Bad Grades

June 12, 2017
Joshua Spring to Fox Mill Spring
Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike: Day 38

So close to Kennedy Meadows! Fox Mill Spring has weird metal parts laying around everywhere. There also must be a road nearby because there are many people camping sort of near the trail, but not near enough (or dirty enough, or subdued enough) to be thru-hikers. It looks (and sounds) like they’re having a birthday party, and if they're not thru-hikers, they could be up until all hours of the night. Oh, what a grump I've become. Grumble grumble.

We walked with Silver Fox this morning for a bit. He ran into us when we were finishing up our campsite cleanup, and we walked and talked through two and a half big climbs. I took a two-hour break at a spring today, about six miles from where we camped. I napped, and snacked, and napped some more. This is a newfound type of exhaustion.

The grade of the first hill was god-awful. Straight up, then flat, then down a little, then straight up again. Why does grade matter? Well, it's really difficult to get into a rhythmic walking pattern with a crappy grade, because you're constantly adjusting to the changing steepness of the hill. If it's a consistent intensity of up, just start walking, gain speed and to some extent, it will be over before you know it. But when the grade is constantly changing, all you can think about is physical exertion, lack of progress, up-down-up-down-flat-up-steeper-milder and so on. Rinse, lather, repeat. There are several periods on this ascent that find me walking like a wind-up toy that's lost all its momentum. Erratically and very, very slow. One. Step. Looong sigh. Another. Step. And so on.

The second hill is much better. Tomorrow we still have 19 miles and some change into Kennedy Meadows, but it’s mostly flat or downhill, just one big climb in the morning. I’m getting up early early early! I want to get to Kennedy Meadows with plenty of day left. Silver Fox said the trail family is planning on leaving Kennedy Meadows on June 16th, and Justin is getting nervous. I think we’re all nervous, but if something is impassable it doesn’t mean that we quit the Sierra. It means we backtrack and go to the next possible entry point, or backtrack and wait. I’m nervous and excited, all in one! I think we have a smart group with a lot of common sense and a good spread/combination of skills.

Tomorrow will be like Christmas with all the packages we have waiting for us at Kennedy Meadows! I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the family again, but am concerned about the fearmongering that I expect to happen once we’re surrounded by the throngs of stagnant hikers.