Conquering Kearsage

I spent the two days we had in Independence worrying about the climb back up to Kearsage Pass. The hike down seemed to go on forever, and that was with zero food left. It might have also been the miserable thru hikers we passed coming back up carrying 7-8 days of food that set the alarm bells off. After a productive zero day yesterday heading into Bishop to buy a new iPhone cord, visit the McDonalds and get a new phone for UB, we decided we were ready for the Kearsage gauntlet today.

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After sifting through our packs and saying goodbye to UB’s mum Sherrie and his pup Bernard, we ordered food from the nearby cafe and lazily asked if they could deliver it to the motel. The owners ended up sending their daughter with the food after we promised to tip big. This was after we unsuccessfully tried to convince a girl who worked at the pizza restaurant in Lone Pine to deliver us a pizza to Independence. She actually lived in Independence and said she would have brought us one except she wouldn’t be heading home until after midnight.

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I had one of the best sleeps on the trip and woke just in time for the incredible breakfast Strider and Doug make at the Mt Williams Motel. I even got extra bacon today on top of my huge plate of scrambled eggs and hash browns. It’s truly amazing how much food I can consume these days. At around 11am once everyone had checked out, Strider and Doug took us back to the trail head at Onion Valley. They were heading up for another quick run up to the pass and back. I couldn’t fathom that they would choose to do it for fun after the dread I’d been feeling this weekend.

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Once we got started and warmed up I actually felt really good. Getting rid of some gear has successfully lightened my pack and in two hours we were already at the top of the pass. I think we made it up the mountain quicker than it took us to walk down two days earlier. Maybe we finally are in shape?

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Because we polished that pass off so well we decided we’d also climb Glen Pass today at around 12,000 feet. The trail there passed some absolutely pristine blue lakes which we drank straight out from. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted water so fresh.

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There were quite a few switch backs after a very steep section heading up but generally the climb was relatively easy in comparison to what we’re going to face (or so we’ve been told). The opposite side of the mountain was a different story. There were quite a few sections of snow to cross and I ended up on my bottom twice and actually got my foot stuck in a deep hole which I couldn’t get myself out of. UB had to come back and pull me out carefully so I wouldn’t lose my shoe.

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We headed down to Rae Lakes to camp and once again the views were just gorgeous. At one point UB heard yelling and thought someone was injured so we diverted off course only to find a group of hikers from Korea who had gone off trail and were yelling to one another about which direction to go. We followed them back to the correct trail and set up for dinner next to one of the lakes with a beautiful waterfall rushing down and trout literally jumping out of the water. UB brought his fly fishing rod with him and caught one fish before throwing it back and tiring of the whole fishing activity after his line ended up in a huge tangled mess.

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When we reached camp the folks we slept in the hut with on Whitney were sitting by a fire so we joined them for the evening. It’s 11:30pm now, way past hiker midnight and it’s time for me to sleep. We’re cowboy camping again under the stars. I’m actually surprised we haven’t been attacked by mosquitos considering how close we are to the lakes.

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Seeking Independence

It was a challenging start to the day with exhaustion still lingering from yesterday and the cold temperature outside my tent at 4:30am in the morning. There were 16 trail miles and a 13 mile hitch standing between me and the Post Office in Independence, and from what I’d heard from other hikers, a huge amount of uphill climbing. Unfortunately they were right.

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This time I was up well before UB, but I managed to coax him out of his warm tent so we could head up the steep morning climb together. On the first climb I was so out of breath and dizzy that I had to kneel down to stop the head spins, but after some breakfast and once I was warmed up, my body started to cooperate.

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The stunning views along the Bullfrog Lake Trail heading to Kearsage Pass made the morning move quickly. The lakes in this area are pristine and I was suddenly envious of all the day and section hikers who can spend more time soaking up the beauty of this environment.

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The climb up Kearsage was long, it felt more challenging than Forrester because of the steepness and length of the climb. I was so satisfied once we reached the top, but little did I know that the trail leading down was about four times as long and that we’d have to climb back up that way with 7 days of food on Sunday. Yikes!

