By far, the best night’s sleep I have ever had in the backcountry. I was out by 9pm, slept straight to 2:30am, and didn’t get out of the tent until 7am. The clouds turned into rain, with a steady drizzle early in the morning, and lasted until 9am-ish. Someone reported that the area got 0.2”, which was well received given the dearth of rain for a month. I was back on the trail shortly after 8am, still drizzling and very thick cloud cover.
The weather conditions were a blessing given the reports of 80+ degree struggles along the Dodson (11.5 mile trail) a couple weeks prior. I made excellent time in the 60-degree temps, cruising the Dodson pretty well, making it to Fresno Creek by 11am. There was a good flow of water in the Fresno just south of the trail, and plenty of pools. Up at the top of the next hill just above the Elephant Tusk Trail intersection, a young couple from New Hampshire caught up to me, and then I came across a large group (12) of “Fitpackers”, a guided trip for beginners.
It was overcast most of the way, at one point I was walking in clouds once I reached the 5,000′ elevation! I NEVER expected that coming into this hike! Soon after the clouds and the high point of the Dodson, I entered a really neat little alley that was almost lush with different vegetation, seemingly a little oasis. Again, just amazed by how much growth there is. I had a pre-conceived notion it was going to be like the desert I saw in Breaking Bad or No Country For Old Men, however, it would be difficult to find a spot to camp outside of a wash if it wasn’t for the prior campsites. Very pristine.
I trudged further and stopped at Smoky Creek Trail for a lunch break. During this, the Fitpackers and the NH couple leap-frogged me. I caught up to the Fitpackers at the top of the next rise, the last peak on the Dodson before the descent to Homer Wilson Ranch (HWR). Fortunately, the clouds started to clear a bit to enjoy some of the exceptional views. I ended up hiking the next mile or so with the Fitpacker guide chatting about his guide business and various places to backpack. The hike down to HWR was pretty easy, and the sky started clearing and by the time I was at HWR (2:30pm), it was mostly sunny.
The NH couple was there and left shortly. I was pretty much out of water, so I completely filled up and gave the rest of my water to the Fitpackers. I also took the opportunity to dry my tent rain fly. A nice little break, and then back on the trail around 3pm, hoping to knock off as much as I could on the Blue Creek Canyon trail to alleviate the climb the next morning. I also knew I had more left in the tank given the mild temperatures on the Dodson.
The beginning of the Blue Creek Canyon trail was very frustrating, as it was almost completely on the wash (as was the last mile of the Dodson), and I just hate walking on the loose rocks/gravel, especially with the new additional weight added to the pack and the rising temps. I also was unsure whether I was following the right path, but fortunately I met a couple day-hikers coming down that gave me confidence that I was okay. For future hikers who might have the same uncertainty, stay on the far right of the wash and keep on trudging toward the red-rock formations.
The scenery of the red-rock formations motivated me, as they were really neat to take in, and resulted in one of the best pictures of my trip.
Another thing that continually amazed me about this place is all the different and diverse geology and ecological zones. This is like ten parks wrapped up into one.
I was starting to wane quite a bit (over 13 miles for the day by this point), and was really struggling to find a campsite. One of the day-hikers gave the tip of where they saw a site to the left of the trail as it left the wash, so I kept plowing ahead waiting for that to appear. I had one of those “if I don’t see it by the next turn, I give up” moments, and sure enough, the site was just before the bend on the left of the trail. (This is right next to Cedar Spring on the map, and is a fantastic site.) I followed the path up to the ridge, and snagged the site overlooking the spring. Absolutely beautiful!
Surprisingly, the two young guys from the day before (from Connecticut and Philly) came up an hour later and camped in the lower section near the trail. They stopped for a couple hours on the Dodson and took a break, allowing me to pass them without knowing it. The reverse sunset was beautiful, and I was all stoked to sleep under the stars for the first time ever. However, shortly before dark, ominous clouds formed and took over the sky, so I put the fly on the tent, and packed it in around 8pm. Sure enough, by 9pm it was drizzling again (but did not last too long).
13.8 miles hiked (including getting the cache). GPS log of the day.