I drank three small plastic cups of OJ, one bagel with cream cheese, and 3 mini muffins from the free continental breakfast before the three of us went across the parking lot to Denny’s. I then devoured two French toast, hash browns, bacon, and two eggs. Hiker hunger! Hob sat across from us eating breakfast then getting back to the trail quicker than us like usual. We checked out and attempted to hitch the three miles of paved road to the post office. No luck so a long walk into town with full packs of food. I had to pee so bad, but there was no place to go for almost the entire 3 miles. We came to a city park with porta potties! Yes! I then went for a quick swing and maybe even slid down the slide once! Soon to be 30 years old and I still love a good park. We finished our walk to the post office as they mailed boxes ahead to Ghost Ranch. Then we had to walk back to the road where the trail heads out of town. Deja Vu! Luckily, we passed another park with a water fountain where we each drank a liter and filled up. We had planned on buying a liter each at the grocery store on the way out, but free water is even better. We met the high school woodworking teacher who asked for our picture for the newspaper. Nice guy! We then began another road walk past little shops and such leading out of town. 3 young girls in a car from New York stopped asking what we were up to. I think we blew their minds! They were driving up to Mt Taylor today on a road trip it appeared. We then stopped for a quick ice cream sandwich break at a gas station then moved along. The last store on our map was the grocery store where someone wanted to buy some whiskey. They told us to go down the road 100 yards, which turned out to be much longer. Success! Plenty of food, water, and a little whiskey! Back to the trail, which was along a paved road for miles. We passed two signs saying not to pick up hitch hikers. Then came the state prison where one guy asked Nightwatch if we had any drugs from behind the barbed wire fence. Never walked past a prison before on trail or actually ever. Cars zipped by as Mt Taylor stared at us in the distance. Lots of trash, bullet shells, and glass to avoid. We made it to the trailhead parking lot around 2 with 8 ish miles of road complete! We hid under a tree to find a dead coyote behind it when we went to pee. Reminds me that you never know what is lurking nearby. I threw away my trash in the cans at the trailhead then began hiking a trail for the first time today around 3pm. The trail winded up a mesa for a few miles before flattening out and giving stunning views looking down at Grants. My pack is heavy and I was moving slowly. I hate getting a late start, but that’s typical on a day out of town. I walked alone the first few miles before joining the boys for a bit. They flew along with their lighter packs. As the day drew on, we got to the point where we began the uphill climb off of the CDT towards Mt. Taylor which is the tallest peak we pass in New Mexico. Yes! Paperweight and I hiked together getting confused at a few points with so many different trails in various directions. Exhausted we continued uphill until we found the spring past 8:15 as it was getting dark. We camped above 9,000 feet and I felt the elevation as I was slow doing everything and not feeling hungry. Similar to how I felt in the High Sierra of California last year. I knew better so I forced down a meal before sleeping soundly in my tent.
The three of us were all in our tents as Hob arrived this morning at the spring. He may of even sang me a little wake up song. We slowly got going since it was chilly. We began an uphill climb slow and steady! It was steep for a while as we looked up toward Mt. Taylor at 11,301 feet. We could see small patches of snow as we curved around the mountain to see nice long switchbacks up towards the peak. Hob and Chocolate Chipmunk were ahead of us at least one switchback. It got chilly and windy so I added my rain jacket. Feels good to be hiking to the peak of a mountain again. Mt. Whitney was my last peak and wasn’t on trail just like Mt Taylor isn’t on trail. I struggled a bit, but going slow and steady (how I was named SAS) I made it. Mt Taylor is a volcano and behind the sign is a 6 foot whole where it had erupted so yes it used to be even taller. First volcano climb ever! The views were clear and I could see for miles. Hob pointed out the El Malpais in the distance as we could recognize the trail we had just walked even saw Pie Town in the distance. The five of us walked down a little bit to an open warmer spot where Hob shared his thin mint cookies. Me and the boys also had a quick whiskey swig on top of the mountain. We all snacked and chatted for a bit before heading down on the first patches of snow. I slid a few times using my poles to keep myself upright. It was fun and a bit nerve wracking as expected. We then came to an open area where