I’m getting into this terrible habit of ignoring my alarm – it’s cold when it goes off at 5, and there’s no one else stirring, so I roll over and go back to sleep. At 5:45 though, Evac starts stirring in a manner it’s impossible to ignore, so I’m up myself, if only marginally. I ask for just a sip of coffee and she offers it to me, sweet brown liquid rolling warmly down my gullet. I guess it’s time to start the day.
The other two are thrilled about making it to Kennedy Meadows, but I just can’t muster the energy. Yoda’s out first, and while I’m proud to be keeping up with Evac, I’m not excited. More the numb side of happy than anything else. Still, the conversation’s engaging, and I’m glad for the company.
Then, there’s this completely unfamiliar noise – bubbling and burbling and rushing and so, so sweet. The south fork of the Kern River is at our feet, and we grin about it as Evac collects for the rest of the miles. No tarrying, though; Yoda is waiting for us at the Kennedy Meadows sign.
We cross paths with Wolf around 8:30, having coffee in his campsite. He ended up doing 4.5 mph to get to a nearby swimming hole last night. It was something like a 27 mile day for him, so he’s relaxing into KM today. Which means he’ll catch us shortly, so we get a moveon.
Shortly, we spot Yoda on a ridge, and then, 700!
We take silly pictures as the hikers pile up behind us. Wolf’s there, too, and we take a partial Wolfpack photo.
Then we move on – only 2.2 miles left! The other three pull ahead, and I’m alone again, surrounded by tiny pink stars on a sagebrush field.
I’m having a very introspective day – or at least a very present day, feeling the scratches and brushes of the overhanging plants on the trail. I’m loving the water-loving plants – it feels like I’m making my way through a jungle rather than a desert.
I can see them so, so far ahead of me – it’s only because of the trail register that I catch up, sign it with a Zuulian phrase 1. Then it’s the road, and the sign!
And then the store, where all the other hikers clap and cheer our arrival. I mean, everyone’s arrival, but ours, too. The rest of the Wolfpack, including Pineapple, who missed the spectacle, runs out for hugs, and soon we’re getting all sorts of love from the community. We’ve arrived!
They disappear to set up, and while I’m hunting for them I spot Still Alive and Big Salad Puma and Moses – of course he’s here. I fall into conversation with each of them, and manage to wander in to sign up to get my boxes, too.
Everyone’s setting up shelters – I love my Mountain Hardwear tent, but I’ve kind of forgotten how to put it up with all the cowboy camping; since this flat spot is just so, it takes me three times staking it out to get it just right. Then it’s back for chatting and to check on my packages.
There’s a big fat zero by my name when I go to look for them – no boxes for me, and the mail’s already come. It’s Saturday. I’m stuck here until Monday, with everyone wanting to leave out tomorrow in the early afternoon.
I go back to the table, upset. I rage at Spesh in his absence, even through it’s probably mostly my fault, since my socks didn’t get there until Tuesday evening. He was just doing what I asked, but that doesn’t make me feel better. Nothing does, really. I’ve just found my trail family again, and I’m going to lose them.
I eat – maybe my emotions will chill the hell out if I put food in my face, but it doesn’t work. Eventually, I can’t stand everyone getting into their boxes and having Hiker Christmas Morning in front of me. I retreat to my tent and sob silently, eventually doing what I do best in stressful situations: fall asleep.
Outro wakes me with talk of going down to the river to hang out. I want one last hurrah with the gang, so I drag myself out of my tent, but I’m not the best company, even though I try to be better. Getting out of the store area helps, but not enough; writing helps, but not enough; talking helps, but not enough.
I give up eventually, head back to the store. Pineapple joins me, tells me she’ll wait for me, even if no one else does. She da best.
The store’s had a delivery of ice cream – ice cream makes everything better – and I put an entire pint of Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Core(!) down before the pizza comes. The chill of the ice cream and the early evening helps; talking/laughing with Moses over pizza helps. Two townies set up Jenga and that helps. Eventually, I’m called over for a Wolfpack family meeting, and, regardless of the outcome, I feel more at peace with the situation.
We have a good talk; the consensus is that while people want to hike, no one wants to leave me behind. Our solution is to try to all meet at Whitney by a certain date, to be decided tomorrow, when we’re feeling up for math and planning and such. Some folks will be about a half-day ahead of me, others a whole day, but the goal is to make the Whitney date feasible for me. Ish. So I’ve got a challenge ahead of me, but if I can do it, I won’t be alone.
I’m goal-oriented. I’ll manage, I think.
Evac and I start a massage train and pretty soon the whole pack’s choo-chooing along, first downhill, which is easy, then uphill, which is a hilarious catastrophe. The moon comes up as we laugh, the first day of full, and bright enough to cast shadows all over everything even as the sun goes down. It admonishes us to sleep, and we all slowly slink in that direction. I’m exhausted from the rollercoaster that was today, so it’s easy for me to curl up in my bag and marvel at how strange and well-lit this whole kinda-roof tent thing is before sleep.
Start: 693.9 • End: 702.2 • Day: 8.3
Notable Accomplishments: Finished the desert! • Took some great photos • Learned my pack loves me
 There is no exuberance at finishing the desert. Only Zuul.