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Half way down to the Onion Valley trail head we passed a couple coming up the trail who stopped and asked of we were UB and Muk Muk. We were stunned and soon discovered that they were the owners of the motel that Blondie had contacted on our behalf and organised a lift for us. Stryder and Doug said they would be up and back by the time we reached the base of the trail and sure enough they even passed us before we reached the bottom.

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They took us directly to the post office where I picked up three packages, and then onto the Chevron where I had another three packages waiting. It felt like Christmas! I had my resupply box, a package from Xy with spam, Darn Tough socks and moleskin (thank you!), a package from BJ with my iPod, treats and some liquor I’ll be taking to celebrate reaching the top of the pass (thank you!), a new Ice Breaker t-shirt from beautiful Sylvie so I’ll no longer stink my way down the trail (thank you!), a care package from Penny with our old time chocolate Vice Versa treats and a beautiful letter (thank you!), and my new insoles from REI!

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I spent over an hour opening my packages, enjoying all of my new treats and gifts, then finally jumped in the shower, did laundry and got some real food in my belly!

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In the evening UB’s mum Sherrie arrived with his puppy Bernard. We scoped out the Independence nightlife but couldn’t find a place to eat after 8:30pm and opted to cook up some trail food at the motel.

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I think I’ve found myself a new trail friend…

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Peak to peak

With food levels at a critical level and the race to reach the Post Office in Independence by 4pm on Friday, I knew I needed to cross Forrester Pass the same down I descended Mt Whitney. This was going to be a big ask going 25 miles from over 14,000 feet, down to 10,000 feet, then up and over the highest pass on the PCT at 13,200 feet.

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I found myself out of breath after breakfast at the base of Whitney and was unable to keep up the pace with UB. I had to pick up my belongings from the bear box which made my pack even heavier, then begin the 13 miles to Forrester Pass. I got my second wind for the first 6 miles, then stopped for water and lunch at a little stream along the way.

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I ate a tortilla with two strip cheeses and a packet of tuna, and for the first time on the trail felt like I couldn’t finish it. The cheese was a few days old and I think after 2 months of tuna my stomach just had enough. I polished it off because the alternative was to carry it to Independence, so I had a bad taste in my mouth for the next few miles and started to feel extremely sluggish.

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The last five miles heading to Forrester went FOREVER! The climb looks very gradual at first, but it’s so constant that my legs started to feel heavy and it started to get later and later in the afternoon. It was eerily silent in the valley and I started to feel the most isolated I have on the trail. I figured anyone who was going to climb the pass would have crossed it by now, and no one else would attempt it so late in the afternoon.


After I shot the video above I heard my name being called. At first I thought I was hearing things, like the way I always hear footsteps behind me when there’s not, or the way burnt out tree stumps always look like people. After three calls I finally looked up and saw UB camped behind a huge rock just off the trail. He had already walked half way up the pass but decided to come back down because it was getting late. Thankfully this meant I didn’t have to climb it alone and UB didn’t have to camp in the cold at the bottom of the pass.

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The climb from the base wasn’t as steep as I had expected, and because the majority of climbing was done leading to the base, the distance to the top was shorter than anticipated. When we reached the ridge top covered in icy snow I knew we were nearly there. I also knew this was the spot on the trail that UB had dreaded the most.


Once we made it across the treacherous ridge alive there was a little more climbing to do and then 4 miles of downhill to the next camp site with a bear box. There was a lot more snow on the north side of the mountain which made getting to the bottom slow, and after doing over 20 miles, my legs and knees were ready to call it a day.

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We reached camp just as the sun was starting to set. I went into auto pilot mode, set up the tent, put on warmer clothes, cooked dinner, brushed teeth, locked food in bear box and went to sleep with my alarm set for 5am.

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Exploring new heights

Instead of deciding between sunrise or sunset on top of Mt Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States at 14,496 feet; we decided why not do both? Despite reports of freezing temperatures, high winds and lightning strikes, we spoke to a ranger at Crabtree Meadow who said the weather reports were good and that the hut at the summit would protect us from the elements. We were sold!

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We started up early, UB was already packed and ready to roll by the time I woke, but I made record time dressing, packing and peeing so that we were on the trail by 6am. The cold morning air was tough on the lungs going uphill and I was already out of breath by the time we hit the bear box at the ranger station where we could leave all of our unnecessary items. I left my extra food, tent, toiletries and camp shoes to lighten the load and ensure we could carry enough water to the summit for dinner and breakfast.

