PCT Desert Day 20: Windy and Winding

Mile 304.88 to 328.71 — Today’s miles: 23.83
Despite my slightly slopey little tentsite, I sleep like a rock. The temperature is perfect all night, and then in the early morning I have a delightful dream starring Susan Sarandon (though sadly not wearing her Bette Davis clothes from Feud). I’m so comfy and cozy that I don’t want to get up. But I guess I’ll hike.

After a mile or so, I pass Speck, Mowgli, and Space Jam still waking up at their campsite by a wide stream. It’s beautiful here. I filter half a liter of water and rock hop across. On the following uphill, it’s already warm, but I try to hike fast to make the most of the morning air. Soon I approach Deep Creek hot springs. Apparently, locals and hikers alike love to soak here in the hot springs and swim in the cold pools. Some hikers get stuck in the vortex here and stay for days, I’ve heard. When I arrive, there are tons of people and some dogs, and it doesn’t look like my kind of scene. I pass some unburied poo near the trail. Nope nope nope, I think, and hurry on past the hot springs, following the PCT into the hills above.

The trail continues to meander over Deep Creek for a while, and in a few miles I come to a bridge painted in rainbow colors — the bridge of my people! Whiz Kid and Sprout show up and kindly ask if I want a photo on the bridge. They move on after this while I stop for second breakfast. They’re aiming for Cleghorn picnic area tonight, where you can order pizza delivery. It’s a cool 22 miles from where they camped, more like 24 for me. That’s unlikely to happen.

We wind high above the creek for miles. There are several day hikers coming from the opposite direction, headed for the hot springs. There’s a lot of graffiti on the rocks up here, which is a bummer. It’s not even good graffiti, just messy random words. Eventually we reach the Mojave Dam and begin to descend. It is very, very windy here, all the way down to water level. At a water crossing, I stop and sit to filter, but don’t linger — this area feels weird. As I hike on I see a lot of random garbage. It just makes me uneasy, the way camping near town does. The trail threads through tall grasses, adding to my claustrophobic feelings, and finally climbs up, into the open air, away from the garbage, and past a small trailhead parking lot. After crossing the road here (and seeing an empty trail magic cooler), I finally start to feel like I’m moving into the remote outdoors again, my preferred space.

I stop for a snack before a long steady uphill. The wind really kicks in as I ascend. It’s blowing me all over the place. It’s unstoppable. At Grass Valley Creek, hikers are gathered against the bigger trees and rocks, getting water and having lunch and trying to avoid the wind. I put some water in a freeze-dried meal and plop it in the sun while I scarf down a tuna packet. Fistfuls of m&ms complete my lunch. Everyone is headed to the picnic area, now a little more than ten miles away. I’m not sure my feet are up for that, but decide I’ll try — I can always stop early if needed.

I leave just after 2pm, and fight the wind for the first several miles. It’s somehow always pushing me backwards or to the side, never helping me out by blowing me on down the trail. I try to keep a steady pace as the trail winds through a large burn area — winding, winding, around this mountainside and now this one and now this one too. The burn makes them all look similiar. I stop to retape a toe and Dexter passes by, saying “I hate these ten miles.” “It’s because they’re all the same mile,” I suggest. But shortly after, the wind lessens and we move into different terrain (with some poison oak!). There’s a short little road walk, and I leave some others to break under a shade tree, now determined to get all ten miles. I hike hard, along the road and up some hot switchbacks until finally I’m looking out over Silverwood Lake at the top, feeling the wind billow my shirt out. Now we circumnavigate the lake, and I eat a Jolly Rancher to power through the last mile or two. I can see the picnic area! But instead of taking a dirt road that seems like it’ll go there, I follow my map’s instructions and slightly overshoot, backtracking on a bike path that spits me out at a bathroom — with flush toilets and running water! I see Dos Tacos and a couple other folks eating dinner on the ground in front of the bathroom, which seems totally normal.

There’s an area that is unofficially used for camping, and several of us set up here, under the trees. The others have ordered pizza and beer but I have way too much food in my pack already (trail magic creates this problem, but is worth it). I am wiped out, having hiked nearly 24 miles today, the last 10+ in about four hours. I eat my last Snickers as a reward and stay up journaling in my tent while the others feast at a picnic table and chat well past backpacker midnight. Sounds like some are having a hard time finishing their beer. I’m not a big drinker anyway, but I always feel so dehydrated out here that alcohol is the very last thing I want. Tomorrow we have just over 13 miles to McDonald’s, and though I cannot recall the last time I ate at a McDonald’s, I am incredibly, wholeheartedly excited.


Many people know about the Bridge of the Gods, which connects Oregon and Washington and is a key PCT landmark. Pictured here, the lesser known Bridge of the Gays.


High above, getting ready to descend to the Mojave Dam.


I arrived at this trail magic around 11:30am and everything was eaten already. It’s cute that the person thought hikers needed encouragement to finish it before the afternoon.


Now climbing back up into less populated areas. You can see the trail going uphill, cut into the mountain in the background.


Hiking through the burn on my ten mile push. Not sure what these vivid yellow plants are, but they’re often in burn areas.


View of Silverwood Lake, reward for a climb.


2 thoughts on “PCT Desert Day 20: Windy and Winding

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