Leaving the parking lot of the Kennedy Meadows Campground, the trail followed a wide, well-worn path that began an upward climb. It followed the Kern River that had its origin high up in the Sierras. As I began the steady upward climb, I found that I walk more than a hundred feet without having to stop and rest.
“I can’t be that out of shape,” I told myself. “Surely it will be easier if I keep going.”
And I did; I kept moving, and still every hundred feet I had to stop and rest.
“What’s going on,” I demand of myself. “Is there something wrong with my heart? Why is it so difficult for me to walk?”
I don’t know the answers, but what I’m experiencing is not what I expected; I felt that something was dreadfully wrong.
“Just because I’m approaching seventy didn’t mean that exercise had to be hard,” I told myself.
“Get a hold of yourself and move on; don’t be a wimp; you’ve driven six hundred miles to start this hike, and come ‘hell or high water’ you’re going to see it through. After all, if you can’t do this section of trail, how do you expect to begin the hike next year?”
I pushed on, and still I had to rest. I made it to the first bridge that crossed the Kern River and a little beyond, and then I stopped. I prayed; I needed guidance; I needed to know what to do. I began to realize that the harder I tried to push into the wilderness, not really knowing what lay ahead, the greater was the pushback.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was attempting to bull my way through one of the most dangerous and difficult sections of the entire Pacific Crest Trail, some 450 miles of towering peaks, dangerous river crossings and remote wilderness, and I was alone. It was August and near the end of the hiking season for the Sierras. One slip, one fall, and I could be in serious trouble. I also didn’t know it at the time, but physically, I was not prepared to enter the Sierras and have a successful hike. The overall impression that settled over me was to turn around, hike back to Kennedy Meadows and try to get hold of Jodie and ask her to come back and pick me up.
As much as I loved Jodie, and as much as I know she loves me, I knew she was going to be highly agitated to have to turn around and drive all the way back to Kennedy Meadows to retrieve me.
I hadn’t hiked more than six miles before I deemed it wise to turn around. The return trip put me back at Kennedy Meadows at 1:00 p.m. The Kennedy Meadows store was open and has to have one of the few remaining pay phones in existence. I didn’t have my cell phone with me and I tried to call Jodie using the pay phone, but I couldn’t get it to work. Only later did I learn that I was supposed to dial a "one" before dialing the area code.
The lady in the store took pity on me and let me use her cell phone. Fortunately, Jodie had her cell phone with her, and fortunately I could remember her number, for when I call her using my cell phone, all I do is touch her photo on the phone list and it rings through to her.
Sheepishly, I tell her my situation and ask her if she’d be willing to turn around and come back and get me. For a moment there was total silence, and then, without any humor in her voice, she said,
She had made it almost to Mesquite, Nevada, and was planning on spending the night with family in Saint George, Utah, and then visiting with friends the next day. Now all of her plans were totally disrupted, and she had to turn around and make the grueling 250-mile drive back to Kennedy Meadows to fetch me. She was not happy, and I could tell it. She arrived around six in the evening, and just let me say that our return trip back to Saint George and Salt Lake City was not the most pleasant time we’ve spent together, but we still love one another.
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