On the PCT: Kennedy Meadows, Part One

A wise friend once told me that not all fun is created equal.  There’s Type I Fun, the type of fun we’re all most accustomed to.  It’s the type of fun involved in a day at the beach, a visit to an amusement park, or a night out with friends.  Then, there’s Type II Fun, fun which is probably not Type I Fun at all in the moment but a whole lot of fun to talk about after the fact.

The day before Pine Nut and I arrived at Kennedy Meadows was full of Type II fun.

In many ways, thru-hikers are like little children.  Because of the demands we put them through, our bodies are our greatest priorities, so when our bodies demand food or water or sleep we tend to appease them quickly.  If we don’t, our bodies usually get cranky.

The day before Pine Nut and I arrived in Kennedy Meadows was our first day with rationed food supplies.  Ant had been able to accompany Pine Nut and me for our first two days out of Mojave — which was wonderful — but his plantar fasciitis made us go slower than we’d anticipated and our hunger made us eat more than we’d anticipated.  By the time we got up in the mountains north of Walker Pass, our food supplies were barely adequate for two more full days of hiking, and they certainly lacked the cushion we all seem to enjoy having (and consuming).

The few snacks and meals we had remaining didn’t just need to last us forty miles; they needed to last us forty miles and quite a bit of elevation.  The first several dozen miles out of Walker Pass are some of the most demanding of Southern California, with lots of ascending and descending and very little contour walking.

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Camping at Joshua Tree Spring

Moreover, the day before we arrived in Kennedy Meadows was one of the first days I’d felt humidity on the trail.  At first, it was a welcome change, but, as the day grew hotter and our path continued to leave us exposed, it just felt like another hurdle.

In the desert, humidity is a good indication that some sort of other-than-sunny weather is coming.  Sure enough, just after noon, the trail wound us around a hill and took us under storm clouds.  As thunder rumbled above Pine Nut and me, I prepared my pack for rain and got out my rain jacket.  Two minutes later, as a light rain fell, I put my jacket on.

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Getting ready to hit the trail

As Pine Nut and I hiked on, we tried to take our minds off of food by talking and storytelling and playing games, to no avail.  Eventually, hungry and wet and tired, we gave up and decided to play the Alphabet Game, finding a food we wanted to eat at Kennedy Meadows for every letter of the alphabet.  We got lost in a few fantasy meals as we walked over white rocks and under sparse pines.

The first rainstorm was short-lived, but that wasn’t the last of the day’s precipitation.  After we’d filtered water and had dinner and talked with Cat, a friendly and energetic hiker who gave us Ramen and coconut oil when we mentioned that we’d had a rough day (Thank you!), we hiked on, hoping to get a bit closer to the General Store before the day was over.

As we walked out of a meadow and into the forest, the rain began falling in earnest.  This time, the rain was cold and steady.  Needing motivation, Pine Nut and I split up; she listened to music on her headphones and I sang in the rain, a standard Rainbow-Dash-on-the-AT behavior.

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Approaching Kennedy Meadows

When we got to camp, we were cold and hungry and wet and tired — and proud, as we’d put in a solid day of hiking despite adversity.  We knew we’d laugh about the day later, over platefuls of food in the sunshine near the General Store, but as soon as we’d made camp we just wished each other “good night” and crawled into our sleeping bags.

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Just south of Kennedy Meadows

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