Monday, June 4, 2012

Day 21

The day begins with sprinting to a suitable bathroom area, which turns out to be directly below trail. A hiker passes me as this happens and I have no idea what they witnessed, but hope they didn't notice. I have a sluggish morning and only walk for about 20 minutes before stopping, but enjoy perching on a log, letting the sun slowly warm me (it was a cold morning) and drinking coffee made with cold water, watching the stream below me. I ford the very cold stream a while later and continue on over the very sandy trail. At around noon I reach the detour, which is a junction with a bridge. If you opt to take the detour, you miss the hot springs. I heard that the trail is mostly repaired (it was closed due to rock slides and erosion) and so I plan on not taking the detour (which also has some unpleasant road walking)I wade under the bridge, notice another hiker has set up tent on the bank (which is strange because it's the middle of the day, but I assume that they are taking a day off on trail, or just a very elaborate nap). I end up using a section hikers aqua mira drops to treat my water, bump into some more forest service employees while using a nearby bathroom, and then hike on. I later learn that the hiker who I thought was napping instead had a hurt foot and other hikers had called for help in getting him out to the road and off the trail.

It turns out to be a dreadfully hot day, and I feel dehydrated. I collapse on trail and Stretch walks up and offers me some electrolyte mix, once again saving the day with his generosity. I feel much better after drinking this and hike on, looking forward to the hot springs. The trail winds onward from on high and towards dusk I have a stand-off with a rattlesnake, who is so still that at first I think it's dead, until I see the tongue flicker. I throw a few rocks towards it, hoping to spur it into moving on, but nothing works. There is a steep pitch both above and below and I am getting desperate. Finally I scramble in the loose sand above and this prompts the snake to slowly move away. In the late afternoon I reach the hot springs and as I walk closer I see naked people, and no hikers. My poor overheated brain feels overwhelmed and I can barely manage to respond to the "welcome to paradise" that a naked hippie has cheerily greeted me with. I avert my eyes and plop down next to Stretch, who is cooking dinner. I slowly become acclimated and the hot springs are really nice - there are a series of 100 degree pools hugging a cliff and the creek has widened enough to almost feel like a river. More hikers show up: Ruby Locks, Calf, Rattlebee and a few others and I come out of my shell even more.

Knowing that it is a Friday night and this is a popular spot, I backtrack and camp on the very steep descent leading up to the hot springs. I'm right, and people show up around midnight, and thru-hikers walk right past me. Despite their interruption I sleep better than the hikers down below me on the beach, who tell me that people were up partying until around 3 am. The highlight of the evening was definitely the human flute, a strange being who was ululating at the top of his lungs in one of the tubs.

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