Day 38 – Into the Sierras

June 15
Kennedy Meadows to Olancha Pass
Mile 702.2 – Mile 724.5

The real Kennedy Meadows

I woke today around 4:30am and wandered down to the store’s front porch to use the wifi and post. Then it was time to take down my tent and attempt to fit everything into my pack. North of Kennedy Meadows hikers are required to carry bear cans and they are bulky and heavy. With the bear can, micro spikes for snow traction, a self arrest trekking pole, and 10+ days of food, my pack was at its limit. The one saving grace is that water is no longer scarce and I won’t need to carry extra. I didn’t weigh my pack but it felt monstrously heavy.


The trail out of Kennedy Meadows follows the Kern River until it crosses over a handy foot bridge and begins to climb up a burned out creek wash. About halfway up I stumbled my face into a dead branch earning a bloody nose and nice scratch to go with my beard. Fortunately I was able to wash up in the creek before two large groups of what appeared to be summer camp hikers passed going the other way. Rather than horrified shrieks I got “Hey, nice hat.”

Bridge over Kern River

Over the saddle from the creek wash, the scenery changed abruptly with a first taste of Sierra splendor. Beck Meadow helped convince me that the desert was truly in the rear view mirror and mountains beckon.

Changing scenery
Beck Meadow

Eventually the meadow trail revisited the Kern River and passed over again on another fine bridge. I stopped there to dip my feet and have a bite while scores of starlings (could been sparrows) played in the breeze swooping in and out of their nests on the bridge’s underside.

Kern River
Kern River Bridge the second

Then it was just more climbing up and over Olancha Pass. At over 10,500 feet I thought sure I would get some cell signal but depressingly, I did not. I covered good mileage today and climbed almost 6000 feet with an unreasonably heavy pack.

Olancha Pass 10,500 ft

What should have felt like a satisfying day ended on a sour note with no way to communicate and a sore, swollen ankle. I have been nursing a minor sprain for awhile now and I don’t think today did it any favors. I hope to feel better tomorrow. For now, I’ll camp high and hope the wind remains absent.

What my ankle feels like

6 Replies to “Day 38 – Into the Sierras”

  1. Sounds like a really challenging day with the heavy pack, big climb and ankle issues… And I sure there will be much more times with a lack of cell coverage in the Sierras. I hope for the best for you!


  2. Nice update John, The best few hundred miles of hiking (in possibly the world) is right ahead. It will fly by way too fast when you look back.

    Take it all in, and pause as often as you can for a few full seconds and burn some of those amazing views into your brain for when you are in your rocking chair in 30 years! Those pictures in your mind will be well worth the effort when you get to recall them as often as you want later in life.

    OK, now I am super jealous as I sit in my air conditioned cell of an office on a warm Friday afternoon in Orange County. On that note, I think I will plan my escape onto the traffic snarled I-5 Freeway south! Enjoy…


  3. I am in my rocker now enjoying the memories of hiking in the Sierras many years ago. It is all about hiking safely in the snow now as you go.
    Take enough caution.


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