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After fuelling up on top ramen noodles and tortillas we started the 7.5 mile ascent. The views along the way beside Guitar Lake and as we started climbing the switchbacks were stunning. I honestly wanted to have my camera on the ready every time we turned a corner. We filled up our water bottles straight from the last icy cold stream which was so clear you could see the rainbow trout swimming below. UB was determined to catch one with his bare hands, and 10 minutes and a few scratches later he succeeded.

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We passed a lot of hikers coming back from the peak who had arrived there for sunrise and were slowly thawing out on their way down. Everyone said the views were incredible but that it was freezing cold at the top. I had about 4 extra layers in my pack but UB only had his down and rain jacket so we were a little nervous until we bumped into Turtle and Willow who said the hut was very solid and that they wished they had have spent the night up there too!

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The trail was graded well but when the steepness reduced, the rocky scrambling increased. With the high winds the walk across the ridges felt a little sketchy, but apart from the one section of snow we were lucky with the conditions in comparison to other years.

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We were so thankful we decided to do the climb during the day, one because we could see the views and exactly where we were stepping, two because we weren’t having to breathe hard with freezing cold air, and also because we didn’t have the time rush of sunrise behind us. We arrived at the summit around 5pm which gave us plenty of time to get comfortable before sunset.

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We were the only people at the summit when we arrived and immediately set up camp in the hut, put on all of the clothing we had and made coffee. As soon as we had our sleeping bags laid out and set for the night, four other hikers arrived with the same intentions.

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There was no way anyone could sleep outside so we discussed sleeping arrangements and played human Tetris until we found sufficient floor or bench space for everyone. The wind had already picked up outside but we made a mad dash outside as the sun started to set to enjoy the gorgeous light slipping away behind the surrounding mountains.

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Once the sun went down we bunkered down in our cosy little hut, feet touching heads, hips touching knees, and the heavy wooden door banging in the wind. I don’t think I slept more than an hour between the noise of the wind outside, snoring, shuffling and sneezing. I was actually overheating all night and stripped down to only one layer as the heat produced by six bodies was immense. Just after 4am the first of the sunrise hikers burst into the hut. Coincidently it was Pac Man. He was closely followed by over 5 other hikers who all squeezed into our bedroom as we shuffled into seating positions, half asleep with our backs against the wall. Two of the hikers were suffering badly from the cold and altitude to the point they needed to be wrapped in sleeping bags and one laid down on a sleeping pad. When we started seeing light in the sky we all rugged up, took a deep breath and opened the heavy wooden door to the freezing wind outside.

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The sunrise didn’t disappoint, but we were so cold that once it had risen we went straight back into the hut to make coffee and prepare for a nippy hike down.

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Back above 11,000 feet

As expected the reintroduction to the trail and altitude yesterday (Monday 10 June) is still taking its toll on both UB and I. I felt pretty zonked leaving Lone Pine, but after the long drive 4,000 feet up into the mountains I was even worse for wear. I think I struggled more than UB, even with his sore knee, for the first 2.5 miles up to the PCT. I didn’t utter a word the entire way up, I simply had no energy.

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Our goal was to reach Chicken Spring Lake at mile 750, a total of 8 miles from where we were dropped off. We made good time with UB setting the pace and walked through some gorgeous scenery as we made our way to the lake. It was absolutely stunning and by far one of the nicest camp sites we’d stayed at. The first task on UB’s agenda was to hang our additional food bag in a tree. This was certainly one of his first attempts.


We woke early, had breakfast, then as I was getting water from the lake to clean the pots I spotted another hiker camped just across the lake. I couldn’t see his face but I could tell immediately from his body language that it was Pac Man. He had only just woken up so we joined him for coffee and a second breakfast and then a nap in the morning sun. The nap continued on until just after 11am which meant we didn’t hit the trail until noon.

