Days 18-20: Transitions, Composting Toilets, and Oprah
Day 18 – Kennedy Meadows General Store to Tent Site (mi 702.2 – mi 712.7)
We eventually left the General Store around 2:30pm. It was difficult to leave. Once you are relaxed, fed, and making friends, it’s hard to say, “OK, see ya! Let’s go hike 18 miles!” We only did 10.5 miles because night hiking isn’t really an option for us right now. Bonnie can’t see well and I would much rather wake up early and try to at least enjoy the view while hiking my ass off. Not that the view is any better than the previous miles leading to Kennedy Meadows. It’s actually worse. I thought after Kennedy Meadows we were out of the desert. Of course, I realize now the transition is slow. I’m trying to enjoy the transitions out here. Once we go from one terrain to another that is all we see for 100 miles or so. Life lesson: enjoy the transitions of life, don’t fear them. They may lead to a better future. They fucking better in my case. I’m still listening to musicals. It helps to picture the plot instead of the fucking two-foot-wide trail with horse shit trickled on it. We stopped to get water at a really pretty stream and ate dinner. We were already tired.
There are a lot of fallen trees in our way that we have to spread eagle over. Most of the time I think I lift my leg high enough and then the tip of my boot gets caught on the bark. I basically roll over the tree when that happens because it’s just SO MUCH EFFORT to recover! We decided to only go a few more miles and set up camp! A decision that brightens my withering spirits.
Day 19 – Tent Site to Tent Site (mi 712.7 – mi 730.8)
Everyone was SO excited to get out of the desert, but there wasn’t a change in scenery until today! After the 10.5 miles we hiked out of Kennedy Meadows we finally saw something slightly different. The change was just a few more trees. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some trees! But I didn’t want to walk on the gravel bullshit anymore! You just kick dirt up on yourself all day!
The views were prettier by like 20%, so not, you know, mind-blowing or anything. My hips hurt so bad! They wake me up in the middle of the night! Oprah fixed my bag, but my hips were already too far gone. My left hip keeps popping in and out of place for some god-awful reason. Stretches aren’t very effective, but that doesn’t stop me from doing them all the time. We finally saw snow! Which means we hiked a shit ton of elevation. A guy was coming up behind me while we were climbing, so I pulled over and let him pass. We chatted a little and then he ran off to catch up with a group of hikers in front of us. About 20 minutes later I see him sitting up ahead drinking water because no one really has a bladder out here. I guess spending the $40 on a bladder for convenient drinking is too much. I passed him and he says, “I think that’s snow over there!” I replied, “Oh my God, I want to roll in that!” Little did we know we were coming up on some big patches of snow! He passed me again while I was rolling in it! Trying to ice my hip!
This up was about eight miles with a 2,000-foot incline! We were a third of the way up when we hit the snow gift! Unfortunately, on the way down we entered mosquito territory. They are brutal! What is their fucking purpose again? I have no problem swatting these motherfuckers. They deserve to die for real. We stopped for water at a spring; hikers on Guthooks did warn us about the “skeeeterrrsss!” But when you need water you don’t really have a choice. It was bad. They follow you like you’re a fucking cow. If only I had a tail to get them off my fucking asshole. Don’t even think about going potty! A guy hiked by as we were waiting for our water to filter and stopped to talk. His name was Harrison, he didn’t have a trail name yet. We asked if he was happy to be out of the desert and he was the first person who answered how I felt. He said, “Umm, well, the desert sort of looked like this! There’s just a few more trees here I guess.” He was my spirit animal. Everyone else was so fucking thrilled. I mean it is pretty but it’s still fucking hard and hot. Before Harrison left we asked if he saw Oprah. He said yes! He passed her about 15 miles back. We were so excited! We thought she got sucked into Kennedy Meadows for another couple days. Our water eventually filtered and we made our way. We made it to a poppin’ tent site. The huge bubble of hikers were there. Maybe like 20! I thought for sure we’d see Oprah. Sadly she never came, but hopefully we will see her tomorrow!
Day 20 – Tent Site to Lone Pine (mi 730.8 – mi 745.3)
I’m convinced this won’t get better. We are out of the desert and I still hate this. We are still in mosquito city. They run this land. We are the visitors they have been waiting for. What if we didn’t come along? Bonnie and I accidentally passed our first water stop because this trail is not marked very well at all and we think it may have been dried out. We made a plan to go to a water source off trail in five more miles. We were OK on water, but if we passed this next water we’d be screwed. Bonnie hiked ahead. She’s going way faster than me. I’m fucking over not having these so called “hiker legs.” Will I ever understand what those are? Fuck! I’m almost crawling and decide I need to check Guthooks and see how far the water is. I’m only 0.1 miles away!! Yay! I knew the sign would be shitty so I kept Guthooks out and searched for the water sign.
