Almost all my days so far on the PCT have been great. This was not one of those days.
- Date: Friday April 3, 2015
- Miles hiked: 18.44
- Miles covered: PCT miles 298.48 to 316.92
- Weather Report: Low 28, High 86. Sunny, dry, breezy
- Wildlife seen: Lizards.
- Obsession of the day: A warm bed
Last night sucked. I should've known better, no, I did know better. It got cold, down to 28 degrees; I put on my baselayer shirt and leggings and wool socks and it was still cold. At 2am I woke up to a half-deflated sleeping pad. WTF? I blew it back up and it slowly deflated; at 5am I decided I'd had enough and didn't want coffee or oatmeal, I just wanted to pack up at GTFO and into the sunlight and warmth.
But first I had to make a liter of water, the trail stays high on the hillside for the next few miles. Brrrr, it's still below freezing but the creek is flowing. Yuck. I need better gloves, the gloves I have get wet and stay wet, they're not warm or waterproof. At least they were only $20 and are reasonably light.
What am I doing out here anyways? I'm not having a good morning, I'm seeing a few interesting places but there's no one around to talk to. Home is warm and comfy and I miss Chris and the cats and the house. I started walking, passing PCT mile 300 and snap a mandatory selfie, but I'm not feeling it at all. Yay, 300 miles (really 271 because of the fire detour.) Feh.
Maybe I'll take some pictures. Look at flowers. Enjoy the scenery. Find something should snap me out of this foul mood.
Nope, but hey, a few miles down the trail are the Deep Creek Hot Springs, maybe a soak will help things out?
The hot springs are filled with campers with tents and women in panties and bras and guys in underwear and half-drunk abandoned beer cans and red party cups, as I walk along a beach and try to remember where the pools are; it's been 30 years since I've been here. I find them, but they're not all that warm. Hmpfh. I find one that's acceptably hot and only inhabited by two people, a guy and his girlfriend? I take off all my clothes and hop into the pool, the water feels good. Guy decides he needs to get out of the pool and scramble up on a large boulder and attempts to do a handstand, shouting back to GF--"look, I can do a handstand anywhere!" Because that's why you walk six miles through the desert to the hot springs: to do handstands.
But the Handstand Guy can't get it up. Ladyfriend is not impressed in her pink panties with little white flowers, sitting on the pool edge and picking at the hangnails on her toes. Handstand Guy says "Man, that rock is so weird! It has no texture! I've never felt a rock like that before!" Feeling rocks is apparently a big part of his life, as are the handstands. Girlfriend sends out a dull status update, verbally: "My hangnails are almost all gone now!"
A guy walks by with a septum piercing (I really dislike them, but to each his own), a blurry tramp stamp, and a soft on, and climbs up onto the boulder behind our pool for a better vantage point over the surroundings and cleavage below. He's followed by his dog which walks through our hot pool; dog hops out and shakes itself off next to my backpack. I glare up at him with a "Really??" look, he glances away, ignoring me, and stares down to the four women below, naked in the small pools below mine.
Handstand Guy and GF get out, I have the pool to myself. Yay. Then a corporate-looking man comes down from the trail in very tidy athletic clothes and expensive sunglasses, like he's decided not to play golf at the club today and instead go to the hot springs. Corporate Man takes off all of his clothes, arranges them on a square folded towel, puts on boardshorts and gets in... and lights a Marlboro, which he consumes in two minutes, if that. Time to get out, and as I'm getting dressed Corporate Man starts hacking up half a lung. Jeebus, this place is a downer, no reason to linger and many reasons to leave.
I walk towards the trail, up towards the hot springs source and the PCT through reeds above the pool I was soaking in, and ugh, there's toilet paper everywhere in those reeds. So I've been soaking in someone's piss and shit all this time? Great, just great. Now I feel literally fouled, this place is gross, get me out of here. I just start walking, fast, for several miles the PCT has trash (wrappers, cans, red and green party cups, cigarette butts) with a fair bit of grafitti and eroded switchback shortcuts. Blech, but the faster pace is making me finally get into that 'flow' where I'm just enjoying the miles go by. I'm really glad I didn't stay anywhere near those springs.
I make a bit of a promise to myself to treat myself--and to stop wallowing and STFU to myself. It's just a real downer of a day, tomorrow will be better, and I'm going to figure out a few ways to treat myself right. I'll find a nice campsite, I'll make hot cocoa for myself, I'll get a bed in two nights and a Big Mac before the hotel. That cheers me up, and past the rainbow bridge the trail becomes level and fast. I make good time, ignoring the graffiti and trash.
The landscape changes too and becomes more interesting--no more trees, just scattered shrubs, the PCT is brushing the edge of the Mojave desert. Up ahead I can see an odd huge structure, a dam, but there's no water behind it. In this sunbleached landscape it looks like an alien artifact, not made by humans. What's it all about?? Probably flood control.
The PCT heads down to the river behind the dam, and fords Deep Creek--a 25 foot shallow stream there, but there's no rocks to hop across, so I just wade right in to see how my shoes will do. I'm wearing trail runners with an open mesh top, and after an hour they're dry. The socks take a bit longer, though. Surprisingly, there's a nice shady mile too along the trail, before the trail heads into the hills again.
It's getting to the late afternoon. Where will I camp? Lately I've been using a rule I made up: five by five, which means at 5pm I can go at most five miles, but looking ahead there doesn't seem to be a lot of campsites. My day is going better since I remembered to treat myself right, so I decided to find a nice warm campsite on a hillside, without cold air drainage or dew in the morning (especially with that leaky air mattress!).
Soon enough, I spy a flattish space just above the trail, a nice spot big enough for a couple of tents on decomposed granite "kitty litter", my favorite type of ground to camp on. It's warm, dry, and supportive, and you can push it around to make a little pad for your pillow. Sure, it's early, the sun hasn't set, but it's nice to be in camp and clean up a bit and make some cocoa.
I had the cocoa, and treated myself to a tasty dinner (Knorr Pasta Sides with parmesan and spinach, with extra Nido milk and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil). Mmmmm. The day started out sucky, got worse, but finished up OK... and as Billy Bob Thornton says in Bad Santa, "they can't all be winners."
Tomorrow will be better, though. It's a long walk to that warm bed, but I can do it.