Total Miles: 652.1
Forty-five minutes after a final 3:30am wake-up call, Proton and I were off into the darkness. It was a lesson in micro-climates, as certain stretches of trail were easily 10 degrees warmer or cooler than where we had camped, often transitioning from one to another in the span of only a few hundred yards.
With favorable trail, we covered the 13 miles to Walker Pass by 9:30am and within five minutes had a ride from a trail angel into the town of Lake Isabella, down the Kern River Valley 35 miles to the west. If we thought we'd experienced the worst of the heat, we quickly had that impression corrected once we arrived in town. There in the bottom of the valley, the warm hair dryer breeze was in full effect, sweeping yet more heat off the hot pavement.
Ahead of schedule and with the trail closure north of Walker Pass, our plan is to take a day off tomorrow, allowing for XC, Gazelle, Sweet Pea and Beardoh a chance to catch up and also to delay our entry into the snow-covered Sierra.
The big news of the day came during our ride into town and with it came a change in our luck: the situation with the fire that had sparked just 3 days ago had changed dramatically. Having been 90% contained in the same time frame due to a lack of the usual high winds, and with the trail itself remaining completely undamaged by the fire, the trail closure is set to be lifted at 6pm this evening! I couldn't be more thrilled. These next 50 miles to Kennedy Meadows mark not only the final stretch of desert but an important and ceremonial transition into a completely new and much anticipated environment: the beautiful High Sierra. To be deprived of hiking this next stretch would have been a difficult pill to swallow.
After an afternoon and evening of relaxation, I received a text message from XC, saying that Gazelle was again not feeling well and was hoping to get in touch with a local trail angel who might be able to drive out to their location where the trail crosses a rough jeep track. A number of coordinating phone calls later, trail angel Chuck was off to make the two-hour journey to pickup Gazelle and get her off the trail and into town where she can rest and hopefully get to a doctor. At 9:15pm, a knock came on our motel room door and we were reunited with our ailing friend. Unable to eat for several days due to whatever illness has been plaguing her, she clearly lacked her usual energy to continue hiking, let alone in the heat we've been dealing with. Having her arrive was bittersweet: happy that she was here safely, concerned about the short-term uncertainty surrounding her health.