Location- Natural Hot Springs
Elevation- 3,550 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 21.2 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 307.9 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 70s low 80s
Injuries- object in leg
Pain level- low
Days without shower- 3ish
What a day! This was one of those days that I’ll look back on in years to come and think, “Yup, that’s why I do it”
Besides our three week anniversary of the adventure, and passing the 300 mile mark, the day began normal. I was on trail hiking by 7:30 am; It took a few minutes for katana to warm up, but soon enough, she was cruising down the trail.
We hiked through more burnt forest, then desert, then more lush forest, as we made our way slowly down in altitude. After a while, we were loosely following a swift and wide canyon creek. It was the most running water I’d seen since embarking on this journey.
The trail eventually weaved it’s way down to the creek and crossed over it several times over the next few miles. Each time the trail overlapped it, we’d have to rock hop across. Katana had a different tactic, she would hop to the first rock, then leap as far as she could for the far bank, but always fell short and ended up scrambling to shore.
She did really well, and besides some mid day carrying, she hiked more than 16 of the nearly 22 miles today.
The most pleasant surprise came about 11 miles into the day, when a side trail dipped beneath a bridge and took us down to a sandy beach on the side of the creek. It was a warm afternoon, so I went all out and laid down in the creek for about 20 mins. It was the most refreshing moment on trail up to this point. I felt like a new man from the moment I got out of the creek, until about ten minutes after I started hiking again.
The second half of the day truly dragged on from here. Funny enough, not far down the trail from this bridge, I see a white towel laying on the side of the trail. For some reason I’m reminded of the book, “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe,” and briefly consider picking it up, thinking that it might be useful at some point. I ultimately decide against it, leaving it where it lie. Well it turns out that the universe had put that towel in my path for a reason. I should have picked it up and carried it, if not just for the day…
We dragged on the rest of the afternoon, me carrying katana for a couple miles at a time. On a few different occasions in the early evening/ late afternoon, we considered stopping to camp in various places. We never settled on anything, and decided to push on to a location marked on our map as “Hot Springs.”
We followed along the creek for the rest of the day, high up on the side of the canyon, looking down. Dusk set in as 7pm rolled around and we began descending back towards the creek.
The trail skirted passed another side trail that we took the rest of the way down towards the creek. It dumped us onto a sandy beach at the bottom of the canyon. Low and behold, what did we find? Hot water seeping up through some rocks on the beach, flowing down to mix with the cold creek; except someone had walled off a section of the creek with rocks, in the shape of a giant hot tub. All of the hot water was trapped in this circle of rocks, until it overflowed them and mixed with the main current.
The walled in water was probably close to 110 degrees, and crystal clear. This was the most fantastic ending to a 20 mile day that I’ve had yet. I soaked in the natural hot tub with Schweppes and Mason for over two hours, looking up at the moonless sky, alight only with a billion, billion stars; only thinking about how I’d remember this moment forever… and how I could’ve used a f***ing towel when I finally un-emersed myself back into the chilly mountain air.
I’ve found a new combination of foods that I’m in love with. I packed out two wheels of the “Laughing Cow, Swiss garlic & herb” cheese. It’s very soft, and easy to spread, but it tastes just as good by itself. Well today I tried spreading it on my locally made, “Whiskey Barbecue” beef jerky that I picked up back in Idyllwild. It was heavenly. The combination of cool and creamy, mixed with the tough, Chewy, and barbecue-y of the jerky, was an instant trail classic for me. I don’t think I’ll never “not” have those two items in my food bag for quite some time.
My food cravings began to hit me today. It seems they start to get bad once I hit my third straight day on the trail. I’m craving anything that’s hot, and not backpack food. I’ve heard tale of some west coast, California, offbrand taco bell called “Del Taco,” that’s just down a side trail about 34 miles from my current position. I’m planning to patronize them for several hours in about a day and a half. I hear there is a McDonald’s that’s even closer to the trail, so I might get held up there first…
Now I’m laying in my hammock between some trees on the beach, pruney from the hot springs, staring at the stars, listening to the roaring gurgle of the creek, as well as about a thousand chirping crickets thinking… “This is why I do this,” for instances such as these, that feel more important in this moment, than anything else in the world could.