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The plan was to only hike 10 miles to the next campsite with water and a bear box. We took a few good rest stops along the way and made it to camp alongside Rock Creek by 6pm. The trail descended for the last 6 or more miles which was tough on my knees and certainly UB’s. The idea of doing 10 miles today means we can either have a short 6 mile day tomorrow, rest and then hit the trail to Mt Whitney after midnight for sunrise, OR, we could summit Whitney tomorrow and then camp at the base tomorrow night. I counted my meals tonight and I only have two breakfasts and three dinners to get me to Independence, so the latter option may be our only choice, unless we can Yogi some extra food from the day hikers up there. We also need to judge how UB’s knee is feeling.

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Tonight I made a fire and Pac Man broke up a tone of wood so we could keep warm while we made dinner. I don’t think tonight will be as cold as last night with a freezing wind cutting across the lake. I think we’re a little more protected down here at 9,517 feet.

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Lone Pine residents

After four days in this cowboy town, having sampled every cafe, bakery and saloon, I almost feel like a resident. I’m on a first name basis with the folks at Elevation, the outdoor gear store, and the waitress at the Alabama Hills cafe has served me breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. She even gave us a free cinnamon bun because we polished off the four plates of food she put in front of us the first time we ate there.

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The two full days of rest have been good on UB’s knee, so hopefully when we hit the trail this afternoon he’ll be able to walk without too much pain. He’s got a serious knee brace and a stock of Ibuprofen to get him through to Independence. We’ve also combined some of our food and gear to lighten both of our packs and take some of the weight off. I have sent both my ice axe and bear canister full of a few unnecessary items to Ladybug to pick up during her trip through Cascade Locks.

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I’ve also consumed more food during this town stop than any other. My feet are in good shape at the moment and my pack is now an acceptable weight. I even spoke to Chris at ULA packs today and he’s going to send me a new smaller hip belt to Independence on the house, because one of the zips had broken. Thank you Chris, you’re a champion!

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Both Wendy and Lion King arrived in town yesterday and we’ve bumped into a host of other hikers. Most have come off the trail at Kearsage Pass after Whitney and Forrester Pass so UB and I will be behind our usual pack and will soon get to know some of the new herd coming up.

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I just polished off a bag of pecan squares that Wendy gave us and am drinking my first Red Bull of the trip. I’m actually feeling wiped out by the thought of transitioning back to the trail. It’s never easy, especially after this amount of time.

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We’ve settled on spending $15 a person to get a ride back up to the trail. Joclyn from Elevation will drive us up at 2pm in just under an hour. Until then we’ll continue to gorge on whatever we can get our hands on and see if we can push to Chicken Spring Lake 9 trail miles ahead.

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NoBo to SoBo

So much happened yesterday after I wrote down my reflections from the trail that I’ve only just found the time to sit and update you from the quiet cowboy town of Lone Pine. The events which brought me here occurred as follows…

At 11am I was still sitting at my small campsite wondering what had happened to UB. A handful more hikers passed me and reiterated the story of him camping near the spring at mile 731 the evening before. When Dingo and Mud told me he had hurt his knee and wasn’t his usual spritely self, I started to wonder if I should go and look for him and take one of the new knee braces Dr Sole had given me.

I decided to leave my pack behind with the squirrel that was throwing pine cones at my head, and take just a litre of water, some trail mix and my hiking poles with me. Initially I thought I’d walk for an hour, and if I didn’t see him by then, I’d turn back. I passed a few groups of hikers on the way including a trio from New Zealand who I hadn’t met before. All reported passing UB at different points in the day so it was hard to get a sense of how far back he was until I saw Sierra Bum, Werewolf and Maraika who said they passed him half a mile back sitting in the shade. They said he would be super stoked to have company again.

When his red hat finally came into view I almost started skipping down the trail and I could tell from his body language he had no idea who I was until I called out his name. He sprung up in shock despite his sore knee and it took a few minutes until he could comprehend I was actually there and how I came to be there. He thought when I came into view that I was a SoBo (southbound) day hiker who wasn’t carrying any food.

His knee was in bad shape but he put on the knee brace and I carried his pack (which felt like a day hiker’s pack compared to mine) and we walked back to my campsite and backpack via the stream I filled up at the night before. Not only had UB hurt his knee, but he’d also run out of his Aquamira drops to sterilise water after the bottle leaked. He was using a cross between a kettle and a billy to boil the water after his cooking pot ended up over the ridge along with his hiking poles on Black Friday. He was in a state of shock and relief and managed to hobble the 4 miles to collect my backpack and then continue on another 5 miles after boiling up some coffee.

