Day 26, May 20th
Start: camp at mile 624
End: walker pass camp ground, mile 651
Miles hiked: 27

Had a great nights sleep in the desert. The wind calmed down, and I was able to sleep comfortably cowboy style. The rest of our group less Sherpa and the boss camped down at the spring a few miles back, so I moseyed in the morning. Found a dead bird near camp and put it in the trail and waited. First person I saw was Mack, the kiwi. Tall, wearing his green puffy and john deer hat, I knew it was him from a quarter mile. So I ran to the dead bird and wrote “to Mack” above the bird, and ran to hide behind a tree. When he passed he stopped, cocked his head, and then kept moving. A few steps later he turned, looked at it again and shrugged before moving on. Carrot and I burst out laughing behind the tree. “That’s some voodoo right there!” He laughed.

The rest of the group soon caught up and we had a little hiker gathering at a water cache near a dirt road. That’s a great part of hiking in the desert. It’s really social, as there aren’t many nice places to stop. As such, everyone stops at the same places; usually those with water, shade, or a block from the wind.

Sheriff, carrot, coughee (I used to say coffee, but it’s coughee), Mack, not a chance, dolphin the space traveller, big sauce, tiny and I all had a good laugh at a man we all passed. He had to be 70, but was moving really well. When carrot sheriff and I passed, he asked if we were part of the kick off at the border. “We were, started that weekend” carrot replied. “The herd finally caught me!” He responded. He must have said this to everyone who passed, as we all started that same weekend. For silly reasons, we all took offense to this.

“We are not part of the herd!” Said tiny as we all sat blocked from the wind.
“We’re ahead of the herd, you jerk!” Added sheriff, offended by be labeled as the herd (note the man was not with us at this point)
“Your mom was a day hiker!”
“And your father worked for REI!”
“You’re just a weekend warrior. The herd? Get out of here”
We were all cracking up hard. Right before leaving the wind block te man caught back up. “All together, the herd!” He said excitedly. We all burst out laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding me”

It was a long, hot hike up 3000 feet from the cache. It was fun all hiking together. At the top, there was a great little rock outcropping. It looked nice and fun, so I dropped my pack and ran over to it. A few good scrambling moves to get to the top, where I was greeted with amazing views of the desert and Mohave. Soon carrot and dolphin walked by and saw me on top. “Come, join me!” I yelled. They both made it to the top, though noticeably timid by the exposure as mix of rock scrambles to get to the top. It was a fun little excursion, and reminded me of the mountain climbing I spent all last summer doing. It made me nostalgic for climbing with my friends back at home. I thought of Brandon, Dan, mark, Ali, Lamar, Krista and all of my other mountain climbing friends I learned so much from last summer. It made me excited for the sierras where I’ll tackle some class 3 routes up some great peaks I have planned.

Back on the trail we cruised to walker pass campground. Most hikers went to town at lake Isabella, and only dolphin, tiny, carrot, and I were staying, as we had enough food for the next 52 miles to Kennedy meadows. We had a fun night, meeting Will, from the uk, and Josh, from the Bay Area. It was a windy night, and looked as if it may rain, so I set up the tarp for just the 2nd time on the trip. I didn’t like it. Cowboy camping is far superior 🙂

Day 27, May 21st
Start: walker pass camp, mile 652
End: camp at 672
Miles hiked: 20.

Nice early morning up and out of camp. It was overcast, and we cruised up the side of a mountain. With a simple turn, we were greeted with a grand view of the Mohave and some jagged mountains. It was the first time getting service in days, so we all took time to contact friends and family, upload blogs, pictures, etc. mungo even face timed his brother who’s in japan. The views were amazing, as the dessert was sunny, and the mountains were low and jagged reaching up out of the desert floor.

