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No more desert! Oh, and our pipes froze... 
I am at mile 702, Kennedy Meadows, the END of the DESERT and the START of the SIERRAS!!! Woo hooooooo!

Unfortunately, however, the weather situation isn't all that great, and as evidenced by the snow that fell on the mountains just north of here yesterday, and the pipes that froze at the "hostel" I'm staying at, winter is not ready to release its grip on the Sierra's just yet.

In fact, it's hard to type this blog because my hands are stiff from cold, so I'll keep this short.

Bottom line is that, even without the snow conditions on the TRAIL, the fact is that the resorts and villages that I need in order to resupply won't be plowed out for a few more weeks. I COULD start hiking and hope they're plowed out by the time I get there, but that's not a reasonable risk. So I'm going to find my way to town and either get a rental car or flight out of here. After two weeks of waiting, I'll return to the trail.

More to come when I warm up...

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Kids Corner 
Today is a two-for-one edition of Kids Corner!

A week ago I took a detour on the trail - that's like if one end of your street is closed and you have to go around a different way to get home. The detour was because somebody discovered a rare (endangered) mountain yellow-legged frog living on part of the trail. To protect the frog, they closed that part of the trail. I didn't see the frog, so I can't tell you what it looked like, can you find one online? This one might be a little tougher to find, good luck!

Also, lately I have been passing by a LOT of wind farms. A wind farm is a placd where GIANT fans are set up to be spun by the wind. This generates electricity for people to use. Have you seen a wind farm near you? Can you find pictures of one online?

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Snow pack 
I'm hearing that snow conditions are not just bad (for hikers) in the Sierra's, but that Northern CA, OR and WA are just not worth skippong ahead to. In previous years skipping ahead was possible because those regions didn't get the same recods snows as the Sierra's. This year it seems Mother Nature was being fair and balanced. As I sit, sunning myself at a Motel 6 pool in Mojave, CA (the pool is ice cold, the wind is almost steadily 20-50mph, and the temperature feels 70) I have the feeling that my best option is to Kennedy Meadows, pick up my packages, and catch a bus/ride someplace to lie on wait for things to melt. Yes, it might be possible to keeo going, but I don't think it would be as enjoyable.

We'll see how things look in a week when I'm at Kennedy Meadows. For now I just wish I had ear plugs - this wind is INTENSE!

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Not your typical desert 
I am at mile 454 in Agua Dulce, CA - a town where the trail literally goes down main street for a few miles. I'm at the Saufley's, a very hiker-friendly Trail Angel home that can accommodate up to 50 hikers. Next to their house they have a nice prefab house with two bedrooms, a bathroom/shower, kitchen and living room. Currently there are 10-15 hikers here and about 9 are in the "house" watching movies and making food. I'll be camped outside on a cot inside one of the pre-setup large tents. I'm not sure if I'm staying another night or just the one.

Since leaving Wrightwood, the desert hasn't exactly been typical. I left Wrightwood with a fellow named Wrong Turn (we've been hiking together for a few days) and when we got to the trailhead there was Fly-By and Sniper (a guy and girl I've been running into for a few days) so the four of us went off together. Here's where things get fun. Around noon we got to the base of Mount Baden-Powell, a snow-covered 9400 foot peak and proceeded to walk up, up, up it. The first 3 miles were your typical switchbacks with occasional snow. The last mile was buried under snow and at that point a "shortcut" was called for that just shot straight up the mountain - a bee-line to the top. The four of us were kicking steps in the ice/snow to make our way up, and relying on pre-kicked steps where possible. It was very tiring but well worth it - the view from the top was AMAZING.

To our south was the Los Angeles basin, completely covered as far as the eye could see in marine layer clouds that were stalled out in the low elevation. Apparently a cold weather system was preventing it from moving along and burning off - the clouds were all below us. In the far distance we could see San Gorgonio in the San Bernadino's (where we had come from a few days earlier).

That night, we found ourselves at a campground full of boy scouts, hikers, and PCT hikers. In the morning we found that same campsite full of ice and snow. During the night we got completely iced over and then a layer of snow thrown on top! In the desert! Well, the "high desert" specifically. That day we hiked together in the freezing rain and snow, hoping to eventually find the sun or an elevation that would be warmer. As always, the trail provides, and we came across an empty public campground... where one of a dozen fire pits happened to be smoking... and next to it was a stack of pre-cut wood... and a packet of bacon... and sausage. Our guess is that bad weather drove the campers off and in their haste they left all of this for us. So we brought the fire back to life, dried out our shoes/socks, cooked up the meat, and made ourselves at home. Eventually the sun came out and we were able to fully dry off and revive. What are the odds?

I hiked a few more days with Wrong Turn while Sniper hitch-hiked (with Fly-By) to a doctor to have her shin-splints looked at. Wrong Turn and I put up with more rain, freezing cold winds (40-60 mph), and very little sun. The desert is full of water and ice now. Last night we stayed at a KOA Campground and had chinese food delivered (we're spoiled), the night before we were camped on a bluff above a highway near a Ranger's Station.

In my next stretch of trail, between here and Mojave, CA, 110 miles away, I will be crossing the ... well, Mojave Desert. Typically the 20-30 mile stretch is done as a night hike to avoid the heat, but this year is so cold and wet that it just might be acceptable to hike during the day. I'll see when I get there.

My big logistical task is still to figure out what I'm doing about the Sierra's. I'm definitely leaning towards jumping ahead and coming back. Glenn, I'll give you a call tonight to talk about meeting up. I don't have cell reception, but the Saufley's provide a free phone for us hikers to use so look for an unfamiliar phone number in your caller ID.

Feet, shoes, gear, attitude, appetite, and health are all holding up just fine. I'm still doing 25+ miles a day and staying ahead of the pack - and meeting new hikers every day.

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