Along Goddard Creek(98.6)-Horseshoe Creek Campsite(106.7)
Campsite Elevation: 5,883ft
Well, today was a day that we knew would not be fun. We dropped 4,200ft over 7mi as we descended down Goddard Creek. We knew it would probably be our slowest day on the route, and it was with about a 1mph pace.
We started off on the right side of the creek as is recommended. It started off with little brush, but travel was slow with us needing to find a balance of not dropping into the creek bed while also not getting cliffed out. The metamorphic rock (that seemed similar to shale), we were on was less grippy, unstable in piles, always slanted at an angle downward, and sharper and less forgiving.
We made it to what we thought was near the halfway point and had a breakfast break in a brief spot that was a clear and welcoming creek bed. Little did we know, we’d take close to two hours to complete the next mile.
After breakfast, we found ourselves on the right side and in a mix of tall, sharp, and thick brush, unstable metamorphic rock, and getting cliffed out.
We reread the directions from Skurka to realize that he recommended trying the other side at this point. When we first read it, the wording seemed to suggest the other side, but that he couldn’t find a way up there, so we figured we wouldn’t find a way up either. After rereading, we realized we did need to be up high on the left side and he was just saying that there isn’t an ideal way to go about doing that. E found a great way up there with minimal brush, and celebration ensued that we were no longer dealing with the manzanita, sharp thick brush, and cliffs of the other side. We are pretty sure we wasted a lot of time having misread that one.
Even once we got up there, we made some decisions that made that section take longer than it should have. We should have stayed on that smoother nose, but instead went over one more, had some brush, and then large rocks for a stretch.
Finally, we reached the confluence of Disappearing Creek with Goddard Creek. This was only significant because it told us that we were about halfway down. Above the confluence from the other drainage was the Enchanted Gorge. We heard it was shorter, but more sketchy and wondered if that route would have been more our cup of tea.
The good thing is that we are a good team with this kind of tedious brushy stuff and we can put it all in perspective. We did a lot of this on the Great Divide Trail last summer and I’m thankful that E has such patience and tolerance in such uncomfortable terrain. Plus, she loves the challenge of following a faint game trail. She’s much better at it than me. It did take us through even more brush at times and I just had the mantra in my head that it would all be ending soon and my claustrophobic side just needed to understand that it was temporary. Then there were tiny bugs flying in swarms into our eyes, nose, ears, and mouth that added just the right amount of further discomfort to the challenge.
There was a solid four hours of the thick stuff today. There were moments we’d spend 5mins of exertion in thick brush to not even make it 10yds. It was very slow going. We tried just about everything today at some point. It was pretty hot (90 degrees) as we dropped. We even got so tired of the brush that we walked in the creek itself for bits. That’s the first time we’ve gotten our feet really wet all route.
There’s no need to go into detail, because it was more of the same, but we finally got down around 3:15pm. Immediately after that was the most difficult ford of the whole route. From what we’d heard and read online, this hike needs to be done late season mainly to be able to make this crossing of the Middle Fork Kings River in Simpson Meadow. There was plenty of fear mongering about it online and we’ve been mentally prepared to have to reroute if we couldn’t cross it. Well, it turned out that the crossing was mellow thankfully. We crossed it above the confluence with Goddard Creek. It was mostly shin high and a spot or two closer to the knee.
After the crossing, we had one more mile of TRAIL to walk before reaching a shaded campsite near Horseshoe Creek. The next water was 8mi up a very steep climb thousands of feet up. Even if we carried water to camp, the next possible camp spot was still a 2,000ft climb. It was 3:50 and we were completely fine with stopping for the day and not making that climb in the heat.
It was great to stop early! We are right on schedule and it will be perfect to do that climb in the morning when it’s cooler and the sun won’t be on the hillside. We both needed a major rinsing off in the creek and rinsed out our clothes as well. We really enjoyed just having a relaxed time to slowly setup camp, do some chores I’ve been putting off, have an early dinner, and get a bit more sleep tonight. The climb tomorrow is a big one (4,300ft) and there is a lot of elevation gain and loss over the next two days (~14,000ft).
My hope was to watch the finale to OITNB tonight, but I was behind on some blogging stuff and just now finished at 9pm. I can barely keep my eyes open and am going to sleep great with the white noise of Horseshoe Creek. The map notes that this is a wet site. There is water around three sides of it, but we are thinking it should be dry. Whew, we each emerged with our share of cuts and bruises today. We know the trail tomorrow is killer steep, but we are looking forward to being on trail for awhile and keeping fair pace. Ok, good night!