PCT 2019: Day 26, Deep Creek to Grass Valley Creek

You see somebody naked and you say, "Who is that man?”

Today was a day several tramily members had anticipated. Just a few miles up the trail from where we camped last night were some thermal hot springs.

This was a well-known spot on the trail, and perhaps a little infamous. My friends were looking forward to getting there.

Some of the hot spring pools were clothing-optional, but that wasn’t why they wanted to go there. They just wanted to soak in the hot water

DateFriday, April 19, 2019
WeatherClear to lightly overcast with a high temperature in the low 80s
Trail ConditionsContinuously descending, except for a few short climbs, then big climb near the end
Today's Miles16.7
Trip Miles318.0

I had no desire to do that. The thought of sitting among naked aging hippies was unpleasant enough. But sitting in a breeding ground for who knows what kind of bacteria and viruses?

No thanks.

That’s why I took my time leaving camp this morning. I knew I would catch up to my friends before long.

The trail continued as it had yesterday to follow along the side of a canyon formed by Deep Creek.

This section of trail was much more developed than most of the Pacific Crest Trail, at least what I’ve seen of it so far.

Just as there were yesterday, bridges were provided at a couple spots where the trail went over a stream. There was also a bench at one spot, like the one I sat on yesterday while waiting for my friends to arrive.

Blooming desert lupine made another appearance on this dry and rocky stretch of the canyon.

The trail was smooth and easy to hike. It was smooth enough that I was able to stay on pace with a German hiker with long legs.

As I expected, when I arrived at the hot springs at 10:30 a.m., most of my friends were soaking in one of the pools. Grommet and Just Awesome were also there.

I was glad to find that none of my friends were naked. The pool they were in was not one of the unofficially designated clothing-optional pools. Those were on the other side of some large boulders.

They invited me in, but I declined. I felt squeamish about getting in the water because the National Forest Service says these thermal pools can be a breeding spot for a rare and sometimes fatal disease called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis.

"It is advisable not to submerse [sic] your head,” the notification says. I don’t think anyone dipped their head in the water, but I knew the warm water could also contain high counts of fecal coliform.

Probably nothing bad would happen to me, but I just didn’t see the value of getting in the water.

Gilligan didn’t want to get in the water either.

MJ rejoined the group this morning and spent part of her time wandering the area between thermal pools. When she came back to where we were gathered she giddily showed us a photo she had taken of a fully nude man who looked very much like Fabio, if Fabio were packing an extra 40 or 50 pounds of flab.

She said she asked his permission before she took the photo and he more than happily agreed to pose.

Nudity and disease aside, this was an interesting spot. The thermal hot springs are unique to this area and have been visited for thousands of years.

Fugitives, including AWOL servicemen during the Vietnam War, are reported to have used the area to hide from the law.

This section of Deep Creek is also home to the southwestern arroyo toad, an endangered species. Though this is not the toad’s only habitat, the area where it can thrive is limited.

There have been regular attempts to delist the arroyo toad from the endangered species list or ignore its status in land management policies.

I decided to look for a shady spot away from the thermal pools where I could sit, relax and eat lunch. When the others got out of the pool they joined me.

A hiker named Trail Pilgrim also stopped by to chat with us. He said he hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015 and was attempting to hike the PCT now. He was currently taking time off, however, because of a knee injury.

He offered to share some of his beer with us, but I was the only one interested. When I saw he was sharing a Victory Golden Monkey, with an alcohol content of 9.5% ABV, I decided to carry it with me and drink it after reaching camp.

Before long, I was ready to leave, though the others were still taking their time to finish lunch. I wanted to get a head start, but it didn’t last long.

The others soon passed me when I stopped to collect and filter some water at a small stream.

For the next five miles, the hike along Deep Creek was hot and tiresome. The trail remained exposed as it followed the upper ridge of the canyon.

After crossing another bridge, the trail seemed to follow an old roadbed, though it hadn’t been used as a road in many years.

In some sections, the trail was lined with Canterbury bells.

In other sections, the remnants of the old road were more apparent. Large blocks of concrete, once used as a guard rail on the road, provided a barrier from the steep drop-off to the creek.

By 3 p.m. I began to see the Mojave River Dam. It would take another 30 minutes of walking to reach it.

This dam had no means to retain water in a reservoir, as is common in most dams. It was only intended to capture stormwater and attenuate it as a flood prevention. When the Mojave River swells during a storm, excess water fills a temporary impoundment area and is released through a narrow discharge culvert in the dam.

Although a dam was first proposed for this site in 1875, it wasn’t constructed until the 1970s.

When I reached the dam I met a couple who were finishing a day hike. They gave me an orange.

After crossing the dam's flat, sand-and-gravel spillway, the trail descended finally to the banks of Deep Creek where it joined the Mojave River. This time, there was no bridge, though apparently there was one near here until about nine years ago when a flood swept it away.

The trail provided no means for crossing the creek without getting wet feet, so I waded across. The water was about calf-high and the bottom was sandy, so it wasn’t difficult to cross.

On the other side of the creek I caught up to my tramily. They were resting in the shade of some trees that lined the creek.

The time was only 3:45 p.m., so we agreed to keep going for another hour or two. We picked a spot that might work, but we were uncertain if there was enough room for all of our tents.

The trail took a shady path along the river bank, then climbed away from the river. There were more blocks of concrete here, which were the remnants of the bridge that crossed the river.

After leaving the creek, the trail was again smooth and easy. Unfortunately, the campsite we hoped to find was not there, so we continued for another 2.1 miles.

Our campsite was tucked nicely in a flat spot among small trees. A good water source was nearby.

Just Awesome and Grommet joined us there.

As the evening light faded, we ate dinner together. I shared my trail magic beer with MJ, Falls and Grommet.

You walk into the room
With a pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, "Who is that man?"
You try so very hard
But you don't understand
What you'll say
When you get home

From "Ballad Of A Thin Man” by Bob Dylan


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