Spending the afternoon at Hemlock crossing allowed me to go back to this one waterfall I saw on the first day on Dike Creek. Dike was one of the creeks flowing much better than expected. I could not cross it without getting wet feet. Why was Bench so lame and Dike so nice? I did not get a good shot of this falls on the first day; standing in the middle of the creek, my tripod was not functioning properly and I could not focus because it was dark already. So now I had one more chance at it. This time I could get focus and get some shots from the middle of the creek. It is only about 20 feet high but it is kind of cool looking and reminded me of North Fork Goddard Creek Falls last year backpacking, particularly the need to wade up the creek to get to the Falls. It was a little bit fun.

Now about camping at Hemlock Crossing, I was very annoyed about one thing: Namely, I found horse crap in the middle of the campsite. Not only this campsite but also the one I stayed at on the first night. I had to use some sticks to flick it off into the bushes so I would not have to step in it. What the heck? If you are a horse owner why can’t you clean up your horses’ poop? This ticks me off to no end. Do you know what leave no trace means? The last thing a backpacker wants is to find a bunch of horse crap in the middle of his campsite when he arrives. So annoying! By the way I saw a lot of horse crap in the middle of the trail as well. Pet peeve number two. There was also garbage I had to pickup that people left behind (some of it intentionally left, some not). Come on people, get with it. This is supposed to be pristine wilderness.

Well anyway, I got up very early on the last day, as I wanted to get back home as soon as humanly possible. I still had a 1400 foot ascent ahead of me. I could tell the weather was changing. There was something different about the clouds that morning. An early winter storm was on the way. I hoped I could beat it back to my vehicle, but I had a very long walk ahead of me, and darn that slow climb out of the canyon. And don’t forget, there would be no water source for the next 10 miles. I drank as much from the river as I could pound into me before starting. As soon as I hit the first hill I knew I was in trouble. My legs were incredibly sore. I didn’t think I would make it up the Mountain. I thought I should just go back and stay forever at some place along the North Fork San Joaquin. It was certainly beautiful enough. I could fish, and eat berries just like the bears do. I could even hunt bear. Perhaps my family would come visit me sometime. Then they would want to stay forever, because they wouldn’t want to hike back up the hill either. Well, no can-do. I carried on. At least my backpack was lighter now with less food in it. Halfway up the mountain I collapsed, dying of thirst. My water bottle was empty. I was ready to give up. I lay there for the rest of the day. The snow pelted down on me. I was mostly dead. I’m just kidding, I did not collapse. Nor did I run out of water. Actually, I felt a lot better after I got warmed up, and made it up the mountain without too much trouble. 1400 feet in 3 miles. The rest is all downhill from here. It was a long downhill however, but I kept plugging away and eventually made it back to the car. That is when I collapsed, now really mostly dead. I recovered enough to make the long drive to Oakhurst and of course stopped at Pizza Factory to re-energize myself. I always have to stop for pizza after a big hike like this. It is the miracle pill. When I got home, I weighed myself: I gained 2 pounds. What? Even after pizza I thought I would be much down in weight, not up. You got to be kidding me. All that energy expended in five days of hiking, and I gain weight? Well, it is back to the gym for me I guess.

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