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Day 42: The Game Changer

Posted by on June 15, 2015

June 11, 2015
Kennedy Meadows (702.4) to Tentsite after Cow Creek (722.4)
20 PCT miles today
735.4 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 4,865 ft, – 1,122 ft

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The transition from desert to forest was faster and more thorough than Pickles and I could have ever hoped for. We started out from Kennedy Meadows a little cranky and tired. We didn’t get on trail until about 9am, and both of us were nervous about how our feet might feel after their day off. I was especially concerned since the last few days had been so challenging, and after all the excitement that was Kennedy Meadows, I didn’t feel any more energized or rested. But we hauled on our packs, said our goodbyes to friends and family, and then kept walking north, secretly hoping that the desert might truly be behind us, but neither of us saying so out loud since we had been fooled before. Much to our surprise, every mile we walked delighted the senses more than the last, and before long, we found ourselves on what felt like a completely new trail with new attitudes and newly motivated bodies.

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This is the hike that we longed for. This was what I had dreamed about for so long, and the reason we saved money and put our lives on hold to make this happen. We are so grateful that this transition came when it did, and that we stuck with this hike long enough to arrive at this day.

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It is hard to describe the difference between today and the 700 miles that came before, but I’ll try. First off, today’s sky was a perfect bright blue, with fluffy white clouds that occasionally blocked the sun, but mostly just added contrast and character to the scenery. We walked in and out of shade throughout the day, since tall trees towered over the trail. The scents of pine, wildflowers, and dirt filled the air and when a breeze would blow, they were strong enough to feel intoxicating. The path was hard-packed dirt covered in a thick layer of pine needles, which felt soft on our feet, but didn’t slow us down like sand. We did see a few lizards today, but not a single snake or beetle. Instead we saw a jack rabbit, a deer (who we watched prance all the way down the side of a mountain) and countless chipmunks and squirrels. There was an unpredictable, breathtaking view around every corner, and we were surrounded by mountains on every side. And most importantly, there was water. We walked past fast-flowing water 2 separate times today and even got the opportunity to wade around a sandy riverbed with bare feet while collecting water to drink.

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Today’s 20 miles seemed to fly by, and we have to credit this new forest environment. Rather than glance at my watch every 5 minutes, or double-check mileage before our next stop, I was looking around myself, taking in the views, and genuinely enjoying the hike. It feels so good to be back out on the trail, and now that we’ve made it to the Sierras, we are buzzing with anticipation and excitement over what each new day might hold.

Backpacking Gear of the Week:
ULA Circuit Backpacks
Pickles and I both went with these packs, and we’ve been so impressed with them. They are super lightweight, but still feel durable. They can hold a ton of stuff, and don’t get misshapen or too uncomfortable when fully packed. It took us a little while to get used to the simple design (very few pockets or bells and whistles) but now that we have our systems worked out, we can’t think of anything we’d change about them. Mine have differently shaped s-straps for the ladies and I’ve found the whole backpack to be incredibly comfortable.

Backpacking Food of the Week:
Tortillas
You can’t go wrong with tortillas. We pack a bunch of them in every ration and eat them at lunch (with just about everything, but our favorites are tuna, summer sausage and cheese, or peanut butter and Nutella) and dinner (as burritos with either beans and cheese or rice and cheese). They’re easy to pack and don’t get smashed like bread or bagels. We wouldn’t leave town without them!

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