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Sato's Camp Site - Japanese Rock Garden
I slept really well last night and was rested for my morning dash to the pickup point. I was on the trail by 6:30 am and went about a mile before I pulled over to take off some layers to stay cool in the early morning heat. I made soup for breakfast at this stop. Pretty soon, a couple came by. I wondered if they were the ones I woke up last night when I came into camp. Another mile down the trail, I had a nice surprise - I caught up with Sato. He had spent the night at the next water source. What a beautiful site it was. It looked like a Japanese garden, so it suited him perfectly. We talked a while as he looked through his maps and planned his day. He asked if I was going to McDonald's at mile 342. I explained that I wouldn't. I would be picked up today at mile 314, because I had already hiked the trail between miles 314 and 342 a week or so ago. He bid me farewell and headed out while I soaked my bandana and wrapped it around my neck to keep cool. It wasn't even 8:00 a.m. yet and it was becoming unbearably hot. A minute later, Sato came back to the water without his pack and handed me a post card. He expressed his gratitude for my helpfulness. I realized there was a drawing of Kabuki dancers on the card. I knew about this very unusual style of dancing through my daughter. She manages the theater which periodically perform Kabuki dancing. In fact, she made me a shadow box of artifacts from the dance. It hangs on my guest bedroom wall. Sato was delighted that I knew what Kabuki dancing was. He'd bought the post card at the National Theater in Tokyo where he lives. He said he didn't see the performance, though, because it was too expensive. I noticed that he was now calling me Terrisan, which is a familiar term of friendship in the Japanese culture. What a sweet man.
By mid-morning, it was sweltering. The trail continued to cling to the side of the steep gorge with Deep Creek to my right. The creek was a beautiful deep blue, sometimes lined in emerald green at the shoreline. The air was filled with the sound of rushing water and song birds. I had a hummingbird come within 6 inched of my hand. He was looking at my red trekking pole, trying to determine if I had something good to eat. He decided not and flew on. The trail would rise and fall forcing me to climb in full sun exposure. The heat radiates off the boulders and white, granitic sand, making the air temperature even hotter. By mid-morning I was approaching Deep Creek Hot Springs. I did see some tents there, so as I figured, hikers ignored the ban on camping and had stayed the night. I admit it was a great place to stay. The hot springs was off trail, but visible. I opted not to venture over to it. I figured an old lady walking into a clothing optional hot springs might be at the least awkward for all of us. LOL!
Shortly after the springs, I came to another bridge crossing where I met a yong womean from New Zealand. She said she hiked a lot in her homeland, but this was her first attempt at the PCT. She had been to LA twice before, so had some experience with Americans. Like her two Australian counterparts, she was tall, strong, and looked like an Olympian. They make beautiful athletes down under.
I could see why the route finders had hikers cross the creek here. Here the hillsides were brutal, barren, steeper than even before, with absolutely NO SHADE AT ALL. The hillsides were made of sliding granitic sand. They had to create retaining walls to keep the trail in its place.
For the first time, I could see Mt Baden-Powell straight ahead, seemingly beckoning me, saying in the sweetest, most persuasive voice, "Come along now. It is much cooler up here!" Followed by a sinister laugh. Knowing that it was enticing me into a 7000 ft climb to its 10,000 ft summit, with little water along the way and snow and ice at the top along a ridge on which it was scary and difficult to get purchase according to my hiking friend's account.
With a wider view, I thought perhaps I might get cell phone service. Yes! I got a cell signal. Don was really surprised when I told him I would be at the pickup point in 2 hours. He had to scramble to get there on time. I couldn't wait. I felt like I was in an oven and he was bringing me air conditioning, ice, and sodas!!!!! In the last two miles,I started meeting a lot of day hikers coming southbound to their favorite swimming holes. These were groups of young adults or moms and kids. I was thinking they were brutes for punishment to come out here this far for a swim in this merciless heat and difficult terrain.
