Didn’t sleep the best last night. Started out pretty well, then I woke up sometime in the middle of the night and was too warm, so I kicked off my socks and threw out my hand warmers. Tossed and turned the rest of the night. Couldn’t get comfortable. Part of me was relieved when my alarm buzzed at 6a. I still hit snooze until 645a. Haha, that’s what I do!
Normally I’m a fan of the adage “Be bold, start cold.” Not today, though. It was a brisk morning, and I knew the sun wouldn’t crest the ridge for quite some time, so I set out in my puffy. In the back of my mind, I figured I’d be stopping soon to de-layer, but I wore it comfortably for the first few hours as I descended into the Kern River Valley.
During a stop for one of my so-called “Beauty Breaks,” which is just fancy-talk for taking pictures, I heard something kick a big rock down in the narrow gorge where I was hiking. I love when that kind of stuff happens. Hiking alone, I see lots of wildlife, but these moments are reminders of all the wildlife I don’t see. I wonder what was up there.
I loved hiking along the Kern River. Trees and thick vegetation were a nice change. I saw two hikers heading in the direction opposite me who said I was the only person they’d seen during the four days they’d been out. Day two on the HST; I’d already seen four other people by this time on the L2H route. Funny how there was more traffic on a lesser-known, undeveloped route than on this well-known, well-maintained trail. Of course, the Sierra in October are bound to be less popular. So naturally, I had the Kern Hot Springs all to myself. Naked time! To be honest, they’re not terribly impressive, but they’re remote and hot, so I was satisfied. I was there right in the heat of the day, so I soaked my body for about 20 minutes, then I got out, filtered water from the river, ate lunch, and continued on. I would’ve enjoyed spending the night there and soaking during the brisk morning hours tomorrow, but I didn’t feel compelled to just hang out there the rest of the day when it was barely 1p.
Once I gained the Chagoopa Plateau, I opted for the Moraine Lake alternate route, which only added about a quarter mile. First I cruised through Sky Parlor Meadow with gorgeous views of the surrounding high country, then I climbed up to Moraine Lake. Beautiful. Again, a spot where I would’ve loved to have camped. But it wasn’t time yet. I was shooting for the Big Arroyo to give myself morning light on the Great Western Divide tomorrow morning. Just a quick four or five miles further. As I rejoined the standard route above Moraine Lake, I saw a pack of three coyotes watching me from across an open meadow. When I stopped in kind, they turned and trotted off into the trees. Usually I prefer my wide angle lenses, but those wildlife shots are often better-captured with a telephoto. As you can imagine, these coyotes look like pixels in the photos I took. Ah well, life is imperfect. And it was still so cool!
I arrived at the Big Arroyo shortly after the last bit of twilight faded to black. Not a soul to be seen. I found a historic cabin and thought I’d scored again, but it was locked and shuttered. No way in but to break in, which really isn’t my style. Instead I’ve found a nice flat spot nearby to make my home for the night. I may well finish tomorrow, which is exciting and sad. I’m stoked for Kaweah Gap and stoked to put this one in the books. And I don’t wanna leave. This is my first thru-hike for a while; it’s been wonderful to be back out here. Wonderful to be Sochi again.
Miles Hiked: 25.5