I woke up, packed up, and began walking.
Standard day really.
I crossed creeks via logs.
I crossed rivers via bridges.
I crossed the 300 mile marker.
I crossed fields of gold and passed more mountains. More of my standard.
The path today ran along a mountainside that dropped off steeply down to a creek.
For miles and miles, I walked above that creek – hearing splashes of running water over rock, feeling the fresh breeze blow through the range, at one point, watching a family of ducks gliding across a rippling pool.
It was a leisurely morning, and spending it by myself got me thinking about my past few weeks, and what I said about not having much ‘alone time’ down time. I hadn’t seen another person in hours, and realised I should take my words seriously: prioritise that down time and choose it wisely. Coming up was the Deep Creek Hot Springs, where my trail dipped down into the valley to meet with the steaming hot water that naturally ran out from the mountain into pools and was reportedly dominated by a nudist hippie group. Knowing it would be a hiker hot spot (pun intended), I decided to have my break before reaching there. A good sandy spot appeared, and so I dumped my pack, peeled off my socks, and got out my stove and ramen and kindle for a well deserved lunch break.
I took my time – it was the first time I’ve actually read since starting this walk. I inspected my blisters, and tried to get a picture that would do them justice.
And PLEASE don’t freak out.
I PROMISE they don’t hurt (much).
Only another mile ahead were the springs.
I had really taken my time with that lunch break, and didn’t think I’d see too many hikers left… Least of all, Speedyman.
He was there though!
And the springs were hot!
And there were a lot of penises. (Didn’t take any photos. You’re welcome.) Seriously – a slackline in the nude? Really? That’s just not necessary, on so many levels.
Speedy had hung around (pants on) for nearly five hours till I got there. I thought he would have been long gone, or I might have had a smaller break. I’m kinda glad I had thought he would’ve left though, and that I took my time reading.
There’s a saying: ‘hike your own hike’. In making friends and valuing time with people I already love, I seem to have lost sight of valuing time on my own. Hence, it was maybe a good thing – I needed to have that reading time today. It was good for my soul.
There were still a handful of hikers hanging about, and I jumped in, soaked and splashed for a while. Didn’t try the slackline – I know I can’t do that to save my life – but it was beautiful to have a piping hot bath, even if there were a dozen naked middle aged men splashing around as well.
I was refreshed, and ready to keep walking.
So walk we did.
We were given a stunning sunset.
Even the boys were dropped in their tracks to take photos and try to capture the moment, but no camera would do the moment justice.
The moon is nearly at its fullest, and it’s light was more than enough to walk by; no headlamps or torches were needed to see exactly where we stepped. It also gave us shadows, which was a bizarre experience.
Kevin07’s camera did manage to capture some of the beauty of the night:
The beauty of the night tricked us. We walked on and on, and didn’t even notice the hours or miles pass by.
It was after 9 when we came to a creek and figured after twenty eight miles – which sounds a lot more impressive as forty five kilometres (or further than a marathon!) – and agreed we should make camp for the night.
The boys I was with: Kevin07, Mike and Monorail, are great. But they wouldn’t agree with me on cowboy camping, and set up their tents.
We were settling down and quietening down, and the bushes beside us rustled. Something big was in there. Bigger than a rabbit or bird, at least. Hat off to Mike, who jumped up, hiking pole in hand and ready to bayonet whatever launched itself out of the bushes at us.
This is Mike:
He’s the same Mike that hung out with me at the river last week. And organised Uber when we had to get from Big Bear back to the trail. Great guy!
The rustling definitely caught me off guard as well… If you know me at all, you’ll know I played it cool as the tough Australian chick, but my heart rate was absolutely higher than usual.
We could hear the animal – whatever it was – pace back and forth, metres from us, but hidden from our view. No question about it having a view of us.
Yeah, it freaked me out a little.
No, I don’t think they realised. They couldn’t have – I kept to my guns and insisted on cowboy camping. My theory was pretty watertight. I figured: if that was a mountain lion or coyote that wanted to eat us, it would eat me through a flimsy tent wall easy enough. I’d rather not have the heads up of being awoken by something trying to rip through – let’s just be done with it and get me straight up.
I at least moved my mattress set up in between the boys’ tents. But there was no tent there between me and mystery animal.
Just the angels I prayed would protect me again.
They did a good job in the haunted cabin, right?