A light rain fell through much of the night. The overnight temperature had been chilly, but when the sun came up the temperature continued to drop.
There was no need to rush today. We had less than nine miles of trail to hike, plus a couple more miles of road walking. I stayed in my tent and listened to the rain.
When it seemed to stop at 7 a.m., I began packing and preparing for my last day in the desert.
|Date||Thursday, May 16, 2019|
|Weather||Rain, becoming partly cloudy, then snow |
|Trail Conditions||Nearly flat|
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a fortunate time to leave the trail. An unusual storm was heading this way. By tomorrow, hikers up and down the trail, south to Tehachapi and north into the Sierra Nevada, would be severely impacted by it.
Hikers on the trail were about to experience soaking rain at lower elevations and snow at higher elevations, with an accompanying drop in temperatures.
An extra one to two feet of snow was expected in the Sierra at elevations above 8,000 feet.
A light rain began to fall again when I started walking at 8 a.m. Actually, it might have been raining before that. At times, the precipitation was such a fine mist I couldn’t tell if it was raining or not.
Water droplets glistened and sparkled on tree branches as the sun tried to burn through the clouds. By 9 a.m. the sun was able to poke through enough that a brilliant rainbow hung low against the sagebrush on the valley floor.
The trail was mostly flat for the whole distance to Kennedy Meadows. There weren’t any climbs to speak of and the only descent was gradual as it led to the Kern River.
After walking a little less than 4.5 miles, I came to the river. The headwaters of the Kern started as snowmelt from Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states.
A total of 151 miles of the river are protected as a National Wild and Scenic River.
The trail followed the river bank for just over a mile. When it parted from the river, a wide meadow came into view.
“Aha!” I thought. “This must be Kennedy Meadows.” In fact, it was a series of meadows, which explains why the word is used in its plural form.
A mile later I arrived at a marker showing I had walked 700 miles since leaving the Mexican border. While I was there, Spamala, Falls, and Just Awesome caught up to me.
We each took turns posing for pictures standing at the marker.
We also tried to take take a group selfie, but even Just Awesome's arms weren’t long enough to frame us and the rock marker in the photo.
From here we were heading to a restaurant in Kennedy Meadows called Grumpy Bears Retreat and we had two options for reaching a road to take us there. One was just four-tenths of a mile to a shortcut side trail. The other was 2.2 miles away. We agreed to take the longer route.
We would need to walk the extra distance eventually, we figured, so we decided to do it now.
Snow began to fall as we walked to the road leading to Grumpy Bears. The temperature by now had dropped to just above freezing.
By the time we reached the road, snow was collecting on trees and shrubs, but the temperature wasn’t cold enough for it to accumulate on the ground.
After stopping to pose for another selfie, a resident and trail angel named Tom pulled up in his truck and asked if we wanted a ride. We weren’t about to turn down that offer, especially because his truck was the only vehicle we had seen on the road.
Tom used to operate a hostel-of-sorts, but that was shut down by county officials because of zoning and licensing regulations.
Grumpy Bears was a good place to warm up and relax. The food service was slow, so there was plenty of time to do that. There were several other hikers here, including Marmalade, a hiker I had not seen since Hiker Heaven.
Unexpectedly, Captain and Gilligan arrived about the same time we did. They had rented a van in Ridgecrest, so now we had our transportation all set for returning to town.
Besides Grumpy Bears, there were just two other businesses in Kennedy Meadows. One was a general store. If you’ve seen the movie “Wild,” the scene in which Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) arrives at Kennedy Meadows supposedly took place there. It didn’t look anything like the movie depicted, though.
The other business was Triple Crown Outfitters, which was operated out of a shipping container next door to Grumpy Bears. The store was surprisingly well-stocked, considering the small space.
It was operated by Jackie “Yogi” McDonnell and Matt “Worldwide” Signore, two experienced hikers who know what thru-hikers need while on the trail.
I walked over to the store to pick up a bear canister I had ordered before I started my hike. Bear canisters are required for all hikers in the Sierra, and I intended to pick it up here before entering the Sierra.
I didn’t know when I ordered it I would be flipping to Washington after arriving here. Now I needed to take the bear canister home with me. I'll have Kim ship it to me when I return to the Sierra.
I also picked up a box Kim had sent for me to Grumpy Bears. It contained clothing and a large duffel bag for my flight home. They were the same items I had sent home after I arrived at Scout and Frodo’s house to start my hike.
When everyone was well fed, we loaded our packs in Captain and Gilligan’s van and rode back to Ridgecrest.
After nearly eight weeks together, my unforgettable time with the Woohoo Crew was coming to an end.
And yet, my remarkable adventure on the PCT was far from over.