PCT days 87-99: Independence to Mojave

Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 19, 2012

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, October 9, 2010

We are writing this entry from Los Angeles...we actually left the Pacific Crest Trail near Mojave and hitched a ride to the big city where we are spending the weekend recovering and preparing the next leg of our journey. We are now 567 miles from the Mexican border. Another 3.5 weeks of work and we'll have completed PHASE 2 of our journey.  

Day 87 (9/28/10): We hitch back to Independence where we meet with Valerie who flew out from Colorado to hike the next section with us. Val's never been to the Sierra before, so we're excited to share our "home" with her. As we hike up Kearsage Pass, she keeps saying "wow" and takes tons of photographs. We tease her a little and ask her how much memory her camera has because we've still got 90 miles to make it to Kennedy Meadows (her finish point). It's a beautifully warm evening and as we reach our mileage goal for the short day, we walk in the dark and see a campfire in the near distance. We walk over and are invited by "The Hiking Poles," a Polish couple who hiked the PCT in 2007, to share their fire. Aah, a warm fire, warm food, and warm company -- a nice way to polish off the day!

Day 88: In the morning, we take on Forester Pass, standing at 13,200 ft and is the highest point of the PCT. We are well acclimated and are feeling well, allowing us to enjoy the beautiful views as we make the climb. As we hike further South, the land becomes more desert-like and as we approach Crabtree Meadows, we see Mt. Whitney in the distance. We hike 20 miles and Val is still feeling pretty good --  still all smiles. For the first time, we pitch the tent and have time to wash off in a creek, and have dinner before dark! Thanks, Val :)

Day 89: For the first time, we make a navigational mistake. At Cottonwood Pass, Yannick blew past a trail junction and headed down the long switchbacks. Vall followed him down and Shirley hesitated for a second, starting at the other trail, but it didn't look like the "big drop" Yannick mentioned would be coming up, so she just followed down the hill too. At the bottom, a couple miles later, Yannick looks at the map and we all figure out we've gone the wrong way and were not looking forward to backtracking. Luckily, there was another trail that looped back up and connected to the PCT, only adding an additional .4 miles and some extra elevation gain/loss compared to staying on track. Not a bad fix...phew! We make it back up to the PCT and camp at Trail Pass.

Day 90: We wake up to the sound of rain drops hitting the tent. It is October 1st, the date people had been saying we should get through the Sierra before. We didn't. What's a calendar date to Mother Nature anyway? We end up walking through scattered showers during a mostly cloudy day, which actually worked out well because we crossed a pretty dry section that could have been brutal on a hot day. Val gets to enjoy variety on her PCT excursion...including pain in her feet and shins. Nonetheless, she marches on without complaining and even suggests we do an extra mile rather than set up camp with plenty of daylight left. What efficiency -- Val's turning into a real PCT hiker! 22 miles today.

Day 91: A windy morning at 10.500 ft. Today is mostly downhill to Kennedy Meadows. An hour and a half into the day, we run into cows -- 500 of them to be exact. The Black Angus beef herd is escorted up the hill by a dozen cowboys (and cowgirl). We help the cowboys by scaring the cows away from the trail so they stay on track. As we marvel at the scene, we are transported 100 years back in time. We continue downhill and witness a couple interesting action scenes. First, a sick cow laying down right in the middle of the stream with 3 cowboys pinning it down while a 4th cowboy injects it with some medicine. They say the cow will probably die there and become a nice meal for the bears. Second scene is a loose calf running away from the heard and 4 cowboys and a few dogs chasing after him. A lot of work just because of one little trouble maker!
    Right after lunch, after crossing the might Kern River (South Fork), the rain greets us again. We make it down to the Kennedy Meadows campground by 3:45pm. There, we meet Heidi again and she drives us down to the KM store so we can munch on yummy cheeseburgers as an appetizer, then BBQ for dinner. After our big meal, we say goodbye to Val who found a ride back to Independence (where she left her rental car).  
     Our food box, for the 2nd time, is NOT there. It is being held in the town down the hill until we pay the $14 forwarding fee from Echo Lake to there. Bummer! We buy last minute rations in the store and Heidi offers to pick up our box from the Inyokern Post Office on Tuesday for us. We are thrilled. Thanks, Heidi!  
    In the evening, we head back to the campground to return to where we left the trail when we met Heidi. Sleepy time!

