The creek was dry and the cache was empty at Caribou. Luckily the ladies I’d camped with were overnighters. The woman who had to work that afternoon as a waitress at Cracker Barrel gave me her extra liter. Another one shared a few Trader Joe’s coffee sticks. Thank you! The next creek was 11 miles away so I took off at my new speedy pace. I tried to stay focused on covering ground and not how far 11 miles sounded.
Then the next creek was dry too. The faucet next to the horse corral made a long echoing hiss when I turned the knob. There was mention of puddles a few miles up but I was beginning to have doubts. I had about half a liter of very warm water left,mostly backwash by that point.
I stomped down the path since there was nothing else to do. Then I saw the sign and whoever wrote on that log: I love you. Thank you.
I pushed through some cottonwoods and found a cool rushing stream. I thought I might enjoy a little foot soak while pumping water. But the biggest pool already had a soaker. A long pencil-skinny snake was stationed inside. It stared at me from below the water’s surface. It wriggled around and guarded the pool to make sure I wasn’t taking its tiny fish.
What a relief to have a surplus of water after a stressful morning of seeking it out. It may as well have been bags of gold for all the joy it gave me. I sat under a tree to eat lunch and enjoy my water wealth.
Of course, now there were water and creek crossings everywhere. At a playful little brook, I met Malibu. He had been staying with old friends at Big Bear and had only 100 days in which to hike. He filtered water while I splashed around in it.
Around nightfall, I met Pumpkin, a baker from Olympia. She’d started her hike back near Whitewater. On her first night, she’d had an encounter with the feral pack of pit bulls. No bites but she was understandably shook by the experience and still nervous at night. We stopped at a streamside spot called Bench Camp. Which had no bench, but there was a fire ring and a grill and a large, lethal knife. Probably just a fishing thing since we were next to the stream, but my mind immediately went to murder. “What if we wake up in the morning and the knife is gone?” I asked Pumpkin.