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We headed to the Horseshoe Meadow trail head which led down the mountain to a road that leads to Lone Pine.
We made the decision to exit the trail not only because of UB’s knee, but because neither of us would have had enough food to slow down to 10-15 mile days and still make it to Independence. It was another 2.5 miles down to Horseshoe Meadow but the scenery was postcard perfect, and despite losing the trail momentarily, we reached the campsite and trail head at the other end in just over an hour.

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Our optimism turned to concern when the car park we reached was empty and the options for a ride looked slim to none. I heard a car in the distance on the road ahead and literally unclipped my pack as I started running and let it fall to the ground as I sprinted after the car and waved it down. I was lucky it had stopped 50 meters down the road next to another vehicle. I completely interrupted the conversation between the two drivers when I raced up panting, spurting out the fact that I was a PCT hiker and my hiking partner was injured and we were in desperate need of a ride to Lone Pine. One of the guys (Ian) was British and joked that there was no way he could help out an Aussie. They said they would need to move a few things from one vehicle to the other and would then spin around and come and pick us up!

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We were so relieved but after 10 minutes of waiting with the two cars out of view we wondered if they had maybe changed their minds. During the wait another car pulled up with a man named Keith who asked if we were in need of a lift. He only had room for one but was prepared to move things around if necessary. We decided to wait for Ian to return so Keith pulled out a cold beer for each of us while we waited. Trail magic returns!

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Sure enough Ian and his rock climbing mate Tim returned and drove us over 20 miles and at least 4000 feet down to Lone Pine. On the trail you don’t often have any perspective of how high up you are. It wasn’t until we drove down the winding switchbacks that we had any appreciation of just how high up we had been. The temperature was also noticeably higher, even at 7pm in the evening.


We were so thankful to Ian and Tim for the lift as they had driven entirely out of their way only to turn around and drive all the way back up the mountain. We’ve heard since it’s very difficult to get a ride back to the trail. Some people charge up to $30 per person.
We checked into the Dow Villa Motel and went straight to McDonalds where UB ordered 5 cheeseburgers and I polished off my own huge burger and one of his leftovers.

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Lone Pine is home to many old western films with gorgeous views of the mountains including Whitney in the background and huge rocky boulders surrounding the town. Depending on UB’s knee and the ability to reduce some pack weight by posting gear ahead, we’ll either leave tomorrow or Monday morning.

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Time to reflect

I found it hard to fall asleep last night, probably because I only walked 10 miles, had a late morning and got to camp with three hours of daylight remaining. The other reason was the stars were so vibrant that I couldn’t stop watching them and thinking to myself how lucky I was to be lying in the middle of the wilderness, totally alone, snuggled in my sleeping bag with such a natural silence surrounding me.

If you told me five years ago when I learned about the PCT from Ladybug that I would be in the situation I was last night I never would have believed you. I’d barely ever gone hiking before and I’d certainly never camped overnight in the wilderness without a car full of supplies and other people surrounding me.

What I love about this trail is that the people it attracts are just ordinary people looking for adventure, a way to escape, or an experience that will change their life. Of course there are some hard core hiking enthusiasts out here, but everyone I’ve met is still learning something new each and every day. Whether it’s navigation, gear, food or maintaining your own physical condition, no one has all elements figured out just yet.

There is so much information and advice out there for people preparing long distance hikes like the PCT. It’s definitely overwhelming, and when you start from little experience like myself it’s hard to know where to even begin. At the end of the trail I plan to write a full review on gear and pass on the lessons I learned from my experience. Everyone’s preferences are different, but there’s definitely some commonalities that the majority of hikers will agree on.

