10 May 2021
Kennedy Meadows to the shoulder of Olancha Peak
PCT Mile 702.2 to 722.2
Today I hiked all day with Phoenix (formerly Josh), a section hiker who is an actor from Los Angeles. We were very compatible and we made plans to section hike the Sierra High Route together next year. Sweet! (Or, as he would say, Sick!). (Okay, I’m showing my age here.)
After saying bye to Button, we started hiking at sunrise. The first few miles were flat and easy across northern Kennedy Meadows and through a car campground before hitting the wilderness.
A big highlight for me today was retracing the steps of a backpacking trip I did with DoubleSub when he was 15. I specifically sought out our old campsite in Clover Meadow to get water, take a break, and reflect on what a lovely young man he has become.
We followed Crag Creek up to its source, where the trail got quite tangled in manzanita and blowdowns. It took some work to get through there and then down to our next water source, but soon we climbed out of that drainage and up to Monache Meadows.
On a little climb over a hill before the South Fork Kern bridge, we got our first view of Olancha Peak. At 12,000 feet, it is widely regarded as the first major peak in the Sierra.
Phoenix and I took a long break at the bridge. We each filled up with lots of water for what we thought would be a long waterless climb to a dry camp above 10,000 feet on the shoulder of Olancha Peak. Afternoon climbs are always hard, and harder with all that extra weight!
Breeze and Paul caught up with us and we chatted for a bit before heading out.
We took our time and got deep into a discussion of our lives. Phoenix started a thru-hike of the PCT in 2019, in part because of some personal issues he was working through. Another hiker with the trail name Seth Rogan who sounded quite rude quickly attached himself to Phoenix, much to his chagrin! But he couldn’t shake him!
Both because of that and the high snow that year, Phoenix flipped north and then eventually quit the trail to go hike in Europe. But that experience helped him to work through his personal issues and also helped him to find balance between hiking and his acting career. He came back to the PCT, this time as a section hiker.
I said to him “it’s like you were reborn, forged in fire, and then risen from the ashes! What do you think of the trail name Phoenix?”
He liked it! “That’s pretty sick!”
So Phoenix he shall be. 😊
We passed several running creeks on the way up, cursing the fact that we carried up water all the way from South Fork Kern. But it was fine. We actually collected a little more to make sure we stayed hydrated to cope with the higher elevation.
We climbed past Olancha Pass (where I once did a trip with Sobo Baggins and Quercus) and then, eventually, we made it to a stunning campsite near the top of Olancha’s massive shoulder. Quiet, calm, flat, and even with some gorgeous foxtail pines, I am very much looking forward to sleep!
Our First Twenty Miles in the Sierra
Floating in a dream
We climbed from grassy Kern banks
Up to foxtail pines