Pit Stop and Navigator dutifully made some noise in the morning to wake me up. Switching back to a diurnal schedule is going to take me a few days. They took off a half hour before me, leaving me time to exchange contact information with and say goodbye to Half and Half. I had such an instant connection with him that I couldn't fathom leaving without knowing how to catch up with him in the future. Packing up, I remember trying to decide where to carry betsy Ross' painted rock, which she'd wanted artfully placed on the trail somewhere.
I walked to the trail register, signed my two trail names, and enjoyed a hilly few miles in soft dirt with ponderosa shade. At the Kern River bridge, I drew a liter of water and decided to place the rock. In the confusion of trying to fit in my bear cannister, it seems I'd left the damned thing at camp. So, instead, I made a rock stack near the bridge and took a picture to send to Betsy later.
Beyond the bridge, the trees diversified; cedars and firs and an occasional Sequoia entered the mix. Substrate switched from loamy to rocky and back again. Near a burned area, I nearly walked right past Pit Stop and Navigator, sitting very close to the trail. I was looking down, a condition that I've dubbed trail myopia. They called out to me and we chatted for a minute; when I took a break a couple miles ahead, they nearly trail myopia-ed past me, which made us all laugh. After my break, I caught up to them and we all walked to the next water through low sagebrush scrub with dark clouds gathering overhead. There were thunderous rumblings just as the trees near the river came into view. Excellent luck. Only a few drops, but we were dry and warm in the tree cover as the wind and cold consumed the unprotected valley all around us. An hour later, the sun came back out. We all noted the similarity to Colorado weather.
Since we seemed to have the same pace, we all continued together, camping in a flat ponderosa-covered spot above the trail. We threw our bear cannisters in the same area and hoped they'd be there in the morning. I slept uncommonly well in my bivy with the air mattress.