Monday, April 5, 2021

Day 6: Fording the San Jacinto River

February 28: There were some ever-so-slight sprinkles during the night, but they didn't bother me in the least since I had set up my tarp just before going to sleep. The weather forecast had predicted a chance of rain and I had prepared for it.

I woke again exceedingly early in the morning since I had fallen asleep so early the evening before and killed time reading my Kindle until it was light enough to start hiking.

The day's hike took me completely through the Big Woods section of the trail, and the entire area had been burned. There was a lot of black to be seen!

About halfway through, I found a log across the trail that was still smoldering. I suspected at the time that this was a controlled burn that must have happened shortly before the Storm of the Century struck the area--and it turned out I was correct on that guess. Later I looked up details and found that the section had been burned on February 7th--exactly three weeks earlier. The smoldering log impressed me. After three weeks, through rain, through snow and through single-digit temperatures.... that log continued to burn. That's pretty amazing to me!

Three weeks later, and this log continues to burn!

I took a short rest at the far side of the Big Woods section next to the parking lot for the trailhead when two day hikers pulled up and went for a walk. They didn't park in the lot, however, choosing to park on the side of the road instead because a large, muddy puddle of water blocked the entrance to the lot. The day hikers waved at me, but we didn't talk.

Now I had a 3-mile road walk to the next wooded area. The first mile or so wasn't too bad on a little-traveled dirt road. There were houses nearby, however, and dogs running loose which I didn't appreciate at all. At one point, there were about 4 different dogs that came at me which gave me some concern--they had numbers on their side! But a good shake of my trekking pole and a couple of rocks I threw at them left them leery of getting too close and I got by without anymore trouble.

Then the dirt road came out at a busy highway which was miserable to walk on. I stopped briefly at a church which my guidebook said hikers were welcome to fill with water from the faucet at the back of the church--and I intended to make use of it.

The Evergreen Baptist Church, where I stopped to get water from the faucet in the back.

I found the faucet, but no hose was attached to it and when I turned it on, it sprayed water horizontally outward in a fan which made it all but impossible to actually fill up a bottle with. However, a hose was hung on the wall next to it, so I attached the hose then tried again, filling up with a couple of liters. When I was done, I disconnected the hose and returned it to how I found it. I didn't know why it wasn't connected in the first place, but I figured it's always a good policy to leave things how you found them.

The water, however, tasted absolutely awful with a strong chlorinated taste to it. Not the end of the world, I suppose, but I might have to replace it with creek water when I get the chance. I didn't think the filter I carried would remove the chlorinated taste of the water.

Filling up with water.

Onward I went, and the rest of the road walk was generally pretty miserable along a paved, busy road. I was thrilled when I reached the trailhead for the next wooded area.

I took a rest at the trailhead, during which two backpackers exited the woods and stopped to chat for a few minutes. I warned them that if they wanted a break, this trailhead was the place to do it. Ahead lay only a long, miserable road walk. I did tell them that they could take a rest behind the church, but the trees around the trailhead were much nicer than the grassy lawn behind the church. They needed water as well, and I told them the church had water in the back--no problem. It did taste badly, but it was supposedly potable, at least.

They told me about what I had to expect ahead including a ford of the San Jacinto River. It looked, they told me, about waist-deep, although they had found a log to cross a bit upstream that kept them largely dry--although they did loose a couple of water bottles to the river--and it required a small bushwhack to get up over the river bank and back to the trail. They warned me that it took them about an hour to get across the river but that it would likely take me much less time--especially if I didn't try to cross on the log and just forded the river. Waist-deep, though? 

I asked how fast the water was moving. Waist-deep, fast-moving water could be positively dangerous, but waist-deep, stagnant water wasn't a big deal. They said it was very slow. So... no problem. Even if I fell into the water, it wasn't going to wash me away and dash me to death on rocks.

Stopped for rest after the long road walk!

