• Brandon A. Kelone

Pacific Crest Trail Diaries 6: Day 53 (Kennedy Meadows North)

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

This will be my first entry on my phone; there aren't any computers here and I'd like to try writing a bit, so we'll see how this goes. 


I spent a zero in Mammoth before heading back to trail on Sunday. I liked Mammoth for what it was, but it was too expensive and didn't have much more than a day or two worth of utility. After that I'd seen all the stores, walked around the touristy resort center, and ordered a flight at the local brewery, and I wanted to get back on trail. It was a bit of a hassle getting back to trail since the shuttle system had started running the day after I arrived in town, so I couldn't just hitch back to the point where I'd left trail. Instead I had to hitch to the ski lift area (5 miles) then take a $7 shuttle the rest of the way back to trail. 


Although I always tried to be on trail by 6am early in the trip, I don't really do that anymore. I just get on trail when I do, and that's still usually earlier than other hikers. That day I had breakfast before shuttling back to trail, so I didn't actually start getting miles until 11am. There are a lot of trails around Red's Meadow, and that tripped me up a bit trying to get back to PCT, but I did make it eventually. I had sort of set my sights on a place called Thousand Island Lake for that evening, and that put me at about 15 miles for the day. 


When I arrived at the lake it was beautiful! I wasn't too into the hike that day leading up to there, but I was excited to stop early and enjoy the lake. I highly encourage anyone reading this to google search Thousand Island Lake--it's so beautiful, and my pictures alone really don't do it justice. The mosquitoes there were really bad, but deet did the trick. I'd carried deet all the way from Mexico, so it was nice to finally get some use out of it and to learn that it actually works with a very high level of efficacy; mosquitoes really don't like that stuff!


I mentioned in my last post about issues I've been having on trail regarding my brother. While I was in Mammoth his (ex?)girlfriend in Flagstaff kept texting me to say that she couldn't reach him and that he wasn't responding to her calls. I asked her many times to stop texting me, and ultimately blocked her number, but that combined with the anger I was already feeling made for emotional difficulty not only before Mammoth, but also during my time there and after I got back on trail. I decided however that even if she and my brother were haunting me, I still needed to make my hike my own and try to not be influenced by the actions of others in such a way. So I listened to lectures by Terrence McKenna while I hiked into Thousand Island Lakes, but to be honest, I was really on the fence about that night. 


When I arrived at the lake it was 5:45 and a bit breezy. There were marmots running around, just like everywhere else in the Sierras, and unfortunately there were also quite a few other weekend hikers, but again, I came out on the PCT with a plan on how I wanted these five months to go, and so it didn't make sense to let this opportunity pass. I asked myself, "if this were a book that I was reading, and the main character was sitting here beside the lake, what would I want him to do?" And so with that in mind, I made the choice to follow through with the plan that I'd been playing with for the preceding half a week and just relaxed beside the lakeshore after setting up camp.

I walked down by the waterline and laid down in the grass; since I had long sleeves and pants and deet, the mosquitoes didn't bother me, but I could watch them swarm in the setting sunlight and move with the wind. It was really magical. At an hour I smoked and watched the mountain dance and contrails in the sky as they crossed paths in the shape of a pound sign. The sky was so big up there and the land so majestic. Unfortunately I had to go into my tent after sunset because it got really cold fast, but that was no tragedy. From in my tent I was warm and 100% free of the bugs, so it was really quite nice. 


That evening beside Thousand Island Lake was different than other nights I've had along the trail--it was extremely introspective and caused me to spend a lot of time looking at my own life, this hike, my troubles, and my worries. After the sun went down and it became dark I watched the stars as I'd never seen them before. I was so far away from any major city and so far up in the mountains that it looked like I could just reach up and grab them out of the sky. I saw the Milky Way more clearly than I ever could have thought possible before that night. It was so peaceful and meaningful. I largely made amends with my little brother and his (ex?)girlfriend that night. Although I didn't want that evening to be about either of them or the trouble that I've felt from them, the fact was that that was on my mind, so it's something that I had to work through that night. I could see there, under the stars, how it is our own individual experiences that cause us to act the way that we do. My brother did not intend to hurt me, I don't think, and learning that that night really helped me to move beyond the feelings of resentment and anger that had taken up so much of my mind space in the week before. 


I woke the next morning refreshed and truly alive. I thought of all the people who had enjoyed the Firefly festival back in Flagstaff that weekend and how it was special for me to be able to kind of join them the night before in that small way. The feeling of forgiveness that I felt the night before resonated on, but it wasn't as pure and was hard for me to hold. 


