Total Miles: 702.2
It was as if the sun was trying to exact one final measure of punishment, beating us down one final time as a send-off in honor of the previous 700 miles that apparently hadn't been quite hot enough. Miles of hiking through barren, previously burned areas didn't help, despite having easily one of the best water sources of the trail so far to begin the morning.
But despite the sun's best efforts, there was little that could be done to dampen our spirits as XC, Beardoh, Sweet Pea and I marched ever closer to Kennedy Meadows and the official end of the desert. At a long break in the afternoon, we reached a creek deep enough to wade into, which may not seem like a terrific highlight until you consider that, to the best of my memory, it's only the second flowing creek that the trail has crossed in 700 miles. Now that's a cause for celebration.
Four miles farther, the transition was becoming clear. Behind us was the arid, dusty desert and before us was the sloping stone of the Sierra, dotted here and there with increasing legions of pine and cedar. And nestled among them was Kennedy Meadows, a milestone that all thru-hikers look forward to where desert sun gear is traded for warmer layers, and the conversation shifts from heat and water planning to dealing with the High Sierra snowpack.
With perhaps 40 hikers or so camped around the general store here, the atmosphere is about as festive as you might expect. Tents strewn about, distant music being played, and above a blanket of stars and a silvery crescent moon.
Gazelle update: the last we heard from her was an afternoon text yesterday in a brief spot of cell service saying that she was hoping to get back on the trail from Walker Pass that evening. With a day off tomorrow here to sort through gear changes for the higher terrain ahead, we're all optimistic she'll come trotting into Kennedy Meadows tomorrow evening.