Day 20- 22.5 miles from Little Bear Springs Trail Camp (285.6) to just past Deep Creek Hot Springs (308.1)

I wake up to OT and Ziploc almost packed up. I roll over in my warm sleeping bag and shut my eyes for another 2 minutes. I’m tired. After a couple more minutes of loitering I sit up. My sleeping bag is wet from condensation where I wrapped it with my tarp, but at least it was warm. Ziploc comes over and tells me we’re aiming for 16 ish miles to whatever campsite we find before Deep Creek. That will set us up for a 24 mile day to Cleghorn Picnic Area tomorrow. They head off while I’m packing and airing out my sleeping bag.

I leapfrog Carson and Dasha for an hour or two while I listen to music, the trail climbing up out of muskrat-dammed Holcomb Creek and running through small bushy hills. I don’t really listen to music because I’m bored – I usually get bored listening to music, actually- but because I miss listening to it if I don’t. If that makes sense.

After around 6 miles the trail drops from up in the flats to Holcomb Creek again. Ziploc and OT are just packing up after a long break there. Great. I’m not getting on a schedule again of constantly catching them on the tail end of breaks and then not stopping to keep up. I head off in front of Ziploc. The trail crosses the creek again over a log and I lengthen my poles to steady myself, easing my way across. I don’t really need to but I’m being cautious.

Ziploc crosses after me. “If that’s how you cross logs just wait until the Sierra,” he says.

I scowl at him as he walks by. He’s teasing, but recently it’s been getting on my nerves. And anyway, I hiked the Sierra, too, on the JMT, and this year will probably be a lot closer to my experience of that section than his. Grr. It’s frustrating.

I’m tired, though. I take a long break against a tree by the creek crossing, and eat the rest of the chips. Screw it, I’m not going to chase them all day. I’m hiking my hike today.

I walk another couple of miles and stop to take a break under the shade of a tree. I spread my pad out on the soft dirt and cheat grass and lay down. I think I’m going to take a nap. People keep on passing by and I don’t feel comfortable sleeping right by the side of the trail in the middle of the day, so I pick up my things and head up a dry creek bed in the sun. I find a bit of shade under a bush that’s not visible from trail and crash. When I wake up I’ve slept for maybe 2 hours, from 9:30 to 11:30, and I take a while to pack up. The nap was delicious.

I eat a tuna wrap and head out, feeling frustrated about Ziploc. I let it drive me up the trail and another couple of miles go by. I’m getting close to where the trail goes down into the side of Deep Creek Canyon, through flowering bushes that smell like terrible perfume, and buckwheat, lilac, rabbitbrush, and what I think is some kind of bush willow. It drops down. I can see the swath of trees that is Deep Creek cutting through the bottom of the canyon.

I stop at the first bridge across and take a trail down to the water. Ape and Rabbit are here, and Carson and Dasha are heading out. Ape is taking a nap on a rock and Rabbit is balancing rocks in the middle of the creek. They keep falling down and he curses and throws his hands up in the air each time, disappointed. OT and Ziploc just left.

I take my shoes off and wade through the river, the cold water and rough sand feel good on my tired feet. I sit on the bank and watch Rabbit stack rocks. A hiker who came by the picnic area last night comes down and I sit and talk with them for a long time. MacGyver is non-binary and they’re from Portland and started the trail with 40$. They’re funding their trip by putting up poetry on Patreon, and got a lot of their food they’ve sent themselves dumpster diving. They were saving for the trail for 4 years but then broke their back falling off a roof. The conversation is good. We head out together and talk, ambulating slowly with sore feet.

(If you want to check out their poetry and become a patron and help them out on their hike I’m sure MacGyver would be absolutely thrilled and splurge on a 5$ salad in town like a royal. https://www.patreon.com/Gracetopher)

I see OT and Ziploc on a hill set up for the night but I decide to head on with MacGyver. It’s 6 ish miles to the hot springs, and MacGyver and I plan on sleeping a mile before. There’s brain-eating bacteria in there and Ziploc refuses to go in because it’s disgusting, but I’m feeling like doing whatever I want. MacGyver and I stop to eat dinner at the stagnant stream a mile before the hot springs. I make a Knorr rice side and wrap it in a tortilla. We talk and laugh as we eat.

We finish eating. MacGyver puts one sock on.

“Are we keeping going then?” I say.

“I guess so,” they say.

OK.

I put my things away and we walk into the darkening evening together. I manage to keep my headlamp off most of the way, but in some places the beach-sand trail is falling away. We talk about queer Don Quixote and other things. We turn at a sign set up by a guy named Party Boy down to the hot springs in the dark. There’s a hiker box here, and a register. We sign.

There’s only two people down at the hot pool and they call up hellos. MacGyver strips down naked in the dark, and the people down there are naked. Okay! Let’s do this. I keep my underwear on but take off my bra and carefully make my way down and slide into the hot water. Ahh. The bottom is sandy and not too deep. I have to lean back to get properly in. The stars are incredible and Deep Creek bends around a tall rocky outcrop. We talk to Josh and Mariya in the dark. They’re nice people, and we talk about the trail and the Camino de Santiago and many other things for an hour or two.

The night’s become warmer and I slip into the cold creek once to cool off. Yah, brain-eating bacteria be damned. This was perfect. Eventually we decide it’s time to head off to camp. We’re going a mile further since we hear the rangers are coming at 8 tomorrow to hand out fines to campers here. We’d probably be out by then but neither MacGyver or I want to risk it. With their budget 175$ would end their hike.

The scab on my knee from my fall near Paradise Valley Cafe has been soaked enough in the pool that it’s soft and falling off. Below is bare skin oozing blood. Gross, and so much for not having wounds for bacteria to enter. I slather antibacterial cream on and MacGyver gives me a big bandaid.

Josh gives us an unopened 2 liter smartwater bottle to split so we don’t have to filter, and we put our dry clothes and our shoes on in the sand in the dark. We walk a little bit less than a mile in the dark before we find flat-ish places to set up our cowboys. We probably wouldn’t be fined here.

It’s been a long day and it’s almost midnight by the time I finish writing. I miss Maddy and I feel bad that I’m making big miles so it’s difficult for her to catch up. I hope her hip’s doing fine and I’m sure she’s having fun. My foot also hurt a bit all day, just a tired pain from my injury that manifests in the bottom of my foot. It feels like there’s cartilage sliding under the bones that is getting irritated. We’ll see.

Crickets and frogs sing around us. I’m not camped on the flattest campsite and there’s a single rock near my butt. The night is dark and the stars are big and it’s late. Goodnight.