I had been thinking about this river crossing all day. Originally, I had planned to camp a couple of miles before it, but the weather forecast was calling for rain overnight and all day tomorrow and the group of three backpackers I had met yesterday also warned me that the river was waist-deep. I wondered how much higher it might be after it rained all night and all day tomorrow, and I had been trying to decide if I should push on a few extra miles and just get it done today before the rain started.

The woman seemed less than impressed with the trail saying that she was tired of just seeing the one same color, day after day. Which I assumed was "brown," although she didn't actually specify the color that was bothering her. I smirked a little bit.

"Well, you'll be seeing a new color when you reach the Big Woods section," I told her. "Black." Then I proceeded to explain that the whole area had burned and the main color she'd be seeing in that section was black. She didn't seem excited about the prospect. "Well, it IS a different color than these woods..." I said, kind of teasing her about it.

The two backpackers continued onward, and I eventually got up and continued onward myself deciding that yes, I better get through the ford today. Just get it done and not have to worry about it.

And a couple of hours later, I had reached the infamous river. And... it wasn't as big as I imagined. More like a large creek than a river. I scoped out the crossing and while the deepest parts of the creek seemed like they might be waist-deep, I thought that was a worst-case scenario. It was hard to gauge the depth of the creek because it was so muddy. You couldn't see more than one or two feet deep. Anything deeper was largely guesswork.

But I decided to ford the creek. The tricky part, for me, was just getting down to the water level from the steep, muddy and slick bank. My foot slid out from under me at one point and I thought I was going to slide directly into the creek before I caught myself. It was a very close call! I'd have been fine if I did slip--but it would have been a very wet and miserable experience.

I did pack up my camera in a ZipLock bag and stuff it into my pack--just in case I fell. While I wouldn't die in this river, it could still damage my electronics if any of them got wet!

Then I stepped into the river and started to ford it.

The San Jacinto River! It didn't look so bad....

I poked around ahead with my trekking pole to gauge the depth of where I wanted to plant my feet, and when I found a deep spot ahead, I poked around it for something shallower. It took only a couple of minutes, but I made it across without getting more than knee-deep in the water. And although the mud on the banks of the river were scary slippery, the mud in the creek was pretty solid. It seemed weird that "dry mud" is more slippery than "wet mud", but it's true. I didn't have any trouble with my feet sliding around when they were actually in the river.

Getting up the far bank, however, proved to be a real challenge, and again I nearly wiped out when one of my feet slipped out from under me. I grabbed onto some overhanging vegetation, however, managing to keep my balance and finally getting out from the creek bed. Mission accomplished!

I had already walked a few miles beyond my intended campsite, so at this point, my goal was just to stop at the first, flat place I could find to set up camp. As it turned out, there was a decent area immediately there on the side of the river and I immediately set up camp. I could throw stones into the San Jacinto from my campsite. Or at least throw pine cones since there didn't appear to be any rocks at all in this area.

I definitely set up my tarp--the weather forecast called for much more than a "chance" of rain like it had been doing the last several days. Now the forecast was basically "it will rain--the only question is exactly how much?" So I set up my tarp, but spent the evening sitting on a log next to the camp since that was more comfortable.

Home, sweet home for the night. Plus a log bench to sit on until the rain started!

All-in-all, a fairly good day. =)

I find it fascinating that even the trail itself is often times enough to stop a burn from expanding!

The day-hikers I saw parked on the road because they didn't want to cross this water hazard at the entrance of the parking lot for the Big Woods section.

Well that's a weird thing to find during the road walk....

Yeah, that's a little odd too.... =)

This trailhead marks the beginning of the trail being a designated National Recreation Trail. It'll have that designation from here to the end of the trail.

This tree is hungry!

This section of trail is called the Magnolia section because... well... you'll find quite a few magnolias along this section.


KuKu said...

That face carving is fantastic!

Karolina said...

If you hiked this trail later in the spring or in the summer you’d also see just one color all around you — green!