SNAKE PIT AT LUNCHTIME
PCT DAY 36: Mile 659.5 – Mile 681.5 (Chimney Creek Campground)
Thursday May 19, 2016: 22 miles (35.2 km)
If yesterday was one of our best lunchtime experience on the trail then today was the worst, for me at least.
Our campsite last night had fantastic views over the desert floor with lights of a distant large town twinkling in the darkness of the night. But being on a ledge left us exposed to the wind which seem to get stronger in the morning. The wind was so strong we could not light the stove. So we broke camp early to try and find a more protected spot to have breakfast. We found a lovely sheltered spot on a saddle with great views over Owens Peak. If only we’d hiked another mile, this would have been a much better spot to camp.
We took our time over breakfast. No hikers passed by so we set off towards our next water source in 12 miles. We descended over 2,000 feet towards Spanish Needle Creek. The first crossing of the creek was listed as being dry. And sure enough, dry as a bone. At the second creek crossing there was a paper note on the ground indicating good water about 200 feet off the trail and up the creek line. We arrived at the creek well before noon and at the same time as Ehoud, now known as “Green Bean” due to his iridescent green hiking top. This spot turned out to be the worst ever place to stop for lunch.
Hammer had gone further upstream to collect water while I went about getting our lunch organised. Just as Hammer was about to dissappear I looked around and saw a snake on a branch near where we settled for lunch. There were 2 more on the path up to the water. By the time Hammer and Green Bean returned from the creek I was in a state of rising panic. We were surrounded by snakes. I know this sounds like a nightmare, my nightmare at least. Another hiker arrived and assured us they were harmless gopher snakes. They did not look like the gophers we had seen so far. The snakes were curious about us and kept trying to approach us where we stood in a clearing. Green Bean had to fend one off his pack with a hiking pole. It coiled up in revolt. Hammer was throwing sticks at them to stop them from getting closer and to stop me from completely freaking out. There were 6-7 snakes in our surroundings, the largest of which was about 5 feet long. And I was supposed to relax and enjoy a leisurely lunch here in this snake pit? Eventually the snakes got the message and slithered away for the time being.
This did not stop me from being hyper vigilant and seeing slithering shapes in amongst the fallen tree branches. I can assure you, I was anything but relaxed.
Just as we were finishing up Ironlady arrived. Unfortunately we could not wait for her as we had stayed here far longer than I could bear. I could not wait to get out of there. This was not the idyllic creek like Tylerhorse Canyon (just after the LA Aquaduct) where you could soak your feet and enjoy the rest. We left thinking that Ironlady would catch up with us further down the track at camp.
The rest of the day we seem to descent a mountain only to go up thousands of feet up another. As “Dozer”, a hiker we met way back before Idyllwild, passed us he said today was a PUD sort of a day, pointless ups and downs. I had not heard this expression before. We did seem to go up and down more switchbacks then Alps d’Huez. While the meadows on the saddle between the mountains we traversed today were as pretty as before, I think we are impatient to finish with the desert.