Boy Scouts Galore
The land is burned. The trees look like nerve endings sticking out of the scorched earth. In the mornings, it is always cold until you start hiking. Moving amongst the large granite boulders, we lose track of time. We pass Stick in his tent packing up his bright yellow bear canister. The sun begins to climb. We are going to Deep Creek on the PCT, and it will be wonderful.
The trail is a narrow ribbon along a ridge. Far below is the rushing sound of a waterfall, but we cannot see it for the trees. The black flies are back hovering in front of our faces, crawling up that small space in between our sunglasses and cheeks. Sweat is dripping down my back, and my feet begin to ache. We stop in the congested woods near a stream to filter our water and Stick stops too. He is a man of few words.
I lie against a tree and shut my eyes. Slap! The mosquitoes have arrived. I pull out the Deet, that magic poison that keeps the bloodsuckers at bay. Pubescent voices are close by, I can hear them cracking in the trees around the bend. Soon we are surrounded by a pack of boys in their early teens. They look somewhat miserable and ruddy.
Their friendly pack leaders arrive and greet us. Where are you headed they inquire? Canada, we answer. The boys look alarmed. Where did you come from they inquire? Mexico, we answer. The boys look more alarmed.
A Swimming Hole
It is hot, and the locusts are singing their piercing ditties. I imagine a deep refreshing pool of cold, clear water. I think of the rivulets of water dripping down my legs, rinsing the black trail dirt from my skin. Just 3 more miles...then 2...then we are there. Crowds. Hordes. Children. Oh, my!
We slide down the steep side trail to the swimming hole beneath the bridge that crosses Deep Creek. Several PCT hikers are spread out under the trees fast asleep. People fish and splash in the water. We waste no time. Shoes and socks are off and in we wade. The water is freezing. I rub my feet on the large flat stones, massaging the hurt from them.
Soon the crowds annoy us to death, and we are at it again, hiking furiously, trying to outpace the Memorial Day horde. We walk along the ridge with Deep Creek far below us. From time to time, we see blue pools and waterfalls and weekend swimmers. Evening comes and we begin to site search. We see Still Walking and Pom Pom climbing out of the brush to our right warning "Poison oak! Poison Oak"! Scarecrow is down there too, but he declares his immunity and proceeds to set up his tent unbothered.
We press on to mile 306, where there are pools of softly flowing water and a few flat tent spots. This is it, we say. Tomorrow we will wake up here and celebrate 13 years married!
Oatmeal and Wedding Vows
May 29, 2017: It was 13 years ago today that we got married in Driftwood, TX at a BBQ restaurant called The Salt Lick. Getting married at a restaurant was appropriate for us since it was Grins restaurant that brought us together in the first place 16 years ago in the university town of San Marcos, TX.
We make some peach oatmeal and share it. Then in an understated but tasteful ceremony, kneeling in the sand surrounded with poison ivy, we renew our vows. The rings come off, and we carefully place them back on each other's fingers. I feel joy and gratitude that we are here together on this amazing journey that is just as challenging and strange and wonderful as marriage is.
We hike along the beautiful gorge and come to the Hot Springs. This is one of those stops PCT hikers love. It would be dreamy to soak in some hot water right now. My joints would thank me forever; however, below we see dogs and babies and the horde. In fact, we can see a woman doing her business. No, thank you.
The Rainbow Bridge
Travis is in front. He keeps turning his head and saying "Look, sweetie, Rambojuice"! I have no idea what Rambojuice is, but it sounds amazing. Finally, I ask him to stop so that I can hear him properly. "Why do you keep saying, Rambojuice"? He laughs and points "Look, sweetie, a rainbow bridge". And there it is up ahead a perfect rainbow bridge.
We trek across the bridge and look down to the water far below. I think we have something here I say to myself. I think Travis has a trail name. Travis, I dub you Rambojuice. Go forth and hike many miles.
Soon the trail leads to a spillway. For the rest of the afternoon, there would be this post-apocalyptic feel to the trail. Like we are on the edge of some abandoned civilization and at some point, a surviving tribe is going to pop out and attack us. We begin to climb. The heat is getting unbearable. The whole area is burned and desolate.
Unbelievably there is water out here. It is trickling down the mountainside where it pools in granite bowls in the clefts on the ridgeline. The bowls are filled with algae and hundreds of pollywogs. I lie down on my belly and watch them swim around with their little arms.
This burn will never end. The manzanita is covered with a yellow stringy parasite known as Dodder. It is incredibly odd. We collapse under a bush. The bees buzz relentlessly all around. There is no escape from this hot day even in the shade. The oven air hangs around in an oppressive, crushing way.
We press on to the dam of Silverwood Lake. There is a low bridge nearby. Underneath it hikers nap. A bat flutters in and out and in and out. Travis' has an enormous blister on the ball of his foot. It does not hurt him anymore, but the dead skin is ready to come off. He gingerly peels it from his foot as I snack on his homemade beef jerky. I watch and giggle as an ant takes off with his skin. The ant must be thinking, "Score"!
Stick is here too. He is wearing snow gloves from the eighties. "Aren't those hot, man"? Travis asks. "Yea, but they were $3 at a rummage sale in Big Bear, and they keep my hands from getting sunburned," says Stick. "I bet they smell horrible," says Travis. I giggle.
Silverwood lake reminds me of home. A wave of nostalgia hits me when I hear the familiar sounds of boats racing across the water. After that burn section, it seems impossible that this reservoir could be here. That this impossible amount of water could just be sitting here while we slogged through that dry, desolate land. I want to dive into the water. It is quickly becoming a dire need, but we cannot find a way to the beach. It is far below and covered in trash.
Soda and Picnic Tables
The sun is setting and it reflects through the tall grass. It makes an unfathomable color. We have hiked 23 miles when we find the day- use picnic area. They have bathrooms and water fountains. This is a gift. We cook under the awnings and have double dinner. It is a special occasion after all. Travis buys a couple of sodas from a little girl. Five minutes later the girl returns, asking if we want to have any more soda for money. We buy more soda.
As night falls, the ranger rounds up the Memorial Day crowds and gives them the boot. It is just us PCT hikers now. Still Walking and Pom Pom filter through the trees to take advantage of the indoor plumbing. Pom Pom has red fluffy balls attached to her trek poles. We set camp together in a copse the bright moon making it hard to sleep.
- Know how to recognize poison oak and poodle-dog bush.
- Knowing about the plants, animals, and ecosystems you hike through makes it more interesting and fun. A great book to help you learn is The Pacific Crest Trail: A Hiker's Companion.
In the spring of 2017, we set out to hike the PCT. Hear our full story.