Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 18: Mission Creek to Mission Creek Trail Camp

Yesterday's heat clung to the rocky canyon walls and smothered the sandy canyon floor, making for a warm and restless night. The sun's rays had already reached our camp by the time we packed up, further elevating the canyon's temperatures. We were hot!

Walking through the upper reaches of the canyon felt like walking through a graveyard. A fire had burned through the canyon years earlier, leaving ghostly black and white skeletons as the standing remains of the canyon's former trees.

After our final creek crossing we were excited to enter a slightly cooler section of trail. Tall oaks shaded the trail, and thick vegetation lined both sides. Unfortunately, we soon learned that one of the innocuous looking plants overgrowing the trail was the dreaded poodle dog bush, which causes a reaction similar to poison oak. The poodle dog bush lingered near the trail even after we climbed out of the trees onto the hot, exposed ridge. When we finally climbed into the cooler pine forest of a neighboring canyon, we were as relieved by the disappearance of the poodle dog bush as we were by the appearance of the cool, shady pines.

We are now camped at the Mission Creek Trail Camp, apparently named for its proximity to the trail down to Mission Creek, not to the creek itself. Now at higher elevation, the night air is cool and crisp, a welcome change to the hot summer-like temperatures of the prior two nights. We are camped with an assortment of other PCT hikers, all of us enjoying the tall shady pines and the soft needle-covered ground.

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