PCT Week 9 - Kennedy Meadows

PCT Week 9 – Mile 618 to Kennedy Meadows

The ninth week on the Pacific Crest Trail is over and I hiked from mile 618 to Kennedy Meadows. What happened in PCT week 9, you can read in this article. In case you missed the week eight, here’s the article: PCT Week 8.

Map – Pacific Crest Trail Week 9

November 28, 2020 2:11 pm
  • Distance 134.78 km
  • Time 33 h 41 min
  • Speed 4.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 1401 m
  • Peak 2440 m
  • Climb 4642 m
  • Descent 4196 m
  • Distance Instructions
Label

Day 57: 1,000 km and an important decision

Day: June 01st, 2019
Distance: 17.6 mi, 28.16 km
Cumulative: 635.3 mi, 1,016.48 km

I head out early today since my plan is to walk at least 20 miles (about 32 km). There is hardly any shade and the sun is burning down on me. I reach the 1,000 km mark and each of my steps is accompanied by pain. Still – 1,000 km hiked! It feels good and weird because that’s a hell of a long distance. Yet on the PCT it’s not even a quarter of the entire way.

This thought lingers. I want to take a break to enjoy the view, but I keep walking, telling myself, “I have to keep walking or I won’t make today’s 20 miles.” An inner conflict erupts. I remember my dream from two days ago: “I’m sitting at the airport in Germany, looking forward to the PCT, but I haven’t started yet…” So I force myself to take a break and write the following in my notebook:

“I’m sitting in the desert right now, 23 miles from Walker Pass. I’m afraid of not reaching the finish line, not arriving in Canada.

What is important to me? Enjoying nature, people and everything on the trail or is the ultimate goal to arrive in Canada? With the goal in mind to arrive in Canada there is a hell of pressure. I’ve just passed the 1,000 km mark, I can’t get excited and all I can think about is the goal….

I don’t want that. The goal should, no, must be a bonus! I want to enjoy the path, I want to feel myself in every step and merge with the path. Maybe I can do that. I still have 3,300 km to go.

I try to walk in the “present “.

Afterwards I sit on a rock for about 30 minutes and look at the breathtaking landscape.

PCT - View from a stone
PCT – View from a stone

Andrew “Enterprise” passes by and we greet each other. I am glad to see him, because he started one day after me. After my break I hike on and 20 minutes later I see the sign of my Trailfamily on the ground (a square with a dot in the middle). Another break with Mockingjay and Rabbit Rabbit, which I accept with thanks.

Then I continue slowly and relaxed. A steep climb in the evening lies ahead of me and I realize that I will not make the targeted 20 miles today. Fortunately, that is no longer important to me at this moment.

Day 58: Walker Pass and a reunion with Caminofriends

Day: June 02, 2019
Distance: 16 mi, 25.75 km
Cumulative: 651.3 mi, 1,048.16 km

My alarm rings very early, because I try to be 2:00 p.m. at Walker Pass to see my two friends Barb and Ken from the Camino de Santiago again. I am not feeling well that morning and have stomach problems. As an emergency I throw in an Imodium Acut and hope for a quick effect. Around 5:30 a.m. it starts to dawn and I have 16 miles to go. I can make the distance until 2:00 p.m.

The sunrise is magical today and since it is still so early I see no other hikers. Around 8:00 I make a short tea break. Afterwards I make good progress and walk with the rhythm 2.5 h fast hiking and then 30 minutes break. 14:10 I reach Walker Pass. My friends are not there yet but there is some Trailmagic. For a joke or a spontaneous haiku you get a cold beer. I dig out the only and worst joke I can think of and ceremoniously accept the ice cold beer.

A few minutes later Ken and Barb arrive. I am thrilled to see them and we head to Ridgecrest with a few other hikers. I write Oilking, who has successfully picked up his package in Onyx, and we meet with Ken and Barb at a restaurant for lunch. It’s good to see Oilking again and we tell Ken and Barb what we’ve been up to in the last few weeks.

