Day 21 – April 24, 2022
Mile 285.6 (Little Bear Spring Camp) to 307.9 (Deep Creek Hot Springs)
22.3 trail miles | 21.2 tracked miles | 1,553 ft elevation gain | 75.2 F / 24 °C
Who said the desert is dry? Today’s stretch revealed a different facet of an area that is traditionally known as “the desert.” It was an easy, comfortable walk with plentiful water and little elevation gain overall—in fact, we went mostly downhill.
In the morning, we followed Holcomb creek. It wasn’t another Valley of Pain and Cairns like a few days ago, but a pleasant stroll on a smooth and well-marked trail.
Easy access to water every other mile or so made for a much lighter pack than usual.
We had the opportunity to practice our rock hopping skills along the way.
Shortly after leaving Holcomb Creek behind, we arrived at Deep Creek and stopped for lunch and a refreshing dip at this popular swimming hole under a bridge.
Then, the trail finally made a sharp right and headed north, after a 13-mile southwestern jaunt.
The 300-mile marker soon snuck up on me!
The ridge walk along the Deep Creek canyon was precarious at times, as erosion is taking a toll on the trail. But the rapid-fire succession of spectacular views was a real treat, and we were accompanied by a symphony of wildflowers in full bloom.
We stopped for the night at Deep Creek Hot Springs, a set of natural hot tubs and pools. Per the tradition of backcountry hot springs, the site is clothing optional.
Deep Creek Hotsprings would be magical if the site was a bit more remote. Unfortunately, the proximity of an easily-accessible trailhead draws a rowdy crowd, and some visitors do not adhere to the Leave No Trace principles and lack common sense and courtesy.
Despite the efforts of volunteers, the area is littered with trash and toilet paper. And since most visitors do not follow proper food storage etiquette, aggressive squirrels roam around in search of sustenance.
Deep Creek Hotsprings is designated as a “day use only” site, which means that overnight camping is technically illegal. We considered abiding by the restriction, but there was no suitable alternative in the vicinity. Besides dozens of locals were already set for the night, so we decided to follow suit. Perhaps we’re part of the problem after all.
I pitched my tent on the best semi-flat spot that I could find. Moments later, a group of inconsiderate local overnighters started to build a fire literally two yards away from me. Besides the fact that campfires are illegal, this was a disaster waiting to happen, so I hastily relocated. At least I’ve become quite efficient at setting up and tearing down my tent. Most thru-hikers decided to cowboy camp—that’s not my preference but it certainly would have been easier tonight.