PCT day 17 – Deep Creek Hot Springs
Beach Camp (298.5) to Rainbow Bridge Camp (310)
The campsite I had chosen was just wonderful: a nice little beach under a bridge. Of course I didn’t stay there alone for long. It was late afternoon when a couple of other hikers joined me. It was around 7 pm when just the side I had chosen under the bridge was cramped with more than 15 hikers. People arrived late, just squeezing in and cowboy camping even on not so level spots. Some boys even used big stones to carve level platforms into what was once an untouched beach. To be honest: I was disgusted! The group of hikers was loud and noisy until well after dark. I was pissed!
It made me think about this whole hiking industry, the Guthook app that made hiking easy even for the average idiot and websites like Halfwayanywhere that made the PCT look like a fun thing to do. And even my own website Lifetimetrails.
It’s not that I want to have the exclusive rights to do what I do. Everyone on trail has the same rights to experience nature and hike their own hike. But the impact on nature and even others by the raising numbers of hikers is more than present to me these days. I love nature, we might all do in some ways but maybe we love it to death. I have read articles about tourist spots all over the world that raised their entrance fees to keep the mass under control, I have heard critical stuff from bloggers who were kind of in between telling about a secret place they had discovered to earn money or not to preserve it.
To the Europeans amongst my readers: complaining about too many people on the PCT happens on a high level and just in comparison to my PCT experience of 2016. Yes there are more hikers, yes I have already seen more trash or toilet paper than in all of 2016 but it is still significantly less than what I see on a Sunday afternoon hiking at home in Germany.
That being said I need to think this all through and have to make a decision soon about where I want to stand. Because I am sharing my experiences with you and I am out here as well having an impact on nature that I probably don’t want to have.
Well, so after a noisy morning at camp I packed up my stuff and got ready to hike the first nine miles to Deep Creek Hot Springs. I was afraid of visiting another highly impacted site of nature.
The hike along the side of the canyon provided some great views of the Mojave river and eventually I made peace with my disturbing morning thoughts. I wouldn’t solve the problem in one day! The temperature rose more and more as I crested along the canyon side stopping here and there for a photo. It was around midday and short before the Hot Springs when I saw my next snake. It was non-venemous and jumped across the trail in a kamikaze like manor right into a bush to my right. Bloody hell! I thought…
Next turnoff from the trail was for the Hot Springs. It didn’t look nice at first with lots of dayhikers and some trash lying around. I aimed for a shaded spot next to Smiles who had surprisingly overtaken me in the morning. After lunch – Salmon tortilla this time – I created a pile of my stuff and headed for the water. It took a while until I was ready to jump into the cold water and swim towards the warm pools in the back behind some rocks. When I got there it was quite nice! I joined some locals – with varying clothing level – in the first pool that was only a bit warm. From there I climbed up to the next pool – a bit warmer – and then to the third pool – bathtub hot. There were not as many people as I had expected in the morning and I got to sit in the last pool with just one (!) other guy.
The way back through the cold water again was a bit hard but I managed. Smiles was already getting dressed and we agreed that it would be nice to find a spot for the night and arrive somewhere. From the Hot Springs we hiked another couple of miles to the rainbow bridge. That’s where we set up camp at 2pm! My earliest camp so far! But the river is nice here and I can go for a swim whenever I get hot.
Oh wait… it’s about time for my afternoon swim!!
Yes, it is a tough debate–protect the wilderness, so that there will be wilderness remaining, or encourage more people to get out and enjoy the wilderness. You would think that people should realize the ‘leave no trace’ attitude is necessary to preserve nature. However, the ‘I can do what I want’ seems to be the prevailing attitude with too many people. Travel shows do make it seem like anyone, prepared or not, can explore anywhere.
Yes, that’s unfortunately true. Still I encounter much more nature awareness of the Americans. In Europe there’s nothing like a leave no trace ethics which is sad!