we joined a dirt road that switch backed up to a lookout. Slow and steady we made it. Paperweight and I dropped out packs and climbed towards the lookout which also isn’t on trail. La Mosca is at 11,036 feet meaning two 11,000 feet mountains conquered today. We talked to the man at the lookout who told us there was a fire way out in the distance. He was chilly wishing they would open up the lookout soon, but it takes four strong men to open it up. He patrols three lookouts and I thanked him for his service. We took some quick picks then headed down to a lower elevation quickly warming up. The next section followed a road over some snow patches as we cruised along. No more big climbs ahead! Took a few breaks with the crew of five before getting back on a really muddy road. I was listening to a podcast when I suddenly looked back and saw something strange. A woman was driving a blue Pontiac Grand Prix with the trunk open with a lawn chair sticking out. It seemed so strange to me since the road had two deep tire marks in the mud. The bottom of the car was scrapping the ground and the seat was bouncing around. I got off the trail and was still moving faster then her car. She said hello out her window as I noticed a cane and a dog resting in the back seat. A few yards down the trail I heard what I expected to hear. The sound of her tires stuck in the mud as she continued to gun it getting more stuck. I let the boys catch up to me as we all evaluated her situation! I knew we wouldn’t be able to get her out, but we spent almost an hour attempting to help. Paperweight tried to rock the car as Nightwatch and I tried digging and wedging rocks and sticks behind the tire. She really didn’t seem to worried as she said AAA would get her out if we could just call for her when we got to or car. She did not understand thru hiking. She offered us money for our time as we said not to worry. We continued on the road for 15 minutes worrying about her and wondering when she would ever get. After passing a cattle guard, the road was more rocky and she would of easily made it. So close! We considered ways to get her help and spent 30 minutes on the road hoping a car would drive by! No luck. She got herself in a pretty bad situation! The three of us turned back on the CDT on a trail completing the Mt Taylor alternate. We walked another hour or so until we got back on a gravel road. We saw Chocolate Chipmunk wandering around where the water tank should be based on our maps and apps. She had spent over 30 minutes looking even using her binoculars. All of us were almost out of water so we continued thinking another 9 miles or so to the next source. Luckily, the water report was .6 miles off and we found the yucky tire! Paperweight took out his whiskey as we relaxed after a long day. A day of two 11,000 footers and a woman driver stuck in the mud. Funny day!
Our tents were covered in condensation and getting started was tough like usual. We noticed the sediment at the bottom of our bottles understanding how our filters slowed down so quickly. Around 8:10, we wandered back to the dirt road for most of the day. Suddenly, a truck drove by and we waved him down telling him about the lady stuck in the mud. He had already talked to Nightwatch and said he would call her father once he got to town. Relief! He gave us one bottle of water to share as well. Thank you. He continued along going slowly on the road. I spent most of my time trying to find the flattest part of the trail while chatting with paperweight. Large wide open fields on both sides and mountains behind us, to the side of us, and ahead of us. Beautiful scenery and the breeze made the walking bearable as well. We stopped at a muddy pond as I decided to go down and get water in the rock canyon. It was a silly and stupid idea and I spent over 20 minutes finding a safe way down then getting stuck in the mud grabbed nasty green water. I really didn’t need any, but I like being extra hydrated. I managed to twist my knee and ankle which bothered me for a few miles. The three of us took a long break under a shady tree feasting away. We met two new hikers that started May 3rd and they were wondering when we started. 11 days before them! There are many different ways to complete a thru hike and I have found my favorite method. It is important to take zero days and explore the towns along the way. I’m in no rush! We will likely never see them again. Farewell! We made it to the water source which is half a mile off trail one way. Since I was hurting, Paperweight offered to go get my water for me. They were gone for 50 minutes and described the hike down into the canyon the best part of the day. I probably would of loved it, but I had some alone time to type my blog and rest. We continued on for another two hours before calling it a night in the trees. Lots of birds soaring overhead and a relaxed evening with good company as usual.
