It takes forever to get to sleep between the wind and the cold, though I’m fine once I warm up. I’m up on and off again through the night, though, to drink an entire liter of water and adjust my body when certain parts get too warm or cold, too far away from the happy temperature in the center of the bag.
I wake at 5am to frost all over everything, and immediately go back to sleep.
It isn’t until six that I actually persuade myself to get up and moving. The cold just makes me want to stay in bed all day. But walking’s on order for today – I’m getting closer and closer to Deep Creek Hot Springs at mile 307.9; natural hot springs right on trail! – so I’m
begrudgingly up and out around 7a.
V-Dub passes me when I hunt for water at a dry part of Holcomb Creek; I leap ahead of her down the trail, get passed when I head down a sketchy hill to water that’s only flowing in the middle of the Creek. I’m picky about my water, so it’s sloshsloshslosh to get some hopefully less squicky water, then back up the sketchy hill, which seems easier than it should be. I’m rolling and munching on my morning pop tart when who do I come across but Moses.
He tells me all about the crazy time he’s had since I last saw him at Ziggy and the Bear’s place, about his knee, about sleeping out alone. I stop to eat to listen, and then we hike out together. He’s merrily chatting away, and it makes the miles pass.
We briefly run into Bambi and Peanut Gallery – she’s doing better, but still moving slowly given that she’s now got an arch collapsing on her. Lady can’t catch a break.
Nightcrawler is posted up on a high hill with 4G service – how different hiking is now than it once was! – and blogging and instagramming and snapchatting. She takes time away from her busy schedule to chat, though, and soon there’re six people chatting away on top of a high hill with 4G service. We pull ourselves away eventually, moving on into the sunshine.
Holcomb Creek’s a proper creek down here, beautifully flowing water, and eventually the temptation to just lay in the dappled sunlight is just too great, so I lay out my tent and bag to dry and do some eating. Moses and I bicker good-naturedly, like family – it’s nice to have someone around who makes the trail feel like home.
His knee’s hurting him, though, and we start to separate – edging apart from each other. He knows I’m aiming for mile 304 since I don’t think I can make it all the way to the hot springs tonight, and given that the land flattens out there, I assume there’s a place to camp, too – hikers are, if anything, opportunists about sleeping. So it’s rollrollrolling on down the trail.
I know I’m getting somewhere when I start to see dayhikers – such tiny packs! Such clean clothes! Such bright, fresh faces, without the world-weary look of exhaustion! – and sure enough, the trail starts winding down to Deep Creek. So many of them, even before I get to the bridge that marks my arrival.
Nightcrawler’s eating when I arrive, and we’re soon joined by Eric and Jackson and Bambi and Peanut Gallery. We talk about the dayhikers; apparently, Deep Creek is one of the most populous spots on the PCT, given the hot springs. We sit and eat and drink water and try not to think about the kids playing upstream from where we’re collecting1. One by one, folks start to drift off, until I’m the one drifting back up the sharp hill and over the bridge.
It’s a nice downward winding, if slow-going – downhill hikers should yield to uphill hikers so the latter don’t lose their momentum, so it’s pausing often to let people by or to jump ahead of dayhikers who, despite their light loads, are moving slower than I am.
Jackson, Steffen, and Eric are all taking a break around a bend; I sidle up to sit for a bit, have a fun conversation with a 19-year-old about African American Vernacular English – AAVE or Ebonics – and “White English”2 which actually goes better than I think it will. We talk about maybe going all the way to the hot springs, though you’re not supposed to camp within a mile of them. We talk about potential enforcement of that rule, going so far as to joke about rangers rappelling in from helicopters due to excess of budget.
At 304, I’m not ready to stop – but Moses is there, amused at my wanting to continue. He’s been trying to hold himself back, given the knee issues, and decides to stay.
I gamble and walk on to 306, where Nightcrawler and Tanya are already set up and where I settle in for the evening. As I’m setting up, a Sheriff’s helicopter buzzes us, taking a look at each of our faces – is our crazy enforcement prediction coming true? Is there a suspected killer on the loose, like there was last year? – but there are no answers, so it’s dinner and sleeping in the cozy spot among the boulders.
Start: 285.2 • End: 306.0 • Day: 20.8
Notable Accomplishments: A relatively comfortable 20 mile day • Messed around a lot and still made miles • Sloshed through my first creek
 KIDS ARE GROSS. There’s no chlorine in this “pool” to protect us from the urea and fecal matter I am almost 100% sure the kids are producing. Mmmmm… tasty water source.
 So we’re clear, there’s no such thing as “White English”. AAVE is a dialect, sure, but one could(/did) argue that Southern is a dialect, that Bostonian is a dialect, that there is no one “White” English to hold up as the one single standard of proper English.