Yesterday while I was hiking I thought I should start making some notes on what has been important and worked for me so far on the trail so here it goes…

Navigation:
I started the trail will 250 pages of printed maps created by Halfmile. I ditched these at the kickoff because I already had them downloaded as PDFs on my PCTHYOH app. This app is awesome. You’ll need a few days and good wifi to cache all of the maps, water report and other links conveniently captured in a single app. The other app I swear by is Halfmile’s PCT app. So far I haven’t needed any other tool to guide me through the trail. The other app I do have is Guthook’s Hiking Guides separated into SoCal, Sierras, NorCal, Oregon and Washington. This app is great if you find yourself off trail and need to find your way back because you use it just like Google maps and follow the blue GPS dot back to the trail. If you like looking at detailed maps this may not work for you, but if you simply want to go in the right direction and avoid getting lost this is more than enough. Generally the trail is marked incredibly well. You don’t need cell reception to get a GPS signal so it’s worked for me everywhere so far.

Gear:
This one is tricky, and I’ll go into more detail after the hike, but at the moment this is what I carry:
– ULA Catalyst backpack
– Tarptent Moment one person tent
– Thermarest Z-lite sleeping pad
– Piece of Tyvek for a ground sheet
– Suntactics solar panel
– iPhone 4S and charger
– Black Diamond hiking poles
– Stuff sack for dinner and breakfast food
– Stuff sack for lunch and snacks
– 4L MSR hydration bladder
– 1L Platypus foldable bottle
– 1L Gatorade bottle
– Caldera Cone stove with the plastic casing for bowl and cup
– Titanium 600ml cooking pot from Cadera
– Spork
– HEET to fuel stove (1 bottle should last 7 days boiling water twice a day)
– Stuff sack with clothes I’m not wearing
– First aid including sunscreen, deet, toothbrush and paste, pocket knife, blister care, medication, etc
– Pee bandana (yes for peeing)
– Wet wipes (you can never have too many)
– Yogi’s notes, data book notes and printed permits
-SPOT device
– Fake Crocs for camp shoes
– Camera and charger
– Small purse with cash and credit cards
– Passport and drivers license
– Muk Muk key ring
– Peacock key ring (from Katie & Amy)
I think that’s about it. I’ll go into more detail on clothing and first aid later on in the trip or afterwards.

Food:
I have a dedicated food page and I haven’t changed much at all from what is in my resupply boxes. I still haven’t got lunch correct, only carrying tortillas and peanut butter and some sticks of string cheese and salami. It does the job but I have lost a lot of weight on this trip and probably need something a little more hearty in the middle of the day.

Other lessons learned:
– Water is what guides your entire day. The water report for Southern California is a fantastic resource. It doesn’t continue past mile 740 something so I will need to rely on Yogi’s notes/data book/Halfmile’s app/Guthook’s app. Will let you know what works best when I figure it out myself.
– There are lots of other hikers on this trail. I’ve only had one day where I didn’t bump into another hiker.
– Shitting in the woods is not scary (although UB would probably beg to differ)
– There are many additional camping spots than what is listed on Halfmile’s maps or app. The only places you REALLY can’t camp is when you’re on a ridge heading up or down a mountain. Even then you’ll sometimes stumble across a gem.
– The trail IS well graded but there are lots of sharp rocks. If you have tender feet like me hiking boots may not be a bad option. I see quite a few hikers who swear by them.
– I was so thankful that I started the trail early and have remained somewhat ahead of the pack. Especially in a dry year I think this is a smart way to go as I’m worried about water for the folks behind me. You may also struggle with accommodation in some towns if 80 people arrive on the same day!
– Being smelly and dirty is awesome because it’s completely accepted. I still wear deodorant, even though I smell horrifically anyway, it keeps me sane.
– It’s great having a balance of hiking and camping on your own and with other hikers. This seems to happen naturally but I feel the most connected with the trail and the wilderness when I’m travelling solo. (I have more energy and I hike a lot faster when I’m with other hikers though).
– Trail angels and trail magic still overwhelms me. The fact that people go out of their way and spend their own money to make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable is astonishing.
– Hiking 20 miles a day is not what I would call fun, but the events that occur around it and the satisfaction of completing each day makes it worth while.

The reason I’ve taken the time to record these notes is because I discovered this morning that UB hurt his knee yesterday and camped about 10 miles back. Dingo and Mud said he was pretty down so I’ve decided to stay put where I camped and wait for him. I’m hoping his knee is in better shape today so that he can at least reach this spot. I’ve been asking every hiker that has passed me today for an update but all of them haven’t seen him since yesterday. I hope he’s doing alright and that I’ll see him coming down the trail soon.

