Walking down the long road towards the long awaited, anticipated town of Kennedy Meadows, I always visualized this town with lush alpine surroundings, a historical little village as one can find in the Alps. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m in the exposed desert, where the sun has free play. I choose to stay on the paved road instead of following the trail. I haven’t felt concrete under my feet for a long time, which signifies civilization to me. And in a way, it gives me a safe feeling.
When I re-enter the trail at a certain point, I suddenly see strange objects in the sand.
What is this? What are they? Monsters? Who made this?
After another 2.5 miles of hiking, I finally arrive at Kennedy Meadows. A few houses, a bunch of trailer homes, and a general store/gas station is all it is.
Kennedy Meadows. The oasis in the desert. No, it’s not a fata morgana, it’s for real. Food!!!
I approach the general store. Two grumpy old men are sitting on the front porch, downing their midday beers. They are watching my every move. “Ey girl, where are you coming from?”, asks the oldest one. “I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail sir”, I answer. “Well, ain’t you a little late to do that?” “I’m hiking from north to south sir”. I get this question a lot. People assume there is only one way to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and that’s northbound. “Welcome to Kennedy Meadows, you south bounder”, the other one says.
When I set foot in the dusty, dimly lit store, an older woman is welcoming me. “South bounder huh?”, while her eyes are scanning me. I almost feel embarrassed and naked standing here, so dirty and obviously badly smelling, but I know she must be used to hikers. I ask her if she can make me some food. “I’m so sorry sweetheart”, she says. “The cooks just left a few weeks ago”. I’m so disappointed to hear this, actually devastated, and it’s hard for me not showing it. “All well m’am, no worries”, I assure her. I snatch 3 cans of Coke from the refrigerator and 2 bags of potato chips from the shelf. I take a seat on one of the plastic chairs on the big porch and start stuffing my face full with calories. And I’m stuffing fast! While I’m devouring my 2nd bag of chips, the old lady walks toward me. “Sweetie, I was just thinking. Would you like me to make you some spaghetti with meat balls?” My eyes widen, my mouth still full of chips, so I nod my head firmly. “And would you like to have garlic bread with that? I could make you a salad maybe?” My eyes are tearing up by her act of kindness and all I can do is nod my head yes again. Then she disappears into the kitchen. When she comes back she carries the biggest plate I’ve ever seen. Spaghetti, meat balls, tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, garlic bread in foil, and a fresh salad. I can’t believe my eyes.
“Would you like to have a glass of wine with that love?”
The food and wine tastes fantastic. I eat fast and finish everything. After all this amazing food, she asks if I want to have a dessert. I really can’t eat anything more, I’m totally stuffed. “I have tiramisu and cheese cake”, she says. “I will get you both. So you can decide which one is better”. The desserts both taste divine. I manage to finish these too.
When I want to pay for the meal she refuses to take my money. “Oh no sweetheart, you’re so welcome. It’s on us.” I can’t believe her generosity and feel so taken care of. I thank her again. One of the locals invites me to his home. He let me stay in his beautiful wooden house, which he built himself. There, I take a long awaited shower. I rub my body with shower gel and wash my hair for the first time in almost 2 weeks. When I rub myself dry with the towel, dirt still comes off my skin.
That night, lying in bed, I’m exhausted but can’t fall asleep. I feel really sick. I make a beeline to my host’s toilet and throw up. After being food deprived for almost 2 weeks, eating this amount of food was a severe overload for my system.
When I return back to bed, sleep comes immediately. I dream about being out there in the wilderness, all alone.
With the rocks and the trees and the mighty trail as my closest friends, keeping me company.