Day 23 & 24 – Hot Springs, Dams and Lakes
Tuesday 21 May 2019
Location: Bench Camp (Mile 294.7) to Deep Creek (Mile 313.4)
Distance travelled: 18.7 miles / 30 km
It was bitterly cold when I woke up this morning. I really didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. When I finally did drag myself out I discovered the tent fly was completely frozen with a layer of ice, both inside and out. Although it made packing down the tent painfully cold it also gave me a little motivation, as the sun came out and the ice started to melt, dripping water inside the tent.
I wasn’t on trail until 7.30am which is late for me, I think the last few nights sleeping in a comfy warm bed at the Big Bear Hostel made me lazy. Packing down the tent felt like such a chore.
It was only a few miles in to my morning when I walked past the 300 mile marker! It had snuck up on me and was a nice surprise. I’m looking forward to hitting the next big milestone of 500, so it will feel like I’ve completed a decent portion of the miles in this epic trail.
The sun never fully came out today, I spent the majority of the day rugged up against the wind. I took a chance at drying out the tent and fly when I was filling up water a few hours into my morning. It felt like just as I took the tent out the sun disappeared but the relentless wind managed to do the trick.
I spent most of the day walking along Deep Creek. The trail ran along the valley, high above the creek, it was a lovely change being so close to a water source. The valley and the river were spectacularly beautiful in sections.
I had a few stream crossings throughout the day, the biggest of which was a couple of miles before reaching the deep creek hot springs.
The hot springs have become a popular spot for hikers to relax at along the trail. I was glad to have arrived mid week. The springs are clothing optional and apparently on weekends a high number of older males hike in from the local area to enjoy a soak. There were already quite a high number of hikers in the pools when we arrived so there wasn’t a whole lot of room. A big beach surrounded the river and springs but it wasn’t very pleasant to sit on with high winds whipping sand all over the place. The wind was also very cold so I was hesitant to get in the water. Despite the water being warm I didn’t want to be cold once I was out. I ended up going in to the hips. It was nice to give my feet and legs a soak.
I had grand intentions of walking another 8 or 10 miles but 6 miles after leaving the hot springs I came to another river crossing. One hiker had gone in ahead of me and was up to his waist in water. Cheesus, a girl I’d been hiking with on and off with over the past few days was staying put, camping before the crossing. I didn’t like the idea of getting so wet so late in the day in such cold weather and decided to stay put also. I was 5 miles short of my 23 mile goal for the day but I decided it was better to be warm. I will try to do some extra miles tomorrow.
There is a McDonald’s not far from the trail, 29 miles from my current camp spot and I’m planning to drop in for breakfast the day after tomorrow. Food strategy becomes very important on the trail. I want to plan my mileage so I make it to the McDonald’s in time for their breakfast menu. Planning a Maccas run is not something I do back home, mostly eating healthy and buying organic, it is incredible how quickly hiker hunger can change ones priorities.
Wednesday 22 May 2019
Location: Deep Creek (Mile 313.4) to Mile 335.7
Distance travelled: 22.3 miles / 36 km
I thought I’d get up super early today to make up for lost miles yesterday but it didn’t work out that way. It was cold outside and I was warm and comfy inside so I decided to sleep in a tad longer.
I was up and walking by 7am. First order of the day was the river crossing I’d avoided yesterday afternoon. Surprisingly the river level had dropped considerably overnight. It was great news! I forded the creek in my flip flops, rolling up my pants to save them getting wet and changed the dressings on my feet once I was safely across to the other side. The water was icy cold so early in the morning. Even after I’d dried my feet and put my shoes and socks back on it took almost a mile of walking before I regained sensation in my feet.
I had a few road crossings ahead of my today and as I made my way to the first one, Highway 173, I spotted a couple of hikers hanging about. Then I spotted the truck…. It was a trail magic! It was so unexpected and I was so happy to see it. Copper Tone was the angel behind the magic. He travels around in his truck, moving to different points on the trail during the season, offering fruit, snacks and root beer floats to hikers. He had an incredible array of snacks. I had a banana, strawberries, cookies with extra frosting and some chocolate truffles. It was an incredible smorgasbord. Copper Tone even had a box of takeaway snacks and food but my food bag was heavy enough so I stuck to filling my belly instead. I only had a short break with Copper Tone before getting back on trail. I wanted to make sure I did enough miles today to make it to McDonald’s for breakfast tomorrow morning.
Immediately after rejoining the trail it began to climb. The trail curved along the edge of the mountain range before leading me down again, back across another highway enroute to Silverwood Lake, which I believe was actually a giant dam.
I walked through an industrial area with large steel pipes, past the huge dam wall and past a power plant. It was one of the less scenic areas of the trail but interesting nonetheless.
It was nearing lunch time, I wanted to find a nice spot to rest. There was a big climb up the side of a hill to a spot where I could sit and look out over the dam while I was eating. It was worth the wait. I saw a couple of people paddling and a boat cruising around. It looked very relaxing. It was mid week and the weather wasn’t the best for watersports, it looked as if it was on the verge of raining. I could imagine how popular the dam would become on weekends when the sun is shining.
The lake was absolutely huge, I walked along it’s edge for a couple of hours as the trail wound its way around. As I walked the wind picked up and the sky threatened to rain.
As I made my way through the Silverwood Lake recreation area and campground it began to rain. It was mostly drizzle and remained that way for the rest of the afternoon.
As I climbed away from the lake I had the most terrific views over it. The trail eventually climbed up a ridge and crossed from one side of the mountain to the other. From here it was only a few miles to my campsite for the night.
I was making good time, it was only early but campsites were limited and I was worried it might be busy. I ended up arriving at 4.30pm. There were still lots of spots available. It was only early in the evening and there was plenty of daylight left but I had already walked 22 miles and it was spitting with rain. I decided to call it a day, get cozy and warm and have an early dinner. Tomorrow it would be Maccas for breaky!
Hi Leigh, I’m really surprised to hear about the snow and very cold weather you are dealing with! I would have thought that being spring/summer over there it would have been better for you! Is it because you are at a high altitude?! Those huge artificial lakes can be very beautiful and like the lakes in the Snowys they often make hydro power which can be good for the surrounding areas. Hope the Maccas breakfast lived up to your expectations! The “trail angels” over there are amazing aren’t they, I’m not sure there would be so many altruistic people here! We had a long weekend here last weekend and we went to see my mum at Sussex Inlet. We had beautiful weather and Claire and Amy came down with their families. Stay safe! Cheers Carole xx Sent from my iPad
Hi Carole, the weather is definitely unusual for this time of year. We shouldn’t have been experiencing snow this late into the season, it’s been unpredictable.
I don’t think I have ever enjoyed McDonald’s so much 😆.
Sussex inlet would have been beautiful! Im glad you had a lovely time with the family and the weather was food for you.
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