23 miles (668.7 to 691.7)
We leave the crowded campsite at 5am and head straight into a four mile climb up and over the mountain. The trail is at the perfect angle, so I start out fast and churn through the miles until I near the top, where the trail becomes steep enough to slow me down.
At the top of the ridge I sit and wait for Dad. We eat a snack and take off our shoes. Four hikers (four more hikers!) camped here last night; they file out and hike on while we sit and rest. As we’re putting on our packs to leave, another hiker arrives fresh off the climb. He’s Festus from Montreal, and he camped at the same site we did. He goes on ahead of us. For another mile the trail climbs mildly, then wraps around the top of a drainage and begins to descend.
One by one or two by two, hikers pass. When I was alone, I felt so fast and so strong. But I can’t keep up with any of these people.
Dad and I stop for lunch at Chimney Creek under the deep shade of a pine. Another hiker joins us under the tree. I can’t remember his name, but I’ve seen him and his friend off and on for a few hundred miles. We discuss the difficulties of the last week: the heat wave, the long water carries, hiding out during the day in any available shade.
Under the tree, I find two obsidian flakes. Nearby, there are bedrock mortars. I even find a partially buried pestle. This has obviously been a special place for a long time.
Dad and I hike on after 1:00, up into pine forest. After 2.5 miles, we reach our next water source at Fox Mill Spring. The spring is flowing well. I eat a snack and fall asleep. When I wake, the hiker across the campsite announces that there’s a rattlesnake between us. There sure is, a big one, making its way slowly through the campsite. It must have come very close to Wonder Woman, who was napping. We all spring up and watch the snake’s progress. Festus arrives. Another hiker arrives. Everyone stands around and watches the snake.
Eventually Dad and I hike on to finish our last uphill slog before Kennedy Meadows. We’re on our way to 8,000 feet. The climb seems very long, and even though the trail isn’t especially steep, it’s at just the wrong angle for my legs, making me incredibly inefficient and slow. We pass a group of three backpackers coming in the opposite direction. They tell us there’s a wildfire somewhere ahead, and sure enough, as we approach the top of the ridge, we see smoke in the distance. Luckily the plume isn’t blowing toward us.
The next campsite listed in the apps is at Manter Creek, still six miles away. That’s farther than either of us wants to go today. As we descend, the terrain sort of levels out, and we come upon a campsite at mile 689. We give it a walk-through and decide to go on in hopes of finding something “better.”
The trail drops and traverses the side of a mountain. Steep uphill on the left, steep downhill on the right, no place for tents. We stop to eat dinner in a place just wide enough to sit and set down our packs. Then we have to keep going. As we come around one bend, I see a little ridge with a few trees in the distance. I suspect we’ll find a campsite there. It takes a long time to reach that little spur ridge. At last we do, and find a tent already set up on the ridge. There’s room for two more, though, so we set up our things.
I’m in a poor mood. My right foot hurts. Switching insoles earlier only delayed the pain from intensifying. In addition to arch pain, I have yet another blister on the outside of my right heel, this one right on top of an old one that wasn’t fully healed. I can’t figure out why this is happening. Hopefully in Kennedy Meadows I can give these blisters the time they need to go away. There isn’t much more I can do. None of the special bandages or tapes I’ve tried will stay on my feet for more than a few hours. I must have defective feet.