The sun didn’t exactly reach us in the morning but it was still a great place at the top of the world when we set off again at 6:35 am. Less than half an hour later we were at the junction with the Trail Pass route, my cue to exit. Mike had camped at Mulkey Pass, just before Trail Pass, and caught up with us in time to take a ‘team photograph’ before we went our separate ways. I left the PCT and headed down the steep switchbacks to Horseshoe Meadow, with its campground and the promise of road access.
The PCT trail is a world of ugly blisters and smelly feet, aching backs and frozen fingers, filthy clothes and smiling faces. It is also, in the Sierras at least, a world of astonishing natural beauty. The days were pleasantly cool and the views breathtaking. A most unexpected and delightful feature was that there were absolutely no mosquitos. Dire warnings that the insect attack could reduce a man and beast to madness proved completely unfounded.
It broke me up a bit to see Craig stride away up the next slope, but I was relieved to be the one heading downhill. I get great satisfaction from seeing each of my children exceed my capabilities in their chosen fields. Craig has chosen to challenge and beat me in my own fields (no, I never was a marathon runner). Tomorrow he will climb Mount Whitney. I did that last August, in an increasingly desperate attempt to claim the higher ground in the competition that he will surely win. It took me 19 exhausting hours. He’ll probably run up it.
I reached Horseshoe Meadow at 8 am and found the road nearly an hour later, joining it just below the sign saying “You are entering Active Bear Country”. I waited an hour for the first downhill car, which was actually one of the eight uphill cars I had waved to in that time returning. Thanks to Stephanie of Mammoth, a retired school teacher from Bishop, and Steve the angler I was back at Kennedy Meadows four and a half hours after I reached the road. I stopped in at the store and said hello to Mr Smiles, a thru-hiker, and Justin and Thomas doing a section hike from Tehechapi to somewhere in the Sierras. Another eight hours on the road and I was back in San Francisco.
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Kennedy Meadows to Crabtree MeadowsDistance today: 15.1 miles. Total distance: 742.5 miles