December 24, 2014
The air was warm and the afternoon light exquisite as I left the Piedra Blanca Trailhead at 3:00pm on Christmas Eve. There were 6 cars in the parking lot. I met 4 people hiking out and passed one person camping at Bear Creek.
I stopped at Kerr springs to fill my water. As you can see there was just a trickle of water coming out of the pipe and it took some precious daylight to fill my water bladder. I arrived at one of my favorite campsites tucked around a bend in the river just in time to gather wood and set up camp before the darkness of Christmas Eve set in at 5:00pm. I heated up my left over burrito from lunch in the fire and some Christmas cake….it was beyond delicious…likely you heard me smacking my lips. The air was still and crisp, the stars and the fingernail moon bright. A perfect silent night.
At 1:oo am I was awoken with such a clattering and howling that I sprang from my warm cozy sleeping bag to see what was the matter. I threw open the rain fly and what did I see…….not 8 tiny reindeer…but sticks and grass and sand flying around. The tent was blowing every which way…..even with me inside of it! Apparently the small rocks I used to hold down the tent were not sufficient in this gusty “wind event.” With one hand holding onto the tent I was able to secure the tent with boulders and my trekking poles. I climbed back into my bag and listened to the wind scream for the rest of the night.
It was crisp, clear and gusty when I crawled out of my warm sleeping bag on Christmas day. I enjoyed not only a warm cup of coffee but a very special almond croissant warmed in the fire.
Soon enough I was on the trail dreaming of a nice soak in the hot tub some 4 miles away.
Along the way I found my requisite Mylar balloon……but it was too high in the tree for me to retrieve. I’m thinking my trail name should be Mylar, since I’ve found at least 10 of these balloons deep in the woods.
I enjoyed walking along the trail and being able to see various swimming holes and campsites that are normally obscured by the black oaks and willows.
After my soak I explored around the old Willet homestead.
I found a somewhat sheltered spot to camp down by the river, set up camp and went back UP ( It’s a 500 foot 1/2 mile climb) to the hot springs for one last Christmas Soak. This time I shared the tub with 2 other people who were camped near me. At dinner I ran out of fuel and ate lukewarm pasta primavera while pondering how I would heat up water for my precious morning coffee. Oh, and likely I swore at myself for grabbing the half empty canister of fuel as opposed to the half full one.
The wind picked up in the evening and I was in bed, sans fire, by 7:00 pm. It was FREEZING. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning feeling cold and hungry. When I crawled out of my tent in the morning the water in my cup was frozen. I immediately climbed the 500 feet to the hot springs for one last solo soak before hiking out. I filled a small water bottle with just enough water for my coffee and put it in the hot stream of water, hoping to have at least a semi warm cup of coffee. As my body thawed I watched the birds and the sun fill the valley. The coffee was tepid….and I spent most of the day dreaming of a foamy cappuccino.
It was a beautiful day for hiking……clear and crisp. I passed 45 people on my 9 mile hike out and each time I passed someone I felt gratitude for having the hot springs almost to myself. When I arrived back at my car at 3pm it was 47 degrees out. I immediately put the half full fuel canister into my backpack and then drove to my favorite coffee spot and enjoyed this…………………….
Until next time…….Happy Trails.