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My shortest day yet

I only made it 10 miles today but it was one of the most peaceful, relaxing days on the trail with very few hikers around. As I mentioned in my previous post I left camp after the herd and stayed behind the whole day with my 3 hour phone reception break.

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There have been fighter jets flying overhead all day and the first time it occurred the sound came roaring over me like thunder and I literally jumped with fright. It’s been spectacular watching them manoeuvre through the sky all day, it’s like my own private air show.

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The environment is so gobsmacking beautiful that it’s been hard to make any mileage between photos and rest stops upon shaded groups of boulders or in the forests under the pine trees. It’s been difficult putting on the breaks after such a race to get through the desert, but after three days I think I’m getting used to the slower pace.

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Four hikers passed me today but none of them have seen UB on the trail. One had seen him eating two hamburgers at Kennedy Meadows the day he left so I guess he’s been fattening up. He suggested I call the General Store to see if he’d left yet, and when I did they told me they hadn’t seen him today and another hiker said he left yesterday. I guess if he doesn’t pass by tonight I’ll see him tomorrow.

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It took me longer than expected to reach the 10 miles to the next water source today, which was a very low stream a little distance off the trail. I decided to make dinner smack bang on the trail so I could wash up and fill up again before moving on to camp. I was able to direct the four other hikers to the water source as one had gone too far and the other three I passed earlier. There was a cute little camp site down near the stream but after being surrounded by so many hikers at camp the last two nights I decided to find some solitude a little further up the trail.

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I was super picky about finding the perfect campsite tonight but settled under a tree quite close to the trail with a nice view of the mountains to my right and no wind. I’ve had about 3 hours of daylight to read through Yogi’s notes for the first time on the trail, to plan out the next few days with Mt Whitney and Forrester Pass (the highest pass on the trail) coming up.

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It’s still light as I write this but I’m enjoying the purple colours of the sky and the sound of a jet flying off in the distance. I’m 24 miles from the trail to Whitney so I can probably have a slow day tomorrow and the next day and then hike up to the top on Saturday night. After hiking up to Olancha Peak I’m super excited about summiting the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 states!

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Signal from the trail gods

I unexpectedly got signal on my phone this morning and have been sitting on the same rock for about 3 hours in the sun replying to emails, comments and bouncing my mail forward from Tehachapi. I also ordered new insoles from REI to be sent to Independence (who knew feet could be so expensive and needy!)

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All of the shaded areas are infested with fire ants so I’m baking out here but wanted to use this opportunity for a quick update. Your comments have been truly inspiring! Because of the lack of signal I haven’t been able to respond to them all, but I love reading your reactions and feedback. Please keep it coming. I also realised in my Breakdown into KM post I hadn’t posted the Academy Award winning crying video. It’s updated now and rivals the rattle snake video for entertainment value.

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The Sierras are absolutely stunning and everyone seems to be quite content moving slowly through them. I left camp last again at 8:45am this morning and despite my 3 hours plus break here I haven’t seem another hiker since which I’m thoroughly enjoying. I am hoping that UB will catch up soon though and won’t be too upset that I left him behind in KM. We have talked about climbing Mt Whitney together so many times so I’m completely slowing the pace so we make it there around the same time.

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After climbing the peak yesterday we had another 6.7 miles to walk to water and camp. It was 6pm when we left the base and made it to camp at 8pm after motoring with our heavy packs. The gang from the night before were there sitting around a campfire and I had just enough light left to get water from the spring, find a place to camp and change into my sleep clothes. I had to cook dinner in the dark after everyone went to sleep already but thoroughly enjoyed the mac, cheese and tuna I prepared.

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The climb yesterday rejuvenated me and put me in high spirits that have continued into today. I think slower mornings with coffee and oatmeal are doing me well and despite my pack weight I was walking a lot better today. I had a squirrel gnaw into my trail mix today and there’s some kind or scary bee with a huge stinger that likes to fly close to me, but other than that nature has been good to me and after I post this entry I’m looking forward to some more climbing into the mountains.

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