The pancakes this morning were delicious. The Israeli Gear group cooked up about 90 pancakes feeding myself, Digger, Smokey the Beard, Lost and Found, Joker, Golden Child, Mike, Andrew, Slim, Zorro, and Smilies and trail angel Tom. I spent most of the day after pancakes, in an outdoor shower, organizing my pack with new gear(ice axe, crampons, bear canister, down vest), laundry(washer only, air dry on clothes line) and discussing plans for resupply throughout the remote Sierras with all the other hikers here at Kennedy Meadows.
Yesterday I woke up on a nose of mountain looking over Fox Mill Meadows, where I left most of the other hikers for the night. I wanted to camp alone that night. Anywho, by the time I had broken camp and started moving up the trail, Smiles had already passed me and Mike was not too far behind. Had lunch on the banks of the South Fork Kern River where I encountered a large rattlesnake. The rattler was angry, but not aggressive or a problem.
Wasn't three miles from there after lunch I was hiking through a sage flat with loose sand and a few junipers and small pines. I had been listening to a low flying helicopter for the past half hour slowly getting closer and closer to me. Afterwhile the helicopter came into view, close enough to see sheriff on the belly of the chopper and two fully armed search and rescue crew members on the deck with legs dangling. I gave a friendly wave up, and within three minutes the chopper and circled around me and started to land in meadow I was hiking through. The chopper was blowing sand across the trail and into my face and tumbleweed rolling by.
Turns out the search and rescue had received an emergency signal from a device from a hiker in the area. A similar device that I have been carrying. They thought I was the hiker they were looking for. "I had NOT hit the 911 button on my SPOT", I told them. I told the men my name. They pulled out their notes on the person they were searching for. The name they had was for a Zack Lee. What a coincidence that I'm Zac Finley. Sounds very similar. Apparently their dispatch was talking to my dad on the phone with more info on the hiker they were looking for. Their notes showed a hiker with a grey sweater on. I looked at my grey long sleeve shirt I was wearing. GREAT! Maybe I had accidentally hit the 911 button on my SPOT....but there's no way I would have hit it twice, which is what the S&R crew had noted. The phone number they had didn;t match mine, and neither did the missing hiker's itinerary. The whole scene was very odd and confusing for myself and the S&R team. Either way, I was obviously fine and did not need rescue. They took my information down and asked if I was OK, if I knew where I was, and if I needed anything. They didn't think it was too funny when I said I could use a cold beer and a pizza. We did share a few laughs anyways in the remote sage field and then they were off.
A couple hours later after walking and worrying that my parents had been freaking out about whatever it was that was calling for a search and rescue for me, I reached Kennedy Meadows where I could use a phone. Called Mom and she had no panic or worried tone to her voice,and no idea of a any search and rescue! Turns out my dad had not talked to any search and rescue, and the whole thing in the sage flats with the helicopter was not for me afterall. I was relieved that no one was worrying and that I had not accidentally hit the wrong the button. Hopefully Zack Lee is OK and the S&R do find HIM.
Here at Tom's place in Kennedy Meadows things are much more relaxing. A perfect place for a zero day before heading into the cold snow covered high Sierras. Tom's place is just a minute's walk from the small general store. There isn't much more to Kennedy Meadows than Tom's and the store. Tom's mini trailer park sits on a sandy dirt hill coming down from the road on about 2 acres. His front yard is home to a large shady Jeffery Pine tree with hikers floating in hammocks. Several picnic tables and couches are also occupied with tired hikers outside on the deck of Tom's Cyber Cafe. The Cyber Cafe is where I'm typing from now. It is a roomy silver airstream trailer with four computers with Internet and a land line phone. Along with trailer there are many other small campers and pop-up trailers in Tom's backyard for us hikers to stay in overnight. Each with anywhere's from one to three beds. Tom also has a outdoor kitchen, or food shack where we all enjoyed spaghetti with meat sauce last night and pancakes this morning. All that Tom offers at his place is free for us hikers with donations accepted. Extremely nice and easy going trail angel.
Tomorrow I will leave Kennedy Meadows and head for the high Sierras. By tomorrow I will be back at 9000 feet above sea level, hopefully with just small patches of snow to traverse. By Thursday I will be hiking over 10,000 feet above sea level, possibly utilizing the crampons and ice axe. By Thursday evening or Friday morning I will hike off trail to the small community of Lone Pine to get a few supplies I can not get here at the even smaller community of Kennedy Meadow. Back on the trail by Friday evening or Saturday morning, I will spend the most of the next hundred miles above 10000 feet, which will surely be covered in snow. By next week I will hopefully peaked Mount Whitney, an off trail detour to the highest peak in the contiguous United States(14500 feet) and traverse the highest point on the trail(Forester Pass: 13180 feet). Should be a tough climbing, cold nights, wet shoes, amazing views and epic adventures to be had in the high Sierras in the next few weeks. I should be in good company leaving Kennedy Meadows with Mike, the Israeli Gears, Mango, Golden Child, Andrew, Digger, Smokey the Bear, Lost and Found, and Zorro. I am very excited and eager to tackle the snow. Thanks for all your support and prayers. It will be much needed and appreciated when traversing the high slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
My next certain mail stop, where I would love mail of any kind from you, will be in Tuolumne Meadows at mile 941. I should be arriving there if travels go as planned in two weeks give or take a couple days. My parents will have a better idea of my ETA there after receiving my SPOTs. Here's the address:
Zac Finley PCT Hiker
Tuolumne Meadows, California 95389