From holcombe creek to deep creek hot springs
In Ray Jardine’s book on tarp camping, he harps endlessly on how ventilation is the point of a tarp. Supposedly, this is to prevent condensation inside your tent. I’ve had a sneaking feeling that maybe Ray’s wife just got tired of being hotboxed with rehydrated bean farts.
Last night, though, J and I chose not to follow Ray’s instructions on keeping the tarp ventilated, and we closed off both of the tarp’s open ends, one end with the insert (the batwing), and the other with our umbrellas. We were so cold. I woke up in the middle of the night with condensation raining down on me. Whoops. Should have gone with the ventilation after all. It got cold enough that the condensation froze for a while – it was a chilly night.
The sun is shining in on us now though, and I know we have our biggest day yet in front of us, but I don’t want to get up. I finally crawl out to take a piss but there is a dude camped about 20 feet from us. Yikes! Good thing I looked around before I pulled down my pants.
“Morning!” says the dude. “Sorry for getting in so late, I’m sure I woke you guys last night.”
“You actually just scared the bejeebies out of me!” I exclaim. I always try and feel out the solo hikers – some of them like their solitude, others are looking for a listening ear. Most are looking for a listening ear. The dude’s name is Rogue, and after we get his life story we figure it’s probably time to get started. The sunny morning is already getting a lot less promising.
It starts with little sprinkles. I pop open my umbrella at the first drops. I’ve carried the dumb thing this far, might as well use it. It doesn’t take much longer for J to pop open his. We’re hiking along Holcombe creek, which is some of the biggest water we’ve seen so far – big enough to hear the water rushing across the rocks. The creek area isn’t burnt at all, and with the rain everything is fresh and fragrant and cool. We are suddenly so far away from the desert, wandering through forests much cooler and wetter than those of Southern California – upstate New York, maybe, or the Cascades.
It rains all morning. We run into another solo hiker during a downpour. We’d passed Mary Karen last night, but hadn’t introduced ourselves. “Those umbrellas sure look stupid when you’re carrying them around,” she observes. “But I sure wish I had one now!”
“That’s because they are stupid,” I counter. “Right up until they aren’t!”
Mary Karen has just returned from four years of managing development projects in Afghanistan, and we stand and talk until we all realize that we’re standing around chatting in a torrential rain, and we move on.
There’s a brief spell of sun just in time for lunch, and then it starts up again, this time with hail. “I sure hope our umbrellas are up to this!” I spot back to to J.
“No kidding!” He shouts back. And with our umbrellas down tight over our heads we keep walking. There are hot springs in just thirteen more miles.
“Deep Creek, deep creek, deep creek,” I chant to myself, a mantra of rest and warmth and hot water. I’m cold and wet now but I won’t be forever.
The end of the day lasts forever. We’ve entered deep creek canyon and we traverse along it’s edge. The rain has let up but I’ve twisted my ankle or strained it somehow and it hurts like crazy. I put down my umbrella to take some ibuprofen and it blows over the cliff. “Any other day!” I yell over the cliff, “and I’d leave you there!” It’s not any other day – I scramble all the way down for the darned thing.
J lends me the other hiking pole and we lurch on. The sun is shining on my face and I’m listening to Townes Van Zandt on the ipod and Deep Creek streams by below in rushes and aquamarine pools. I’m happy, you know?
We set up camp on a sandy beach next to the hot springs and a horde of thru-hikers and weekenders. An old hippie talks our ear of for a while as we soak away our troubles and watch the stars come out. We’ve hiked 22.5 miles today, which is a new personal best! I feel terrible.
Only seven miles tomorrow, plenty of time to swim and nap.