Total Miles: 709.4
Five boxes. That's what awaited me this morning when I filed into the Kennedy Meadows General store this morning and put my name on the list for mail pickup. The relief of all of them arriving without issue soon morphed into a pseudo-Christmas-morning unwrapping of each. Here's a quick rundown of the gear changes I made:
Warmer down jacket
Neoprene socks (for wearing my sandals in the snow)
Compression sleeve for my shin
Summer down jacket
Extra water bladders (4L)
Desert sun hat
The biggest thanks go to my Aunt Carol (and sock sponsor!) for sending me a complete sock refresh and to Emily for sending what has to be the most killer resupply box I've ever had. You know your wife is the greatest when she knows not only to repackage everything into ziplocs (including the one freeze dried dinner she sent since it's easier to pack when separated from its aluminum foil pouch) but also to throw in a surprise twist: my favorite Coconut-flavored Ritter Sport chocolate. It's simple, honey: you nailed it.
The best news of the day was the surprise arrival of Gazelle at 3pm. Looking and feeling much better, we were all thrilled to see her as we lounged on the deck enjoying a final meal from the grill. Left wondering exactly how she had been feeling these last few days, we waffled between hoping for the best and fearing for the worst. Seeing her arrive at such an early hour of the day, we immediately knew she had been well enough to cover a lot of miles in short order, not to mention in intense heat.
The mood was dampened slightly by the fact that hours after she arrived, Beardoh, Sweet Pea, Proton and I planned to leave the comforts of Kennedy Meadows and head out into the ever-higher Sierra. Both XC and Gazelle are planning to climb Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental US and a full day round trip from the PCT, a climb that the other four of us have already done in the past. Our paths will again temporarily diverge, only to realign again in roughly another week during the next resupply.
Leaving Kennedy Meadows to hike a few miles in the cooler evening, it was incredible to witness just how rapidly the landscape transitioned from the desert of two days ago into trees, stone, and tumbling water. I could almost feel my disposition change--more positive, more rejuvenated. As someone who detests the heat, I viewed the desert as a curious observer--interested and engaged, though mostly in my own survival. Mentally, it had taken more from me than I had expected and along with it, my legs hadn't felt their usual selves. But as dusk fell and we neared a bridge, the scene had me believe that the bridge was as much metaphorical as it was real--a crossing into a new world of trail, one where my mental and physical strengths would be renewed by what I would see each day. As I crossed and walked into the evening, I felt a palpable excitement for what lies ahead--an excitement to see what lies around each bend and to retrace the steps that Emily and I took on our thru-hike of the John Muir Trail last fall, which happens to coincide with the PCT for nearly all of its length.
The curtain began to fall on the day just as we entered a large, open basin--an amphitheater for a sunset that made you believe for a moment that this was a special version of the event reserved only for you. It was merely the preview of coming attractions...