Today was not what I was expecting at all. I got out right at 6 AM and got to Sonora pass right about 5:30 PM, but nearly everything in between was a total surprise. I also passed the 1000 mile milestone, but I missed seeing it on the ground and didn’t think about it until I was two and a half miles past it, so there was no running back up the trail to look for it this time.
I made the two miles to Dorothy pass, where I had been trying to get to the day before, in about 45 minutes and I’m glad I stopped where I did because the camping area was full. It would have been 8:45 PM and hunting for a tentsites in the dark would not have been fun and neither would going another mile or two in the dark. Good thing I stopped when I did.
I had a quick stop at 8 and another one at 10 and loaded up on water then. As I was filling water bottles, I saw a guy run by with a quick hello. And when I say run, I mean run. He was doing a slow 12:00 min/mile pace, but he was actually running. He carried a very small pack of perhaps 15 liters. He had on compression socks and used poles. After he had gone out of view, I began to wonder if this was a runner attempting to set the speed record. It would make sense that if you are running 50 miles per day for 50 days, that you would want a nice slow pace. Confirmation with other hikers later in the day confirmed that he was indeed trying to set the speed record. No one caught his name. I’ll try to figure it out later. (I confirmed that who I saw was indeed Karel Sabbe, a 26 year old Belgian. He hiked “jogged” the trail in 52 days, 8 hours, 25 minutes. That’s about 4 times faster than I hiked it, and I was not lollygagging)
I saw a few other people during the day. A couple that I did not get names of and a guy named Squatch kept leapfrogging with me all day. There were also more south bounders today.
The trail had ups and downs, but it was not cluttered with rocks with big steps. Most of it was a grade less than two percent and was nice hiking. I was able to make good time and the scenery was nice.
Shortly after 11 am, the trail exited the trees and began to climb. And climb and climb. It was graded well with lots of switchbacks, but the mountain was just volcanic talus that was hard to walk on in some spots. The scenery, however, was amazing. Rough rocky mountains everywhere and lots of snow. I pushed on until 12:30 to get to the top to have lunch. Where I at lunch was about five feet from a 1000 ft sheer drop. Scary, but great scenery.
The rest of the day was exactly like this. High altitude hiking above treeline with lots of snow fields. Only one was difficult, all the others just another mass of snow to cross. I met a couple with a golden retriever who seemed to love the snow. He would just run along the tops of the sun cups making his own path.
We could see the highway when we were still three trail miles away, but only one mile as the crow flies. That’s the penalty for good switchbacks. They make the trail easier, but much longer.
I made it to the highway right at 5:30 and only three cars passed in thirty minutes, but lucky number three picked me up and took me to Northern Kennedy Meadows. Yes, same name as the one three hundred miles south of me. That one is the name of a town, this one is the name of a park.
I checked into the bunkhouse, took a shower, then did laundry. I scoped out the general store which seems to be well stocked, but did not buy any food yet. I needed to unpack the bear canister first to take inventory of what I have left. I went to the restaurant and had a craving for steak, which they took care of.
The store and restaurant both open at 6 am so I’ll get my resupply done then and grab a breakfast before hitching out to the road again. I’d like to be back on the trail by 9 or 10 if possible. Next resupply stop is South Lake Tahoe.
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