The Sierra Nevada

On our second night out from Kennedy Meadows Kyle and I lay in our tent, rethinking our plan. Once again we didn’t have enough food. I mean, we had enough food, theoretically. But in the reality of a thru hiker, we didn’t have enough snacks. Already snack breaks were being limited to a bar, a handful of nuts, and a squeeze fruit pouch, all split between two people. Dinners and breakfasts were reliable but the days were filled with grumbling stomachs. Food will make people do crazy things, and on trail that is especially true. How can I really convey to you what hiker hunger feels like? We are up here burning upwards of 6,000 calories a day and replenishing our bodies with somewhere around 2,500 calories. When we are nearing a snack break I can feel my body loosing steam, I can feel my legs getting leaden, heavy with exhaustion, like a car sputtering out of fuel. And I chide myself because all around the world people are legitimately hungry, lack access to food, and here I am, hungry because I simply didn’t want to carry any more weight. Choosing to thru hike, to be hungry, to be cold and tired, to be jobless, it can all be a real mind fuck sometimes if you think about the rest of the world, about people experiencing the same things as you, but not by choice. And so I am often feeling guilty and dickish on top of feeling hungry. 

So, lack of food on our minds, Kyle and I had hatched a new plan that cut out the last eight mile nero day into Independence and by doing so freed up a dinner, a breakfast, and a couple snacks, which could then be incorporated into our daily snacks. Of course, fitting eight miles somewhere into our next three days meant creating some pretty big days. But if it meant more food we were all down. In the morning, as we all employed different methods to ward of clouds of mosquitos, we told Cameron the new plan, and he agreed instantly. That day we hiked twenty some miles to a random hill top campsite right before Chicken Lake. At the end of that day everything around us really started to change. We walked through our first real meadow, filled up our water bottles at a raging creek, camped on top of a wide saddle dotted with boulders and pine trees. Cameron actually cried with joy at the last meadow we went through and declared that the desert had been worth it. That is seriously saying something. 

We made it to the Sierras. The real Sierras. We are starting to see big granite mountains above tree line, and they are getting closer and closer. When we were in the desert I don’t think we ever truly believed things were going to get better, that all the heat and the blisters and the water carries were going to be worth it some day. But now we are here, in a new wild land of water and snow and ice and marmots. And it was worth the wait. 

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

6 thoughts on “The Sierra Nevada

  1. Thank you. Your posts transport me from my office desk in central London to a wonderful world of panoramic views and the great outdoors – reminds me to get out more!

  2. I can’t get enough of your blog posts–you guys are really inspirational! Can’t wait to try this in four(ish) years for a post PhD celebration.

  3. There is a refining process, heat bringing slag to the surface, creating a useful purity. Everything changes, the focus, the meaning and the reasons. The Sierras heal!

    It’s been over forty years but I remember not climbing a small saddle to view the Pacific watershed because it would burn X-amount of BTUs that wouldn’t be replaced. Bad choice.

    It gets better… I’m so encouraged by your journey.

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