The final stop before the Sierra’s is Kennedy Meadows. From this point on the trail changes drastically. After arriving, I went to pick up the boxes I had shipped to myself and a box my family had shipped. In the four boxes was an ice axe, bear canister, new warmer sleeping bag. The final box had food. After packing everything up, my bag felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. Right before we left, a hiker from Denmark called Price joined Harry and me. The three of us headed out ready for this new and exciting section.
As we walked the trail steadily gained elevation for an entire day, we climbed from 6,000 to 10,000 feet very quickly. Even though the hiking was difficult, I was happily distracted by the beautiful scenery that was around every corner. We celebrated our first day in this section, by making a fire at camp that night (a surprisingly rare thing on the pct). The next two days I climbed up and over two peaks. The first was right around the 10,000 foot mark and the second, closer to 11,000 ft. Each peak had snow on the top but it was easy to walk over and I didn’t even need my snow gear.
After the second pass,
I took a side trail and descended to a park, where my group hitched a ride into the town of Lone Pine. The ride down was the scariest hitch of my life. Not because the people were sketchy, but because I rode in the back of a pickup truck down a mountain road with a major drop off on one side. Luckily I made it down alive and am now preparing for the next section. The next stretch will be one of the hardest. I will climb Mt Whitney and go over the highest pass on the entire trail. Additionally the snow will be a major factor and cut my daily mileage down drastically. Even with all this I am excited for the adventures to come.
At mile 655 the trail crosses a highway. Food wise, I was good until the next town but the idea of hitching in for a burger was irresistible. So my buddy and I put out our thumbs and waited. After about thirty minutes a truck pulled over and we hopped in. Inside was a couple from San Francisco. After talking a little bit, they offered us a place to stay in town at their campsite and we accepted. Once in town, they paid for our dinner and introduced us to everyone else in their group. Their group was different from your average campers. They are white water rafters and the campsite was right on the Kern river. Our new friends invited us to go rafting with them and of course we accepted again. The next day we got our wet suits and life jackets and about fifteen of us loaded into a van pulling a trailer with three rafts. We drove up the river and after getting situated, pushed off down some class 3 rapids. For these experienced rafters it was no big deal but for me it was unlike anything I had ever done. Working as a team, we navigated down the river and eventually back to the campsite. When I started the PCT I never thought I would go white water rafting but when you are open to try new things, opportunities will arise. -Noel Nelson (pct mile 658)
I’m not a runner, but when I heard about a 12k where the runners wear costumes and you run from one end of SF to the other I couldn’t resist. So I forked over the $90 to enter and bought a Hawaiian shirt from Goodwill. I didn’t know what to expect the morning of the race but upon I arrival, I saw people wearing everything from gorilla suits to nothing at all (literally). At the start of the race people throw tortillas at each other to kill time until their group is aloud to leave, so I definitely warmed up my arms. After my group was set free I actually ran the whole thing. The 7 1/2 miles went but fairly quick and at the end I was awarded my finisher medal. Let’s hear it for spontaneous adventures!
Most people go to a city, stay in a hotel and take tours on a bus to take in their new surrounding but as you know by now, that’s not how I roll. So instead of paying lots of money to hear corny jokes and be taken to tourist traps, Harry and I rented bikes to explore the city. After renting bikes from a sketchy bike rental place in a parking garage, we headed across the city straight to the beach. I never planned to swim when I got there but after Harry ran full sprint into the freezing Pacific Ocean
I couldn’t be shown up. The next hours were spent soaking up the sun and exploring cliffs and caves along the cost. Once we had seen all we could see at the beach we rode our bikes along the cost toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Biking the Golden Gate Bridge has always been a bucket list item of mine and I was able to check it off the list! Once on the opposite side we rode up into the park and enjoyed the sunset with a view of the city that was so good it felt like I was dreaming.
I think the decision to bike the city is an extremely accurate representation of my entire trip.
Sunset view of SF
I could have taken a bus or cab around the city just like I could fly to canada but my journey is my destination. It’s about experiences and my experience through SF was a memory I will always have. -Noel Nelson
My original plan for the pct was to do about 15 miles a day, but once I started the trail I realized I could do quite a bit more. So my mileage went from 15 mile days to 30 mile days. In most cases this would be a good problem to have but this year is different. The snowpack in the High Sierra is 200% of normal and hikers haven’t yet been able to make it through that section yet. So because of my excellent pace I have reached the front of the pack. That’s a problem because I don’t want to be the first one to blaze the trail through the snow.
This realization hit me while in a town called Tehachapi. From this town you can take a bus pretty much anywhere. So my hiking buddy and I decided that the next day we would take off the trail and head to San Francisco. This decision was very spur of the moment but I guess that’s the nature of this kind of travel. It’s about just going for it and letting the details work them self out. By 6:30am the next morning we were on a grayhound headed toward San Fransico without a place to stay or a a plan of what we would do when we got there.
Iuckily I recently discovered an app called couch surfer. This app has hosts and travelers. Each writes reviews about the other so you can make sure it is safe you are a good travel match. So I contacted hosts in the area and got a response. A super nice guy named Curt is now letting me and Harry sleep on an air mattress in his apartment. Oh and his apt has an amazing location. From his apartment we can see the golden gate bridge and walk to the water in a few minutes.
So far it has been a shock going from seeing ten people a day to thousands, but I think this trip is one of the best things i’ve ever done. And it was all done last minute, which adds an additional excitement and uncertainty to the whole thing!