The Desert Ends. Winter Is Coming – Days 36-42
Mileage: 569.4 – 587.3 (17.9 miles)
We woke up to howling wind and cold temperatures. We knew that our day’s mileage would not be too heavy, so we were not in any real rush to leave the tent. When we finally got the courage to venture outside we packed our things as fast as we could and were on our way.
We dealt with blasting wind and switchbacks as we gained elevation for the first couple of hours. As our step count grew the environment changed. We entered decent tree cover and the weather began to clear. We were trudging along one step at a time. Neither of us fully enjoying the day’s travel so far. Once we hit our next water source we decided to break for lunch and a nap to recharge the batteries. We knew that we only had five miles left in our day so we decided to wait out the heat a little longer.
We left around 2 and made it to our tenting site a short while later (with another snack break, haha). This is much earlier than we generally stop so we were feeling a little slacker-esk. We did our chores and decided on listening to our favorite on-trail entertainment other than ourselves… Game of Thrones audiobook. If you’ve got some spare time on your hands we definitely recommend that you give this a listen. It’s quite fun. Our day ended with mythical tales and excitement for the next day.
Mileage: 587.3 – 612.0 (24.7 miles)
We woke up to brisk air and a beautiful morning. Much of our day was spent under the cover of beautiful pine trees. We saw several deer, several snakes and bunnies (our favorite morning friends). We were crushing miles and snacks to match. Then, along the side of the trail, we saw the 600-mile mark drawn out with oversized pine cones.
We had a photo shoot before moving on to more serious business… lunch. We enjoyed lunch and cold spring water while planning our early arrival to Walker Pass. We said our goodbyes to the squirrels and finished our day out strong.
We found a beautiful tent site and decided to call it home for the night. The desert was starting to enter our rearview and we were getting stoked to catch our first glimpse of the Sierra the next morning.
Mileage: 612.0 – 635.3 (23.3 miles)
Our alarms rang at 4:30 a.m. and we were on our way by 5 a.m. We walked as the sun continued to rise and we could see the beautiful site of the Sierra off in the distance. We also came across several large mountain lion tracks that served as a friendly reminder that we humans are not the only ones on trail. The morning was cool and gorgeous until it was no longer morning.
The hot sun and deep, loose sand reminded us that we were NOT out of the desert yet. We took several shade breaks under Joshua trees as the temperatures continued to rise. Once at our last water cache for the day we found some shade and took another long siesta after lunch.
Here we ran into several friends with the same exact plan. Everybody’s quite sick of the heat. Our day ended with a climb to just under 7,000 feet and more mountainscapes.
We enjoyed our dinner with another fantastic view of the Sierra off in the distance. (Can you tell we’re excited to get there?) After another solid day we climbed into our tent knowing we were another day closer to Kennedy Meadows. WAHOOOOOOO!!!!
Mileage: 635.3 – 652.1 (16.8 miles)
We awoke bright and early, 4:30 a.m., to be out by 5. If we have decent mileage to do or are getting into a town, or if it’s going to be a very hot stretch, we almost always wake up that early. We cruised along, seeing several deer and more bunnies than we could count. We traveled along an old rutted-out gravel road for a long time before we saw the most wonderful view, several snowy pointed mountaintops peeking out in the distance! We’re coming for ya, Sierra!
Next thing you know, we made it to Walker Pass around 11ish a.m. Cody worked his magic and got the third car driving by to stop. The poor guy only stopped because he thought we were in trouble. Cody used his charm and asked the man if he was going to Kernville; he said yes and Cody asked if we could have a ride. The man didn’t especially want us in his nice truck but he also didn’t want to get in trouble so he had us lie down in the bed of the truck… for 35 miles! He drove like a maniac and we held on for dear life; it will be a hitch we’ll never forget. We didn’t get any of the views of the mountains or the beautiful Lake Isabella as we drove by, but hey, a ride’s a ride!
He just so happened to drop us off right across the street from the brewery, so we obliged and shouted our thanks as we ran across the road.
After eating a delicious lunch there we hit the grocery store for our resupply, then walked toward our hotel, the Kernville Inn. We stopped in a rafting store (Kernville is a huge rafting town) and bought a fuel canister. (Kelsey has lost her gift from the AT of knowing when the fuel canister is close to empty and we’ve run out twice now.) We stopped at the inn to grab our keys and the husband and wife in the front office were awesome. They got us a hiker discount, showed us where laundry was, and gave us some tips on some places to eat. We took their advice and went across the street to a little saloon, then we went to the Big Blue Bear Cafe where we each got $1 scoops of ice cream, and then we went into an antiques shop for fun!
