Jacob Leistra / "Game Boy" / PCT 2019

Days 44 and 45: Kennedy Meadows

Mile 702.1 - Zero miles on trail

The plan is to spend two zeros at Kennedy Meadows. We have a full schedule of eating, drinking, buying and restrategizing gear, lazing around, and catching up with hikers we haven’t seen in hundreds of miles.we accomplished all of that and more, and we feel ready to enter the Sierra.

Our first section in the Sierra will be about 87 miles to Kearsarge Pass, so we can resupply in Independence or Bishop. This section will arguably be the hardest of the entire trail. Thousands of feet of ascent and descent, including Forrester Pass at 13,123 ft. Shortly after Forrester we’ll size up whether we want to ascend Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States. One of my life goals is to reach all (or realistically, as many) high points as I can. So far I’ve already doing Mt. Fuji in Japan, and this next section will hopefully bag me the United States high point.

(On another note, it’ll be really cool going to Bishop not at as climber. I really like its small town amenities, all of which are amazing from the perspective of a hiker.)

This section will be hard, long, slow, cold, etc. But I’m confident it will be an amazing experience if we take it slowly and safely.

As for our time in Kennedy Meadows, it’s been interesting. There’s yet again more trail drama between the two hiker spots in Kennedy Meadows: the Kennedy Meadows General Store, and Grumpy Bear’s Retreat. Both are located on the sameish road about 3 miles apart, and eacc are competing to sell hikers overpriced food and life goods, often resold from Walmart or other retailers. Both locations have an outfitter: 2 Foot Adventures at the General Store, and Triple Crown Outfitters at Grumpy Bear’s. Apparently there’s also some drama at the outfitters as well, but I had great experiences with both.

The breakfast at Grumpy Bear’s was probably the best part of my stay at Kennedy Meadows. The standard breakfast includes a sausage pattie, two eggs any way, French fries, and “all you can eat pancakes.” The thing with the pancakes, though, is their size. Unless you’re insane, you can only one.

The General Store also sells food, but it’s standard frozen burgers from a grill. The food is good, but it’s better at Grumpy Bear’s. Triple Crown Outfitters also sells enough food for a full resupply and at reasonable prices. Grumpy Bear’s has cases of beer for okay prices, and the General Store has a good beer selection for really high prices. The General Store, though, is a bit more of a comfortable place to hangout. Most importantly, Grumpy Bear’s plays music until midnight or so, which makes the General Store a better place to camp.

In a nutshell, there’s no clear winner, and it was necessary to go back and forth between the two. This was awkward because, due to some free food being given away on Saturday night at Grumpy Bear’s, hikers were flocking to Grumpy Bear’s for most of the evening. Rumor is the owner of the General Store went over to Grumpy’s to start some shit and got in a fight with someone. I cannot confirm or not, but on Sunday the owner was sporting a shiner on his right eye.

The whole thing is petty and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s weird to be treated dismissively as a dirty hiker, but simultaneously having your business taken for granted or seen as owed. Here’s what I mean: the prices and service of both places, with the exception of the great outfitters, is pretty poor. Prices are not great. Service is poor. Friendliness and welcoming is probably the lowest of any major stop so far. And yet I get the feeling these places are heavily relying on our business and are doing near the minimum to have us stick around.

If it weren’t for the Sierra being literally the next trail section, I wouldn’t have hung around for as long as I did. That said, I still had an awesome time because of the people. My group is great, most other hikers are great, and I’m psyched to get going soon. Rather than recount all the stuff we did, here are some photos of what we were up to.

Jim and Alana (now PJ and Putts) reading a limerick for their 1st wedding anniversary:

Main Photo: A random broken gas pump in Kennedy Meadows Road on June 22.