Day 45 – May 18, 2022
Mile 735.1 to 756.5
21.4 trail miles | 20.9 tracked miles | 2,694 ft elevation gain | 75.2 F / 24 °C
Today’s stretch was relatively easy. We covered a distance of over 21 miles with an elevation gain of only 2,694 feet. The trail was smooth and well graded all along.
I started hiking leisurely at 7am. The sun was already up, shining brightly on a perfectly cloudless day.
In the morning, we hiked through Mulkey Pass, Trail Pass, and then Cottonwood Pass, which are three potential access points to Lone Pine, CA.
I am glad that I decided to stick with the group and carry 7+ days worth of food for the stretch between Kennedy Meadows and Kearsarge Pass. Initially, I was inclined to break up the trip with a stop in Lone Pine, but I’m thrilled I don’t have to hike another 3 miles and hitch another 20 just to get into town and resupply. My pack may be heavy, but it’s getting lighter everyday, and the terrain has been gentle so far.
At lunch time, we indulged in a long break at the scenic Chicken Spring Lake and took a refreshing dip in the glacial waters. Just two weeks ago, the lake was still frozen, though that’s hard to imagine on this gorgeous day. Despite the relatively high altitude of 11,000 feet, it’s a pleasant 77 degrees.
Indeed, in a typical year, I would be hiking through snow. Traditionally, the “ideal” timeframe to start hiking northbound through the Sierra Nevada is late June to early July. This year, in mid-May, it’s hard to find any traces of snow in my photos. Even the mountain peaks are virtually bare and dry. While this bodes well for the success of my adventure, it also hints at an impending environmental disaster.
I gathered a few liters of water at the lake in preparation for another night of dry camping.
North of Chicken Spring Lake, the views became even more sublime. The trail traversed the vicinity of Cirque Peak.
The last few miles of the day were more challenging as the path became rockier and sandier. Shortly before arriving at camp, I crossed the boundary into Sequoia and King Canyons National Parks, the first of many National Parks on my journey!
We stopped at a large, flat, protected—sadly, dry—backcountry site at mile 756.5, and had dinner in a convivial circle with several other thru-hikers. It was fun to share our adventures so far and talk about the road ahead.
While waiting for my backpacking dinner to rehydrate, I realized that despite the constraints of a bear canister, I need to find a way to pack more food. A full-sized meal doesn’t cut it anymore, and the 20+ minutes it takes to rehydrate at high elevation feel like an eternity. I am starving. At least, I am still capable of exercising discipline. Joe, on the other hand, managed to consume most of his food for the week already. Fortunately, another hiker had extra nutrition bars to spare…
Tomorrow will be a relatively short 10-mile day to the “base camp” of Mt. Whitney. We will rest in the afternoon before summiting Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, at sunrise!