Day 51: Good-bye, SoCal

Tue. 6/11/13
21.3 miles (Miles 709.5 – 730.8)
PCT Mile 709.5 – Death Canyon Creek


Trail. Just in case you didn't know you were on one.

We were officially out of the Southern California section of the Pacific Crest Trail when we arrived in Kennedy Meadows, but it hit me today. We were only 22 miles into this section when we climbed out of a sagebrush meadow to 10,500 feet in elevation. We are in the Southern Sierra Mountains. And they’re beautiful. I’ll share a few tidbits from today in a little bit, but first…

Southern California… the first 700 miles of the PCT… desert…

Being from Wisconsin, this was new hiking territory for me, and I didn’t really know what to expect. It was everything I didn’t exect with a sprinkle of things I did. The only things I was right about were sand, snakes, and heat. And I wasn’t even completely right-on with those things.

On my thru-hike of the American Discovery Trail with my mom in 2006, we encountered some desert, and it certainly presented its own set of challenges, but it was still different somehow. I don’t know if it’s just drier here, or if it was my mileage, or more desolation… but it pushed me to my limit. I came out of that section utterly exhausted, dirty and dusty, sweaty, sunburned, thirsty, fatigued and nauseous… and 100% satisfied with a smile on my face. I’m kind of weird in that I live for the stuff that nearly breaks me – it’s what makes me feel the most alive. (The Frozen Otter beat me for four years until I finally conquered it. I just kept going back for more.) If this was easy every day out here, I think I’d get bored pretty fast.

Anyway, I have a great deal of respect for this landscape, its critters, what water it naturally presents, the locals that supply water where it doesn’t come naturally, all the damn-tough hikers that trudged through this section with me,  the heat, wind, deep and sandy trails, flowers, mountains, intense sunshine, lack of shade, pointy things that like to stab through skin, and a million other tiny details that I just don’t have time to list.

The desert was beautiful and I will miss it. But I have to admit that I’m pretty excited to climb to some big elevations. I have a feeling mosquitoes might be my next biggest challenge! Water worries are over. Our trusty water report, which became a desert bible of sorts, runs out of reporting 16 miles into our day tomorrow – simply because it’s plentiful from now on.


Huge smiles for water!

About today – it really felt like we walked through a corridor into the Sierras. There has been more water, big trees, grassy meadows, new flowers, towering and jagged mountain peaks, giant boulders, soft pine-needle-covered trails, shade, grasshoppers and butterflies, birds chirping, clouds, and cooler temperatures. What a difference one day’s hike has made in this scenery. Oh – we even have a few mosquito bites already. There’s your sure sign we’re in the big mountains.


My first alpenglow


Can't get enough mountains.

These next few days are going to be super-exciting, and I’m anticipating that I’ll be overwhelmed to the point of tears. I already got a little teary-eyed when I realized how close we were to the end of the water report. Time for new challenges to kick my butt. And I can guess what a few of them might be, but they’ll be wrong and I’ll get something totally different. That’s just another good reason to be out here.

My gross but funny phrase today after stepping on a rock with my heel, which is tender from cutting a hole into my callus to relieve pressure from a blister:
“It felt like my foot meat was going to come out my heel hole like frosting from a pastry bag.”
I know… nasty, huh?

Tonight I love mosquitoes because it means I’m definitely in the mountains, and because this will probably be the only appropriate time to say that I love mosquitoes…

A few more shots from today:


Solidified sap drips from a burnt tree.


Swallow nests.


Butterfly love



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