Day 92: Late start at 8am after a long overdue morning laundry session at the campground spickets. We get on the move shortly afterwards to try and defrost our frozen fingers. At 6,000 ft, the day warms up quickly and we have to conserve our precious waater which is becoming more rare. We hike 3 hours with Steve, a section hiker from Santa Barbara. After reloading water in a hidden spring a little offtrail, we head up the hill to gain 2,200 ft. For the 3rd day in a row, we get rain -- they weren't kidding about the Oct 1st deadline! It's a strange feeling to have difficulty finding water along the trail when there's water falling from the sky all around us. Nice views of Domeland Wilderness.

Day 93: Today is a special day for three reasons: 1) We've started the PCT precisley 3 months ago, 2) We completed precisely 2,000 miles (also 75% of the PCT), and 3) we are done with the Sierra and have climbed 400,000 ft. Right after leaving camp, we stop along a dirt road to collect some delicious pine nuts. And guess who shows up? Heidi, our "borrowed" trail angel! Heidi tells us that Jason and Cassandra have caught up with Giraffe and they are less than a day behind us. It looks like we'll be part of the Sobo herd pretty soon again. The day goes easy and we keep collecting and eating pine nuts nonstop as we hike. A rapid change in the weather comes in the mid-afternoon with strong wind and chilling temperatures. We set camp at 7:30pm on a saddle, sheltered from the wind behind some trees. Rain for the 4th consecutive day.

Day 94: Lazy start at 8am. We only have 4 miles to get to Walker Pass, where we plan to meet Heidi with our resupply box from Inyokern, but the meeting time isn't until 10:30am. To kill time, we chill on the downhill, but still make it there early. We eat a snack as we wait in the wind until Heidi arrives. She gives us the bad news that our food box was not at the post office...again! We thought we would have to hitch to town to buy food, but Heidi already shopped for us! We climbed into her van to get out of the wind and organize the food she so kindly bought for us. We all hit the trail soon after, us heading South and Heidi heading North to meet Giraffe. We have 3.5 days to Mojave and will need to ration our light food load until we get there...then feast!

Day 95 (10/6/10): We covered more miles than planned yesterday afternoon, so we only had a few more to get to the next water source. Rather than finding a spring at the road, we find a huge water cache. After we fill up, Heidi arrives just as we are about to continue down the trail -- she makes us take some peanut butter crackers and granola bars and has us eat them on the spot. So nice of the "Zoo Keeper" to take care of us animals too! Just as we say bye, the sun pops out of the clouds -- it looks like it will be a nice day for a change. 
    Sadly, the sun doesn't last long. First, the fog rolls in, then it starts drizzling, then full on rain... the heaviest rain we've had on the PCT. As the sun starts to set, we are soaked to the bones and Shirley starts shivering and is starting to lose the dexterity in her hands. We set camp a little earlier than planned just so we could get in the tent and try to warm up. Everything is wet -- our clothes, our backpacks, and even the tent floor. Shirley's hands are so cold she can barely grasp her shoelaces to get her shoes off. We use the bandana to mop up as much water as we can from the tent and have flashbacks to when this was a common occurence during our kayak down the Inside Passage. We eat dinner, then bundle up in our damp sleeping bags. We're still a little soggy, but at least we're getting warmer.

