After 700 miles, I reached the end of the desert section and climbed up to the hamlet of Kennedy Meadows, gateway to the Sierra Nevada and staging point, I saw, to scores of hikers, resting in the shade, eating, drinking, and talking shop.
In a typical year, much of the snow on the trail may have melted off by now. But the heavy snowfall last winter means the trail is snowbound for large stretches of the next 400 miles, much of which is above 10,000 feet.
These conditions require additional equipment. Hikers must carry an ice axe, crampons for extra traction, and warmer clothing. The authorities also mandate the storage of food in bear canisters. These tubs of hard plastic are secured by a latch that is beyond a bear’s ability to open. And beyond mine, I discovered, as I sat forlornly, poring over the instructions and pressing different bits of the canister. A fellow hiker came to my rescue – thank goodness for the trail camaraderie!
I lumbered out of Kennedy Meadows with a considerably heavier pack than I brought in. The special challenges ahead preoccupied me most of the day – how will I cross the swollen rivers? What is it like to walk with sodden socks for days? How will the altitude affect me?
But all was forgotten when the trail followed a ridge up through the trees. A white peak burst into view across a valley braided with water. Beyond that peak was another, and another, rising starkly from the lush green. The desert is behind me; the high mountains await. I am excited!
If you feel inspired like I am, please consider making a donation to ZANE – things in Zimbabwe go from bad to worse with terrible shortages of fuel, medicine and food along with power cuts more than half of each day – in many cases help from ZANE is all that is keeping people going.