Day 48: Walking to the clouds…

Day: Saturday, July 16th 2016

Miles: 1001 – 1016.1

Remote Camp 1001 – Kennedy Meadows North (Sonora Pass) 1016.1

Morning routines and mundane actions. All they need is a little kick every now and then. I resolved a long time back to remove coffee from my resupply. Why I punished myself with such a dumb and senseless act of self-treachery I’ll never know, but in Tuolumne Meadows I managed to snag two portions of Nescafé single serve coffee and I decided that one was going to be consumed this morning. Oh how glorious. Routine be damned. I decamped with a fervor I hadn’t experienced in a little while. Add to that, Nelson arrived just around the time I was about to hit the trail. We had lost each other yesterday and seemingly he was just a little was behind, camped out of view. I hit the trail in a caffeine infused haze (potentially also a little affected by the Deet I sprayed straight in my face accidentally at the get-go).

The morning was brisk and accompanied by a healthy swarm of persistent mosquitos, but my pace was good and the terrain even. No major water carries were needed until later and so my feet were light under the morning sun and the miles fell away as we aimed for the haul up to the heights just south of Sonora Pass. This pass was an inverse of the usual, instead of us following a south to north track and passing the high point of the pass, we bisected an east west pass so we ascended a height, before dropping into a pass and then ascending the far side once again.

The ascent eventually started with a marked change in terrain once we took a pronounced swing to the north out of the river valley we camped in. The terrain was almost lunar-like up ahead with no vegetation and an enormously intimidating switchback that probably extended into the miles rather than feet in terms of length.

The visible signs of melting snow highlighted the exposure of these faces and the difficulties prior hikers faced – with multiple areas of scramble zones and alternate paths taken by hikers to evade the snow. The terrain and views were simply breathtaking as I rose higher and higher up the approaches.

Topping out on this section, I realized that this enormous pass and expansive views had no formal name listed in the guide, just an extension of the greater Sonora Pass that was still miles ahead. Accordingly there was still much ascending to do in order to top out on this elevation gain, as well as an incredible snow descent on the other side of the mountain a few miles ahead.

Stopping for some culinary delights in the form of everything/anything dipped in peanut butter was also part of the mornings activities:

As the trail swung to the east side of the mountains, some cell coverage came into view allowing for some welcome communications with family for a brief moment.

I finally topped out at a sign for the appropriately named Emigrant Wilderness before a huge and spectacular descent into Sonora pass itself.

On the descent I passed a backcountry ski area, with recent signs that a snowboarder was making the most of the last snow patches to cut some lines. The drop down to Sonora Pass was rapid, and at this point myself and Nelson were again hiking together so we took it slow as the loose gravel and excitement of getting to civilization is exactly where you go twisting ankles and doing some silly stuff on the trail. With a successful arrival in the early afternoon, we started the job of hitching to our destination, Kennedy Meadows North, confusingly named, given there is a Kennedy Meadows at the south end of the Sierras, but who am I to complain!

I lucked out with a quick ride (almost too quick) to KMN. I somehow managed to snare a ride with a trail angel (unbeknownst to me) who asked for a donation at the end of the ride – with only $10 in my wallet, it ended up being a very expensive ride and possibly a learning experience to be a little slower when things like rides present themselves to you a little too easily. Regardless I made it to KMN and it was time to relax and get some ice cream! Nelson and myself got accommodated at the special original cabin which was the general store in the area in the 1800’s, in Northern California history that is effectively as old as it gets and the cabin was absolutely beautiful with three-quarter sized doors and enormous wooden beams.

I settled into KMN quickly. It has a very relaxed pace despite being a busy pack station, with cowboys and summer hikers, thru-hikers and horse riders all congregating at the good restaurant. Prices were always reasonable, showers excellent and it was heavenly to have clean laundry. We shared the room with a thru-hiking couple and a guy from Auburn, CA (trail named Dad) who was awaiting his son after a mixup in Glen Aulin led to them losing each other on the trail. Nelson and myself took in “Dad” and had a really great evening meal, talking trail and work and life and all those things in the real world that we have formed great opinions on lately (in the solitude of the trail!). I enjoyed one of the best nights sleep yet in my little log cabin, looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.

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