As we descended along Holcomb Creek, we reached an area less affected by the burn. Large oaks, pines, and incense cedars shaded the canyon. We eventually reached the 90 foot steel and wood bridge spanning the Deep Creek canyon.
Hiking down to the shallow creek (only the canyon is deep), we stopped to rest on its sandy beaches. Tall Jeffrey pines, incense cedars, and several other varieties of trees provided cool shade by the water. Sierra waded across and played in the water, while I looked up information on the recent reroute of the PCT in the Deep Creek area due to potentially treacherous, washed out sections of trail.
I wasn't excited about the reroute, which follows an OHV road and then connects to a closed section of Highway 173, but Sierra wanted to stay on the official PCT route for this year. So, after crossing the bridge, I reluctantly turned left, following the official PCT reroute.
While not offering the beautiful Deep Creek Canyon views and natural hot springs of the closed section of trail, the PCT reroute had very little OHV traffic and offered its own beautiful views of the surrounding hills. Steep, rutted, and rocky in sections, we plodded along, reaching Willow Creek by 7:00 p.m.
We located a beautiful camp with a level sleeping area and large granite boulders on which to sit, cook, and eat. But the afternoon's gentle breezes had transitioned to a fierce wind, making it impossible to set up the tent. Reluctantly, we packed up our things and moved to a more sheltered spot, surrounded by oaks, pines, and manzanita, on the other side of the road.
Setting up our lonely camp, I felt the weight of our solitude like never before. We had not seen any other hikers since early this morning. While Sierra and I have enjoyed camping alone many times, I feel unsettled camping so close to civilization and would have preferred the company of other hikers. But tonight we are alone.