Tagged: backpacking

The Gila River on the CDT

This section has been both full and fullfilling. It’s intimidating to start this journal entry, I feel like I’ve done so much since Pie Town.

I’ll start with the beginning. It was a road walk out of Pie Town. Lost, Stretch and I made decent time along the mostly flat, little used dirt road. The weather was good. We passed an animal sanctuary that had a water cache and a request not to linger. Their dogs mostly roam free, and had a tendency to follow hikers. A headache and a problem they say. A truck passing by stopped to chat. The friendly guy lives out in the middle of no place significant. He told me an interesting story about how one of his newer neighbors was recently arrested. Turns out the man had bought his property with the proceeds of a major Las Vegas gold and silver robbery. He was in the process of building his new off the grid lifestyle when the law tracked him down. The new owners of the place have erected a sign calling it “Robber’s Roost”. That afternoon thunder clouds bloomed, banged and flashed as we walked past some pyramid shapped peaks.

Second day and third.. I hardly remember. It wasn’t a very remarkable section. We walked on roads, we walked on trails. I got us beer and soda from some drunk hunters. That was nice. Lost let out a scream in camp one night. She’s a pretty quite girl so it wasn’t a significant scream. But a minute later Stretch and I definitely heard her shout “A dog’s running towards you!” It was dark, I expected something that’d be growling and biting. She turned out to be one of the friendliest dogs I’ve met in a long time. Sure, she’d been rolling in cow poo, probably eating it too, but man what a wonderful dog! She sat in our laps. She obeyed our requests without hesitation. She didn’t beg for our dinner. And come bed time, she followed us and slept right by my head. In the morning, we had high hopes of keeping her. Planned to hitch to the nearest town and buy dog food, print “Lost Dog” posters and Lost would have a new dog. But first, Lost went searching for the owner, a dim prospect considering we weren’t anyplace. But sure enough, after an hour and a half she came back dogless and sad having found the owner.

The next night, we stopped a little early. The forecast was for 70% chance of thunderstorms and we were facing dark black clouds right before a substantial treeless section. I called for a stop at the last of the trees. It was early. But keeping with our current theme, we weren’t worried about making miles. So we stopped and played cards. (I’m killing Lost at Gin Rummy.) Had to search for another campsite as it started to sprinkle. The first one had the remains of at least two gutted and skinned Elk. Thanks for leaving them directly in camp, assholes. It’s so nice to have the luxury of doing low mileage days. We’d stopped early, and we’d stopped just before it started snowing. Snow. hmmmmmm….

Dry, but cold, we packed up early the next morning. It hadn’t snowed a lot. That walk across the long grasslands towards T-Bar Canyon was absolutely stunning. It didn’t warm up for a few hours. Walking through the frozen, snow dusted grass, sun rising, fog lingering, it was one of the most beautiful bits of the trail. We were thankful that the weather had stopped us. For that and because just as it started to warm, we headed down into the Gila River. 70+ crossings? I believe it.

We hiked along the Gila for fifty miles I believe. It was a highlight of the entire trail. The river was never too deep. Above the knees at the most. The forest was mature, diverse and welcoming. The hot springs sublime. The cliffs! Thousand foot cliffs. Lots of wildlife. Other friendly backpackers.

We hit the Cliff Dwellings. I bought a book. 1491. I’m enthralled by it. We sat at Dog Campbell’s Country Store. The owner is a pretty high strung dude, and I thought the ice cream to be only so-so. But the camping at the hot springs down by the river was sublime. We hiked the Lower Gila as well. Saw two rattle snakes. Walking behind Lost, I jumped and scampered. We’d both just walked three inches away from a rattle snake. She hadn’t even noticed it. A few hours later, sitting at lunch, another rattler slithered right up to us and then got angy with *us*. Poison Oak along the trail and higher stream crossings combined for a little bit of tension filled walking.