The sign was a wooden rectangular plaque with extremely faded writing on it. Bonnie was nowhere to be seen. I had a feeling she might have passed it, but then I thought maybe she went down to start filtering because it was about 0.5 miles off the trail downhill. I start walking down and I see an abandoned tent, thinking nothing of it. I keep going and finally find a stream. Still no Bonnie. Now I’m thinking, “Fuck, she passed it and there’s no way I’m climbing up that mountain without water.” She gave me Aquamira drops to put in my water if we ever got separated! Thank God! The spring was a little sketchy. I felt like an owl spinning my head 360 degrees making sure the noises I heard weren’t murderous. I filled up my bladder with two liters and my two smart water bottles. The next water source wasn’t for another six miles, so I thought if I saw Bonnie I’d have a liter extra to give her. I was at this stream for an hour and Bonnie never found it.
I finally head out and took a peak at that tent again to make sure everything was OK. It didn’t seem OK. No one was in the tent but stuff was everywhere. Sleeping bag bunched up, clothes hanging on several different trees, food by a log, stove out, and Crocs out. It was CREEPY! I took a few pics and booked it back to the trail! Now I was more than sketched out. I was fucking terrified there was a killer on the loose. I thought they got that hiker and Bonnie. I was almost at a jog when I eventually saw three hikers taking a midday break. I started to relax just a little. At least if someone was behind me they’d have to kill three grown men before me. I‘d have a chance! Four miles later I ran into a couple with a dog heading southbound and asked if they saw a lady in blue! The guy said, “Was she wearing really reflective yellow glasses?” She was. PHEW! She’s not dead! She’s probably thirsty as fuck, though! I was two miles from the next water so I put on Hamilton and started trekking. I couldn’t help but ponder, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” – Hamilton. I said that phrase over and over making my way to Bonnie who was alive and well and getting water! I knew my fears were a little ridiculous, but what the fuck was that messy abandoned tent site about?!?!?!?! WHO LIVES, WHO DIES, AND WHO WOULD TELL THE DAMN STORY? I never got my answer, but Bonnie and I contemplated theories. We did 14.6 miles and got off at a trail junction leading to a campsite where Toby could pick us up and take us to Lone Pine. Guthooks kept saying follow Horseshoe trail straight to the camp. We start hiking, go about two miles and take a break. We thought it was only going to be about 0.4 miles. We checked Guthooks and somehow we were on Cottonwood Pass trail and not Horseshoe. After exchanging a few mournful groans we got up and headed back uphill to see where we fucked up. 0.5 miles back up we ran into Harrison! A freaking life-saver who told us we were actually going the right way in the first place. He had a topographical map on his phone that told him where the campsite was! A fucking genius. He informed us if we kept going toward Horseshoe we would find nothing but more trail. An awful sight at this point. We kissed his feet and let him pass us because we needed a second to regroup, pissed at Guthooks. On our way back, crossing the same fucking streams we passed twice already, I thought of a trail name for Harrison. My first thought was “savior,” but then I felt that was too Jesus-y. Then I thought “compass!” Yas!
When we saw him at the campsite I said, “You don’t have a trail name right?” Just to confirm. He said no and I told him it should be compass! He loved it! It turned out to be the perfect name for him because he was in land management. Now we are waiting. It is 6:30pm and Toby is supposed to get here at 7:30pm. We still don’t have signal so we are communicating with him on the Garmin. He sends us an updated time. Now it’s 10:30pm! Do you know how freaking cold it gets at 10,000 feet? Little more than chilly and my sleeping bag is a cheap piece of shit. I put on every piece of clothing I had and got into my sleeping bag.
Technically, you’re supposed to do the opposite. Get nakey and let the warmth of your body warm the sleeping bag and keep you warm. But we were sitting on a bench at a popular campsite on the 3rd of July and I had to run to the bathroom a few times. So… I kept my clothes on. I am fired up to sit on a toilet, even if it is a composting toilet. Still better than squatting. Toby arrived just in time for every food place in Lone Pine to be closed. We were dying for a hot meal. We aren’t carrying the stove so we basically were eating snacks this whole time. On the way down the winding road we got service. Trying to text was nauseating because Toby was trying his best to go 60 mph. I’ve never relied on a seat belt more in my life. I really wanted to read my texts so I sucked it up and saw a text from OPRAH!!! She was in Lone Pine with two other hikers who needed a ride to Oregon! We were so excited to hear she was OK and in Lone Pine. She was asleep by the time I responded, but I let her know we were staying at a RV park in Lone Pine for the night and would not leave without them! We got to sleep around 2:30am. Not exactly ideal, but we are off that fucking mountain and that is a success in my book. Tomorrow is the 4th of July and the start of our road trip adventure. I’m so excited to see Oprah again and get to know the other two hikers! We will be in a car together for about ten hours celebrating our independence! ‘MURICA! LET’S PARTY!!!
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