Today reminded me of everything that sucks about the So Cal section of the PCT.
My sandals were frozen in the morning. It had been a cold night. The down pants were barely warm enough. I was glad I had them and couldn't imagine how cold I would have been without them.
I packed up early and set off to see the detour. The PCT had been closed at the Deep Creek bridge and a detour had been forged out of motorcycle trails. I had considered hiking through the original trail but decided since I had already seen it, why not see what the detour had to offer. Maybe it would be better than the PCT.
At first the detour was way prettier than Deep Creek. I walked along OHV routes through grass lands and oakey, piney forests. The rain had made the road soft so it didn't hurt my feet. The sun was out. Flowers bloomed all over. Lots of little creeks. No motorcycles.
The OHV route ended and the reroute followed a paved, closed road. A ranger drove by twice but nobody else. I descended into a bouldery desert.
I reached a bridge with blue swallows and the words "Paxx & Love" etched into the concrete. There was also one of the red PCT detour signs posted next to the bridge. Someone had written on the detour sign with a sharpie pen, 3 miles to Deep Creek Hot spring with an arrow. I looked and sure enough, there was a trailhead here marked with a sign to Deep Creek Hot Spring. I decided I would go.
The trail to the hot spring was sandy and scary. The bottom 1/4 of the trail was steep and slippery. The sign had said at the fork in the trail, take the left fork and it would be easier. I did that but I had to turn back. I didn't think I could make it without falling to my death. So I tried the right fork and it seemed better. When I got to some really scary sandy stuff, I just scooted on my butt. It wasn't as bad as the left fork because it was going straight down instead of across a cliff. It was a lot like hiking down the back side of Montecito Peak. I just took it slow and made it to the bottom.
I picked my way down a small creek and emerged onto the PCT. I looked around and recognized the spot with the hot springs to the right.
Nobody was in the big pool so I took off my clothes and got in. It felt so good. It was bathtub warm, just perfect. After being rained and snowed on and soaking wet and cold yesterday, this was wonderful.
Soon a young couple came to use the pool. They were nice to talk to even if they were sort of red neck types. I soaked and talked with them until I felt dizzy from the heat. I decided to get out and cool off. Since I was naked, I got dressed. Since I was dressed I figured I would head back to the trail. I rested a bit until the dizziness wore off and drank a soda the couple gave me. Pretty soon about half a dozen men appeared and got in the pool. I said good-bye to everyone and headed back to the trail.
I was sort of surprised but sort of not surprised that I didn't see any PCT hikers at the hot spring. PCT hikers get so focused on their miles they fail to take any side trips and this one would have turned back most who may have wanted to try. I didn't want to repeat that element of being a PCT hiker. I wanted to enjoy the luxury of side trips that section hiking seems to foster.
I climbed the 3 miles back up to the detour and continued down the road. It became a dirt road. It was long and painful. Roads tend to be banked around turns which hurts to walk on, especially if the road is made of sand. Some of the banked turns were very steep and it was treacherous to walk anywhere but along the high edge.
At long last, I reached the bottom of the hill somewhere beyond the Mojave Forks Dam to nowhere. I had watched as the dam and the PCT had come into view. I was glad I hadn't had to do that deep ford of the creek below the dam. It was still very cold and windy out.
The road ended at the big juniper tree where I remembered there had been a water cache. I looked and the cache was still there. Being so cold, I had barely needed any water at all this whole trip and I certainly didn't need he cache.
The trail climbed up high again on the side of the chaparral hills. I hoped the little nooks carved in the chaparral were sheltered enough from the wind. It looked like I was on schedule to camp there again. My stomach was growling, telling me, since I had no knowledge of the time, that it was dinner time.
The sky was cloudy and it looked like it might rain again. I could have slept out under the stars if it wasn't for the clouds. The wind would die down and it would seem like maybe it wasn't going to be windy tonight after all. Then it would burst back up again. My tent doesn't seem to set up well at all anymore. It seems saggy and loose. The knots were coming undone and I didn't know how to retie them properly. It didn't seem wind-worthy. I was thinking perhaps it was time for a new tent. So I really hoped for a sheltered spot to sleep tonight.
I pulled into the little nooks. There were at least half a dozen other hikers already here. I did my best to find a sheltered location. I found one and cooked dinner in it, but my tent didn't fit in the small spot so I chose another. I should have used the same spot I camped in in 2008, but I chose a different spot. It turned out not to be a good spot.