About 2 miles from my pickup point, the trail climbed high above the creek. There was little vegetation and lots of heat radiating off the sand and rocks. It was clear to me now, that it was going to be unbearably hot to the end of this trail section. So much so, that I found poor Sato crouched in a small niche in a cliff side, trying to get out of the sun. He just barely fit into the hole in the rock in that crouched position and could not stretch or give his legs any relief. You could see how hot he was. But he was determined to get out of the sun and this was the only spot of shade I had seen for 7 miles except at the hot springs 2 miles back. I wondered if he knew about rattlesnakes as I passed by him. About another 0.5 miles up the trail, the Mojave River Reservoir came into sight. It is a dam placed here for flood control apparently, because there is no river running through it. I couldn't help it. I gasped out loud in relief. I was almost there!!!! And then I found a most exquisite gift - a large boulder with a sandy incline in its shade, big enough for me to lay down, stretch out, and get out of the sun. Oh my god. What a relief. What a gift! I spread out my sitting cloth, took off my shoes, laid down, and sipped my tepid water. It was heaven. Not a paradise like Deep Creek Bridge yesterday. But a welcome relief nonetheless. I stayed there for 45 miutes even though I knew the pick up point was only about a mile away. I was so hot, I just couldn't make myself get up and go again any sooner. I had hoped that Sato would come by and get a chance to use this spot to rest and cool down. But I never saw him again. He must have been so uncomfortable in that little niche, but he was very disciplined about staying out of the sun. I wish him well on this journey. Besides Sato, I only ran into Anna and Don't Axe that were in my age range. We were outnumbered, but not outpaced by our younger counterparts. Hats off guys!!! May the trail rise up to meet you!
Just when you think it can't get any hotter, it does. As I started back up, the rocks were now black, so they really radiated some heat. But at this point, I had my head down, putting one foot in front of the other, and booking as best I could. It was a steep down hill descent - almost 1000 ft - from the top of the dam to the runoff area below. A 30-something fellow passed me and headed right to the cement wall of the dam. I was wondering if he was taking the alternate trail which crosses the dam. But then I realized, he was booking for the shade where he stayed for some time. I never saw him again either. But he stuck in my mind, because as he passed me, sweating in the hot sun, he didn't smell like hiker trash. He smelled really nice - kind of sweet and refreshing. I wondered how in the world he had accomplished that! It was a first on the trail for me!
At the bottom of the dam, there was a small stream running through thick clump of trees. I saw a woman soaking her feet in the stream and re-bandaging her blisters. The trails went every which way, so I shouted across the water and asked her if she was on the PCT. She was. I didn't want to have to walk any further than necessary trying to figure out where the trail went in this mish mash of trails and access roads. The water felt great as I waded across. Looking t all of the trees, I thought I would be in the shade until I got the pick up point. Wrong! Only the designers of the PCT could place the trail in trees in such a way that you don't get a lick of shade unless you get off the trail. How do they do that! Finally, I topped a hill (yes they managed to force me up one more stupid hill) and I could see the white Dodge truck just pulling in. I called to tell Don I was just a few hundred yards away. He's looking all around and can't see me even though he has a clear, unobstructed view. Note to self - when hiking with Don, I should do the navigating. LOL!
When I got to the truck, I immediately grabbed the biggest handful of ice I could hold and rubbed down my head, face, and neck. Heaven!!! As I was doing this, a young couple walked up to the truck. I offered them ice and water. They asked about McDonald's. They were trying to get off trail here to get to her father's 60th birthday party tomorrow in LA. We offered them a ride. They offered money. We refused even though the gesture was appreciated.
Once we got to McDonald's, we all went in and found a large group of hikers. I met a non-hiking woman my age in the bathroom while I was trying to remove a layer or two of dirt. She commented that there sure were a lot of hikers here. I explained that they had just come off the PCT. She realized I was one of them and was amazed that we had come to mile 342. Back in the dining room, I asked if anyone had lost their trekking poles. No one had, but there were two guys in need of some. I told him I would check my Facebook posting. If no one had responded to my message that I had found the poles, they could have them. No one had responded, so I handed them off. I told them they could work it out amongst themselves. I had carried the extra weight for 45 miles. I just wanted them to get used. Food and more cold drinks and we were on our way back to the camper.
Reflection - I started in Secion B at mile 179 and finished Sections B and all of C ending at mile 342. I'm happy with that hike and feeling ready to head home. I'll give it a day, though, and see if I want to do anything in Section D after I have rested.