South Fork Kern River

Kennedy Meadows to Kern River

Pacific Crest Trail
Mile 704 – 716 (12 miles)

I’ve been following along with the s/v Rebel Heart family and their adventures, reading their blog for a couple of years now, so when Eric put out a request for hiking buddies for a Fathers’ Day backpacking hike, I jumped at the opportunity.

After meeting in the dark (“Hello internet stranger who I have never met before but feel strangely like I know you already while you don’t know me at all… let’s go on a three day trip together, this won’t be awkward at all…”) we loaded up the car and set off on the five-hour drive to Kennedy Meadows, a favorite hiking and camping spot from Eric’s childhood. Instantly we hit it off and began a conversation which didn’t end until the end of our journey!

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The Kennedy Meadows general store was overrun with PCT thru-hikers and was quite a scene indeed. We parked at a car-camping site right on the PCT to get geared up for our 12-mile hike to a campsite at the South Fork of the Kern River. I couldn’t find my sunscreen and so a nearby mother of two gave me her horribly scented aerosol spray sunscreen. I was happy to have it, but that decision came back to haunt me later….

Eric reassured me that there would be plenty of water along our trail, so I ditched some water, leaving myself with a comfortable 2 liters for the 12 miles.

We set off at a comfortable pace. I was feeling the altitude and although I wasn’t exactly puffed out, I couldn’t contribute to the conversation much on this first day. Eric, having experimented with pharmaceutical altitude acclimatization, was feeling fine and shared stories from his sailing adventures. So inspiring!

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PCT Trail Marker
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Kern River

After a brief walk in beautiful landscape next to the creek, we entered a bleak burned-out area. The ultralight umbrellas turned out to be a huge help here, keeping us in shade.

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Eventually we broke free of the burned area and entered a huge meadow. I was beginning to run out of water and was starting to get thirsty, with huge deposits of salt forming on my lips.

It wasn’t long until we arrived at our campsite, next to the Kern river. Which also happened to be the Kern Cow Field, with dozens of cows hanging round the water – not a good thing near a water source (if you like cow-shit-free water, that is). Not to worry, we filled up our water bottles and after a quick filter we drank it all down, cow piss and all! Yum.

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The campsite was full of PCT thru-hikers, including Mr. Wilderness, King of the Outback; Brooklyn the dog, as well as Meth and Son and a French Canadian guy who expressed his disappointment in the lack of available ladies on the PCT.

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Noisiest stove award goes to....
Noisiest stove award goes to….

At hiker midnight (9pm) everyone suddenly retired and I was left scrambling to pack my bear can. Returning to camp I realized I’d forgotten to put the horrendous scented sunscreen in the bear can so I tramped up the hill to put it in there. After I’d closed the lid though I heard a ‘hissssssssss’ as the sunscreen started spraying out inside the bear-can. I somehow got it back open but the damage had been done and I was destined to spend the rest of the trip eating scented food and drinking scented coffee.

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Kern River Cows

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The next morning after a great night’s sleep we woke late and by the time we’d started thinking about breakfast the thru-hikers had all left. It was just Meth and Son and us.

After quick conversations with men about horses, we headed off back down the trail. This ten-mile stretch went so quickly we couldn’t believe it was over when we reached camp.

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We had another relaxed evening, continuing our non-stop conversation, and headed out the next morning back to the car and home. Along the way we met a group of hikers who were positively orgasmic at all my home-made equipment, so much that they have asked me to complete a questionnaire about my gear for an art exhibition.

These guys were really impressed by my home-made equipment
These guys were really impressed by my home-made equipment
Eric demonstrated how to cut wood without a saw
Eric demonstrated how to cut wood without a saw

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Abandoned tent Eric packed up and brought out
Abandoned tent Eric packed up and brought out

It was a fantastic, inspiring, fun and casual hike and I’m looking forward to the next time I can hang out with my new friend either on the trail or off.