PCT 2019: Day 25, Little Bear Springs Camp to Deep Creek

And then a man rode into town, some thought he was the law

There are many differences between the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, but most notable are the terrain and weather. These differences are not surprising.

What I’ve found surprising is how our hiking pace on the PCT has been much more dictated by the availability of camping spots and water. We've had to adjust our pace nearly every day.

We prefer to camp near water, rather than hike farther and camp in a dry area. The distances between suitable camping spots have sometimes made this a challenge.

DateWednesday, April 17, 2019
WeatherMostly clear skies; low temperature near freezing and a high near 70
Trail ConditionsGradually descending with a few stream crossings
Today's Miles15.7
Trip Miles301.3

I’m still working on getting used to this. I normally want to maximize my mileage to what is reasonable for the trail conditions of the day and how I’m feeling.

So far, I’ve often felt I could have hiked more, but the options ahead for water and camping made that impractical.

Today was such a day, though more complicated.

The best camping option for us was near the banks of Deep Creek. Hiking there would give us almost 16 miles for the day. The trail conditions appeared to be favorable for doing that easily.

There was just one problem. The spot pinpointed in the Guthooks app said it was restricted for day use.

The other camping spots available were 6.6 miles before this spot and 14.6 miles after. So with limited options, we decided to hike to the site on Deep Creek and hope we could find a legal place big enough to pitch all of our tents.

After staying cloudy for most of the day yesterday, the sky cleared overnight. The wind picked up, however, and that made the morning colder than it had been overnight.

There was a little frost on my tent, caused by frozen condensation. Still, I don’t think the temperature dropped much below freezing.

We left camp at 7:15 a.m. The trail was easy, going flat or gradually downhill all day long. The chilly morning air also aided in keeping a brisk walking pace.

The only thing to slow me down was a need to stop twice to remove layers of clothing as the day warmed.

Ahead I could see more snow-capped mountains. The highest was Mount Baden-Powell, standing at 9,399 feet high.

I knew that the PCT went within a quarter mile of the summit, making it the highest point of the trail south of the Sierra. Seeing so much snow was a concern, but I tried to keep that out of my mind.

Mount Baden-Powell was named for Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the World Scouting movement.

Most people know of the Boy Scouts of America but may not realize that what Baden-Powell created has become a worldwide organization of more than 50 million youth and adults.

After hiking just 3.6 miles I caught up to my tramily friends, who had already made their first stop of the day. From there, I walked with them for the rest of the morning.

The trail entered a burn area and became a little more rugged, but continued on its gradual, mostly downhill path.

The tramily was one member short today. MJ had split from the group, but not because of a rift. She knew how to hike her own hike and sometimes preferred to go ahead on her own. We knew we would see her again.

Along the way, the trail began to make a few crossings of a small stream called Holcomb Creek. It fed into Deep Creek, a tributary of the Mojave River.

There were no rocks to help in hopping across the creek at one crossing. Some of the tramily attempted to step across using small branches laid across the stream, but found it wasn’t possible to keep their feet dry.

I didn’t bother with that, electing instead to just walk through the water. In the desert, your shoes and socks don’t remain wet for long.

We stopped for lunch after this crossing. When I finished eating, I decided to begin hiking and not wait for the others, who had lingered here longer.

I tend to walk slower than these younger hikers, so I figured a little head start wouldn’t hurt. As it turned out, they never caught up to me.

I reached a large bridge crossing Deep Creek at 3 p.m. The bridge spanned the stream bed high above a canyon formed by the creek.

The bridge made it possible to cross the creek without descending to the bottom of the canyon.

At this point, the trail followed the contours of the canyon, remaining well above the stream most of the way.

On this section, I passed the 300-mile point of my hike. I was still hiking alone, though I kept expecting the tramily to catch up to me.

I stopped to wait for them when I arrived at the spot where we planned to camp. A forest road crossed the trail there, and I scouted around to see if there was a good spot to set up our tents.

Up the road and away from the creek, the road climbed steeply. It was too sloped and washed out for setting up tents and there were no flat spots next to it.

The tire tracks I saw on the road were another reason it would not be a good place for tents. There was no telling when someone might drive on the road.

Down toward the creek, past a sign that confirmed the area was for day use only, I found a few spots that might be suitable for camping but worried about the legality and ethics of that. They were also too close to the stream. Generally, camping should be done at least 200 feet from streams and lakes.

The only suitable place I saw was directly on the road where it came to a dead-end near the stream. The road wasn’t ideal, especially because it was inside what I presumed was the day-use area, but I didn’t see another choice.

I didn’t set up camp here, though. Instead, I decided to walk up to where a bench had been installed at the intersection of the trail and the road, and wait for the tramily there. They arrived about 30 minutes after me.

We all agreed our only camping option was to set up at the bottom of the road. We remained worried that if a ranger caught us we could be fined.

Soon after we began to set up our tents, we heard a vehicle drive down the road. It stopped at the trail junction.

Was that a ranger, we wondered? Were we busted?

The vehicle turned out to be a rented ATV loaded with a family out for an afternoon excursion on their vacation. They walked down to where we were camped and chatted for a few minutes, then left.

Feeling like we dodged a bullet, we finished dinner and went to bed. The temperature overnight was comfortable and I slept well.

And then a man rode into town, some thought he was the law
Billie Jean was waiting when he came
She told me he would take her if I didn't use my gun
And I'd have no one but myself to blame
I went down to those dusty streets, blood was on my mind
I guess that stranger hadn't heard the news
'Cause I shot first and killed him, Lord he didn't even draw
And he made me trade the gallows for the Mexicali blues

From "Mexicali Blues" by John Barlow and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.