As we hiked further the clouds began to congregate, and the temperature dropped considerably. Guthrie, will, carrot, mungo and I stopped for water at a nice little spring. As it started to drizzle we all took off, attempting to tackle another 3000 foot gain. Right as we took off, it began to rain. As we climbed higher the rain came down harder and harder until it was a downpour. I was not prepared for this. I had sold my umbrella some 500 miles back, and all I had was a little wind jacket. Although good in a drizzle, it’s useless in a downpour. The temp got really low as we climbed, and soon I had no feeling in my feet or hands. I was drenched head to toe, as if I had just jumped in a pool. Soon I lost feeling in my legs as arms, and the wind had me shivering like crazy. I began to limp, and knew I was getting very close to being hypothermic. I put my hands in my pockets to warm up, and gimped along looking for a place to set up the tarp. The tarp would be my only way to get warm. After a very tough mile of shivering I found a slanted area where the water wouldn’t pool up. There were puddles everywhere on the saddle I was on. I did a few jumping jacks, let out a loud yell, and began tying my tarp to some trees while fighting the freezing rain (which had turned to mixed hale and rain at this point) and biting winds. I got the tarp up just in time before I lost function of my fingers. I sloppily put my tyvek on the ground and took out my sleeping bag. Everything was soaking wet. Nothing was dry besides my down parka. And thank goodness for that. Soon carrot walked by “yes! How in the wild did you get this set up? I can’t feel my hands.” She said shivering. I was under my bag shaking uncontrollably. “Are you ok? Get in!” Carrot was in better shape than I was, and quickly got set up. We sat there and shivered like crazy under out bags. “We’re going to be ok.” I said, though I still wasn’t sure. It was a terrible few hours trying to get warm with everything soaking wet. We tried to talk as much as we could to keep up morale. We were worried about all of our other friends on the trail. It was an extremely scary situation to be in. I was so happy to have my tarp, and a synthetic sleeping bag that could warm me even wen it was wet. The cold was just unavoidable. It was the first time since last summer that I’ve really gotten myself into a very bad situation outdoors. It was a rough night, and I didn’t sleep much at all, as I was cold and wet all night. Luckily I stopped shivering and was able to avoid a scary situation. We were only a day from being to Kennedy meadows and out of the desert, and I couldn’t help but feel as though this was the desert giving us a final farewell. One last trick up its sleeve.

Day 28, May 22nd
Start: saddle at 672
End: Kennedy meadows general store camp, mile 703
Miles hiked: 31

I woke up still cold and waited for the sun to show. As it did, I made my way up and out. Everything was soaking wet, and the clouds were still socked up in these mountains. Shit. No way to dry anything. I put in my stiff, half frozen socks and shoes. Ran around for a second to get them bearable, and sloshed my wet gear into my soaking wet backpack. I found a scorpion under the tarp in camp. Slept with us and used our heat to stay warm, I bet. It was just a little guy, and I had all I could do to get a picture of him.

The trail went down several thousand feet to a small stream. I began to warm on the way down from the exercise. The first time I felt warmth in what felt like ages. Wen carrot and I get the spring there was sun and we took advantage by drying everything we could. Soon we heard chatter down the trail. I knew just who t was.

“Coughee!!” I yelled.
“You guys are ok! Ahhh so glad to see you!” He yelled back.

Coughee, Sherpa, the boss, and Sherrif had camped just a mile behind us last night. They told us some serious tales. Coughee and sheriff were ahead, both hypothermic and couldn’t get coughees tent fully up as their hands couldn’t get it done. Up comes Sherpa, “you hypothermic, boys?!?” I can just picture him psyched about the weather. He got their tent set up, was throwing them their clothes as he ordered boss to do jumping jacks and calisthenics. Once coughee and sheriff were taken care of he set up the tent for he and the boss and ordered the boss in, having her do sit ups in the tent as he got her mattress blown up and dry clothes to her. He then proceeded to boil water for everyone. Before getting into the tent. Sounds like he really saved the day, as coughee and sheriff were in terrible shape. They said he honestly might have saved their lives. Sherpa is the man, and clearly knows what to do in situations like those. I was glad I had the base knowledge to know what to do in a situation like that. I was also glad I had enough dexterity to set up the tent. However I felt stupid that I let myself get that close to the edge. Very scary. Either way, we were all here, and all made it through the night alright. I could tell they were equally happy to see us and know that we were ok. We’ve all bonded so much out here, and it’s great to know that others really care about you and are thinking about you. Were all in this together, and that sense of community is great.

