and I can’t help but hope it fares better in the sun. The last thing I want to do is carry ANYTHING that I am not using at least most of the time.
But back to this damn storm. All I can be is grateful I am out of the very high Sierra and keep walking my way to body-heated warmth. Finally, after 6 hours of coffee-fuelled walking, I stop to eat something. Fast. There’s no sitting around in hypothermia weather. I pound a bunch of calories and within minutes am walking again, trying to warm up the shivers that began soon after stopping for this very short stop.
I book it along the trail like I’m going for Olympic gold only there is no podium just distance gained. My prize is that body-heat that will keep me walking for more and more of the same. I meet an Italian couple smiling wildly in the cold rain. ‘How is the weather up there, the same as here?’ It’s beginning to snow. I tell them I don’t know, but it’s definitely shit weather, but they will be fine. My new Italian friends give me advice on hiking the desert, which they just did a small portion of and skipped a lot of, ‘there is a stretch from Agua Dulce, it is this horrible desert stretch, you MUST bring 2 days of water…me, I drink 4 litres a day, so you MUST leave with 8 litres…’. They are so wonderful I am not even annoyed by the fact they possibly think I cannot add and multiply. And of course I have to wonder, are there deserts in Italia? Forza Azzura. I love these two and smile and laugh as I continue to walk on my way.
Still smiling in the rain
I pass a big open meadow and the snow turns to rain again. The colours of ochre, gold and green are vibrant in the moisture-laden land. Soon, after a small road walk, I reach Kennedy Meadows store. I arrive mid-afternoon. I pay $3 for a shower in the filthy shower stall complete with a big fluffy towel and all the shampoo/soap/bath stuff I could dream of. 3$ well spent in my books. The heat of the water warms my core that fought the cold all day long. While waiting for the double cheeseburger, beer, M&M’s, much more food I don’t need to list that I devour, the owner of the store mentions all the pine nuts this year. I look around and see the biggest, fattest pinions I have ever seen. I munch on them while the griddle heats up. life is good. Camping is free. I pitch the tent in the back, get water and fall asleep before the sun sets.