May 31, 2014
From sulphur spring to the Mill Creek fire station to the Acton KOA
Pushing miles always sounds good on the day I’m doing it, but I regret it the day after. Today’s the day after… We’re dragging, as usual, and the last ones out of the camping area.
There’s a complicated detour section coming up. From here on there are poodle dog bush infestations. Some of the reports seem greatly exaggerated, others more serious. Then there’s the fact that I’ve never seen a poodle dog bush rash. It’s said to cause bloating, pain, oozing pustules, and itchiness, but these are all second hand reports. That said, I’ve never seen a poison oak rash, but I trust that it’s nasty. Anyhow, some hikers are detouring onto a forest service road right from sulphur springs. Others plan on taking the trail to the Mill Creek fire station then detouring from there. Others are hoping for a hitch.
J and I start off on the trail to see how it looks. Not nearly as bad as the reports – there’s a heavy section of poodle dog bush right around Fountainhead Spring – about a mile’s worth – but still avoidable. The rest of the trail is clear with just enough poodle to keep us on our toes. “I kind of like the poodle dog,” muses J. “Life is full of dangerous stuff, it reminds you to pay attention.”
I’m trying to not pay attention to how exhausted I am. The first three miles of the day today feel like the last three of yesterday. And I’m starving. Light – headed faint and hungry. I’m walking so slow I can’t keep up with J. It’s a long, painful haul to the Mill Creek fire station.
Man, I’m feeling low. I drag into the fire station, out of water, hungry, footsore. There’s a whole row of hikers leaned up against the station in the shade. “Looks like a homeless camp,” I comment. “I guess it kind of is.”
We’ve hardly collapsed in the shade when an SUV pulls up. It’s Teal, a repeat thru-hiker, with his partner Tess. Tess is injured and she’s just driving around to meet him. “You guys want a ride?”
Oh no. I’m vulnerable. I want to hike the whole way, I really do, but my options going forward are burned over trails with seven foot tall poodle dog bush thickets, or a seventeen mile road walk. “I didn’t come here to road walk,” says J. I want to walk, but I really don’t, also.
I succumb to temptation. A whirlwind of a ride and I’m at the Acton KOA campground, eating a piece of cheesecake, and sitting in a hot tub (fourteen hikers in a hot tub – hiker stew – gross). I’m all discombobulated. I’m not sure if this is what I really wanted to do, but it’s too late now.
The KOA stashes its thru-hikers at the very back of the place, behind the RVs in a dusty spot that used to have grass. But there’s also a gazebo, and we’ve taken it over. When we go to bed we fill it in like the spokes of a wheel, a circle of sleeping bags. Hiker sleepovers are the best kind – giggles and stories till lights out at nine… nighty night!