Day 24: A tale of two snakes

19.2 miles (286.7 to 305.9)

I sleep better in my tent than I do in town. My alarm wakes me at 5:00. At 6:00 we hike away from camp. A few hours later, we stop to rest and air our feet at a crossing of Holcomb Creek. The creek looks much different here than it did where we crossed yesterday. Here, water flows fast and cold. There are mosquitoes here, too, the first we’ve seen this summer. We eat snacks, fill up on water, and move along. 

Holcomb Creek

At mile 294, while listening to a Mourning Dove sing, I spot a rattlesnake lounging on the side of the trail. The snake is sluggish, and seems a little wide in the middle; it probably ate not long ago. Dad catches up. I point out the snake and photograph it, and we hurry by without even a rattle in our direction. 

The first live rattlesnake we’ve seen on this trip.

The trail continues at the same downhill angle it started yesterday. The problem with so much downhill is that when I do reach a bit of uphill, my muscles are temporarily confused. Then, even a mild climb feels like an effort. 

Happily it’s mostly downhill today. And mostly cloudy. I haven’t cast a shadow since early this morning. We arrive at a bridge over Deep Creek and stop for lunch. It’s a nice enough spot, with plenty of cool water for soaking our feet. While we eat, we’re surprised by two groups of day hikers who wander by from the nearby (but out of sight) parking area. 

Lunch at Deep Creek bridge.

Hiking away from the creek, we’re stunned by abundant garbage and graffiti along the trail. People have spray-painted rocks along the trail and down at the creek. Heavy trash continues for almost a mile. Miles pass before I stop feeling sick over this. 

One of my favorite photos of the trip comes after the trashed section of trail near Deep Creek bridge.

We reach PCT mile 300 and pause to photograph the mile marker made of rocks. We’re now over 1/10th of the way to Canada. 

At mile 301.4, I notice a large plane flying low overhead. “Hey, look at that plane,” I say, and suddenly I feel strange…like I need to pay attention. 

My gaze darts back to the trail. A large dark shape is just ahead. I yelp and jump backward as a humongous rattlesnake begins rattling. Plants bend as the serpent moves up the hill, away from us. My heart pounds. That is a humongous snake! When the distance between us and the snake is wide enough for safe passage, we proceed along the trail. The snake continues rattling. As we pass, it raises its massive head in strike position. Though we’re out of range, my heart pounds even faster, and I hurry by. 


Whew. That was a humongous snake! For awhile, I imagine I’m about to see a snake at every bend in the trail. 

Dad and I are in a campsite void. All trail maps and apps show no campsites for 40 miles. But previous hikers have obviously slept somewhere, so we anticipate finding something ahead, even if it’s marginal. The trail cuts across the steep wall of a canyon. No wonder there aren’t many campsites here. 

Dad’s feet hurt. Everything hurts, he says. My goal for today was to reach a seasonal stream that’s still several miles away. When we come to a semi-flat ledge with room for at least two tents, I offer to stay here instead. Dad’s tempted, but we’re low on water, so he makes the call to keep moving. 

Late in the afternoon we reach our intended destination. After a bit of scouting, we decide to camp in two sandy tent sites wedged between boulders. My tent goes up beneath sycamore trees.  

After dinner we retreat to our tents. We’ve covered 40 miles in two days and I need to do some foot maintenance. A few rain drops hit the tent as I work on my feet, then all is calm. A hiker passes through, heading for the hot springs. Later, as the light dims, Poorwills sing loudly from close by. I’m soon asleep. 

*More photos on Instagram

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