Deep Creek

April 17, 2018

Southern California continues to delight as we hike. During the last eight days, we’ve hiked through the Mission Creek drainage, into the town of Big Bear Lake where we enjoyed three days of rest, then on through the Holcomb Creek drainage.

This morning began with azure sky and a blessed cease in the wind. We found a sunny niche in a pile of boulders for breakfast. Just as we were finishing, three hikers came around the corner.

“Oh! Are you hiking the PCT?”

The three women laughed as we confirmed their guess. “We have something for you!”

Raquel, Tanya, and Lori had decided to give out trail magic on their hike today. They handed us two cutie tangerines and two ziplock baggies with homemade lemon and white chocolate chip cookies!

Encouraging words adorned the ziplock bags. “You can do it!” “I’m proud of you!”

What a delicious and thoughtful treat, and the conversation with three enthusiastic hikers provided even more fun!

Thank you Tanya, Lori, and Raquel!

Our breakfast trail angels told us there was water cached at the Splinter’s Cabin trailhead. When we crossed the bridge spanning Deep Creek, we obediently turned left towards the trailhead, taking a small detour to fill water bottles. Once again, thank you to the trail angels!

Deep Creek bridge

The trail followed Deep Creek all day, clinging to the canyon wall, often far above the creek.

Warm weather and calm air brought out many birds. A spotted towhee flicked from tree branch to bush, letting out a short twee-twee-twee-trrrrrr!

The trail took a turn around a steep slope, and on a tree trunk below me I spied a Nuttall’s woodpecker, the red patch on its head flashing an attention-getting signal.

As I hiked, I could hear the song of the wrentit, a musical ping pong ball bouncing slow, slow, fast, fast, faster, fastest!

Along a wide ridge, Jay and I were stopped by the sight of a live oak tree full of orangy-red catkins. These conspicuous male flowers make pollen for the tiny female flowers nestled in forks of twigs higher in the trees.

Amazing load of catkins on this live oak tree!

A rock wren said hello as we paused to admire some boulders in a shady cleft of the canyon. The sun was heating the land. A turkey vulture swooped by, then turned and circled lower over us. Hmm, I didn’t think we smelled that bad! One can’t fool a vulture’s nose, though. A few minutes later, as we passed a short cliff, a baby rattlesnake startled me. As it slithered through a bush and up the rocks, Jay encouraged me to take its picture.

Only a baby rattler – about eight inches long, and heading away from me!

Baby blue eyes, lupine, desert indian paintbrush, and poisonous poodle dog bush often lined the path. Jay and I joked about “doing the poodle dance” as we contorted our bodies and legs around this desert menace.

baby blue eyes

desert indian paintbrush
poodle dog bush

We stopped at Willow Creek, a tributary of Deep Creek, filling water bottles and enjoying the shade of numerous California sycamore trees. Another hiker paused as he saw us. “Have we passed the hot springs yet?” We assured him that delight was still to come, and he continued, after taking our picture at this beautiful spot.

Sandy beach, granite boulders, shady sycamores … who needs a hot spring?

A couple miles later, we did, indeed, see the hot springs. Dozens of people were wandering along the shore of Deep Creek, obviously enjoying this oasis of comfort. It is a popular spot for locals and PCT hikers. A man with a deep tan and gray hair passed us, wearing only a mini-skirt and a day pack. I was suddenly seized with shyness. I had everything I needed right on my back. Did I really want to go talk to a bunch of strangers? “It won’t bother me if we just keep going. I don’t mind missing this side trip,” I suggested to Jay. He agreed, and we kept walking.

Afternoon turned to early evening. A raven sported along the canyon rim, riding updrafts as sun and lengthening shadows brought breezes into play.

We crossed Deep Creek again, over an arched bridge set into rock on either side. I was ready to find a campsite, but the trail had other ideas. Following steep canyon walls, just under the rim, the trail ranged from four inches to four feet in width. “It’s kind of like hiking along the side of a curtain,” Jay remarked. I agreed, as I tried not to look down at beautiful sandy campsites beside the creek hundreds of feet below us.

I looked ahead. The trail heaved in and out, miles of cliffs undulating into the distance. Good campsite terrain it was not!

A canyon wren began its melodic downward spiral song, singing the sun to the canyon rim. We kept hiking, enjoying the evening coolness. As the miles progressed and my legs and feet began to ache, I began eyeing every tiny flat spot, calculating whether our tent would fit or not.

The canyon mouth came into sight, and with a sigh of relief we crossed the Mojave River Forks Dam. I began hopefully eyeing a line of willows and sycamores beside Deep Creek. Sure enough, just as evening deepened to dusk, Jay found a sheltered nook. I hung our food bags from an accommodating willow tree and brushed my teeth by the light of a two day old moon and Venus in a purple sky. Jay later told me that he heard a beaver gnawing on twigs during the night, but after 18 miles, I heard nothing once my head hit my sleeping pad!

Moon and Venus over a sycamore tree.

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