Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Pacific Crest Trail, Section C, Cabazon to Cajon Pass, Days 5-7:Strange Encounters

Triscuit and I hiked through the ominously gathering heat in a deep river canyon. Far below us, enticing, inaccessible beaches lined the shores of dark water--Deep Creek. I wanted nothing more than to jump in, but steep canyon walls guarded the creek, making it only a shimmering mirage. We had seen very few people in the last eight miles, and it felt like we were the only people alive.

Lovely Willow Creek
Then we rounded a corner to discover a scene of utter weirdness. In the middle of nowhere, there were tents. There was music. There was a slackline across the river. There were people hollering. There were...naked men?

This was Deep Creek hot springs, probably once a sweet destination, but now the site of a fatal ameobic disease if you submerge your head (though we saw plenty of people doing this) and a high fecal coliform count. I had to admire the tenacity of these people who had actually hiked in a couple of miles from a road to visit, but the scene was way out of place and uncomfortable. We quickly moved on.

Inaccessible Deep Creek beach

As we hiked, the heat became intense, and as a giant, strange dam holding back zero water came into place, we staggered to some cottonwood trees. A woman roared up on an ATV. "Ladies. A hundred yards from here I have beer, soda and kale salad."

Kale salad? It was a strange thing to have while hiking, but I would take it. As we sat by the Mojave River, the trail angel peppered us with offers. I'll drive you to Silverwood! I'll bring you hot dogs! It's too hot to hike the burned area! Take my phone number! Are you sure you don't want to go to Silverwood? I'll go get more food! We can get pizza! Have more salad!

She was sweet, but it was too much after a week of near solitude. We escaped, walking through an eerie burnt landscape. Fire doesn't bother me much, and it was interesting to see the bones of the land laid bare, even though we were walking in an oven. Arriving at our campsite, with a welcome seasonal stream still flowing, I encountered a southbound hiker who looked...oddly familiar. It was Pebble, whom I had met briefly on the steep climb up from Seiad Valley in Northern California last summer! What were the chances? Life is strange.

Silverwood Lake. Looks nice, but...

The next day we wound by Silverwood Lake, which was sadly trashed. The water was silty and garbage lined the sandy beaches. My hopes for a swim were dashed on this, the hottest day yet, over ninety degrees. We sat, homeless looking, in a picnic area with two other hikers. One of them would later write in her trail journal that she had met two others "about her age." Judging by a few things she said, I deduced her to be in her 60s. Did I really look sixty out here? The desert does strange things to you though. When I returned home, my skin felt like rough parchment. It takes a week for the desert varnish to leave, and a boatload of lotion.

Not the best picture of me, but I wanted to show you my hiking setup. Long sleeve shirt and a hat were necessities. Everyone thought I was a thru-hiker so I guess I looked the part.
Our last night on the trail was only six miles from the interstate but after 18 miles we called it quits by a small trickling stream. Hiding in the shade, I felt the same old dilemma. I wanted to be home with the ones I loved, but the trail has a pull I can't deny. I wanted to keep going.

The last six miles were truly magical.

Early morning walking
Triscuit and I sat, homeless looking, at the hotel where the shuttle would pick us up and deliver us back to Palm Springs. A van hove into view, the driver waving at us enthusiastically. It was....our lonely trail angel from the Mojave dam! For a moment we thought she had been tracking us. How else to explain how, thirty miles later, she would suddenly appear at exactly the same moment that we were sitting at this random hotel? After she drove away T and I burst into hysterical laughter. This strange encounter was the perfect ending to a long, strange trip.

the last campsite

15 comments:

  1. Looks like some tough country to hike through! Congrats on checking off another section of the PCT.

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    1. It was not easy due to heat! Turns out 95 degrees is not optimal backpacking weather.

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  2. Just a tad warm and frustrating when you couldn't cool off. Congrats on completing yet another leg.
    Such a shame about the rubbish.

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    1. You would probably think the heat was no big deal! Yes annoying to see garbage on the beach.

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    2. 95 / 35C is HOT. We head for the rainforests and we don't do your distances. If it was coupled with our humidity, we would do an evening coastal walk.

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  3. These Southern California segments of the PCT do not sound all that appealing; although I have run and hiked short sections near Mount Laguna and Big Bear, and they were beautiful.

    I do wonder how many thru-hikers will make it through the whole trail this year. It seems like the Sierras are waiting to shut everyone down.

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    1. I was fascinated by the diversity and had prepped myself to know it wouldn't be jaw dropping. I still found some random beauty in it, however. Definitely felt a bit alien.

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    2. Oh and people were already fear mongering about the Sierra 350 miles before Kennedy Meadows. Saying they would flip but...this year there is nowhere to flip to. I know of at least one group that went in and bailed fairly quickly.

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    3. Are they bailing because of snow?

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    4. Yes, the Sierra is at 200% of normal. And, as I write this, where I live, we are getting about a foot of snow at 6000 feet this weekend. Endless winter.

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  4. Oh my goodness and I believe you had so little snow last year.
    Sounds like our endless HOT summer.

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    1. Yes it is crazy. I can't believe it. At least no wildfires.

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  5. Love your writing. It weaves in a bit of charm really making a person feel as if they were there with you. And, I wouldn't mind being stalked by a trail angel that offered to feed me. ;)

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I think we were just really hot and overwhelmed with all the offers coming at us after being in the wilderness.

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  6. Trashed up areas sadden me. Why can't people simply pick up after themselves? Great article, like your writing style and cool photos! Thanks for sharing!

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