The cast (left to right): the wily Lara "Where's Johnny?" Gast, the gregarious Travis "Kitchen Sink" Allen, the lollygagging Liz "Big Jugs" D'Annunzio, Lightning-Niral "I'm With Big Jugs" Shah, brains of the bunch Sarah "Pickaxe?!" Carsman, and Andre "The Shadow" Mount.

Wasting no time, the gang hones their forging skills (and Andre seizes an excellent, though nearly-Niral-less, photo opportunity).

As Travis's and Liz's and Sarah's and Niral's shoes will tell you (and this picture confirms), the water in the river was certainly very wet. (Sprightly Andre is currently knocking on wood and fearing his upcoming comeuppance...)

Dog watching a Memorial Day traffic jam at creek crossing number three. (Not pictured: everyone gingerly crossing the creek on some slippery-ass rocks.)

Vistas abound! (Better ones below.)

The recent rainfall made for some killer wildflowers along the trail. Yeah. I take pictures of flowers. So what?

The Day Fire burned through here in 2006. It's all green again, but there are still a lot of burnt bushes around. I thought it was kind of neat how they curl up like this when they burn.

...leave me alone. (Salvia columbariae)

This plant was all over the place. It sends out this weird orange web. Kind of a Spider Man type thing.

Still plenty of nice color, despite the fire. (Although, I guess that was two years ago...)

From a nearby rock in the middle of the river, Andre requests some of whatever Sarah and Travis are eating. They respond with confusion.

Realizing Andre wants a cracker, Travis tries to throw him one.

The cracker does not quite reach its intended destination.

Snack spot #1 had some cool rocks to sit on (and swim around). We were gonna camp here on the way back, but didn't get back in time and found it all ocupado.

Further down the trail, Lara pauses to weigh the benefits of a speedy creek crossing vs. a pair of dry shoes.

Nearly across, Sarah does the same with the added pressure of having just witnessed Travis (taking a leak off camera...) successfully traverse the same crossing...

...via this treacherous looking rock. Will she go for it? Will she leap to two inches of dry stone encompassed by treacherous river slime?

She went for it.

(Fortunately, we brought ace physical therapist and backcountry medic, Liz D'Annunzio with us.)

Whilst taking said leak, Travis discovered some weird disintegrating rocks. If you tapped them with your foot they'd turn into sand. (Pretty much.)

Why then? Why all at once? Why not the other rocks around them? Food for thought.

Incredible, deep, cliff-side pool.

(Actually it's probably only half an inch deep.)

This bug was all lookin' at me.

You'd think that with all the production of making these cool little pods, there'd be something worthwhile inside. There wasn't. Just a couple of boring, stupid, seeds.

California... a geologist's wet dream.

Beside the trail, Andre appreciates the courtesy extended by the creek bed to this little flower.

Noting her companions' progress through the meadow, Sarah contemplates her bushwhacking strategy. (Actually, there's a path right in front of her.)

Coming into the final miles of the hike, the sun started setting and the views got even better. Ready for a couple of sweet vistas?

The amber waves of grain from two pictures ago are visible on the right side of the picture (with our trail slanting down the cliff).

The final bend! (And another fucking hill.)

Purple majesty?

 

In all the excitement arriving at camp (after a 9.5 mile hike in), Bonehead forgot he put his camera on top of his bag.

Just across a little creek, near some rundown shacks, we spied the path up to the hot springs. It looks pretty innocuous in this shot, but try it at night after a little scotch and whiskey.

Sarah found a sweet towel rack (/sock rack/bathing suit rack).

Somebody stole one of the rocks out of this rock.

A subtle reminder that even in the backcountry wilderness, one is never save from meteors.

Everyone needs shelter.

There were a bunch of abandoned shacks at Willett. Here's one, replete with garbage, bird shit, old backpacking gear, and backcountry graffiti.

Detail of abovementioned graffiti. I'd be offended, but who could take those Es seriously?

Modern sounds.

I wasn't going to put this photo up, but then I saw that camelphotos.com is actually a real website. There's a guy that actually has a real two-hump camel (and a zebra, and a llama) and rides them out into the wilderness.

We camped in the sand in between a fork in the river. It wasn't until the next morning that I found the dart board, and picnic tables, and running water...

...and these giant bones. They're a lot bigger than they look in this picture. Cow? Dinosaur? Camel?!

Poop.

I found a pickaxe head and wanted to take it with me, but I'd be damned if I was gonna carry it. Damn thing was heavy! Despite cleverly hiding it on Sarah's pack, she found it and it was left at the campsite. Never to be seen again...

LD. Not wanting to get up and probably singing to herself. ("I ain't your guy, buddy! I ain't your buddy, guy!")

Shells? Up here? In a rock?!

Andre charges ahead and snaps one of the group (less social after 10 miles of hiking the day before) on their first hill of the day.

 

The sun had a hard time coming out for most of the trip. This made for a decreased desire to go swimming, but didn't keep these campers from being happy campers.

Pausing at the top of a hill, Andre spies this helpful sign halfway down a steeper-than-450 bluff. (Note: we did not follow the arrow.)

With spirits dwindling and all the good campsites taken, Andre did some scouting and found a hidden camp at the bottom of the hill. It turned out to be pretty sweet! There was water nearby, a firepit already built, and an excellent (though chilly) swimming hole. Best of all: a chair!

A restless Andre awoke to snap a couple of dawn shots and take a quick dip in the cold swimming hole.

Not a creature was stirring... Not even Travis.

Remember how when Bugs Bunny was tunneling underground his ears stuck out? And then when he came up to a rock or a tree or something, one ear went on each side?

Apparently, Niral is afraid of these things.

The swimming hole had some pretty sweet rocks to climb.

The view taken from the jumping rock.

These clumps of brush were kind of unnerving. Sometimes you'd look and there'd be a big clump in a tree above your head. We figured they washed up there when the water got high. That's a lot of water.

Liz, smiling for the picture as we left the second camp site.

One more vista shot? You sure? OK.

There's an ant crawling on this Yucca. Good luck.

Unnecessarily frightened, Travis and Niral flee from this spiky flower.

Actually, there were a lot of spiky plants on this trip. Here's one of the worst.

Sarah and Liz were having a hard time following the hard-to-read trail. Thankfully, this helpful sign pointed the way.

Relief. (Also, there's Fat Lucy in the reflection of that SUV.)

And the requisite group shot. (Note the convenience store on Travis's back.)

Trip stats:

Distance hiked: 19.48 mi.
Elevation gain/loss: 947 ft.
Creek crossings: ~18
Bears encountered: 0
Booze consumed: all
No. of sore legs: debatable
Average temperature of hot springs: tepid

(Click here for more route information. Click the map above for higher resolution.)