That turned out to be a really great day though. I felt an afterglow like I've never had before. It just felt so good to be alive. I really felt a part of nature and the world and life. It was days like this that I was seeking when I came out here in the first place. That day I hiked a bit over 20 miles to get into Yosemite National Park where I camped at a campground with about 1,000,000 tourists and a few dozen hikers (mostly JMT but also a few PCT). One dude told me a story about how he had gotten a stomach bug earlier on the trail and actually crapped his pants while trying to hitch a ride to town. It was probably the worst story I've heard on trail so far!


The next day was crowded. There were a lot of people doing day or weekend hikes in Yosemite, so I saw a lot of people who I didn't know and few PCT hikers. I also saw these two kids (22-24ish) who I'm 95% certain were tripping on acid. I crossed paths with them about three times and really though about calling them out on it. If I'd been right it would have blown their minds and probably made them panic, but if I had been wrong then it would have been really awkward, so I refrained from asking them. They were however having one hell of an awesome time frolicking around in the woods and watching waterfalls. I too enjoyed the woods and water that day, but not as much as they did. 


The mosquitoes continued to get worse and worse in Yosemite. So I'd basically not take breaks to avoid being swarmed. I got to camp after having to ford a river though, and the sight was really breathtaking. I set my tent up too close to the river though and neglected to put on a rain fly, so in the morning my gear was all wet then frozen over from the condensation beside the river. I had to get up early that morning before the bugs too, so it just made for a rough start to my day. That then became one of the hardest days I've had on trail. The sky was beautiful and I had plenty of food, but for a lot of reasons I didn't want to be there that day. Actually I was miserable. I wanted to quit the trail and never hike again. It was really bad. It's for the better that I was mostly alone on trail that day because I wouldn't have been pleasant to be around. The afternoon was a bit better, but that was as a whole one of the hardest mental days I've had on trail. 


As bad as that day had been however, the next day was on the opposite side of the spectrum. I really made a point to sleep in, enjoy coffee and breakfast, and just start the day off leisurely after the day of misery, and so that's exactly what I did and it was wonderful! That was just yesterday and it was such a great day. I walked beside rivers, blew bubbles at the sun (I still carry a small bottle of bubble solution), watched marmots run around on the rocks, and I crossed the 1,000-mile point on the trail! The longest hike I've done before this was only 800 miles so it was so cool to break that milestone. I was alone when I arrived at the 1,000 point, but I stopped to take a break, and while I was there 4 other PCT hikers showed up and we all had lunch together. It was such a great day to contrast the awful day that I'd had before. To top it off, I camped up on Bridgeport Ridge overlooking so many mountains and valleys and lakes below. It was windy as could be up there, but that meant no mosquitoes, and it made for a sunset that was among the most spectacular that I've seen on trail so far. 


Today I hiked to Sonora Pass and hitched a ride with a Swiss tourist to Kennedy Meadows South (driver was an absolute mad-man who almost got us killed on the drive here, but he was also really nice, so maybe I'm being too harsh for his almost getting us into 3 different accidents in less than 10 miles). I've got a room in the "dorms" here at KMS, and although I'm not particularly fond of the place, they have beer, a bed, and breakfast in the morning, so I've decided to stay for the night. This also affords me the opportunity to do some writing (even if it is just on my phone). This place is mostly filled with cowboys and people who are very overweight on weekend vacations. Perhaps I'm overly judgmental or maybe my perspective is skewed from being out on trail by myself all the time, but the people who are here (there's a lot of them) all seem really rude, mean, or generally concerned with things that I cannot relate to in any way. It makes me frustrated to be exposed to, and this leads me to wonder what reintegration will be like after I finish this hike. I want to live in a place that doesn't feel like here. I really want to be around happy, simple people who don't look at me as an "other." God I hope that I don't have to spend the rest of my life on trail to maintain sanity. 


I think that will be all for now. I'm going to go to the saloon and grab a beer (an older hiker owes me a couple beers for a trade I helped him out with earlier today) and maybe a burger. Tomorrow morning I'll get breakfast at the grill and hitch back to trail. My next town after this is about 75 miles from here (Echo Lakes, CA), but I'm thinking of taking my time and maybe stretching it over 4 days so I can maybe find another lake or river to relax beside and think about existence. 


I miss you all more and more every mile. Some of you have written me or emailed or texted, and it's been really awesome to have that contact! I would say that the hardest challenge that I've faced out here is just being so alone for so long. That's partly what I came out here for, but it's hard day after day and week after week. So to those of you who have written, I cannot thank you enough. And if anyone cares to write me via snail mail, please let me know; I can give you the address that I'll be at in 100 miles and you can send a letter or post card there. Seriously, it means the world to get those after being alone in the woods for a week. Just message me on here if you'd like an address :)


I love y'all to death and look forward to seeing you again soon. 


Until next time, this is Wormwood signing off at KMN. Be well everyone.