Mileage Breakdown: 7.5 PCT Miles + 1.0 Mile road walk from Northern Kennedy Meadows (NKM) to Highway 108 = 8.5 Total.
The view this morning was just as magnificent as last night. I did not have the greatest night sleep, partly because of the near full moon (bright) as well as the constant roar of the wind which never let up.
I was on trail around 7:30 am, shortly after the rest of the group, and I was feeling very good. Almost as though nothing could bring me down. I was really enjoying the epic ridge walk that leads to Highway 108 at Sonora Pass.
After a couple miles, a snow field became a rather steep slope. I had two choices: one to glissade (slide on my butt) or, two, I could walk around it which would take much longer. I decided to glissade and paid a painful price for it. The snow was soft enough that my micro spikes wouldn't grip the snow, but frozen enough that the lumps didn't give way as I slid very quickly down the short slope.
It felt like the worst rug burn I'd ever had for the next two hours and to make it worse, the affected area was on my upper thigh / lower butt.
As the rawness began to feel better, I arrived at a very steep snow slop that I couldn't imagine sliding down, let alone walk down (I would have surely fallen on my butt and slid down anyways). I figured out a way down via a rock scramble that too nearly 30 minutes to travel 50-100 feet. Covered with jagged and lose rocks, the foot and hand holds were few and far between. There were many moments of feeling stuck (unable to go back up and no way to continue down). But I eventually made it down where I waited for, and watched, the rest of the group work their way down..
Some fell or slipped but everyone made it down safely. The group walked to Sonora Pass together and the feeling of seeing the Highway was a bit of elation. I had just completed the most technical and physically demanding section of the trail. This doesn't mean the rest of the trail is easy, anything but. It means DEATH or SERIOUS INJURY wont loom over every hill or valley I past though.
Hitching into Northern Kennedy Meadows took some time. NKM is a small resort along Highway 108 which is quite popular in the summer time. There is a general store, cafe and a large campground positioned right along the river.
I really enjoyed my time there, which I spent most of it eating and organizing my resupply, I wanted to get back to the trail today. A bunch of us started to look for a hitch around 5:00 pm figuring if we couldn't get one this late, we could find a spot at the campground and try again in the morning.
After a half hour of watching the few cars on road fly by us, a young man pulled over with a smile and gladly stuffed 6 of us in his old Toyota Tacoma. A little ways up the road, we caught a Brazilian Downhill Skateboarder and he road he board while holding onto the back of the truck. It was pretty insane!
At Sonora Pass, a trail angel had a cooler of beer, soda and snacks. It was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated. We sat around and talked with a few other hikers who had just made it to the Highway and planned to go into town tomorrow if they couldn't get a hitch this late in the day.
After hike a little over a mile from the Highway, some of us stopped and setup camp. THis was around 7:00 pm... just in time to make some dinner and watch another breathtaking sunset.