We’ve partnered up with Jessica on her voyage on the Pacific Crest Trail. Here’s her latest update from the trail:
Tackling the Sierras
On the last night in the desert, I stopped and looked up at a black sky overwhelmed with stars. It was warm. We stepped over a scorpion. We knew we would reach Kennedy Meadows the next day, more than 700 miles into the Pacific Crest Trail–the gateway to the Sierra Nevada mountains.
We were leaving behind 700 miles of desert; 700 miles of scarce water; 700 miles of angry sun. The Sierras promise some of the very best views of the entire PCT, as well as some of the most challenging terrain. That last night in the desert, I felt ready for the change of scenery.
When we approached the Kennedy Meadows general store that next day, we were greeted by the applause from dozens of other thru-hikers. We clapped for every thru-hiker that came in after us. Making it through the Mojave is one hell of a milestone.
Leaving Kennedy Meadows, the trail changed drastically. Golden pine trees replaced cacti and for the first time, we enjoyed the refreshing sound of running water. The trail rapidly grew steeper, with a 4,000-foot elevation gain right off the bat. We spent our first night above 10,000 feet.
I’ll admit: the Sierras have been the PCT’s greatest challenge to me so far. On June 11, we hiked to the summit of Mount Whitney–the highest point in the Lower 48. Though the hike was only eight miles off the PCT, reaching an elevation of 14,500 feet took a toll on me and I struggled to get to the top. We reached the summit in a whiteout snowstorm and didn’t stay in the freezing cold for long before turning around and descending.
The Pacific Crest Trail is laced with tall passes throughout the Sierras, forcing its hikers to climb and drop several thousand feet of elevation every day. We tackled Forester Pass (the highest point on the trail, at 13,200 feet of elevation–complete with a sketchy ice chute hikers must inch across), Glen Pass, Pinchot Pass, Mather Pass, Muir Pass, Selden Pass, Silver Pass and Donahue Pass so far, with more waiting. The trail over the passes is often incredibly steep, covered in snow, and require scrambling down rocks and scree on the other side. To say the least, it is trying. The miles are hard-earned, and yes, I have once broken down and cried.
Yet the views are unparalleled: bright pink sunsets over snow-topped mountains; lakes still as glass; deep golden alpenglow playing on jagged peaks. We’ve walked a total of 942 miles so far, passing through Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite. Within the coming weeks, we’ll reach the halfway point on the trail and eventually, the end of California. We have new shoes, the muscles in our legs are impressively defined and our hearts are stronger than ever.