PCT mile 1018.5/Northern Kennedy Meadows
After last evening's fiasco of events, I managed to sleep till 6:40am. I could hear the mosquitos buzzing outside my tent and was not entirely eager to get up and out of my safe haven. Eventually the sun was making it nice and toasty in my tent and it was time to move on. The mosquitos were out but not as entirely bad as last night.
I decided to take it nice and easy today. There was a stream at mile 1007, I stopped at and took a long break: I ate breakfast, had a couple cups of coffee, did laundry and bathed. A section hiker, Don, came through and he joined me for a bit. We watched as some dark clouds started to form in the peaks in front of us. Off to the left the sun was still shining and the sky was blue, I decided to move on, not exactly sure which direction the trail was heading, but knew I had a climb, Sonora Pass, ahead of me. Don stayed behind.
Initially the trail headed towards the blue sky, but then a sharp switchback changed that and I was heading towards the dark clouds. It started to rain and I sought shelter by a nearby patch of trees, watching the clouds deciding what to do. The rain lightened and it appeared the clouds were blowing over so I continued on. I could see some others toward the tops of the switchbacks so hurried to catch them. The group was some weekend hikers who got pushed down from the storm as they were getting thunder, lightning and hail. Then I saw Tailor and 3D, thru-hikers I met yesterday, coming up the side of the trail, who also got pushed down by the storm. We watched as the clouds moved on and the sky began to clear. 3D, Tailor, and I decided to stick together and hike the up and over the pass together.
Sonora Pass is an exposed pass with no trees and it's not an up and over, once you're up near the top you traverse about 5-6 miles until you actually come to the highest point on the pass and then descend to Highway 108. We were about 3 miles in on top and saw more dark clouds rolling in, we discussed what to do, continue on or go down the side and seek shelter in a flatter area with a patch of trees we could about a quarter mile down. We decided to continue on but watch what was happening with the clouds.
Then things got worse quickly, we decided to head down the side of the exposed mountain as it was starting to storm again. We didn't have time to get to the flat spot we saw, as it was starting to rain heavily. We all grabbed our rainflys or traps from our packs crouched within 3 boulders and hid ourselves and our packs under our rainflys. That's when it really started to storm, Tailor said we were hit by 2 thunder and lightning storms. It briefly hailed and rained a lot. I could see nothing as I didn't want to peak my head out and lose the heat I had formed under my rainfly, as I was starting to get cold. I could see lots of lighting flashes and there was some loud thunder. Every once in a while 3D or I would check to make sure we were all hanging in there, "Everyone OK?" We'd all answer with a muffled, "yes."
About an hour later Tailor was watching the clouds and sky and the rain was lightning up. "I think we need to move on." So we all crawled out of our covers, I quickly changed into warmer clothes. We found the trail above us and we were on our way. The rain had stopped and the clouds and sky were making for some spectacular views as we came over the other side of the pass we went from barren rock cover to green forage. It was amazingly beautiful. We took time to take some pictures and eventually made it to Highway 108.
Tailor and 3D were going to Northern Kennedy Meadows to resupply, I was suppose to continue on, but was rethinking that plan and considering Northern Kennedy Meadows for the night as it was already 7pm. I had to decide quickly as 3D waved a car down who stopped to give us a ride. I decided to head in for the night, company would be better than camping alone after that storm.
We got to Northern Kennedy Meadows which was a rustic cabin resort with a restaurant, store, cabins and lodge. We got a dorm room for $35 which included laundry and hot showers. Too bad I just did my laundry that morning, but I'll take the shower. I found Pilsbury in the restaurant finishing dinner, "Oh my god, you're here! You weren't going to stop here." I gave her the quick version of getting caught in the storm. Then I told her how I had gotten off trail and lost her the night before, as I never caught up to her. Tailor, 3D, and I sat down for dinner...I ordered the family style dinner, which was chicken. "Wow this chicken is awesome. This is the best chicken I've ever had." I said, we all laughed a bit and scarfed down our meals, 3D wasn't going to eat her dessert so I quickly took that out of her hands and scarfed that down too. I ended the night with a wonderful long hot shower.