Kern River Valley
The next morning we got a lazy start, and set off for a 20+ mile day. The trail was very rugged with countless downed trees and rock slides, so it was slow going. My body was uncharacteristically in a lot of pain – I had a shooting burning sensation in my hips and knees, and my feet felt like I had dropped a boulder on them. I adjusted the torso length on my pack and that seemed to help a little. The heat was stifling and as soon as we entered into the Kern Valley proper my buddy almost stepped on rattlesnake. The heat was hovering near 90 and there was not much of a breeze unless you were within a few feet of the river; so we stopped for an hour or so during the hottest part of the day to relax and do some fishing. The fish were not really interested in feeding (I don’t blame them) but it felt wonderful to plunge my aching body into the frigid mountain river.
The trail in the valley while mellow elevation gain wise (about 100′ per mile) was still rugged. There were hundreds (okay maybe I exaggerate slightly) of downed trees and in many places the trail was choked with waist high grass and ferns. Perfect habitat for snakes, which is where we saw the second rattlesnake – this time I almost stepped on it.
Late in the day we came across the Kern River Hot Springs. The heat had begun to wain a little and so we decided to stop for a little soak. However, the tub was empty and we did not want to wait for it to fill up so I suggested a foot onsen instead. My buddy had never heard of a foot onsen before, which made me all the more eager to show him. The hot mineral rich water was a God send for my aching feet and knees, I did not want to put my boots back on.
Between the heat, keeping an eye out for snakes, climbing up and over many many dead trees, and the pain in my legs which required numerous stops we ended up having to hike by headlamp. Around 2200 (10pm) and still not at our destination we gave up, found a flattish spot, forced ourselves to eat, and crawled into our sleeping bags. The mileage marked on the trail maps were way off from what our GPS was reading. We had hiked almost 26 miles that day and we were still 1.5-2 miles from where we had intended to stay the night – quite a bit longer than the 22’ish miles the map showed. With the highest mileage day behind us we hoped that the next two days would prove to be a little easier.
Day III & IV of the adventure continue here