We woke a little late, around 6:30am and had coffee in the tent. Josh didn't look too bad and he said he was feeling better but I figured he was still not tip top. It was, however, his idea, on this fine morning, that we should do 15 in 15, meaning we need to hike at least 15 miles a day for 15 days. I love this challenge and think it will inspire us to focus and get in big miles.
We broke camp and hit the trail around 7:30 and then promptly lost the trail at a dirt road crossing. After a little bush wacking we were back on track and passed thru an old burn area that made me think of fall in Cuyamaca, a perfect mix of desert flora, oak and pines. After several miles without breaks we came to Holcombe Creek which was fantastically gorgeous. We checked our mileage and saw we had hiked 6.6 miles and were feeling good!
We put our feet in the creek and filtered water as we ate snacks and cameled up. We were joined by a couple other hikers and we listened to jeeps trying to navigate a dirt road nearby. I re-taped my feet and we packed up and crossed the creek just as a jeep attempted to climb the road we'd heard other jeeps have problems on. This wasn't a road as much as a huge boulder field and this jeep took it like a pro. Josh and the driver chatted for a while before we left.
The day was getting hot but we pressed on setting little goals for ourselves: one mile to the dirt road, 2.2 miles to the trail junction, etc. the markers help me to know where I am and how far I'm going as well as try to space out my stops.
There was some awesome flora and fauna along the creek. Another gopher snake which I took video of and will put up on YouTube soon. We also saw dozens of downed trees swarming with big black bumble bees and lots of lizards and birds. The flowers in the desert surprise me, in that they are so delicate in an environment where everything wants to stick or scratch you. The other creature who was plentiful were the most annoying gnats in the world. They like to hang directly in your line of vision especially when you're in the middle of a technical descent or hopping over a tree perched on a cliff edge and need your full focus. They are always there and I imagine them saying "hi, look here, hi, do you see me, I'm right here, hi, hey, hi..." GET AWAY FROM ME! There is a special place in hell for those gnats, I assure you.
After a hot climb we grabbed the first piece of shade we could find and sat down to cool our feet and drink some electrolytes. We chatted with a couple passing hikers before setting out again to Deep Creek Bridge.
When we arrived at the bridge we were surprised to find the area so crowded. We went up to the parking lot for the Splinters Cabin area and Josh used the pit toilet. I love stumbling upon campgrounds and day use areas with pit toilets. Toilets are one of those things you definitely take for granted in the real world: gotta pee at 2am? Here, you have to get out of your warm sleeping bag and into the bitter cold night, shake out your shoes, slip them on walk away from camp, pee, and then do everything in reverse to get back in your bag. Don't get me started on when you have to poop, you can consult Josh's blog for that process. Popping in the woods is my least favorite thing about backpacking.
We headed down to the waters edge and made dinner while watching a couple play fetch with their dogs. At some point, watching that Labrador mix jump in the creek followed by two horses who came down the trail, one horse digging holes in the creek bottom with her hoofs, I realized, we have to drink this water. Does our filter take out dog? How about horse?
I waded in the water that was cold, but not painful so, and took the water bag to a fast moving part of the creek above the animals. We filtered water and cameled up before getting ready to go. I noticed I had a bunch of dirt inside a pocket of skin that was once a blister between my toes and knew I needed to fix my feet even though we only had a couple miles of hiking left to do. I went to the creek to wash the sand off and take the tape off my feet. I gently pulled one corner and the tape was like cement. As it gave way I realized it was not the tape that was coming off it was the top layers of my skin revealing new, pink and red raw dermis. What, the proverbial fuck, is this?! I commenced internal freak out, thinking my feet were going to go back to the painful state they were in and our 15 in 15 was over before it began and then I chilled out. I went back to my sleeping pad and asked Josh to hose my feet off with the water bag hose when he was done filtering so I could perform surgery away from the water source. I removed the rest of the tape carefully and trimmed everything up with scissors, covering the raw area with a 2nd skin pad. I put on shoes and socks and everything seemed to feel fine, amazingly. We started to head out when the draw of the pit toilet became overwhelming and I doubled back to indulge in it's magic. On the way back to the trail I slipped on a log and gouged my knee which was awesome. Deep Creek is trying to kill me!
The trail was nicely graded and hugged the side of the mountain above deep creek. We followed the crest,
ooh-ing and ah-ing at the views of the River gorge and trying to figure out which plant smells like French fries and ketchup. Seriously, there is a plant that smells like French fries and ketchup! It's a cruel trick of nature! I also kept and eye on my phone for the 300 mile mark and it was exactly where Halfmile said it would be. Josh lay down next to it and I took pictures while we laughed and recited 300 movie references. THIS IS SPARTA!!!
We hiked on and wondered where we were going to camp if the forest service road we were aiming for wasn't wide enough to accommodate us since the trail was on such a precarious slope. We arrived at the forest road next to the creek shortly after and saw it was in fact wide enough. We heard people hooting and hollering below and tried to find a place away from them but decided if you can't beat them join them. We came to the edge of a large pool and I asked them if they were staying the night there. They said no and I told them I was going to come over and camp there. They thought that was awesome and we started to talk about the trail and they were amazed and filled with questions. Josh asked them if they had a soda they wanted to sell and they gave us chips and cold bottled water before heading out to their trucks. Josh and I sat in the sand eating spicy Doritos and drinking cold bottled water and were happy. We pitched higher up on the beach and then I realized we weren't supposed to camp here. I felt nervous that the ranger was going to come kick us out but Josh told me it was going to be fine. Josh likes to give me a hard time about stuff like that. He says I have little 'rules' for everything. I call it common sense but whatever.
We retreated to the tent to get away from the mosquitos and plan our day tomorrow.
Right now it's 9:30 and I'm listening to frogs croaking, crickets chirping and the rushing creek. I went out to pee and felt like everything was watching me. It's a beautiful place to camp but a little eerie too.
Tomorrow we shoot for 16.5 miles, passing deep creek hot springs and heading to an established camp ground that has one of those magical pit toilets. If that's not motivation, I don't know what is!
Until then, goodnight!