June 19th: 10 miles out of Kennedy Meadows

June 19th: We returned to the trail after a 10-day hiatus due to Starbuck’s ankle injury. Starting off at Kennedy Meadows General Store, we hiked 10 strenuous miles during which we gained over 2,000 feet of elevation.

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Start location: Ridgecrest, CA
Midpoint via car: Kennedy Meadows General Store
Walking by: 12:10pm
End point: 7:30pm, 36.14294, -118.14326. Mile #712.67

A very quick word about the day prior, June 18th. We rented a car on that day to drive from Orange County, CA to Ridgecrest, CA. We bumped into unexpected, bad traffic on the way out of the Los Angeles area. We did not arrive in Ridgecrest until 5pm. Uncomfortable with trying to hitchhiked up to Kennedy Meadows so late in the evening, we stayed at the town’s Clarion Inn. The staff there (two guy, Bob and Eric) was incredibly hiker friendly and worked with us on the rate we paid for our room. It was a nice stay.

Back to today, June 19th. We woke by alarm (a rarity for us) at 6am. Our morning was spent eating, packing, and returning the rental car. The last of these took longer than expected due to a contract issuance messup on the part of Budget Car Rental. That makes two car companies, Enterprise and Budget, which screwed up our rental car reservations to Ridgecrest. (Enterprise had overbooked a lot on us on the 17th, when we first tried to leave).

We were hitchhiking out of Ridgecrest by 10am. We used a sign made out of a Little Caesar’s pizza box (garbage picked, no pizza involved) to help. By 10:30 we had a ride, a Ridgecrest local named “Tony” who drove a full size, four door Ford pickup truck. Tony initially only wanted to give us a ride to US-395. About 10 minutes into the ride, in the middle of conversation between the three of us, he decided to take us all the way up to Kennedy Meadows. THANKS, TONY! (Hope you find a use for the USB car charger you inherited).

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View from Tony's dashboard while driving up 9 Mile Road from US-395 to Kennedy Meadows

We got clapped at again while walking up to Kennedy Meadows. Whenever a hiker walks up to Kennedy Meadows General Store, all hikers already there start clapping. We felt guilty for getting clapped at a second time after arriving via car.

Not more than 10 minutes after arriving did we bump into another familiar face. “Redbeard” from our AT hike last year was there! On the AT, we met him somewhere in Pennsylvania, then again at the Delaware Water Gap.

We didn’t stay at Kennedy Meadows Store long. We were walking by 12:10pm. Initially, the trail is flat. That lasts very briefly. Once you pass the Kennedy Meadows Campground (about 2 miles from the store), the trail starts climbing. And climbing. And climbing.

We climbed into pine trees- a welcome respite from the day’s scorching sun (it’d been 104degrees in Ridgecrest, it was 86 at Kennedy Meadows Store). The shade didn’t last long, as we soon entered a  burn area.

We moved slow today. We both felt out of shape after our 10 day hiatus. Erica really suffered in the heat and exposure :(

The burn area gave way to trees around mile 711.5. In that area, there is access to a small creek via a campground. We ate a meal there, and met another hiker going by trail name “McGuyver.” He got the Battlestar Galctica reference (a rarity on a trail where everyone thinks “Starbuck” is coffee).

We ate a dehydrated dish manufactured months ago by Starbuck for dinner: LOADED Mac and Cheese. It worked great and rehydrated very well.

We left mile 711.5 around 6pm. We hiked another hour and a half to our present location. Now, at only 9:30pm, we exhausted and going to bed.

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