Bench Camp to Deep Creek Hot Springs
The bugs today! Those small light brown flies that bite are the worst. And they cling like magnets. You can’t just shake your leg, you’ve got to push’em off the skin when they’ve got a grip.
Pumpkin took off early and zoomed away on her long legs. I tried to get myself amped for a fast walk. I would get to the hot springs today, and I wanted maximum soaking time.
In the first hour, I came around a hill to a view of houses. I switched my phone off airplane mode to see if I could pick up cell reception. While waiting for my emails and podcasts to load, I rested against an old stump. The first dozen or so ants bit me just as I read the news about Anthony Bourdain. I jumped up to find myself and my bags covered with angry red ants. The stump and dead branches I had been touching were cleverly disguised ant cities. I spent the rest of the day picking angry ants out of my clothes.
On the map, it looks like the PCT follows Deep Creek all day. So deceptive. Yes, the creek is there but it is deep. It’s in a canyon, an unreachable crevasse that runs parallel to the trail. There are deep green pools lined with reeds and smooth rocks. If you were lucky, you might be able to skid down the cliff faces to reach those pools. You’d need climbing gear to get back out.
After yesterday’s drought, I was carrying water a’plenty. But the sight of that water drove me crazy all day. I kept willing the path to dip down. Curve after sun-basted curve, it refused. One more curve, I told myself. I’ll take a break in the next good shade. Good shade is harder than it sounds. Any shade is rare when the sun gets high. A good resting spot has to have not just shade, but also a proper place to sit. A nice smooth rock with space to rest the Big Burrito. And no ants. I’d been fooled already by the ant house stump.
Pumpkin found me slumped in patchy shade on some pokey rocks drinking hot water. “How are you behind me?” I asked.
“Oh, I stopped back there where the path split and sat by the creek for lunch. I saw Malibu.”
We walked together until the path finally climbed down to meet the water. It was rocky and tangled with brush. I battled through the scrub and sat down in three inches of moving water. For some reason, Pumpkin didn’t join me in my stream sitting.
It was a trudge to get to the hot springs but what a pay-off! I’d been under the impression that it was only hot water. Wrong! There was a great big cold pool, deep enough for swimming. Along the sides are hotter pools. As with all public hot springs, there was a little Ye Olde Naked White Man happening. The springs are a 3 mile hike from the nearest road, so there weren’t that many day hikers that Friday afternoon. I flopped around in hot and cold water and tried to wash the desert off my legs.
The trail angel that hangs out at the springs is training for endurance races. He runs in cases of soda for hikers. Occasionally he runs out to Cajon Pass. I had a ton of questions for him, mostly involving food. I love it when people are so devoted to obscure athletic pursuits. He also had PCT hiker bandanas. Then he informed us that the squirrels around the hotsprings were master thieves. I am nearly useless when it comes to hanging food bags in trees. I got my food about 4 feet off the ground and called it good.
I camped further down the creek with Pumpkin and her two friends. We could hear the water from our campsite. It’s nice knowing there’s water nearby. What a treat to go to bed clean. Except for the ants. I found 3 ants inside my sleeping bag.