May 10, 2022
Deep Creek Hot Springs at mile 307.9 to dirt road at mile 324.8
It’s another slow morning. When I sit up, Andy is coming back from an early dip in the springs. I go get water upstream, then slowly start to pack up. I can’t decide whether to have my tea first and another hot spring trip second or vice versa. I end up with the tea first, then I go to the spring and stick my feet and legs in for a few minutes. Another luxurious morning! This place is magical. I know the FarOut comments made it seem scary and germy, and to be fair, there is a lot of trash around in the woods, but it’s so beautiful, and a very worthwhile stop. I can’t believe it’s just right on the trail!
Eventually we all start moving. We’re in a rare morning cruise mode today because we’re trying to get to the Joshua Inn, which picks up hikers from the trail, takes them to the bar for drinks and food, then drops them back off whenever they want. It opens at 12, we only have 6.5 miles, and it’s around 9 when we leave. Cruise it, baby.
Andy, DLT, Rob, Beetle, and I slowly make our way up the slope and through the canyon. (Gorge?) Deep Creek is far below us, and the walls of the valley are brown and green with grass and shrubs. It is a beautiful morning. I revel in it, taking in the rushing water far below, the blue sky, the smooth, easy path along the ridgeline.
Soon we come upon a large and very random dam. It doesn’t look that interesting, but we have time to kill so we walk up onto it. The view is nothing to write home about. As we’re walking down, I complain about my very intense thigh chafe. “It’s like I have to walk like this!” I say, spreading my legs apart and taking awkward sideways steps. This leads Andy to compare me to a crab, and then we all start doing a crab walk across the dirt road below the dam. DLT and Andy both get videos of this excellent moment. (Later, Petra sends us one of her doing the crab walk in the same place when she gets there!)
We cross the road and then ford a proper creek for the first time, then we have a mile of gliding though tall grass to the trailhead. Once there, Rob calls the bar and Alan picks us up in his little Nissan electric car with a wagon for packs in the back. It’s a short drive to the Joshua Inn. It’s a small place with dollar bills and taxidermy and kitschy americana all over the walls. I order a huge Big Wave beer, and the bartender makes us the only thing on the menu today: meatball subs and potato salad. I guess they never used to serve food, but they realized they had a huge business opportunity in PCT hikers and they’re working out what we like. Obviously, food is at the top of the list. The sandwich is heaven.
The one beer makes me drunk because of course it does. DLT has two and winds up in a similar state. Andy, meanwhile, has one Corona and sips it slowly while he works on some admin on his phone. What a responsible adult.
We stick around long enough to finish our lunch, use the restroom, and charge our devices, and then it’s back to the trail. It is a cruisey 10 miles, although it’s not the prettiest scenery we’ve seen; there are power lines and houses everywhere. I walk with the whole group for a while, then Andy and I go ahead for a bit. We’re in Andy’s Afternoon Cruise Mode™ until we realize that we’ve been a little *too* cruisey and we need to pick up the pace.
Andy is obviously feeling great, but I am suffering. I lose him when I stop to pee, which is its own whole scene of me fighting a tree and losing, making some incomprehensible noises at two hikers I don’t know who pass by, and, eventually, DLT and Rob coming along and keeping an eye out while I just go right by the trail. Ah, the logistical joys of being a person who squats to pee in the woods.
Anyway, we all catch up to Andy not much later. Beetle calls us from farther up the trail trying to get us to join him, but we are gassed. Except Andy. Andy is a machine.
We trudge onward through an uninspiring industrial landscape. We walk up a hill that feels endless. My feet are yelling at me to stop. My thigh chafe is so irritating. This is far from our longest day, so why do I feel so shit?
Finally, we reach a dirt road. It’s not ideal, but I’m done. I sit down, shove a Clif bar in my face, eat multiple servings of couscous, and lay out my stuff to cowboy camp on the side of the road. Shivering, I get into my sleeping bag. It’s shocking how much colder it is the instant the sun goes down. We have one more cold night, then it sounds like it gets hot again this weekend. Woo hoo! Looks like the return of the 5 AM starts.