Day 96: We wake up with frost clinging to the tent walls. As we come to a parting in the trees, we see SNOW on the hills across the way not much higher in elevation than where we slept; no wonder the rain was so cold last night! Thankfully, the sun looks like it will be coming out soon, but we don't have the time to wait for it to shine on us, so we pack up our soggy gear and start hiking -- we'll just dry things during our lunch break...or not! The sun soon disappears behind a thick layer of fog that doesn't lift until early evening. We still manage to paritally dry the gear in the wind, but not thoroughly. Ah well, a damp night will be better than a wet one!   
    We drop below the cloud layer and are happy that the ground in dry and the sky is clear enough to see some stars again. From our tent spot, we have a view of Mojave's city lights as we eat our skimpy dinner -- one small packet of tuna, one package of ramen, and some oreos split between the two of us.

Day 97: The clouds are finally gone for good and the sunrise casts a beautiful red glow over the Mojave desert. We are excited to get down to town today. It is super windy as we hike along the ridgeline above the 58 fwy and the sun would be really hot if not for that wind. We didn't enjoy the rain during the previous days, but we can tell this desert heat has the potential to be killer in the near future...but we'll worry about that later. For now, we concentrate on getting down the trail to make our way to precious food!  
    We get to the Cameron Rd exit just before 2pm and are able to hitch a ride in about 5 minutes.  In Mojave, we eat and hitch again, getting picked up by the first semi truck that passes by not even one minute after standing on the side of the road. Frank takes us all the way to Downtown Los Angeles where Shirley's parents pick us up and take us to eat delicious Vietnamese food. Our bellies are over-filled by 7pm -- we made really good time today! Now we head to a warm shower and a night in a real bed. Oh, what luxury...we are ready to be spoiled for the next two days.

Day 98: We eat, buy new shoes, eat, do laundry, eat, hang out with family, eat, organize gear sent to Shirley's parents' house from the kayak expedition, eat, organize PCT gear sent home over the past couple of months, eat, look over maps and create an itinerary, eat, buy food for the next few weeks, and eat. What a productive day!

Day 99: Dim sum with friends, then celebrate Shirley's parents' anniversary a little early. We are excited to see Shirley's brother and his family and spend the entire evening catching up with them and playing with the kids -- they've gotten so much bigger over the last 6 months!
    After everyone leaves, we start to pack up our gear and food. The "vacation" is almost over...we will head back to Mojave tomorrow morning to join Jason, Cassandra, Giraffe, and Zoo Keeper.  For now, we will enjoy what will likely be our last night in a bed until we finish the PCT. Sweet dreams!

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Johnston on

Hey guys! nice pics. The sunsets are absolutely amazing.
Yannick - a cow about to die on the trail, i'm thinking filet mignon! ;-)

Great job! glad you guys got a nice break and were able to eat like royalty. See you guys soon.

Frank on

Awesome travels yah two...!!!

Hope yah enjoy the home cook meals !!!

We'll see yah soon.....!!


Zach on

Hey guys, I just finished catching up on your blog. I was still back in Skykomish. I paddled the Yukon River 450 miles from Whitehorse to Dawson City around then, and haven't been able to sit down and find out what you guys have been up to since. (There's a caribou in my freezer now though)

I see you're kicking ass, as per usual! (: I was sad I missed your call... I was out hiking and celebrating my birthday. Good work guys! ... and I'm still up for joining you for a biking section... woot! :D

Tony Glockler on

Hey Guys, sorry Laurel and I missed you during the Mammoth to Tuolomne section. I pretty certain you guys passed us on the JMT just above Mammoth as we were hiking the PCT section. Fortunately, we bumped into Jason and Cassandra and they got to enjoy the treats we brought along for you. I'll let them share... let me know if/when you'll be coming through San Diego mountains.

Tony G on

...pics from our tiny little section of the trail.


Hope you're doing great and enjoying a breather!

Barnabas on

Hello from Steve (Drakesbad). Great posts, your making me hungry. You two are flying down the trail. Looking forward to reading the rest of your journal.


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