PCT Day 41 : Into Ridgecrest To Figure Out The Sierras

May 4 (~06:45 – ~11:45)
After Yellow Jacket Spring turnoff – Walkers Pass (13.7 mi / Total: 652.1 mi)
Weather: Great! Chilly in the morning but once I walk in the sun it’s warm. I finish walking before it gets too hot.

It’s Saturday today, and we’re headed into the town of Ridgecrest. Speedy and I just have to make our way out of the forest, and then we’ll have a luxury ride into town waiting for us. Apparently, after going our own way two days ago, Prince raced into Ridgecrest, and hired a car as it’s cheaper than booking a hotel. I figured we can drive it to Kennedy Meadows as well, and scoop out the situation in the Sierras, so that we can decide what we want to do, and find out what gear we’d need to get if we’re going in. We told Prince we’d get to Walkers Pass by noon, so we have an easy morning hike out.

The forest is dark where we camped, but it doesn’t take long to leave it, and enter the open space lined with small grey bushes. We follow a dirt road for a while, and I feel as though the scenery has gone. This is it. All we have to do is finish the final miles to Walker Pass. The trail is supposed to ease out soon, but for now all the little ups feel like a lot of effort, and I’m waiting for the down to begin.

Then, out of nowhere the mountains return and we begin to descend. We follow a trail again, carved along the mountainside and then into the expanse. Everything around us looks impressive and calm, and colourful with tiny flowers and butterflies. We spot a hare next to the trail and get close to take pictures as it doesn’t seem afraid. It’s a wonderful walk out.

When we get to Walkers Pass, we get the best surprise. Prince is parked up with a huge truck. We’ve never been more excited. Speedy and I have been wanting to get into a typical big American car, and here we go. What a ride. It’s genuinely huge and it’s fun although we weren’t supposed to get this car at all – the smaller one Prince had booked wasn’t available when he showed up.

We decide upon a plan for the next few days. Now that we have the car moving around gets a lot easier. Ridgecrest is horribly stretched out, and so even driving around town gets to be a whole lot easier. We visit Starbucks (always), the gear shop (nothing for hikers), get food at Walmart (and have a barbecue with fruit and sausages as per Speedy’s request since she’s definitely not a vegetarian anymore), and decide to begin the drive towards Kennedy Meadows in the evening.

Tomorrow we’ll be able to speak to the people running the gear shop there and any other hikers who are headed into the Sierras. Then we’ll head back to Ridgecrest to make our own decision. On Monday the post office will be open again, and we’ll be able to pick up our packages before going back to the trail to finish that final 50 mile desert section to Kennedy Meadows.

It’s a good plan. I think we’re all feeling a bit antsy about all the days off we’ve been having recently, but there’s no way around it. We decide to embrace it. The car is great and suddenly we don’t feel like hikers anymore. We begin the drive along the flat valley floor towards Kennedy Meadows, and head into the dry mountains. The views are marvellous from the car. It’s so fast. Along the way we stop off at a dirt patch and decide to stay there for the night, and drive on in the morning. Prince gets into the trunk to sleep, and fights the aggressive wind all night, emerging entirely battered in the morning, and Speedy and I in turn have a horrible nights sleep in the uncomfortable car. That was a bad idea. But at least we’re close to Kennedy Meadows, and close to figuring out what to do with the Sierras…

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