Date: May 20, 2017
Miles: 12 miles (19.3km), from mile 305.9 to mile 317.9.
Health: Legs are good and blisters are gone. Left knee feels a bit iffy. Wondering if I should have my knee braces shipped ahead on the trail.
I cowboy camped on the small flat area at the foot end of Morgan's tent. Most of us are starting to switch, or have already made the switch to cowboy camping. It just so easy. You stop walking, open your pack and throw down your groundsheet, throw your sleeping pad on it and then your sleeping bag or quilt. In the morning just reverse the order and you're ready to continue hiking.
This comes especially handy now as the weather is heating up again and we need to switch back to the early morning – late at night routine.
I woke up late again, as did most of the camp. We had no rush as we were only doing few miles to the Deep Creek Hot Springs. We had to camp a bit outside of the springs as overnight camping is prohibited within mile of the hot springs.
We quickly do the miles and make it to the hot spring early in the morning. As I get there, there are already some people in the water. The Deep Creak flows around a bend, and on that bend there are springs that spew hot water. That water is directed to the man made rock pools. The area is also "clothing optional". That, combined with the fact that it's also Saturday, we were expecting to see a lot of old naked dudes.
As I arrived I only saw a bunch of other thru-hikers in one of the first hot springs and few other, dressed individuals. I quickly made my way to the pool.
As soon as I get in the water, an older gentleman who has chosen the clothing optional option, comes over to inform us that there are far better pools up where he just came from. We inform him that we're good, and thank him for the info.
We soon also spot the many squirrels that run around the area. My first though is "how cute" but that quickly changes as we see them charge our backpacks and trying to bite through to get to our food bags. Fyre's pack takes a little damage and we carry our packs right by the pools so we can keep a better eye on the steeling little rats.
As the day goes on, more hikers and more swimmers arrive and soon it's quite a hot springs party at the river. People in different levels of nakedness enjoy the cold stream and the hot springs. Most of us hikers have moved to shade by this point as we're trying to wait out the hottest part of the day.
We hear information that after two miles from the Hot Springs, the trail turns to quite exposed without any shade. Guthooks advices not to cross this section during the hottest part of the day. So we wait it out by the stream.
But people are getting itchy, we've only hiked couple miles today, so some head out to the heat. After the cold period of past week, I'm all worn out by this heat. My thermometer maxes out at 120 degrees (49C), and it's maxed out in the sun.
We eat, sleep, and try to avoid the sun all day. As the evening comes and the sun starts to set, we head out. I hike out with Sunshine (Justine). There's only a little uphill from the creek to the trail and I'm already sweating like crazy. Sunshine tells me that she can always tell if I'm hiking behind her because I'm either blowing my nose, or burping. I laugh as I can't really argue with that. Guess you start to know someone when you've hiked with them for 21 days.
As we hike on, we talk about how funny the Finnish language is, how we met on the first day on the trail, how our first discussion only happened on day six, and how that led to my trail name.
As we round a corner on the mountain side, we see a couple stopped, and as we get closer, we notice a dog laying on the ground. A dog really shouldn't be out on this kind of trail in this kind of heat. We stop to talk to the couple and ask how they're doing. They tell us that the dogs paws have turned raw and he can't walk anymore and that they still have 2 miles to their car. I look at the dog and he's not wearing any boots. They've gone out in this heat, hiking on a trail that's covered with hot sharp rocks, with a dog that doesn't have any protection on his feet?
We try to see if there's anything we can do for them, but come up short. I tell them where to get good dog booties for the next time and inform the man how to carry the dog if they have to. They've come to the right conclusion that they have to wait out the sun, get the dog in a shade, and then try to move out once it gets colder. We also inform them that there are more hikers following us, and that maybe some of them will have bandages that could be used to protect the poor puppies paws.
We make sure that they have enough food, water, and that they have headlamps, and then continue on our way.
We hike for few more hours and right as it's getting dark Sunshine receives a message from Blis, informing us that he's camping not far ahead. We decide to cut our 15 mile night hike plan short and stop at the same spot. There's also water there so no dry camping.
Tomorrow we need to push 20 miles to make it close to the Cajun Pass McDonalds. After the McDonalds there's a 21 mile dry section that we want to night hike. The plan is to get to the McDonalds in the morning, eat there all day, and then head out right as it's getting dark and get through the dry section while it's cold so that we don't consume and have to carry so much water. That will put us almost right up to Wrightwood.
We get to the camp area and it's already dark. We meet Dragon and Andrew and they inform us that there are ants at the first area so we push deeper and find Blis there. There are also other familiar faces among the many hikers but most of them are already sleeping so we try to be as quiet as possible.
Right as I'm finished setting up my camp I feel an urge to go dig a hole in the desert. I rush deep in to the brush to give back to the country where I'm hiking in. As I get back after an successful hole digging, Andrew and Dragon inform me that I should include more of these kinds of stories on my blog posts. So, this one's for you two :)