All of this excitement was followed up by Pizza Barn for dinner. They had a salad bar with everything you could ever want on a salad for only FOUR DOLLARS!! We nearly overflowed our bowls and I have to say it was one of the best salads I’ve ever had in my life.
We ended the day by sitting by the Kern River and watching people float by in their kayaks and rafts. We made the most of our day in Kernville and really enjoyed the town. As with most places we’ve stopped, everyone was more than kind!
Mileage: 652.1 – 664.4 (12.3 miles)
When we woke up we headed straight for breakfast at the Cracked Egg Cafe. I had the best French toast of my life (sorry dad, yours is a close second!) and Cody had a massive skillet filled with potatoes, bacon, avocado, and cheese. We were in hog heaven! We went back to our room and got all of our chores done before checking out and heading back over to the Blue Bear Cafe for a little more ice cream. After this we needed lunch (OMG, how did we eat this much?!) so we went to a really cool place that overlooked the Kern River. We had a masterful lunch before deciding we had eaten enough and it was time to hitch out.
This proved to be our most challenging hitch yet; even Cody’s charming good looks wouldn’t get anyone to pull over. My favorite part of the whole ordeal was when three young boys rode up on their scooters, they read our sign and we asked them if they could give us a ride. They said that Walker Pass was too far (lol) but then one of the kids said his dad loved to drive hikers around and he actually called him for us! His dad could take us in a half hour if we were still there. It was a very kind gesture for such a young kid and it still has me chuckling. We ended up getting picked up by a guy who could take us halfway; we were just glad to get off of the hot pavement in the blazing sun.
The guy was awesome and we thanked him as we got out of the car. We then tried for about 15 minutes to hitch from there (another 20 miles or so) with no luck. Finally, a car came to pull over and we saw it was the same guy who had taken us this far. He told us he couldn’t just leave us there! It was very kind of him to go so far out of his way just for us. It was nearly two hours after we had started trying to catch a ride and we were just as worn out as we would’ve been if we had been hiking!
We finally hit the trail at 4 o’clock and it was pretty warm but full of neat views. Both of us were so full (imagine that!) that we didn’t even really need to eat dinner, so we stopped hiking right as the sun was disappearing and pitched the tent as quickly as we could.
We’ve been leaving the rainfly off the tent a lot recently as it has been so warm and last night with the (no moon?) we had a magnificent view of the stars. Right before I shut my eyes I saw a shooting star fly through the sky. It was a nice way to fall asleep.
Mileage: 664.4 – 689.1 (24.7 miles)
Today was a pretty uneventful day. There was a lot of up followed by more up, and then a little more up after that. We had heard there was going to be trail magic at a road crossing 16.5 miles into our day, but there wasn’t. It seems that by starting so late we miss a bit/all of the trail magic. It’s OK; we will survive until tomorrow without real food or beverage I suppose. (Hehe)
We came around one last corner before the beauty that is the Sierra Nevada mountain range sprawled into view. We can’t believe that tomorrow will be our last day in the desert! It’s a dream come true as we’ve both had enough of the heat and feeling parched all the time.
Mileage: 689.1 – 702.2 (13.1 miles)
We woke up to a very wet sleeping bag as we slept with the rainfly off, but the stars last night were worth the dampness in the morning. (I only laid half of my body out of the tent for the picture, too tired to do any better than that.)
Our goal was $10 all you can eat pancakes at the Kennedy Meadows General Store, so we hiked our buns off to get 13 miles done in four hours. We passed along the Kern River and then got to the 700-mile marker!
Next thing we knew we had made it to the iconic Kennedy Meadows. We are officially done with the desert! What a great feeling to check off such a major chunk.
We got our all you can eat pancakes and hung around until the shuttle came to take us to Grumpy’s and the Triple Crown Outfitter, where we spent an insane amount of money on new (necessary) gear for the snow in the Sierra. We spent the rest of the day with more hikers than we’ve seen the entire trail. Tomorrow we will zero here to make sure we’ve got our ducks in a row and are completely prepared for what is to come.
As we are heading into the Sierra we’ve decided to start doing the blog a little differently. Blogs will be a little more sparse through the coming miles as cell reception won’t be as good and we’ll be very busy walking through snow and a little more technical stuff than we’re used to. We will continue with the blog but they may just take a little longer to be posted! We have fun writing them and love getting all the comments and seeing how much you all are supporting us.
Stay tuned and bear with us!! 🙂
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