Cleveland National Forest Day 3: Blue Skies Smilin’

Cleveland National Forest: San Mateo CanyonOn Sunday morning we woke up around 8:15 am, after a somewhat restless night (the lack of clouds and rain meant that the temperature was quite a bit lower than the night before). The only water we could hear was the creek rushing along next to us. Other than that, we listened to the frogs finish up their nighttime conversation, and the birds pick up where the frogs left off.

We got up and started our day. We heated up some water to make oatmeal and tea for breakfast, and ate as everything started to get bright and sunny around us. Then we proceeded to clean up and pack up.

We were ready to go little after 10 am. Yesterday afternoon, Dave scouted around and found a spot about 15 yards up the creek where we could cross the creek without having to plunge our feet all the way in, the way we did yesterday. (Not that it mattered; our boots were still pretty wet.)

When we got there, we stopped for a few minutes to pump some water. It was looking like a very bright sunny day (the only cloud in the sky was a jet trail), which meant we’d probably be getting hot, sweaty, and thirsty. Then we put on our backpacks and hopped over the rocks to the other side.

Keep in mind that we pretty much went off-trail when we went looking for this campsite. This new route back to the trail was open for a bit, but then got quite overgrown. This of course entailed lots more poison oak. We got to a point where we had to cross the creek again, and the best place to cross (in terms of good flat rocks in the middle of the creek) had a nice thick patch of poison oak on the other side. Dave felt bad making me purposely walk through poison oak (not that it mattered at this point anyway – we had been marching through it all weekend), so we found an alternate path that got us across without incident.

It was only a few feet later that we discovered we were back on the main trail again. By now it was about 10:45 am.

We started back up the trail, taking us back through Fisherman’s Camp. When we got there, we found a teeming metropolis! In addition to the group we saw setting up there yesterday, there were probably at least two more groups that had camped there last night. It made us really glad that we didn’t camp there. I pointed out to Dave that it was a good thing that we weren’t the first people there, or we might have set up camp, thinking we’d have the whole place to ourselves! Our own campsite worked out much better, despite the wet feet and the poison oak.

The trail from Fisherman’s Camp back to the trailhead was about 3.5 miles, pretty much steadily ascending. Finally the overgrown foliage worked to our advantage, shading the trail from the strong sun. We drank lots of water, and stopped around 11:40 am for a trail mix break.

As we hiked, we experienced the opposite of Friday, in terms of interaction with human beings. There were all kinds of people on the trail. We passed a couple with two (very friendly) dogs, three Latino men walking with only Gatorade and water bottles, a couple of guys with their kids (who didn’t look too thrilled to be hiking). All were very friendly and seemed to be taking advantage of the lovely weather.

In-N-Out: Our reward for surviving the wildernessI’ve mentioned many times that down is easier than up. It was tough to end our trip doing the most physically difficult part of the trail, but we did well. We were certainly ready to go home, enjoy a shower, and sleep in a bed rather than on a sleeping pad.

We arrived at our car right around 1 pm. The first thing I did was take off my wet boots! We rested a bit and took a few photos, then packed up our car and headed back through the horse ranches and the new McMansion developments.

Then we enjoyed our reward: In-N-Out Burger. Well earned!

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