Left the Gila. Again, a highlight. Then headed up and away, finally leaving the beautiful river. Walked through some nice forests. Split off from the CDTS/Columbus Route. We’ve chosen to take the “official” CDTA/Government approved route to the finish at Crazy Cook. Most other hikers this year are going the other way. It was interesting that as soon as we chose the official trail, it pretty well disappeared. It was really nice walking. Lots of cactus and yucca. But seriously. What happened to the trail? I spent some time building some miles of cairns for future hikers.

Camped at the end of public land before Silver City last night. Ordered pizza to be delivered to our campsite.

Saw a lot of wildlife as I said. Lots of Elk, tons of deer, two bears, three snakes, a skunk,…

We’ve got a really relaxed schedule. Plenty of time for cards, reading, sleeping while it’s still cold and being lazy in town. Some hikers rush towards the finish of the long trails, ready to be done. Not us.

I’m loving Silver City.. Friendliest people. Lamb burger at a cool, hidden cafe. Single cup drip coffee at another cool shop. On to the co-op for my resupply. I could live here.

 

The Toaster House in Pie Town, NM

I’m in Pie Town at the Toaster House. This awesome reality is
eclipsing the past few days. But first, the past.

It’s been a nearly continuous road walk since the malpais. A little on
the highway brought us to a large arch. From there we scurried
crosscountry up a mesa to walk a little up high. Good views of what I
think must be the largest lava field that I’ve ever seen. Looks like
pretty old flows though as there are trees dispersed throughout. After
passing a couple getting it on hot and heavy at the picnic area, we
hit the highway for some more ipod listening and road walking.

We swung by a solar well that was working when we heard that it
wasn’t, then hit dirt for the rest of the section. I ate my bagels,
cream cheese and veggies at our first ever windmill source. It hadn’t
occurred to me that I’d have to wait a little for it to be windy
before the windmill would pump water. Not a big deal that day because
a gust came along quickly, but some days there is no wind for hours.

Later, we scurried up another mesa to a little known ruin site. It was
so awesome! They’d built their community in an easily defensible
perch. Lots of walls, storage areas and pottery shards were left
around. Really great!

Night hiking was the order of the night. We’ve got to do what we’ve
got to do! Road walking ain’t so bad at night. Plus it set us up for a
doable distance the next day into Pie Town the next day.

I can’t say that it felt good to throw a thirty five mile day, but we
did it.In the morning, a full 27 miles out, we hit the road that we’d
be on the rest of the day. I don’t remember if I laughed, cried or
just whined at the sight of the road stretching ahead of us. But I do
remember the distinct lack of excitement about it.

Ain’t much to report about a full day of walking on a high standard
road. No breaks except lunch. A few people stopped to offer us rides.
One, after it got dark, asked if we were hunting. “No, we’re hiking
the Continental Divide Trail.” He gave us a thoroughly confused and
bewildered look, said “ummm, ok…” and gunned his engine away. Pretty
funny.

The definite highlight of the day was stopping at a ranch house to get
water. I was expecting to just use the rancher’s spigot. Instead, I
got a full trail angel encounter with John and Anzie Thomas. What
great people! They love meeting the hikers that stop at their house
for water. They showed me around their cool antiques. And they showed
me the CDTS newsletter that I’d never seen before. Funny because my
name was in it!

Pulled into the Toaster House after dark and met up with Stretch.
Nita’s old house, is free and open to long distance hikers and bikers.
It’s homey, stocked with food and has everything one needs. Truly a
home for us hikers. What a special place. I haven’t yet met the owner
but am already touched by her generosity and love. It reminds me of
various old hippy houses that I’ve been in in northern california.
It’s a true community house for this long distance community that
stretches over thousands of miles, many states, and many years. Really
it feels like home for this vagabond group of world hikers. So
special.

I’ve drank a bunch of coffee, done laundry, read High Country News,
visited with the chickens, given a water report to Mr. Ley, and am
just waiting for the Pie-O-Neer to open so I can gorge on some famous
pie.

I love Pie Town!

El Malpais on the CDT

Two nights out of grants and we are at the second water cache just
after the malpais. Thanks trail angels!

