Kennedy Meadows North – South Lake Tahoe
Mile 1016.9 – Mile 1090.7
Less elevation and less snow northward!
“Congratulations! You made it through the grinder”, exclaimed our waitress at the restaurant in Kennedy Meadows. She was referring to trail knowledge she’d gathered from previous years’ PCT hikers. I was having breakfast Monday morning with HardWay, a 28 year old financial adviser from Chicago, on his way to NYU’s MBA program mid-August, and one of the handful of hikers I’d seen on and off through the Sierra. He and I had tried to hitch back up to Sonora Pass late Sunday afternoon but to no avail. Without any Wi-Fi or cellular service, the main attractions of Kennedy Meadows were the fresh food and the opportunity to jettison our unwieldy bear cans.
Failing to get back to the trail Sunday night, we did what any other self respecting hikers would do, we went back to eat some more. After dinner we stealth camped in the woods across the road and hoped for better luck hitching Monday morning. Alas not. So it was back to the restaurant for breakfast where fortunately our kindly waitress referred us to Mike, a retiree living at the campground who provides rides back up the hill for a nominal fee.
Stunning volcanic rocks of Mokelumne Wilderness
The PCT joins the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT)
Again frustrated by my own unfounded expectations of what I’d find at Kennedy Meadows, I was eager to be on my way. Three days or so would see me to South Lake Tahoe where I knew for certain I could reconnect with civilization.
The trail goes where?
Ah, cruiser trail!
I was also sensing the trail starting to ease a bit with gradually lower elevation and by slow degrees, less snow travel. Having to make a decision of where to place every footfall grows tedious in a hurry. The change did not happen quickly or completely but I began to notice more what I came to think of as ‘cruiser trail’ versus crummy route finding through snow. As a result, I noticed my daily mileage start to creep back up and with it, my sense of forward progress.
I spy Darwin on the trail, can you?
On the second and third day I played leap frog with another hiker named Darwin. I came to learn that he has about 100k(!) followers on his YouTube channel and enjoys a bit of celebrity at least in the hiker community. One of those followers apparently tracked him closely enough to rendezvous with him at Carson Pass bearing gifts of food. For myself, I was surprised and delighted to find Forest Service volunteers also at Carson Pass handing out drinks and snacks. It turns out that trail magic and road crossings are highly correlated so I’m thrilled to know I’ve returned to where such roads are possible.
Trail magic at Carson Pass
I camped just a few miles shy of Highway 50 where I could see the lights of South Lake Tahoe’s airport down through the trees. For the first time in many days I also had two bars of LTE service with AT&T which meant I could finally connect again with family/friends and update this blog!
Patterns in bark
Snow plants are way better than snow
The next morning I caught an easy hitch into town from Ewok( a former Appalachian Trail hiker) and his girlfriend Okra. I spent the day consuming mass calories, resupplying food, doing much needed laundry, getting some new shoes, calling people, and even relaxing a bit. South Lake Tahoe shines as a magnificent destination for all things outdoors. I wish I could have gotten an unlikely picture of me buzzing around town on one of the many Lime electric scooters. Scraggly backpacker meets modern technology was a sight to behold I’m sure. I wonder if they make an offroad version? Now that would be some cruiser trail!
After 1100 miles, Daddy needed a new pair of shoes! My Merrel Moab Ventilators performed remarkably well.