Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sleeping in the outhouse

I got up early and left my sandy bed to hike to the next hot spring, the Sespe Hot Springs.

The Sespe trail was starting to seem really boring. It had been burned in the Day fire and it just never looked any different really.

Soon I saw the turnoff to Sespe and took it. I stopped near the Sespe Camp to fill up my water for the long, hard climb up Johnston Ridge. The water was strangely warm.

When I came to the junction for Johnston Ridge I instead went up the Hot Springs Canyon to visit the pools. It turns out the Sespe Hot Springs is a hot creek all the way. There were pools along the way and a camp site among palm trees. I stopped at one pool and soaked in the water with all my clothes on. It was not all that hot, but warm enough to feel really good.

I kept all my clothes on for a reason. Staying completely wet had been the only way I had been able to tolerate all this heat. I knew Johnston Ridge would be hot.

Johnston Ridge climbed very high through burned out chaparral. Nothing was left. Some things were growing back and there was lots of poodle dog bush on the trail. My back was killing me. I just don't do well with frameless packs, it seems.

I stopped at one false summit to rest my back and eat some food and redistribute some of my packweight. I got the idea to stuff my extra pad cross-wise behind my back. It worked.

The rest of the Johnston Ridge trail was less steep as it neared Mutau Flat. Mutau Flat was a pretty meadow up in the woods. I started hiking in pinyon pine forest, which was badly burned.

I reached the trail to Little Mutau Creek and followed it into less burned forest. There were big cone spruce trees and it was nice and shady. The trail plunged down into Little Mutau Creek's drainage and I followed the creek upstream.

At the first crossing I stopped and sought shade and fresh-made pudding under a burned tree next to the creek. I rested there for a while in the shade. It was probably 20 degrees cooler right there than on the trail.

Motorcycles had used this trail so I followed their tracks. The trail was overgrown sometimes in the creek bed. The creek grew more and more lovely and lush. There were columbine blooming.

A report I carried from someone who hiked the trail a few weeks prior said to be sure to fill my bottles before the trail rose away from the creek. I was afraid I would miss my last chance for water, so I filled up all my bottles early. Sure enough, I hadn't really noticed until about 10 minutes that I'd reached the spot where the trail climbed out of the creek.

And climb it did! Straight up. I have since learned that motorcycles do this. There were probably switchbacks but now they are lost to the motorcycle tracks. They like to go straight up. At times the trail was nearly vertical.

I climbed and climbed. I reached a vantage point and could see amazing views of mountains all around me. The trail still had a long way to go to reach the top.

I found the old switchbacks and enjoyed their easier passage until I reached the top of the trail. I was a little unsure how to reach the trailhead, but there was pink tape and what looked like a road, so I followed. I reached the trailhead where there was an outhouse.

I stopped to cook dinner at the outhouse on its nice front porch. I spilled smoked salmon water all over the place, including on my self. Now I was worried about bears. I decided I would sleep at the outhouse. I would put my food inside and sleep outside and if bears came, I would go inside and lock the door. It was a clean outhouse so it would not be bad.

Even up here at nearly 7000 feet the night was hot. I slept in my tank top with my sleeping bag down at my waist and was still too warm. But I slept well and there were no bears.

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