Words cannot express how much I hate Poison Oak... And I touched it setting up our tent in the dark, our first night on the trail. I spent the next few weeks nursing the sunburned Poison Oak rash that had so kindly popped up on every single one of my fingers. So naturally, I am always on the lookout for that bitchy little plant!
Until preparing to hike the PCT, I had never heard of another nasty invention of Mother Nature... The Poodle Dog Bush. Now I had a new public enemy #1... I did my research, learned what it looked like & that it grows in high elevations where fire has taken the landscape. I read that it had a smell similar to Marijuana & the tightly growing leaves even look like it. BUT word on the trail is if you or your clothing comes into contact with this plant, you will develop a rash that makes Poison Oak a walk in the park. So bad that it can take you off the trail for weeks. They even closed & detoured a 12mi segment just to avoid exposure... BUT due to four years of hard work to eradicate the bushes along the trail, they opened the closed trail just days before we reached it.
Naturally, we wanted to take the Official PCT Route so we decided to brave the former Poodle Dog Closure. We spent that lovely day dashing and dodging the allegedly eradicated plant... It was everywhere! I was calling out to David, when the plant would jump out at us from the left or right, I felt like I was in a pinball game being bounced around.
Being that alert and aware of every little piece of greenery around for a solid 5hrs was mentally and physically exhausting. We walked out of that burnt forest feeling beat... But it was worth the effort, NO Poodle Dog Rash for either of us!
We made it through the Mojave without a hitch on a fortuitous cool and breezy day with plenty of cloud cover. It was still hot, but we knew that it was no where near as sweltering as it could have been on any other given day... So we have no complaints about the desert, just that we are VERY happy to be in the Sierras.
Just before we reached the Sierras, we were hiking through a beautiful expansive area of flat land, partially burned with a scattering of trees that were spared from the most recent fire... We came across a fellow hiker stopped dead in his tracks, in fact he was starting to back up toward us. Just past him I caught a glimpse of a big furry brown behind... 'Holy Shit A BEAR' passed through my mouth loud enough to startle the bear, and she started to run up into the trees with her two cubs. David wanted a picture so he stayed back to snap a shot as they ran away, all he got was a distant backside but seeing bears was enough to get him grinning from ear to ear for the rest of that afternoon's hike!
We were just outside of Kennedy Meadows, where we stopped to pick up our bear canisters & resupply, do laundry & shower... Oh yeah, eat a couple of cheeseburgers too! We stayed one night there, where the party seemingly never stops... One night was enough, we wanted to get into the trees and the mountains & The Sequoia National Forest was literally footsteps away. While at Kennedy Meadows, a hiker came in by the name of Mother Goose... I had heard of her the day before & word on the trail is that she is 69 years old and has hiked over 40,000 miles, that she was the first woman to Yo-Yo (hike both directions in one fell swoop) the Appalachian Trail 25yrs ago & that she has attempted the PCT 5 times but has always had something stop her form completing the trail all at once... So she is at it again! There are many tenacious women on the trail but if the stories are true, I think she takes the cake!
We are very close to the base of Mount Whitney, which towers at over 14,000', it is the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states... We heard of a little town called Lone Pine at the base of the mountains so we thought we would pop on down to check out the town and buy more food so that we could take our time through the first and tallest leg of the Sierras.
The only problem was that a shuttle would be $100 so we took our chances getting a hitch out of campground parking lot on a Tuesday morning... When we got to the parking lot, there were only 4 cars and no people in them leaving, so we started a 20mi road walk with a 8,000' descent.
We walked about 5mi and only one car had passed us (& didn't pick us up) when we saw a couple guys driving up the mountain... Luckily for us the driver was a Good Samaritan who had picked up a guy in the desert who needed a ride to our exact trailhead and he was on his way back down the mountain to go to his family cabin in Lone Pine... He offered us a ride that my knees will be forever grateful for.
We had a fantastic two nights in town, we missed a big hail and thunder storm in the Mountains and our trail angel even took us back up the mountain all recharged and ready to tackle Whitney in a few days.
Our hiking day was stopped short at only 5mi when we hiked up on our first and most amazingly picturesque alpine lake... We just HAD to camp here... It is too beautiful not to!
So I am writing tonight from PCT mile 750 at an elevation of 11,000' as I watch the sunset behind the rocky mountains that make a bowl around the oddly named Chicken Spring Lake.
We are at day 54 on our journey and I am overjoyed by the beauty that we are living in... Despite all the curveballs Mother Nature throws us, she is very generous with the beauty that she tosses our way and we can't help but being very grateful in our life!