I feel like I’m in a National Geographic special! The morning started off walking along a mesa on a road. After a few miles, we found ourselves at the edge of the mesa looking down over miles of desert. We took a few extra steps to look over the edge before continuing along on the trail. We came to the downhill which is a mix of steep downhill and switchbacks where only managed to fall face forward once. We dipped about 2000 feet to the bottom. The views were spectacular and even included watching two giant lizards fight with each other. All the flowers are in bloom and the smell of sage was everywhere. I slipped falling face forward catching myself with my hands only cutting up one knee. Ouch! The trail led back to a road where we took a side trip out to a water source that tasted like crap. We found a spot under the tree to hide in the shade while staring at toilet paper mixed in with cow shit. So the cows have learned how to use toilet paper or some hiker ahead doesn’t know how to pack it out. LNT! We enjoyed a nice 40 minute break before wandering back to the trail in the hot sun. I got my umbrella, but the wind kicked up and the clouds gave us some much needed shade. We cruised for miles as I listened to a few podcasts and he jammed to his music. We hiked together on and off taking a small break in the shade admiring the cows. The last bit of hiking was so exhausting of just little ups then downs along the gorgeous terrain. We were pooped and managed to lose the trail along the dirt road. We missed a right hand turn and ended up bushwhacking towards the trail downhill. A few of our options included a jump off the edge so we looked closely and found a safe route! Exhausted, thirsty, and ready to camp we came across a water cache from the Mumm family. Thank you so very much. I needed a drink badly. As I went to fill my last bottle, I did not duck enough to fill the water chained to the tree. I jabbed my head so badly into a branch it bleed a tiny bit into my hat. It hurt so bad that I cried! Ouch! No more injuries please! We walked .2 down the trail and away from the road setting up camp around 8. We hiked 23ish miles, but it felt like 30. My head ached, my knee throbbed, and my body craved rest. As the sunset, we said goodnight giving each other a much needed embrace to top of a stunning day of views. To dreamland we went!
At 5:30 am, the alarm clock buzzed. Paperweight and I got up to watch the sunrise over the mesa. Wonderful way to start off the day we moved along to the next water source which was little under a mile away where we ran into Nightwatch. We filtered and caught up on our experiences from yesterday. The three of us set off together wandering up and down toward new mesas. We walked up them down them and best of all on top of them. I love walking right along the edge peering down carefully. We cruised along busting out the miles before taking a long snack break admiring the beauty all around us. A few more hours of walking in Mesa land before our next stop. At times, you are walking on sand, huge rock formations, dirt, tiny rock bits, and other times you just hope you are on trail. We took a long break at a nice water source in a canyon. Hiding in the shade we hydrated, jammed out to music, and aired out our feet. I love this life! We got moving along slowly through the land of fragrant sage admiring a huge mesa standing before us. As expected, we slowly made our way to it before beginning a steep uphill. The trail had rebar to hold some of the rocks in place and really impressed me. Thank you to the trail maintainers and whoever designed this section! Impressive. It was a tough climb, but the view from the top followed by a nice leisurely walk atop the Mesa made a splendid way to end the day. We wandered for a few more miles before finding a sheltered spot off the trail. It spit rain a few times but we all managed to set up, eat dinner outside, and relax as the sunset. Another enchanting day in New Mexico.
At 5:25 am, the alarm clock buzzed as I heard the boys already packing up. We camped to the left of the edge of a large mesa and wanted to hike into the sunrise. We were all on trail by 6:00 cruising toward the town of Cuba. Early mornings and late evenings are magical hours on trail. We wandered down off of the mesa towards the paved road as the sun rose. The morning miles went quickly and before we knew it we were staring at the paved road. We were exactly 9.3 miles to the hotel room from our campsite. Again, I notice the smell of town more and more every road walk and it disgusts me. It’s a common occurrence of burnt oil, tires, and gas followed up by garage littering the side of the road. It makes me appreciate the smell of nature and the beauty surrounding these roads and towns. We checked in the hotel and did the usual hiker thing. We went to McDonalds. No need to shower or anything just feasting. Lots of trays later we did the shower thing and began relaxing. I spent two wonderful hours with Hob talking about trail life, the change in hikers over the years including the disrespect along the trail, and our lives. It was a magical discussion that helped reassure me that I’m exactly where I should be and need to be. His words meant the world to me and I admire him as a father figure and wonderful friend. My three favorite men and I enjoyed a delicious meal at the Del Prado Restaurant next door. The evening was mellow as any town day should be.
Another zero day making it a zero in every trail town so far. Do I physically need a zero? Nope! Do I enjoy zeros? Of course! Is there too much snow in Colorado? Absolutely! Do I need an excuse to zero. Never! The three of us got our laundry done after a delicious breakfast at the Del Prado Restaurant. The day was easy followed up by a quick resupply at the grocery store then lounging in the hotel room for hours. We choose the same restaurant for dinner all ordering green chili cheese burgers. Not the best ones on trail, but they hit the spot. To bed early dreaming of the snow melting in Colorado.