Day 48 – first steps in snow

May 21, 2016

South Fork of Kern River (mile 706.6) to Death Canyon Creek (mile 730.8)

Miles: 24.2

We devised a new plan for the Sierras. We would get up early to maximize our daylight and allow for our slower speed across snow.

It was cold when the alarm went off at 5:15 am. Surprisingly we both started moving and we were walking by 6:10 am.

It was chilly walking into the morning air. We both started out with our down jackets, gloves and fleece hats to keep warm. Luckily we were climbing so our core temperatures quickly rose and we shed layers. Our fingers and toes were the last to get warm as the sun kissed our bodies.

Excitedly we walked through the forest but soon we entered a burn area with lots of blow downs (down trees blocking the trail). This made for slow going for a few miles in not so scenic areas. But of course, our efforts were worth it when we reached Beck Meadow.

We stopped for a few moments to take it all in before continuing on. We would have taken more time here but it was really cold.

We climbed again after leaving Beck Meadow and reached another bridge crossing over the Kern River around 11am. By that point we had covered 10 miles and we’re ready for a break.

And what a place for a break! The lazy Kern River flowed gently downhill while the swallows flew every which direction.

And the meadow! My goodness.

This is what we walked here for. Beautiful meadows surrounded by jagged mountains.

We sat on the grass next to the Kern eating our heavy and tasty trail mix watching swallows swoop in and out from their nests under the bridge.

Laurie washed her socks and underwear, then we back washed our filters. Town chores we didn’t get to in Kennedy Meadows but knew we could do out on the trail.

After 45 minutes we were ready to walk once more.

Today was climbing day so we kept climbing after shouldering our packs and walking through Monache Meadow.

Two thousand feet of climbing brought us to our first sight of snow! Just as we had anticipated, there was snow at 10,000 ft.

It was a gentle introduction. Patches of snow covered the trail. The dirty footsteps in the snow were easy to follow.

We climbed another 600 ft alternating between walking on snow and dirt.

Then we started our descent into Gomez Meadow. The first 600 ft had more patches of snow but then it was all dirt.

Once out of the snowy patches we took a late lunch in the middle of a switchback. We sat in the sun drying our feet and shoes which were now wet after postholing multiple times.

Now back on dirt we flew. With Andy leading we walked 2.5 – 3 miles per hour. We had planned on camping at mile 627 but we felt good and it was too early to stop so we pressed on.

We got to Death Canyon Creek around 6:15pm and it was like walking into tent city. We had seen only 5 other people all day (a couple and a family) and now there were at least 10 tents scattered about.

Everyone was hunkered down in their tents so we don’t know if we have been hiking with any of these people. Guess we will find out tomorrow on the trail, maybe.

Today was a great day and we are both tired. It got cold really quickly and we are only at 9000 ft! In a few days we will be camping at 12000 ft. Hopefully our bodies get used to this cold quickly!

Tomorrow we will encounter more snow. As Andy said tonight over dinner “it is make it or break it day….we either decide to keep going north or turn around and retrace our steps to Kennedy Meadows” depending on conditions.

We both hope for the former.

Tonight we are grateful for dry, warm feet and hot water.

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Beck Meadow

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South Fork of the Kern River & Monache Meadow

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6 thoughts on “Day 48 – first steps in snow

  1. Congratulations Andy and Laurie on completing the desert section of the PCT and setting foot in the Sierras. It’s a shame the snow levels are casting uncertainty on your through hike but I think you are wise to “play it by ear” and be open to possibility that retreat might be the safe option this year. Will you go on, go back to Kennedy Meadows and wait a couple of weeks for the snow to melt, or will you skip a section? The suspense, the suspense! 🙂 Best wishes and warm toes to you both.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great to see you in the Sierras. I have no experience there, but have done a lot of snow hiking in Washington and Alaska. Get an early start when the snow is cold and firm and you van make good miles. It’s that late-afternoon postholing that gets difficult. Hope you can push on. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

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