I woke up at Splinters cabin shivering and cranky with heavy condensation inside my tent, everything outside soaked from the constant frigid rain. I packed up early and was the first hiker on the trail.
The weather had cleared to a crisp sunny morning and yesterday’s fog had melted away to reveal a breathtaking canyon. It is wonderful to be the first person on the trail, especially after it rains. The hundreds of footprints that are generally ahead of me on this Pacific Crest highway were washed away, giving me a sense of solitude and independence that I haven’t had the chance to feel yet, despite frequently hiking and camping on my own.
No one had knocked the raindrops off of the flowers and shrubs along the edge of the trail and the morning sunshine made them sparkle. The canyon was the most beautiful that I’ve seen out here so far, making me question my thoughts and expectations of southern California. This looked like what I expect of the Pacific northwest, not the desert of SoCal. Big Creek raged in the bottom of the canyon, swollen with the night’s rain. As the trail gradually descended along the steep ridge, I caught glimpses of waterfalls deep in the canyon and gorgeous rock formations.
Despite being surrounded by so much beauty, I had to pay close attention to my footing. The trail was made of soft dirt in this area and while it was very comfortable for my feet, the rain had mde it less stable than normal. More than once, I stepped too near the edge of the trail only to have the soil beneath my foot fall away and go sliding down the ridge. I was fortunate and never fell but could see this being quite dangerous.
I would have made really great time through this section if I hadn’t been stopping to take pictures so often. I started getting passed by the other hikers who camped at Splinters and still just stood in awe of nature’s beauty. Midmorning, I passed the 300 mile marker- the first official marker that was actually in the right place. On the other side of the post was the mileage left to go- 2350… 300 miles seems like so much but when you look at how much is left, it is a little discouraging.
I reached a stream where Future Problems, Monkey, and the rest of their group had paused to soak their feet. I decided to continue on and was filtering water on the other side when Gryllz came through. We ended up leaving the stream together and chatted down the trail all the way to a real hiker treat: the hot springs.
The hot springs are a natural formation of rock pools into which water heated by the earth flows. There were a number of pools of different sizes and temperatures, and there were only a handful of hikers there when we showed up. We stripped down to our skivvies and found a perfect pool which we shared with Splash, Papaya and Poppins. This relaxing moment was short-lived however, as it was Memorial Day and holidaying city-dwellers began flocking to the springs. Soon there were dozens of people in fancy bathing suits, full picnics, alcohol and loud music. Two young women joined our pool, mentioning that they had never done something like this- never swam in a lake or river. We quickly felt out of place and got out, dried off and ate lunch on a rock. We did a little yoga before strapping our packs back on and continuing to hike after our wonderful three hour break.
We pushed hard in the afternoon, reaching a lovely rainbow-painted bridge and crossing a dry reservoir. The trail finally began to climb again, giving us beautiful vistas over an open grassy area that glowed in the waning sun. We found a small stream and decided to backtrack and bushwhack just a bit to get to a perfect campsite to watch the sun set over the opposing mountains.
This really was a wonderful day, appreciated even more after yesterday’s weather-based misery. It is nice to hike with someone who has a similar mindset and a similar pace. We marveled at the sunset and retired to our tents, where I was still able to see the darkening sky and the stars as they twinkled individually into view.
Hiked with: About half alone, then Gryllz
Camped with: Gryllz