As we sat getting water, the clouds were gaining momentum again. Just like yesterday, we had another 3,000 foot climb, and none of us wanted a repeat of last night. We all took ibuprofen, some energy food, and put in our head phones. We were coming close to running up the mountains trying to beat the impeding rain. Coughee, Sherrif and I were up and over the mountain quickly. No breaks, just walking as quickly as we could. We soon were at the bottom, and from here it was only 9 miles to Kennedy meadows. We re-energized and began hiking quickly again in a beautiful valley filled with granite walls typical of the sierras. Before long it was raining on us. We could see the trajectory of the storm and thought we may be able to run by it. We had only our base weight at this point (no food, no water), so we literally picked up the poles and began running. Running fast. Right by several hikers.

“Hey! That’s cheating!!!”
“What the hell?”

They all laughed as we ran swiftly past. About 5 miles later we had beaten the rain. Clear skies to Kennedy! We hiked fast, and were greeted by a group of 15 or so hikers standing on the deck of the general store. They all began hooting and hollering at our arrival. We wee literally being cheered in by all of our friends. “Woooooo. Woody! Coughee!! Twinkle!!!!” As they clapped. It felt so good. After many smiles and hugs we all shared stories over several beers. Everyone so happy to see each other after that crazy cold storm. It felt great. Like one huge family. A few hours later and carrot, the boss, and Sherpa rolled in to a thunderous applause. The evening was perfect. Filled with laughter, burgers, beer, whiskey, smiles, and stories of our most embarrassing moments on the trail. The spirits of everyone were high. I retired to bed happy. How great it is to be out here. How great it is to be with new friends. Those who truly care for one another. We’re one big family out here. All in it together. How sweet it is.

Day 28, May 23rd
Zero in Kennedy meadows

Today I’m organizing and getting ready for the sierras. New backpack for this 300 mile stretch. New sleeping bag (5 degree down bag), along with climbing gloves, gopro, and other things needed for the cold and snow. It’ll be a much heavier load for me, but I’m ready for it. I’ve sent the backpack and quilt I’ve been using ahead to south Lake Tahoe, where I’ll switch the gear again.

I drink Mountain Dew. Eat burgers and extra candy my parents and uncle Ron and aunt Francis sent. I share some goodies with the family of hikers. They all know my uncle Ron by name from all he’s sent. They all give their thanks! Everything sent ahead is used by someone. Gloves and flashlight to dolphin, who desperately needed both. Shampoo shared by all who shower here. Excess food devoured so quickly. This is the life.

I’ll head out early in the morning. I want to get 30 miles in. My sister Monica and her boyfriend joe are meeting me near cottonwood pass. That’s 50 miles for me from here. I’ll likely catch them in two days. I am so so soooo excited to see her. She’s my best friend, and I’ve missed her a ton on the trail. She loves hiking and climbing, so it’ll be great to get out with her. Afterwards she’s going to New Zealand for a chunk of her summer, all for free due to a grant she got by writing an essay. She’s so smart! I’m extremely jealous, as hope she meets Mack who could give her some tips for when she’s there.

I’m about to head into the sierras, my favorite mountain range ever. There will be no service, the the updates may not come for a week or two. I have plans to climb many mountains (snow permitting) and really take my time and enjoy it. I’ve done the John muir trail twice through the sierras, and it’s my favorite place I’ve ever been, hands down. What lies ahead for me? I have no idea. But it will be with friends, it will be adventurous, it will be beautiful, and it will surely be a mental and physical struggle.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.