Feeling a little haggard this evening. Likely cause is only drinking a
liter since lunch and hiking without break. We kept booking it because
the going was slow across the lava fields. In terms of trail tread, El
Malpais was easily the roughest section of the CDT. Cool but we’re
looking forward to some of the road walking coming up. Knowing how
much I dislike roads we’re planning on getting off of it a few times.
We hear that there is a three hundred room ruin complex tomorrow!

On a frustrating note, Lost is carrying a six moon designs pack that
is a total piece of junk! Today her shoulder strap ripped off for the
third time! Add to that the countless holes in the pack, and the fact
that I’ve seen similar problems with other smd packs, I’d never buy
one of their packs. Earlier today before the strap broke, she jokingly
asked if I’d walk behind her the rest of the way incase anything fell
through the holes.

On the plus side we are both carrying tons of food. My pack is full of
delicious s

Grants, New Mexico Hiking

I’m in Grants, at the library, where you have to “read” seven pages
about the rules before you can get on the computer. We’re buying
tickets. Tickets home. Oh no, oh gosh. I’ll be flying to Las Vegas a
day before my birthday, then work three days later. Good thing that
“re-entry” is backpacking for me. Lost and I plan to finish November
4th at Crazy Cook. Then to El Paso, TX on the 5th and a flight out on
the 6th.

The past section was a little bit of a mixed bag. The first miles out
of Cuba were downright lame. It takes a lot to put me in a grumpy mood
while hiking. But that roadwalk on a paved road, sucked. Once on dirt
however, the hiking was great. Espcially after refilling water at a
nice spring. It was desert walking, true desert, not like the typical
High Desert forest that the rest of the state has been. We walked a
few dozen miles of newly caired trail. The first section was along the
top of a mesa, the second section wove along the bottom of mesas.
Really great walking. Especially the walking along the bottom of the
mesas. It was miles and miles of interesting rock formations. Lots of
spries, badlands and toadstools.

Then we climbed a major mesa and continued on barely used caired
routes to a LOOONG dirt road. After a climb to Mt. Taylor, we filled
up at a water cache and tried to night hike. We were again on new
trail. And this section simply disappeared after a few miles. Or we
got lost. We’re not sure. But we were following cairns and blazes with
no tread, then nada. No more blazes, no more cairns. Aint’ the CDT
great?

On to more road walking and a later than hoped for arrival yesterday
into Grants. Just as we sat down for dinner, we got a call from
Stretch inviting us to dine with the Grants trail angels. Oh man was
that great! Thanks so much Hugo and Carole! Definitely a highlight of
the trip. We really enjoyed the conversation about hiking, the
generous portions of dinner and ice cream and the whole experience.
They’re so fantastic that they are driving out and leaving water
caches in multiple locations for all of us parched hikers. Future
CDTers are likely going to rank Grants way higher on their favorite
town lists thanks to these two.

In other news…

I’ve got new socks.
I’ve got a full pack of food.
No magazines this leg, I’ve practically been spending too much time reading.

A dispatch from Circle A Ranch

I just wrote a big post and lost it all. Curse you new smartphone!

But still, I love it.

The hiking is grand. Northern New Mexico is forest. Rich wildlife,
some red cliffs, fall colors, meadows, creeks… Sky Islands as they’re
called. When I pull myself off the couch, we’ll be hiking into the
real desert. Hikers in front of us have sent back water reports. It’s
a parched landscape.

I’m at Circle A Ranch. It’s a beautiful old building. I’m sunk into a
comfortable couch, cup of coffee in hand, antiques for ambience. I
feel like I’m out of my price range but it’s dirt cheap. We bought a
ton of groceries and are eating ourselves silly.

Even though we have well over fine hundred miles left, we’re thinking
about the end. I really want to finish at Crazy Cook. Turns out that
Sam Hughes is charing $100 per trip, not per person. Not a bad deal.

Hiking is relaxed now that we’re out of the high country. I spend time
reading magazines, playing cards, and can afford to be inefficient.

Stretch, a hiker who I crossed yellowstone with has caught up. She
might be joining us. I count 17 southbound hikers this year.

Time to go make omelettes, hash browns, coffee and bacon…food for
eight will feed three.