It’s early in the morning and I’m sitting on the porch with my down vest, wind/rain jacket, hat, and mittens (thanks Mom) on. Yeah, it’s cold now! The daytime still gets warm, maybe in the 80s, but nights fall down to the high 20s and 30s here at 6000 feet. This store lies 3/4 miles off the trail and is yet another big milestone for PCT hikers as it marks the end of southern California and the entry point to the Sierra Nevada with trail elevation just exceeding 13,000 feet at its high point. I, along with many of my companions out here, will be making the 17-mile side trip to climb Mt Whitney in a few days. At 14,491 feet, Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states.
The store is a nice gathering place for hikers. It’s set back from a small paved road in a grove of pines and has a large front porch with deck chairs and picnic tables. Last night many of us paid $8 for a big fried chicken dinner with ice cream. The owners here are friendly and work pretty hard to keep everything ship shape during the busy hiker season. I took a small risk in that I didn’t ship any of my own food here, relying on what was on the store shelves to get me through the next six days of Sierra back country until my next resupply in Independence. The risk, of course was that the store would be cleaned out from the hikers that had already passed through. This was not the case, though, as I’m a few days ahead of what people are still calling “the herd”; a pack of 40-60 hikers who all left ADZPCTKO when I did. So, I’m stocked up with Fruit Loops, granola, Clif Bars (not the kind I like), and various pasta/sauce dinners with some salmon and tuna to throw on top.
All of this has to fit in my newly acquired bear canister. Canisters are bear-proof containers for food and are required in some portions of the Sierra because bears here are incredibly adept at stealing food from people. The canister weighs 2 lbs and fits nicely into my pack, although I could not get all of my food into it and will thus have to carry some on the outside. I’ll eat that food first!