June 13 (Day 43)

Kennedy Meadows General Store to Kern River/Menache Meadow (702.2 to 716.5 + .6 miles back to trail)

Daily miles: 14.9 miles

I estimate over 100 hikers stayed behind the general store last night, so I tried to get out early in the morning.  Lots of people choosing to take zero days here.

All of my snow gear and bear gear fits, but it sure makes for a heavier pack.  I hope I get used to it.  As I walk I adjust the straps, the position of my pack on my body until I find a ratio that seems to work.

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Through the morning I walk in this half- desert/half-mountain terrain.  Loose sand underfoot and scrubby desert bushes beside me.  Mountains rising up with more urgency, creating natural drainages, and a manageable afternoon sun.  There are still burns though, always burns in Southern California.  Trees cover the trail, making maneuvering tricky and causing concern over the safety of my ACLs.  Where there aren’t blowdowns, the trees look like used up matchsticks: charred and black and ready for the wind to take them and lay them down.

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The evening finds me back in the meadows.  Cool walking, snow capped mountains in the distance, rolling hills covered in green trees.  The ground turns to packed earth, gravel, and the odd rock sticking up here and there.  No loose sand.  A quick jaunt up and over a 300 foot hill and then the descent to Menache Meadow and the famous sparrow bridge.  Here, the Kern River grows somewhat wider, shallower, calmer.  I stand in its warm calf-high water and wash my socks.  I pull a couple liters for the evening, filter and taste it.  Algae-flavored.  Sparrows swoop and dart across the meadow and return to their homes under the bridge.  Hundreds of them, all busily going about the business of being sparrows.

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Hikers pile in, one one top of the other until the meadow and adjacent tree-covered hillside are lined with tents.  Many hikers who started in March and April took time off the trail and are now returning to take on the Sierra now that the melt is underway.  The result is an enormous hiker bubble, one I worry I won’t be able to shake until I pass through these mountains.  I take out my earbuds and turn on the Harry Potter book I’ve started listening to.  Harry’s heading off to Hogwarts, and I’m heading off to the High Sierra.

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