Kennedy Meadows: The End of Act One

Note: to aid in anonymity, I will use trail names for people who have them, and initials for those who do not yet have trail names.

A Bittersweet Reset

For 703 miles, the experience becomes more familiar and feels like home. There are about twenty people in my bubble, and on any given day I am hiking, camping, or towning with a few of them. In most years, this might continue ad infinitum to the opposite border. In 2023 with the chaos of the snowpack, the journeys are split at Kennedy Meadows as though a brush were dipping into our collective paint and splattering it across the canvas.

I took an extra day off in Kernville. By that simple act, those I’ve known in Act One have mostly already left on their individual journeys by the time I arrive at Kennedy Meadows. I am heartened by the cheers as I walk into the General Store parking lot, and especially happy to see Journey Man and Mantis. Most of the other faces are new to me, but they cheer just the same, and some become acquainted over the following couple of days.

H and Bluejay, who I’ve been with 90% of the time since the beginning, are getting off trail and going to hike in Canada, and we didn’t get to say goodbye. Some trailmates, like Lizard King and M, Moist and R, L, and Turtlewolf, are taking weeks or a month off and might resume in northern California or go to the Canadadian border and become SOBOers. With my late arrival, I missed all of them as well. Maybe I’ll trek with them in Oregon or see them coming the other direction.

Elsewhere in the last week, many people who I took for granted that would always be around this season are deciding to hang up their boots. Meanwhile Sheriff, the tough-as-nails Kiwi is seriously hobbling with a knee problem, but I would put money on him going the distance.

At the General Store with The Sheriff 

Everything I’ve known about the people and the trail in the first seven weeks is thrown into disarray. It almost feels like starting over.

What’s Next?

I sit on the General Store porch, listening to conversations between all these new faces. They know each other, all being from the bubble just behind mine. These that haven’t left chatter about plans.

At the moment, I’m teaming up with Journey Man, Mantis, Dash, Chopper, Dart, Android, Switchback, Mini Chimmi and Head Start.

On Baden-Powell with Mantis, Dash and Journey Man

We may be impacted by the weather report of several days of possible thunderstorms ahead, but for now we want to leave on Saturday and go 45 miles to Cottonwood Pass. This would then be a twenty mile closed-road walk down to Lone Pine, and skip ahead to north of Lassen from there. There’s a plan after that which is way too complicated to describe and hold your attention.

Or it’s possible we’ll get to Lone Pine and decide we are instant mountaineers and go back in up to Kearsage Pass.


I really want to trust that I’ll see some of my trail friends again. As Mushroom said back in Mt. Laguna, “there are no goodbyes on the trail, only see you later.” It saddens me that this may not hold true in a year like 2023.

Linear time causes this longing. If you take time out of the equation, the happiness of these connections and experiences always exists. I hope trying this mindset helps me when the trail comes to an end. I’ll always be on the trail and I’ll always not be, and I can come to these moments any time.

There’s a Twist!

On the first night in CLEEF, I inflated my Thermarest airpad and slept through the night. On the second night, I inflated it, went to make dinner and came back to it being half deflated.

I have a hole already? It held air last night though, argh! 

For three weeks, I woke up three times a night to blow up the slowly leaking pad. Some nights, if I was lying on sand, I would just give up by 2am and call the ground itself soft enough.

In Wrightwood, I found a bathtub and put the full pad in to squeeze for the leak bubbles. They came from the valve.

I have a broken valve! Maybe it’s a warranty thing. Let me see if I can fix it though…how does this thing work…

As I’m trying to take the valve apart, I realize that there’s a second action on the valve that involves twisting the cap down. Twist the cap, and the pad holds air.

Upon telling this story, the trailmates have decided this is my dumb moment and have dubbed me Twist. This is how I introduce myself to all of the new faces in Kennedy Meadows, and most no longer know my real name.

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Comments 4

  • Nephi Polder : May 20th

    I love the trail name. Best wishes on your adventures.

    • Hank : May 21st

      Hi. Interesting idea to jump up to Lassen. Have the crew you are leapfrogging with applied for variations or are you just winging it?

      • Scott McDowell : Jun 2nd

        Winging it at the moment. Going back in through Kearsarge north to Bishop Pass today. One little leg at a time while waiting for reports ahead of us.

  • Jim : May 22nd

    Like your writing — it’s more about fellow noboers and your thoughts than food. BTW, if you end up going for Kearsarge Pass, you need to head up from Lone Pine to Independence. Good luck!


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