The End of the Desert: Big Bear to Kennedy Meadows
It’s been over 400 miles since my last blog post. After leaving Big Bear, I started doing bigger miles, eventually working my way up to 20-25 miles each day. That said, my hiking pace hasn’t gotten much faster, which means I’m hiking many more hours of the day, leaving little time for writing.
The Desert Ends
A few days ago I walked into Kennedy Meadows, one of the most iconic moments of any PCT hike. This stop signifies the end of the 700 mile desert section and the beginning of the Sierra — one of the most beautiful and also challenging sections of the trail. When hikers walk up to the General Store from the trail, everyone at the store breaks out into applause — every single time. I knew about this tradition and it was everything I’d imagined it to be. Even if I don’t hike another step, I still feel a huge sense of accomplishment for completing the entire desert section and making it this far.
Thirst was a dominant theme for me throughout the desert section at a level I’d never experienced before in my life. Especially in a drought year, water is scarce in this section, and 20-mile plus water carries are the norm. The stretch between Tehachapi and Walker Pass was especially brutal when temperatures climbed up to 100 degrees in the Mojave desert and there was little shelter from the sun except the occasional Joshua Tree. One especially hot day I miscalculated the amount of water I was carrying and cut it way too close, forcing myself to aggressively ration water. I never again want to be as thirsty as I was that day. It’s no coincidence that people use the word “thirst” to describe the deepest of desires of all kinds.
The chronic thirst has led me to have elaborate beverage fantasies while I’m out on the trail. Gatorade, kombucha, and margaritas dominate my thoughts, but nothing consumes my mind more than Sprite and ginger ale. Prior to the trail I didn’t drink soda for years, but now I’m obsessed with it. Although most days on trial none of these beverages are available, every once and a while the trail passes through civilization. One hot day while passing Silverwood Lake, we found out there was a road crossing that accepted pizza delivery from Uber Eats. For miles, all I could think about was the 2L bottle of Sprite that I ordered. Then, when the driver arrived, she brought everything except the Sprite. I immediately burst into tears — the first time in over a month on trail — too distraught to even eat my pizza. 10 minutes later we saw the driver’s car pull back up and I ran to meet it, turning to tears of joy as she pulled out the missing Sprite. I then proceeded to crush my first 20-plus mile day fueled by the sugary fluids.
Kindness of Strangers
Throughout the trail, I’ve been amazed by the incredibly kind things that strangers have done to make the hike possible. In Wrightwood, my friend and I were spontaneously invited to stay in two different strangers’ homes. Trail angels maintain critical water caches during particularly long dry stretches. While hiking through Vasquez Rocks during a particularly hot day in the midday sun, just when I thought I couldn’t take it a second longer, a day hiker offered me an ice-cold can of Sprite! Stops in town to resupply usually require hitchhiking 10-20 miles or more. Almost every time I’ve had my thumb out for less than two minutes before someone stopped. One hitch had a driver who went out of her way to drive us to the trail and offered to braid my hair before I set off — such amazing trail magic!
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