PCT Week 8: Entering the Sierra
Off to Kennedy Meadows
It is finally time, I’m headed towards the Sierra. I have been looking forward to this section since I started my journey and Kennedy Meadows South is only 2 days away. Back on trail we go and it’s another climb as always.
As I climb, behind me the desert is finally getting farther and farther away. Gone are the days of long water carries and sand everywhere. It’s always bittersweet leaving a section behind, but with what’s ahead I’m more excited than ever.
We reach our first campsite of the two day stretch, in my mind I can go further, and probably get closer to my other friends. But the last few days with this new group of friends has me stay back once more.
We finally can start to feel the Sierra in our midst. In the distance the large white faces of mountains welcome us. I’m only a few miles away from Kennedy Meadows and again I keep myself from pushing father forward.
I reach our final campsite. It feels so relaxing. We could reach our destination tonight, but instead we gather around a campfire and let ourselves enjoy the silhouettes of the mountains around us. We have reached the Sierra.
Kennedy Meadows, the Entrance to the Sierra
It’s been a two hundred miles since I last saw Yeti Legs and Basecamp, and just a week or so since I last saw Duces. Today I will finally see them. I know they’ve been just a day ahead of me and I’m excited.
First though I have a couple more miles which includes a milestone, 700. We have walked 700 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Officially done with the Southern California section. The entire environment has changed, a river flows by trail and everything around us seems bigger.
I reach the road and I’m only a mile away. Kennedy Meadows is just around the corner. I’m in a good mood. As I turn the corner, as if the trail wanted it to happen, I see a green sweater hop out of a bed of a truck, it’s Yeti Legs. I sprint across the parking lot with the biggest smile on my face. I’m reunited with my Tramily.
It’s finally time to relax and I’m back with everyone. We won’t be entering the Sierra for another day so, for now we eat, we drink, we laugh. Tonight is our night to party. We are reunited and this is the perfect opportunity to let ourselves enjoy everything without thinking about trail.
Between the General Store, Grumpy Bears, and Triple Crown Outfitters, it’s a great place to hang out and get yourself ready for what’s next. I now have my bear can, I’m reunited with my ice axe, and I’m ready to enter the Sierra.
10,000 Foot Climbs
It’s time. After two days of rest, I’m all good to go back out onto trail. For the first time in weeks I’m hiking out with Basecamp and Yeti Legs. It’s going to be a long couple days, and having your Tramily with you makes things so much more enjoyable. Especially when everyday you must climb.
The immediate realization of what we are about to do hits me. This is what the trail is about. 700 miles has prepped our bodies well. Even though our packs are heavy with the bear can full of food, water is abundant. There is no need for any water carry.
Our first campsite of the Sierra is exactly what I expected of this area, a picturesque meadow, mountains all around, a river flowing through. We’re definitely not in the desert anymore. Yukon and Crush join us as we enjoy a nice night before the big climbs start.
It begins as we reach 10,000 ft for the very first time on trail. Surprisingly though, my body doesn’t really mind it. It blows my mind how much my body has changed and has molded itself to this routine, molded itself to the trail.
This is just a taste of what’s to come, there will be more climbs ahead, and some incredible milestones just around the corner. I was worried the climbs would be too much, and the reality is that I’m ready to take on the Sierra.
Our First National Park
We enter Sequoia National Park! Our first of a few National Parks on the trail. It’s a cool experience entering parks through back entrances, it’s definitely not something you do everyday. We don’t hike in the heart of the park, but the outer boundaries are unique.
All around me the trees and mountains get bigger. The climbs as well. It never ends as we make our way through the beautiful southern Sierra. It’s a new and exciting environment we have yet to experience on trail. It’s a long day though, I have many more miles left as there’s an important campsite I must reach by the end of the day.
The climbs and descents start to include more and more snow. The Sierra received extra snow, and the patches make the trail more trivial. But these ascents also include amazing views of some extraordinary peaks we’ll be going over soon.
I strut through, smile on my face, more and more excited with each step. In the distance I can start to make out one peak in particular. And on the final descent to camp I finally see what I’ve been after all day. She’s beautiful.
It’s the backside of Mt. Whitney. From the trail it doesn’t look like much, just another peak. The mountain doesn’t go through the PCT, and it’s an optional climb that most hikers decide to do. I catch up to Moonbean and Old Lady and off to camp we go.
Mt Whitney, the Biggest Climb
We reach Crabtree late, everyone that was with us in Kennedy Meadows is there. Just ahead of us is one of the crown jewels of not only the PCT but also the lower 48, Mt. Whitney. It’s off to bed immediately, I have an early wake call very soon and I’ll need all the rest I can get.
It’s 1:00AM. Without any hesitation I get right up. I put my pack on my back and we’re off. This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for years. I will get to summit the highest mountain in the lower 48 of the United States. It’s definitely a climb.
Ahead of us we see headlamps climbing. Above us the Milky Way shines. It’s pitch black and quiet. It’s an experience like no other. The switchbacks are long, and with every step we go further and further up farther than any of us have ever climbed.
Slowly everything starts to brighten up. It’s nearly sunrise and as I reach the summit, I can feel the rush of emotions as I make it to the top. May 5, 2021 5:44AM, I achieve a dream of mine, I reach 14,505. I have made it. Everyone is huddled together keeping warm.
It’s hard to explain. Something came over me when I reached the top. For once in my life I truly achieved a feet that I never thought I could do. I was happy. I was proud. And full of confidence I came down the mountain with the biggest smile on my face. I still can’t explain the feeling I felt being at the top. The vast uninterrupted, never ending, beautiful views are something you could only dream of.
We all get back to Crabtree, exhausted, but full of laughs and stories from the top. Our Tramily has achieved so much together. And there is so much more to go.
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