Lots to coordinate this day, Rabbit Rabbit and Mockingjay have also arrived in Ridgecrest and are heading to Trailangel Laura (Pancakes) with Oilking. Seashells and Lawrence of Cascadia are still at Walker Pass. Ken, Barb and I therefore make another trip to pick them up from Walker Pass. A great reunion, even though we haven’t seen each other for a few days.

At this moment I also see Biskit, whom I saw last time in Hiker Heaven. We all drive happily and exhausted to Ridgcrest, check into a Super8 and finish the evening with pizza, beer and PCT stories.

Day 59: Rest day in Ridgecrest

Day: June 03, 2019
Distance: 0 mi, 0 km
Cumulative: 651.3 mi, 1,048.16 km

The next morning we have a hearty breakfast at Super8 followed by a group photo. Afterwards we drive with Ken and Barb to Walmart to stock up on food for the next three days up to Kennedy Meadows.

I am also looking for decent plasters, bandages and disinfectant as my blisters on my feet have not gotten any better. To be honest, it wasn’t that easy to find good bandages. At least if you don’t know what to look for – most band-aids in the US just don’t stick properly.

After bulk shopping at Walmart (yes, you can buy guns in a regular supermarket – see photo gallery) we drive together to Trailangel Laura (Pancakes) where Rabbit Rabbit, Mockingjay and Oilking have been staying and we all say goodbye to Ken and Barb.

Before heading back to the trail, we all want to fill our bellies and visit the Mexican restaurant “Casa Corona“. Here we have large portions and ice cold beer. After the meal we hitchhike back to Walker Pass.

Day 60: an unexpected restday

Day: June 04, 2019
Distance: 0 mi, 0 km
Cumulative:651.3 mi, 1,048.16 km

I set the alarm clock early, because my blisters haven’t improved and I will walk slower than the others. I therefore pack everything together and am ready to start around 06:30.

All of a sudden the trailangel “Hobo Joe” stands in front of me and asks me with an embarrassed smile if I would like to have a breakfast with fried eggs and a freshly brewed coffee. I can’t resist say “YES” and drink my first Irish Coffee point 07:00.

I won’t walk a meter this day and I’m in good company. We all decide to relax, drink beer, eat ice cream and play games. It’s pure magic and we enjoy the restday before we “really” do the last stretch to Kennedy Meadows, the official end of the desert.

Day 61: Worrying about my feet

Day: June 05, 2019
Distance: 21.5 mi, 34.6 km
Cumulative: 672.8 mi, 1082.76 km

I start this morning together with Seashells. We are the slowest and want to build up some lead. It goes directly over Walker Pass and then a 10 km steep climb uphill.

At the top, we take a break and are already caught up by Lawrence of Cascadia, Oilking, Rabbit Rabbit and Mockingjay. After continuing, I fall behind. My blisters hurt incredibly and I have to stop several times to fix my feet. In this area it is not so easy – there is no water to wash the wounds.

I make slow progress that day and struggle up the last climb to the camp spot. Arriving at the camp, I take off my shoes and take a look at my blisters, which raises doubts. I don’t know what to think of the sores. They are dirty and full of sand.

I limp over to Lawrence of Cascadia and ask him what he thinks and if it could be something worse. He looks at me and just says curtly, “No man, it’s OK!” I can see in his eyes that he is concerned and it probably looks worse than I want to admit. 

Day 62: A small miracle

Day: June 06, 2019
Distance: 20.7 mi, 33.3 km
Cumulative: 693.5 mi, 1116.08 km

It’s an early start again this morning and it’s the penultimate stage before Kennedy Meadows. My feet are bad and every step is pure pain. It takes me almost 4 hours for the first 6 miles (about 10 km) and it’s all downhill. It is a pure fight with my body and myself in the middle of an unreal and inhospitable area. 11:00 a.m. I arrive at Chimney Creek and can’t believe my luck. The small creek has running and clean water.

