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.
I’ve done it. I’ve walked the US segment of the Rockies. I’m in the
desert. It’s fantastic.
In Lake City, Pagosa Springs, and Chama we wanted to zero, and didn’t.
Walk while it’s blue out. Get out of these mountains. The trail
register at the Chama post office showed me that many southbounders
arrive in Chama around the second week of October. We were early and
that was good. Their stories of feet of snow didn’t sound fun. We were
in a section where Yogi (the handbook queen) talked of road walks
around the high country. Every section had a highway. “You might not
like it but…” But, what? It’s beautiful! Blue skies, perfect temps.
New Mexico has been a drastic change. I’d been expecting a
continuation of the mountains. Sure, we’re in the mountains, but
they’re not “really” mountains. Not after weeks of above treeline
exposure. Cruising along at 10,000ft we’re in forests and meadows.
There are big Ponderosa Pines, beautiful Aspens changing colors, oaks
and many other types. There is FAR more wildlife. We even saw some
bear prints, likely the first time since Montana. And there are cows,
I’d heard of all of the beer cans that litter the roads. It’s true
that Bud Light is the drink of choice of a-holes who litter. We spent
some time picking up cans. I hope that other thruhikers do that too.
If each of us picked up cans for a miles a section, we’ll have this
trail mostly cleaned up in fifteen years or so. If we don’t do it,
it’ll never be cleaned. The CDTA needn’t focus resources on the task
and we know that the hunters, ranchers, campers, drunks and forest
service won’t do it. It’s up to us. I think it’s possible. Lost and I
picked up about 30 cans in 20 minutes. Most of them are old, many well
over a decade old. They’re not being discarded faster than thruhikers
can pick them up. Join in on the great New Mexican Hiker Trash Pickup!
Lost is over a computer; she’s catching up on a month and a half of
missed journals. Day by day. “Where did we camp on September 19th?”
Ghost Ranch has a “no key” policy. The library and the computer room
are open and free, all day and night. Camping is free too for
thruhikers. And with all you can eat meals, I’m more than a happy guy.
Very much looking forward to an even more relaxed hike than I’ve been
having. I’ve fully resisted feeling pressured. Sure, I’m still hiking
25 miles a day. Most days. But I’m also reading magazines, waking up
“late”, stopping “early”, taking too long at breaks, playing cards,
soaking it in. And now that the mountains are mostly gone, and the
weather is good, I’ll be zeroing more, and fooling around more. Lost
figured the schedule today at breakfast. She brings maps and planning
stuff to most town meals, it’s a funny habit. Word is, we might finish
Sooo… Drinking cow water. Hit the beginning of the desert. In high
spirits. Behind most people. Lightning has made a re-appearance, but
so far no problems.
That blue sky weather. That beautiful blue sky weather.
Must keep hiking. Can’t stop. Lost and I cowerd in a cave, quickly ate
a thousand calories before we chilled, donned fleeces under our rain
gear and got moving as soon as we could. Before Pagosa Springs, the
weather demons of the gulf sent a squall our way. We awoke early,
perhaps 5 am, to dry conditions. A little after light, it’d started to
drizzle. Then rain. Then wind blown rain. Snow. Sleet. Squalls.
Walking the physical divide, high exposed ridge tops. 40mph wind.
FREEZING. Hiking with Coach, a retired coach, we struggled on. After a
couple of hours of dropping hints, he let go from his blue lips “I
don’t think I can take much more of this”. He was right. Hypothermic,
we all dropped to the nearest trees, set up tents, peeled off
clothing, got in our sleeping bags, ate and shivered. In the mild to
moderate range of hypothermia, I made sure to keep talking to my
hiking companions while we warmed. Just in case someone slipped into a
colder state. It was two in the afternoon.
On the lighter side… It’s been blue bird besides that. Truely
exceptional weather to hike the highest, remotest and final section of
the Rockies. That’s right. I’m done with the Rockies! I’m in New
Mexico! Spirits are high. Coach finished his Triple Crown yesterday
and hitched away to Denver. I’ve got a new smartphone on the way that
I’m excited about. I’ve got magazines to read and time to read them.
My tent smells a little of mildew. I’ve been sporting a blaze orange
foam ball cap to keep from being shot, but it might be time to switch
to the wide brim sunhat. Desert, here we come. Sent my hiking poles
off in anticipation of the NM road walks.
Asking for help is awesome. Secured a perfect hitch out of Pagosa. As
I walked by McDonalds on the way to hitch, I ask a guy with his burger
if he’d be willing to give us a ride to downtown (a better place to
hitch from). Turns out he was leaving that minute to go to the exact
trailhead that we needed to get to. Life is good. Previously, our
hitch asked to see our IDs, then showed us his and his concealled
weapons permit and his gun. gulp. Warned us about being murdered in
New Mexico. Thanks dude.
Cold, cold wind. Thank goodness that’s over. We had a deep blue drop
down the weather map this week. Considering we were on high exposed,
windy ridges, it was cold. I’m now in Breckenridge with a friend. Lost
is ahead in Leadville. Colorado is mountainous and beautiful. It’s a
little warmer. Hiking is good. Life is good.
We’ve taken to giving eachother high-fives. “High-Five, We’re Alive!”.
Maybe my mom and grandmother shouldn’t read this…
After 1400 miles, I’m sore. Incredibly sore. And it’s for a specific
reason. Two days ago, Lost and I ran down a mountain. We were on the
summit of Parkview Mountain when I saw a bolt of lightning about two
miles away. “We need to get down now.” I said. Parkview is your
typical Colorado mountain. High and utterly exposed, it’s a beacon for
bolts. I started running down the ridge. Lost, frantically finished
repacking her pack. I turned off the ridge and shot down a very steep,
cairned, loose route to the trees. It was the type of slope that would
normally have me carefully placing my feet. I was running. Lost was
right behind. The bolts were now on top of us. We were exposed, and in
the lightning storm. It was not good. High Five!
Yesterday, we worried about a repeat. Lost and I are the only ones
that we know of that chose to do the extra miles to hike the Rocky
Mountain National Park loop. Camped on the NP boundary, got up early
and busted miles. It was cloudy. We were early. We were taking risks
again. Right after the sign that said “Mountains Don’t Care” (about
your safety) we went above treeline. With four or so miles until our
next tree, the squall hit. Fear motivated and moving quickly we
continued. Luckily, the scarily dark clouds didn’t electrify. It was
another close call. Not quite like having bolts right next to you, but
still scary. Instead, we pushed on through painful hail and strong
winds. Completely covered up, not an inch of face showing, the storm
passed just before we hit the trees. High Five!
Neither of us like this sort of thing. We’ve been considering a much
higher and exposed, longer route for the next section. Again, no one
else is planning on doing it. The weather forecast is for blue skies.
I think I still want to go. But in general, I want to be safe, and
down in the trees. Colorado’s big mountains, and the fact that the
Continental Divide Trail often actually sticks to the rugged divide,
mean that we’ll be hiking in exposed areas a lot in the next few
weeks. Wish us good weather!
– Abbie’s hospitality and the hotsprings in Steamboat were fantastic.
– The shorter section meant that I ate more food than normal. Oh so nice.
– This hostel in Grand Lake is great. So nice to eat the prepared meal
of Lasanga last night.
– Visiting my friend Sarah in Breckenridge soon.
– Had a long, paved road walk out of Steamboat. They suck.
– It’s hunting season.
– Radiolab podcasts are my friend.
– I’m having an awesome time.