It’s not all bad, you know, hiking this trail. For example, we get to see beautiful things, take glorious showers…and, today, sit in natural hot springs in the middle of the desert. It was awesome.
What? So, it turns out that the Pacific Crest Trail runs directly through the middle of Deep Creek Hot Springs, a natural hot spring sitting in a canyon carved right into the middle of these desert mountains. It’s a major destination for PCTers — partly because hot springs are pretty amazing, and partly because this stretch of trail can otherwise get to be a little bit tedious. We knew when we camped last night that we’d only have six or seven miles to go until we arrived, and, even with a relatively late start (for hikers) in the morning, this means we arrived around 10:30 AM.
Now, what we really wanted was to experience the hot springs full of PCT hikers and only PCT hikers — which, apparently, is what it is most days. However, the vagaries of trail timing meant we arrived on a Saturday, when there were well over fifty people from the local area who’d made the trek into the hot springs for the day. (It’s apparently about a two or three-mile hike from the closest trailhead — you don’t have to hike all 310 miles from the Mexican border just to get there. 😉 It’s still pretty fun, if just because the only way to get to it involves a substantial amount of hiking, so everybody there has at least put in some effort to get there. Most folks, however, have backpacks at least half-full of beer, soda, or other wonderful cold drinks, unlike us. And most folks don’t look incredibly grungy, like they’ve been on the trails for many days straight, like us.
Sinking into the hot water, you quickly stop caring who’s from where or what’s going on, though…all you care about is just how incredibly good that feels on your sore muscles. These hot springs get plenty hot, too — we had to keep getting out of them to avoid getting overheated. We probably spent an hour soaking, and the next two hours just relaxing, drying off, and eating lunch, lounging on the grass all around. As the day progressed, the crowd built up further and changed — there were the college kids, the massive group of Russians, the two gay guys on an incredibly cute date, the grizzled older guys who looked like they spent every single weekend there…you name it, they were there. It was sort of an interesting sociological study, seeing who was from where and how they all behaved. Some people set up tents, some others set up a slackline…there were even little kids floating in the hot springs (the total area of water is actually pretty massive) with their water wings, being pushed along by mom.
And, on the way out of there, Bird-tit (a fellow PCT hiker) gave us the most amazing thing of all: an ice-cold beer, apparently something one of the folks at the hot springs had given her. Now, back in my city life, I might scoff at a Budweiser…but out here, no way in hell would I ever. We split the beer, and it was amazing. I think we might owe Bird-tit (and Tom-tit, her partner) about thirty beers in return on our next town stop, because I’m pretty sure 30:1 is approximately the correct exchange rate for town beers vs. trail beers.
The trail out of the hot springs, while frustratingly hot (over 90° at times, walking uphill, in the sun) and windy, was actually pretty fascinating, too. The entire time, we were perched hundreds and hundreds of feet over Deep Creek, looking down at the river as we traced its canyon out. When we finally emerged out of the last canyon onto the plains, the view was amazing.
Also amazing: the Mojave Dam, a huge earthen dam damming up…well, nothing at all, as far as we could see. There’s this enormous dam, and nothing but the tiniest lake behind it, running less than a tenth of its length. There’s perhaps no better sign of the California drought than how small this lake was, or the enormous piles of silt on the other side, next to signs that, I think, are supposed to be measuring the depth of the water — only there’s no water anywhere to be found around there. It was a surreal experience, walking by this enormous, empty dam, no water behind it, seeing what should have been there but hadn’t been there in a long time.
We’re nestled down for the night in a campsite we found beside the trail, ready to start another long day of hiking tomorrow. But: our next resupply is only one more day away! We’re looking forward to getting our next package…and a chance at a special treat, which I’ll tell you about soon.