As the sun burns down on me I sit down in the shade of a tree and decide to take a long break and get some treatment. I look for my bandages and walk to the water. A stone at the edge serves as a seat for me and I begin to wash my wounds. It takes a while until they are washed and delighted I realize that nothing could penetrate the deeper skin layers. I look contented at pink flesh and am ready to care for my feet.

With a lot of sense and attention, I start the procedure. After an hour, my feet are so heavily taped with band-aids and tape that I can theoretically hike all the way to Kennedy Meadows and not have to do anything to my feet. Then I allow myself another hour break in the shade and sleep.

Around 01:30 p.m. I am ready to start and it feels better. The pain in my feet is tolerable and it is a marked improvement from the morning. The last steep climb to Kennedy Meadows lies ahead of me.

After a few hours it starts to thunder and I get caught in a hailstorm. At that moment, I think only of my feet and hope that the bandages will hold and not soften. As if in a trance, I run up the mountain and through the hailstorm. At the top I take another break and dry my clothes. Then it goes downhill into the valley.

When I arrive at the first camp spot, I see Oilking, Rabbit Rabbit and Mockingjay who have already pitched their tents. I decide to walk on. I have no pain in my feet right now and want to walk as far as possible. Furthermore, I don’t know what my feet will look like the next morning.

It is dark when I arrive in the valley and I set up my tent. After this hard morning I am glad to have come so far and it resembles a small miracle. Tomorrow it goes to Kennedy Meadows and there are only 8 miles to hike.

Day 63: Arrival at Kennedy Meadows and a serious group talk.

Day: June 07, 2019
Distance: 8.7 mi, 14 km
Cumulative: 702.2 mi, 1130.1 km

The next morning I wake up a little later and eat a snack. My feet still hurt, but they feel better. Then Oilking, Rabbit Rabbit and Mockingjay come by. Biskit also shows up, having slept behind a bush just 20 meters away from me. We all head out to Kennedy Meadows.

The 8.7 miles (about 14 km) are endless and the distance seems like an eternity. Nevertheless, we reach Kennedy Meadows around noon, arrive together and, like all hikers, are greeted with a thunderous applause. The first thing we order is beer and something to eat.

The last weeks were not easy to hike and also in our group there were tensions. Many hikers hike in groups, but there are also many hikers who want to hike alone. I definitely belong to the first category.

For me, hiking in a group is more comfortable, offers security and, above all, you have more fun in the group. You enter into a kind of relationship with your trail family, where you trust each other and can count on each other. However, as in any relationship, things can get complicated and that is also true on the PCT. On the PCT, there is also a simple reason for this:

Everyone in a trail family is pushing their limits every day, hungry, tired, has aches and pains and expectations of themselves and the trail. The result is that in a group you have to make many compromises and sometimes feel misunderstood or not heard. This is also the case with us.

After a few beers with Mockingjay, Rabbit Rabbit and Oilking, Mockingjay finally said “We need to talk before we go on to the Sierra!”. An announcement that had it all. What everyone was lugging around in addition to their backpack weight was put on the table. Everything unspoken was said and at the same time we were able to tell each other as a group why we wanted to hike together.

It was liberating and good for us as a trail family. In the end we could say one thing with certainty, “When things get serious, we bust our asses for each other.”


Conclusion

The ninth week on the Pacific Crest Trail is over. My feet still hurt, but we arrived at Kennedy Meadows. The group is speaking out and licking its wounds. In the next few days we will be heading to the high mountains – the Sierra Nevada. Be curious how it goes on.

If you liked this article, I’m happy about a like, a heart or a smile on your face. If you have questions, suggestions or criticism, I look forward to your comments.

Greetings, Martin

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Hi, I'm Martin and I love hiking. In 2012 I had my first big hike on the Camino de Santiago. Since then I am hiking addicted and write as HikeJunkie on this blog.
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