298.5 – 318
i wake up expecting to be covered in condensation but i’m pleasantly surprised. i guess the breeze must’ve counteracted the dewy creek. the first thing on today’s schedule is a visit to the picnic area with its toilet luxury & trash cans (ANY chance to jettison trash). pepa’s relieved to be hitting this stretch in the morning, he did it in the afternoon when he thru-hiked in 2014 & he is adamant that the ten miles of long hill swag trail looking down at deep creek with no access were downright heartbreaking. along the way is deep creek hot springs where we’d talked about maybe taking w half day off but it’s saturday & the sheer humanity is overwhelming. crowds of reddened city people with speakers & swim trunks cluster around the shore & we step over a human turd & actual piles of toilet paper trying to circumnavigate the place. i’m saddened to miss a chance to soak in hot water but glad to skip the noise & chaos.
there’s trash everywhere for the surrounding couple of miles, it’s awful & disappointing. we pack out water bottles & little scraps of packages & cigarette butts. we cross a rainbow bridge & follow the mojave river for another five miles of hill swag but this time it’s exposed & shimmering with sagging rock walls & graffiti littering the surrounding boulders. there’s a stretch of loose soil where kids have scrambled down the couple hundred feet to the water & a strange cave that curves inwards so we can’t see where it ends. the trail spits us out at a dam & everything is postapocalyptically desolate.
it’s frustratingly difficult to find a place to camp & we’re tired & burned out from all of the weekending humans today. we round a bend at our last creek of the day just across a jeep road & there’s a smooth area dotted with unfamiliar tents & with plenty of room for more. two older section hikers are sprawled on a tyvek rectangle playing cribbage. “oh!” i say, “there’s a guy with purple shorts & a ponytail named young gun maybe a day behind us. he is going to be SO happy to meet you!”
i give pepa a blister pedicure “remember this in case you ever get mad at me,” i tell him darkly. he smiles & feeds me bites of cous cous before crawling into his sleeping quilt & blinking at me sleepily. it’s impossible to be annoyed so i swish water in his pot to clean it, eat a handful of mini snickers & climb in after him. we fall asleep to the sounds of the little creek.