Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows: Miles 558 to 704

Hi everyone! I am so, so behind on this blog – my apologies!! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of nonstop hiking, long days, and not much cell phone or internet access. It’s been harder than I expected to post consistently, and I feel bad that it’s been so long! Phil and I are currently off the trail for 5 days so I could go to my grandparents’ memorial service in Montana (a planned trip), and I’m going to try to get as caught up as possible while I’m here. We just passed the halfway point on the PCT – mile 1330! For now, here is the next section of our adventure, miles 558 to 704: 

The 150 miles between Tehachapi and Kennedy Meadows were a mix of desert, forest, mountains, and long stretches without water. It seemed the terrain often couldn’t decide if it was still desert or ready to start being forest. We would go through beautiful oak forests and meadows one day, and the next enter the most arid, sandy desert stretch, surrounded by Joshua Trees. We got used to carrying enough water for a 20-mile stretch, and when we did have water, it often came from a rusty pipe in the middle of nowhere, a mile off the trail, with an algae-covered cow trough beneath it. We were still often surrounded by wind farms, and always had a view of the desert to the east below us. It was amazing to watch the transformation from desert to forest, each day becoming a bit greener.

Walker Pass, at mile 652, was a campground where the trail met Highway 178, and I was excited to get there because we crossed a road (thus increasing our chances of happening upon trail magic, like a cooler full of soda) and because it marked the “end” of the desert (though others say the end is in Kennedy Meadows). After a long descent, we got there around 9 am, and I spotted a blue tent near the parking lot. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I decided it was nothing. But as we got closer, we could make out a sign that said “HIKERS WANTED,” and as we approached, the group under the blue tent started clapping, first slowly, then gaining speed and enthusiasm. It took me a second to realize they were clapping for us! A little boy ran out and handed each of us a soda and a plastic necklace, and then Yogi, the author of the most popular PCT guidebook (kind of a trail celebrity) came out and greeted us. She handed each of us a plate of pancakes, and another when we finished the first plate. It was the most wonderful, unexpected surprise.

After what turned into a 5 hour break at Walker Pass, we left to ascend the ridge waiting for us. This was a beautiful stretch, with rows of mountains to the left and the desert far below us to the right. It felt like we really were leaving the desert behind and ascending into the mountains.

2 long days later, we arrived at mile 704 in Kennedy Meadows, the true beginning of the Sierra. We had caught up with our friends Adam and Laura the night before, and hiked into KM together the following morning. Kennedy Meadows is a tiny community nestled in an expansive green meadow with the Sierras just beyond. Its main focus is the general store, which also has a delicious grill. Just like at Walker Pass, we were greeted by a crowd of hikers on the deck outside, and they clapped for each hiker as they approached. After 6 long, hot 25-mile days and the promise of this store and all of its treasures in the back of my mind the whole time, getting there was pure bliss. I finally had my beloved Dr. Pepper (this has become one of my trail cravings), we had burgers from the grill, we got our resupply box, and we caught up with many friends who had been ahead of us. Next up: the Sierra and Mt. Whitney!

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Pancakes and soda at Walker Pass

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Beautiful evening north of Walker Pass

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Phil is looking more and more homeless everyday

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Around mile 665 – 1/4 of the way there!

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In front of the Kennedy Meadows general store

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Kennedy Meadows general store!! Such a happy sight after hard days of hiking.

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The night after we got to KM we stayed at a campground 2 miles north with Laura, Adam, Laura’s dad, and some other friends. Laura’s dad had brought quite a carload of treats, and made us gourmet cocktails.

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The trail just as you leave KM. You can see the beginning of the Sierras ahead!

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