Our second hitch gave us a good tour of the town, as well as recommendation of where to stay. We settled into the Black Forest Lodge, complete with fireplace and more importantly, shower. It only took about three rounds of shower apiece to finally feel like we wouldn’t get the white towels dirty while drying off. Now it was time for more chores of laundry and food shopping.
Since our town arrival timing was off for getting our package at the post office, we had to stay an extra day. I decided to use that day to do my first slack pack. Slack packing means you only take with you what you need for the day and leave the extras behind. It helps save weight and, in theory, lets you go faster. Even though it was a very, very windy day again (high wind advisory), I decided to cover the 16 miles from where we dipped off the trail to the official 10% mark of 266.1 miles.
I was able to get a ride back to the trail with a local trail angel. With my pack light and knowing I had a bed to sleep in at the end the night, I was cruising right along. This was my first time hiking solo on the PCT as Steve was taking the day to tend to his foot injury. I soon came across a beautiful sight of trail magic provided by a local hostel: a big metal bin which probably had soda and snacks in it at one point, but now just had some magnet letters, garbage, and information about what to expect in the town coming up.
But alongside it was a couch! After checking to make sure a rabid raccoon wasn’t going to come out and eat me, I enjoyed my banana and took a nice water break.
A little ways up the trail, I met another hiker named House. He said he got an early jump on the day so he was hiking by himself at the moment. It was nice to meet a new person and have a chance to chat the day away. We ended up completing my 16 mile day and his 19 mile day before one o’clock. For me, that is cruising! It’s amazing how time can fly when you have someone to talk to.
Though a speedy hike was a good feeling, the highlight of the day was seeing my first rattlesnake! Luckily, he was lounged across the trail because the strong wind muffled our approach. It took a rolling rock to get him to start up the rattle and scootch off the trail. The wind was so mighry that day, when we looked out over the valley, the mountains were hidden by dust clouds being stirred up. Can’t believe our hats stayed with us! My day of slack packing ended with a nice cold soda and an immediate hitch at the highway back to town.
The next day, the wind was supposed to be back to normal, so we packed up and hiked out. The next couple days passed slow and steady, but a lot more social than the previous week. The high wind advisory had bottlenecked several days worth of hikers into Big Bear City and then the calm day release them all back into the wild, so we had many new people to meet and chat with.
Our first day back on trail, we hiked & camped with a young Marine couple who recently completed their terms of service and were excited to hike the trail before rejoining civilian life. The next day, we ran into a friend we met on day 1, who now has the trail name of Rock Steady thanks to Steve. It was good to see he was doing well and cruising right along, though his hiking partner had to go home for a couple weeks to recover.
We enjoyed the day spent hiking with Rock Steady, catching up with him. Our morning progress quickly halted when we found a big sandy beach next to a nice cold creek where we took a good hour long lunch siesta, soothed our feet in the cold water, and soaked in the shade of the bridge.
We decided to call it an early day that afternoon when we found a beautiful campsite alongside Deep Creek just a few miles past our lunch spot. We stopped just a few miles south of the hot springs we were looking forward to experiencing the next day. We were joined at our creekside campsite by another couple named Hypsy Gypsy and Oak, two really cool people who have hiked the AT before and are now taking on the PCT. We spent the late afternoon listening to the creek & enjoying the always welcomed shade of the canopy above us. Steve enjoyed talking to fellow AT hikers, swapping trail stories, and discussing gear.
We all had the same goal of going to the Deep Creek Hot Springs just a few miles ahead the next day. At first, Steve & I were a little hesitant about going because we didn’t want to get warm and cozy in Hot Springs, only to get out into the cold air if we went too early in the morning.
But luckily we arrived at lunchtime and the sun was out, ready to dry our heinies off. We ate lunch while the early visitors finished up their spa time. We arrived at a pretty quiet time considering about 20 people had passed us the day before en route for the springs. Only about 6 people were there when we arrived. With full bellies, we stripped down and hit up the unoccupied pool. After a peaceful, much needed soak, we tested the hotter of the two pools and joined those soaking there. The spa morning was rounded out with a dizzying jump into the cold creek running alongside the hot pool, followed by a solar dry off.
Our short hour visit was the perfect amount of time to let all the tension and stress of the past couple days melt away and clear my mind, ready to take on the trail again.