Day 27: “If You Love Your Brain, Don’t Put It Underwater”
Monday, April 16, 2018 9:20 pm
Location: Campsite 315.3 (315.3 miles)

It was a bit cold overnight, but the high winds we were expecting never happened. The wind did pick up a bit after sunrise, but even then, it wasn’t too bad.

The first stop of the day was at the Splinter Cabin, an historic building that now more resembles an open pavilion. There had been a big hiker feed here on Saturday (when I was still more than 20 miles away), but there were still a few remnants: some clean water, and three cans of soda. (I took one.) The main reason I stopped there, though, was the trash can and pit toilets. Able to get a cell signal at Splinter, I was able to get an updated weather report: the wind storm I thought was happening last night was actually going to be tonight.

Shortly past Splinter Cabin, I passed 300 miles on the trail. If there was a marker there, I didn’t notice it. For most of the day, the trail followed the flow of Deep Creek, entering the stream’s canyon and following it fairly high up for many miles. As the day progressed, the wind gradually increased in strength, though it was still fairly manageable.

Deep Creek Canyon
Deep Creek Canyon

The major destination for the day was the Deep Creek Hot Springs. As the trail wound through the canyon towards the hot springs, the landscape gradually changed, from green to more brown and desert-like, while largely avoiding looking like desert.

I got to the hot springs around 1 pm, with slightly cool temperatures and occasional gusts of wind. Quoi and Dylan were already there, but had not yet tried the springs. (There were also a few locals at the hot springs, which kind of surprised me since it was no longer the weekend.) After a snack, during which time more hikers arrived, I had to be the first to test the water — it was pretty warm — and first to get in. Once I was in, though, Quoi and Dylan got in, as did other hikers, eventually.

The hot springs had at some point been tested to contain a type of brain-eating amoeba (so, don’t put your head under the water so the amoeba can’t gain access). As a result, while at the hot spring, and before, Quoi often said “if you love your brain, don’t put it under water”.

I wound up staying at the hot springs far longer than I originally intended, leaving around 2:20, hiking on to an as-yet-undetermined tentsite; camping was prohibited near Deep Creek, which meant there was no legal camping for a very long stretch of trail.

The trail continued through the Deep Creek canyon, and both before and after the hot springs, you could see a fair number of trails on both sides of the canyon leading to the hot springs and also small beaches on the creek. As the trail climbed away from the hot springs, winds started to pick up, occasionally making hiking difficult. Eventually, the trail crossed to the other side of the canyon via a rainbow-painted bridge, and continued on to the Mojave River Forks Dam. As it was a low water year, the dam’s reservoir, which the PCT runs through, was not flooded, and we could take the trail, and not the alternate route on a road over the dam.

Deep Creek flows towards the Mojave River Forks Dam, just around the next bend.

Beyond the dam, the trail made one final crossing of Deep Creek, and I collected water here, since the water prospects are a bit slim for the next 15 miles or so. Also slim are campsites listed in the guide, but I gambled that if I kept going, I’d find something reasonable eventually.

While I was filtering water, Quoi and Dylan passed. I caught up with them a mile later at a road crossing, where there was trail magic. J-man, who hiked the PCT last year, was parked at the trailhead in his van, with sodas. His van also served as a nice respite from the wind, which was increasing in strength. The four of us chatted for probably an hour, when I pointed out that sunset was in an hour and we should probably get going.

Mojave River Forks Dam Embankment
Mojave River Forks Dam EmbankmentThe conical pile on the right and the concrete structure beside it is part of the dam embankment.

We hiked for another mile, and found a relatively protected campsite not listed in the guidebook. The idea was presented to go another half mile further to a stream crossing that supposedly also had several campsites, and we decided to push on. When we got there, however, we found no evidence of any campsites. We briefly considered taking our chances and pushing on further, but decided to go back to the campsite we had just passed up. I dislike having to hike backwards, but in this case, it was our best option.

As we were setting up our tents, the winds blew dark, angry-looking clouds over the mountains to the west. Fortunately, they were not aimed towards us, but the winds did not die down while we were still up. Setting up tents in the wind was an exercise in frustration, but we all managed.

Today was my first day over 20 miles, and if it weren’t for three longer-than-expected breaks, it could have been a much longer day.

Tomorrow: Pizza delivery!