Days 137-140 – rock creek to walker pass
September 4-7 | SOBO Miles 1893-2001
From Rock Creek, I climbed up and out of Sequoia National Park. I slapped the sign informing me that I was crossing the park boundary, stoked to have the land of giants behind me.
At Cottonwood Pass I got cell service for the first time in 8 days, and it was weird to find out once again that life had gone on in my absence. A quick call to my worried mother later I had drained my battery allotment for the day and it was time to go.
The trail wound me downhill gradually and I felt myself leaving the mountains and entering the desert. On the way I ran into an old pal, Saunter (which was wild because since leaving the JMT I had seen not a single soul), and we hung for a while before I kept on keeping on, well aware of my timeline and dying to finish. He left me with an enthusiastic “see you in court!” in reference to our cabin crashing stunt back in Old Station. Ha.
I hiked late into the night, ending around 32 miles and enjoying the last bits of sunset I could get without veering into mountain lion hours.
In the morning a moody sky blanketed the mountains and I could tell I was in for more rain. It made for a beautiful sunrise. But come hell or high water I was making it to Kennedy Meadows by the time the General Store closed at 5PM.
Sure enough, I got doused for an hour on my first climb of the day. I walked out of the squall and on the other side there were miles of soaked, overgrown trail and creeping, spikey bushes waiting to ambush me. It was a long morning.
Eventually I was spit out into a meadow full of cows and crossed the Kern River for the first time.
I took a dip around lunch as the clouds gave way to a blazing hot sun. With wet clothes and 5 miles to Kennedy Meadows, I carried on across the desert plain.
And it rained on me one more time before I got there.
I hit the General Store with my priorities aligned: first a veggie burger and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, then a small shopping trip for 1.5 days’ more worth of food. The pickings were slim. My purchase consisted of 1 large Gatorade, 2 ramens, 2 Rice Krispies, 1 Twix, 1 Reese’s, 2 Fig Newtons, and 4 packets of instant oatmeal. Just enough to scrape by.
As fate would have it, it began raining cats and dogs as soon as I got there. And so I was stuck (or, being told to stay put). The downside was that both the $2 2-hour WiFi pass I’d bought AND the electrical outlets all stopped working once the storm hit, meaning I was cut off from outside communications and power once again. The sky cleared within a few hours, and with less than a 25% charge in my power bank, I hit the road for the last time. The townsfolk wished me well as they waved goodbye, all happily drinking beers on the patio of the store and playing with the Australian Shepherd puppies running amok there.
To too it all off, on my way out, I was treated to the most gorgeous rainbow. The sign of God’s promise.
Happily buzzed and ready to start my 48-hour countdown, I set off and hiked 3 more miles to a sandy oasis under a technicolor sky.
The next morning I rolled out knowing it would be my last full day of hiking. Whoa. The first portion of the day had me climb 2000something feet up Chimney Peak, which, while nice and easy after some of the rough stuff I’d seen in the week prior, was HOT.
And so was the whole day. There was one single water source in 30 miles, and it was full of algae and dead bugs. Tasty! I drank like I had not seen water in a month. Here’s hoping I don’t have a second round of giardia.
I didn’t take many pictures this day, in part because I was cruising like nobody’s business, but mostly because the afternoon introduced me to a desert plague of little black flies, the likes of which I had never seen. They sent me into full-blown panic mode, swarming my face by the dozens, and I actually had to put on my bug net for the first time on this trip. Classic. They pestered me all afternoon and I willed my mind to ignore them, which was way harder than it sounds since it was also 90° and the last thing I wanted was to cover my head in mesh.
Around 5, they let up a tad and I could deal with 2-3 of them buzzing around my face. Mostly I was stoked because I was closing in in a big way. I ended the night with just 17.5 miles to go, enjoying an unbelievable sunset and prime campsite. I got a little emotional, of course.
So emotional, in fact, that I felt compelled to take a pic of my final dinner on trail.
I woke up the next morning ready to go at it with the black flies again. I was up bright and early, in time to watch the sun rise over the desert through my bug net.
I had 3000 feet of climbing in the AM before I crested the last big hill of the day. At the top I got a wide-open view of the Owens Valley and what seemed like the whole Mojave beyond it. Then the miles started to fly by as I half-hiked and half-jogged my way downhill with only 6 miles (2 hours of hiking) to go.
I was jamming. With 1 mile left to go I stopped, took a deep breath, and said a prayer of gratitude for the strength that got me to this point. Then I started skipping down the switchbacks, knowing first and foremost that I was near food (all I’d had to eat in those 17.5 miles was oatmeal and a Rice Krispie) and also that my mom and aunt were waiting at the trailhead and I was less than 20 minutes away.
I started seeing the highway and it felt unreal. 5+ months of walking and 2652 miles later, I was about to finish the PCT.
Switchback by switchback, I inched closer to the road. And then I turned a corner and saw the two of them standing there and totally freaked out. I let out a loud wolf howl and started full-on running downhill as the two of them turned around and started jumping up and down and yelling back at me. I was just concentrating on trying not to trip. My mom yells, “she looks like she’s in The Hunger Games!”
I got within 20 feet of her and she started running up to me in her flip flops and yoga pants. I giggled and gave her a huge stinky hug (she was traumatized, I would later find out) and then gave another to my aunt Debbie (who’s known in the family as Uncle Debbie from way back when, when a baby relative called her that because he didn’t know the word aunt), who was equally traumatized. We took some celebratory pics:
Then they made me rinse off and change clothes because I was “offensive.” I found this hilarious.
Our car ride back to LA took us past the trailer parks, gas stations, and ghost towns of the Mojave, as well as some beautiful landscapes the likes of which my mom had never seen (this was her first drive through a desert!). We passed the exit for Rosamond, where my dad had brought us trail magic four months ago. There were the wind farms again. It was a funny reminder, being almost back at the beginning for the end.
On the drive I mowed down a whole box of kale, an avocado, some fresh melon and berries, and a piece of birthday cake (all of us had one actually) and was finally satiated. It felt so good to eat real food again.
Before we knew it we were in LA, hanging out and chatting up the hotel bellman, known as “Jordan theee Bellman” because this is LA, and meeting my cousin Megan for dinner a few hours later. We took the weekend to chill, go to the beach, and visit as well with my cousin Lily and her family, who live in Santa Monica. I couldn’t have imagined a better way for this trip to end and I feel so lucky and fortunate to have made it the whole way, and in the wacky way that it happened.
I’m back home now, having flipped, slipped, and tripped my way down the PCT, trying to figure out what to do next. The trail has taught me things I have yet to realize or articulate, so it will be an interesting transition back into having a career. But after a few days back in the real world I certainly have family, friends, dogs, a kitchen, and a bed to give thanks for.
As for the blog, I’ll update it when I take hiking trips in the future, many of which I’m sure will include my dog (I’m looking at you, CT section of the AT), and who knows, I might do another crazy long trail in the future.
Thank you so much for following and supporting me to the end. I am so glad I was able to reach all of you–and you’ve shared your own stories and adventures with me and for those memories I will always be thankful. Good luck and much love to all of you!