Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sykes Hot Springs, Jan 12-13

The hike to Sykes follows the Pine Ridge Trail, which is a roller coaster of elevation gain, loss, wooded forests, and exposed views of mountains and ocean.  I separated from the main group early, and hiked much of the initial 10 miles alone.  We had divided up the supplies, but when I wanted a snack, I realized I only had green peppers, onions, and an orange.  Damn that orange tasted good, but when I caught up with Sara and Ryan, I could not have been happier to eat some Kettle Chips.
I was surprised by the rocky peaks in Big Sur.  In this case, the distant mountain looked strikingly like a miniature version of something you would find in the Sierras.

We arrived at the campground in the waning daylight with enough time to setup camp, but cooking happened in the dark.  Four people slept in a massive six person castle, another under their ultralight backpacking tarp, and Cori and I setup my two person tent along the river.  After some relaxation and food, a bunch of us headed to the hot springs where we were greeted by two extremely drunk guys in their early twenties.  One of them, Nemo was lamenting that someone had strewn his clothes around and he didn't have a headlamp.  Someone in our group lent theirs for him to get back to his camp, which we later realized meant it was probably not coming back.  Regardless, we got in the 100 degree water, and relished in the quiet solitude perched high above the river on a steep hill watching stars through the leaves of giant redwood trees.  It was idyllic, and we didn't know how long we spent there, and the only distraction was when Seabass (who we thought was Nemo, but was actually a very drunk friend of his) came to give the headlamp back.  After relinquishing it, it was clear he had no idea how to drunkenly stumble back to his camp in the dark, but luckily a passerby helped him out.  We stayed in a bit longer, then went back to camp where everyone was asleep.

The Big Sur River is nestled among the trees and has a beautiful emerald green tint to the water.

As beautiful as the water was, it was painfully cold to cross.  Jen was on her first backpacking trip, and got the chance to sample a frigid stream crossing when we found the steep log crossing we had done on the approach too dangerous in the opposite direction.

The trail often curves around a bend, revealing beautiful landscapes, often including the distant Pacific Ocean.  These views became even more striking as the sun got lower in the sky on our hike back.  We ate dinner at Nepenthe, which offered decent but expensive food, along with an insultingly post-hike climb up stairs to the restaurant.  In all I was expecting an easy 1000 foot elevation gain jaunt through the woods, but it was closer to a knee-burning 5000.  I'd love to get back there and try some of the other hot springs, and leave more time to hang out and relax.

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