Great Western Loop: Day 173 - 177: Sacramento to Kennedy Meadows (North)
Day 173: Roadwalk (26.5miles) I left Sacramento late that day. Days of roadwalking had left me very exhausted and my knee pain started to worsen. The first 10-15miles were along a major highway with a lot of traffic, little water and no place to poop. This time I didn't have luck with random people stopping along the road to offer me water and sodas, but a nice farmers market helped to quench my thirst on yet another very hot day.
Even though the roadwalk was mostly boring, I had some spectacular entertainment by several fighter jets flying stunning maneuvers over my head for several hours. Most jets flew separately, but than occasionally joined to fly in close formation. The highlight was a squadron of 8 colourful jets flying various patterns and using smoke.
In the late afternoon I left the highway for a small dirt road. Being far away from any official trail I struggled to find a place to camp. Just after sunset I came across a bridge, jumped over a fence and pitched my tent in a dry river bed next to the road into Ione. This time however I made sure that no one could see me from the road and call the cops. Day 174: San Andreas (29miles) I left my campsite before sunrise, climbed back up to the bridge and waited for a moment with no cars driving by and jumped back over the fence and onto the road. I did a quick resupply in Ione and left for the Pardee Reservoir, following the Buena Vista road. Unfortunately there were no nice views, just again the smell of dead animals that had been killed by cars. A stench, that had followed me throughout most of the last few days. I stopped for lunch at a nice overlook on the reservoir and checked the results of the German federal election.
While sitting there a local ranger showed up and checked on me. He offered water and guidance, but at this time I was fine and still well supplied. An hour later I crossed the dam and continued towards San Andreas, where I arrived in the early evening.
Day 175: Murphys (29miles) Leaving San Andreas I followed the highway towards nearby Angels Camp. Here I stopped 3hrs later for a quick chicken sandwich and and a resupply, before heading out towards Murphys. The roadwalks were boring, hot and painful, but Murphys was a surprisingly beautiful little town. I stopped here for a coffee and than moved on into the wilderness towards Pinecrest.
I followed some smaller roads with several vineyards, before running into known problems again...one of the roads I was supposed to take was - again - a private road. I stood at the gate, thinking about what to do, when suddenly the tiny motor that moved the gate turned on. I felt busted and quickly left the entrance to the private property. All legal alternates would have cost me several hours and so I followed a side road and than bushwhacked up a steep hill jumping over two fences to reconnect with the private road at a place where I hoped it to be public again. Well...I didn't get lucky. I managed to sneak around the first property, but was still on private land and in clear view of some houses. I quickly hiked along the road and came to yet another fence with several "no trespassing" signs. With a cliff on one side and houses on the other side, there was no way to bypass it. I felt really uncomfortable and expected to be caught any minute, as the doors of a nearby barn stood wide open. I once again jumped the fence and held my hands clearly visible away from my body, so that anyone would see that I'm not armed, while passing the barn as quickly as possible. I got across unmolested and finally jumped the fence one last time back to public land and onto a car junkyard. I eventually relaxed and followed an abandoned road down into the gulch that lead towards Pinecrest.
Looking at the gulch and its steep cliffs I got a bit concerned about my water supply. Luckily the river was accessible at the nearby bridge, allowing me to continue as planned, instead of taking a 2mile detour to a campsite. An hour later I camped next to a forest road and heard animals stalking around my tent for quite a while.
Day 176: Pinecrest (35miles) I followed that forest road for most of the next day, steadily climbing higher and higher into the mountains. It was a cold morning and the road was still wet from last night's rain, but with each and every step I felt the Sierra coming closer. With my route from Ft. Bragg back to the Sierra planned over night, I had no reliable information on water sources for the next 30miles into Pinecrest, but my Gaia App showed two potential springs. And indeed, the first spring was flowing and made my day so much easier.
Just after reaching the spring I found a perfectly fine car with 4 open doors and an open engine hood and a bra on a branch right next to it...very weird setting.
The rest of the day remained uneventful, I got into Pinecrest by 4pm, rested a while and resupplied at the General Store. At about 5pm I hiked out to shorten the distance to Kennedy Meadows. While following yet another forest road, I enjoyed one of the most epic sunsets, unfortunately mostly covered by trees.
Day 177: Kennedy Meadows (North)(22miles) Within the last 24hrs I had climbed from California's hot desert floor back into the mountains at some 7,000ft. The drop in temperature was remarkable and the night had been really cold. My route followed a forest road for only a few more miles before than joining the Gianelli and some other trails into Kennedy Meadows. Even though it was still a steep climb up to more than 9,000ft. - including many ups and downs - it was a remarkably beautiful day with gorgeous views on nearby mountains and lakes.
Not yet back on the PCT, I still felt being back into the mountains and close to the route which I was supposed to take. With only 22miles to hike, I didn't rush and enjoyed the scenery. I got into Kennedy Meadows by 3:30pm, had a burger at the local restaurant and than started to get organised for the PCT. This meant, getting my pre-orderes bear can and enough supplies for a 4-day hike into Mammoth Lakes.
The Great Western Loop is defined by the challenge of making it through the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra in one season. Reaching Kennedy Meadows was therefore of utmost importance to me, as it is the main gateway into California's mountains. Starting this section just before October is late, but not too late. Nights will be cold, but snow storms are rather unlikely. However, the weather forecast for the next 14days isn't the best and there's still some major concern about the smoke from the nearby Sequoia fires, but I guess at this point, nothing is gonna stop me from reaching my ultimate goal. I'll make it to Flagstaff, AZ.