The desert section of the Pacific Crest Trail seemed to go on forever. And the last two parts from Tahachapi through Ridgecrest, California ended up being the driest on the PCT, and for this late in the year, the hottest as well. I ended up crossing this part on two different days with high heat alerts.

When it’s hot out, we worry about our hydration. A liter of water weighs just over 2 pounds and it was normal to carry 3-5 liters of water just to get to the next source. Us hikers couldn’t have done this section without the generosity of dedicated trail angels who regularly leave caches of water jugs at well-spaced road crossings. Their commitment literally saves lives.

 Sergio delivers gallons of water to stashes around Walker Pass. On this day he brought us doughnuts too!

There was one moment I looked out from a water cache into the most inhospitable view I’ve ever seen. This is the kind of scene movie directors look for to film the protagonist walking out into the desert to die- complete with searing music and wavy heat lines to highlight the intense sun. 

Finally, after 704 miles, I made it to Kennedy Meadows South. This small little hamlet is a major landmark on the trail as the official gateway out of the Southern California desert and into the Sierra Mountains. As each hiker comes off the trail and arrives to the trail side General Store, fellow hikers cheer and ring a cowbell for their welcome. It’s a very emotional moment for us all!

(Note: in this last picture, I’m trying to give you the biggest smile I can muster, but my lips are so chapped, the pain is intense when I crack them open!)

Kennedy Meadows is a place to gather, reconnect with former trail friends, tell stories, celebrate, eat and rejuvenate in the shade. It is also where we had to pack up our new Sierra mountain required bear-proof food containers, our cold weather clothes and our ice/ snow crossing equipment. 700 miles down, the desert is behind us and cold mountain streams, towering trees, and stunning 12,000 foot mountain passes were in our future. Our excitement vibrated in the air, even as our now very heavy packs kept our feet on the ground. 

I hiked the first days of this section with friends Bob and Tom, and together we got our first taste of ancient trees, green meadows, deep blue lakes and the sweeping valleys of Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. It felt so good to be in the mountains again!