Friday, November 8, 2013
Increasingly agricultural. Stands of pecan trees. A field of cotton plants. Flat, straight road. And for the first time since we started, we are below 4,000'. Creeping back down to sea level.
Got a ride back to Deming with Martin, who works at an algae plant in the desert. Nice guy. We bought him a beer at the local brewery. He invited us to his BBQ on Saturday.
Only 11mi left to Mexico.
Mileage: 26mi from Deming to near Tres Hermanas
Stopped in at Blake's, a NM institution. Ordered the green chile cheese burger, the signature dish. It was too spicy for me. Plus, Sky, Gangles and I couldn't finish it. We are losing our thruhiker hunger.
Decided to take the afternoon off, and see Deming. Visited the St. Clair Winery, where we met the amazing sommelier Megan. She's a former art teacher, now full-time wine enabler, painter, mother. She specializes in oil paintings, still lifes with skulls. She gave us a tour through the red wines, and patiently and insightfully answered our questions. Neat woman. Fun afternoon.
Megan also warned us to be careful here; dangerous being this close to the border. Heard the same warning from a pair of border control guys we saw today. On high alert.
p.s., Thanks to Miriam and Sam for the awesome care package
Mileage: 16mi from dirt road to Deming
Thursday, November 7, 2013
But the character of the trail has started to change. Due to zoning issues, the trail has ceased to follow the actual Continental Divide. As a result, the trails are mostly dirt roads patched together with short windy sections of trail. We're going to carve out our own route, and get to Mexico on an improvised route.
The terrain is yellow and dry, and the walking fast. The walking is tedious, since the terrain doesn't change much. Luckily, Gangles and Sky are nearby for company. Plus, we've decided to make this more fun. At Walmart, we acquired costumes and a portable speaker. Hearing music is a deeply emotional experience, after hearing very little (maybe a few songs a week) for five months. I could imagine that not hearing music would make you go crazy. I was brought nearly to tears hearing so much music from my sister's collection. Old school rock n' roll (Carl Perkins, Sam Cooke), jazz (Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington), and some random hits from this century (Goldfrapp, last year's song of the summer). Plus, we downloaded some podcasts, most notably RadioLab, and listened to some thought provoking episodes on waste disposal, MIDI and the conundrum of blame and neurological abnormality in the the modern criminal justice system.
Music and external intellectual stimulation, two things I've missed on the trail. We're starting our re-entry into the civilized world.
Mileage: 29mi from San Lorenzo to dirt road
Sparkle Cat has stepped up her already extensive trail angeling, and will be slack packing (i.e., transporting some of our gear by car while we walk) us to Columbus. There is no official Southern terminus for the CDT. The most popular points are Antelope Wells, Columbus and Crazy Cook.
Antelope Wells is the Southernmost, and seems to be chosen for bragging rights. Columbus is the easiest choice logistically with bus access, and is the route prescribed by Jim Wolf / CDTS. Crazy Cook has a monument, and is the Bear Creek / CDTA route. Based on my quick skim of Nobos this year, CC was the most common choice this year. However, due to the untimely passing of Sam Hughes, longtime CC trail angel, the logistics of getting to the border and caching water are unknown.
As a result, some Sobos have gone down the CC route, but Columbus will likely be the more common choice. Water is also an issue on the Columbus route, hence the serendipity of Sparkle Cat slackpacking us.
We are going to Columbus. Water, logistics, and the excellent company of Skarkle Cat made this the right choice for us.
We decided to embrace this choice in gonzo style, which means... costumes. Trip to Walmart tonight to cherry pick the best of the post-Halloween leavings.
Oh, and we saw a javalina running across the road today. I was worried; I don't want to get mauled by an ill-tempered pig, but it scuttled off into the woods in a hurry.
Mileage: ~22mi from Spirt Canyon Lodge to San Lorenzo
Monday, November 4, 2013
So, we're on the road, headed South.
Oh, and my foot seems to be healing a bit, but still tender. Less blood.
Mileage: 22mi from Doc Campbell's to Spirit Canyon Lodge
The hiking today was relatively smooth, walking through long mesa tops. Which is good, since I've somehow worn down the skin of my right foot. It is painful when I step. My feet have been so wet from the river crossings that they've been exfoliated down from the hard, horny callus to the soft pinkness of new skin. And the soft skin has been abraded by the small rocks, sand and wetness of this section. All this despite the fact that I wear gaiters.
The other major note was our crossing of the West Fork of the Gila River, where we walked our last few trail miles down the canyon to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. As we emerged from the trail, we saw... Skarkle Cat! We joined them for a tour of the Cliff Dwellings with volunteer ranger, who really brought the space to life.
In at the RV park for the night, cleaned and bandaged my foot.
Mileage: 12mi from near the Middle Fork of the Gila River to Doc Campbell's
Friday, November 1, 2013
The miles were strange today, and maybe an accurate microcosm of NM on the whole. We followed J. Ley to a tee, and covered ~28mi, which broke down into: ~22mi road, ~3mi trail, ~5mi bushwhack. Nita (of Toaster House fame) mentioned that as of 8-9 years ago, the CDT in NM was ~80% road. The percentage has declined, but still feels as though we're spending a lot of time on road, though mostly dirt and with sporadic traffic, which makes the walking easy.
We had a taste of the canyon bushwhack today, walking through T Bar Canyon to get to Snow Lake. This started off with a precipitous descent from a set of jeep tracks to a shallow, cow-befouled stream of water. We started off on a cow trail, which petered out, and we were bushwhacking along the water until we found another trail. The going was slow and arduous, requiring us to cross the water ever few hundred yards. The canyon also bore the traces of the huge flood in September, and was choked with debris and fallen trees. I would estimate that we were maxing out at 1.3mph. If this is a taste of the Middle Fork of the Gila tomorrow, we will be there all day, and possibly some of the next day. The Gila was especially damaged by flash floods, and accounts from other Sobos from this year suggest long stretches of washed out or non-existent trail, and brambles of boulder and tree fall.
We are going to look at using Wolf's suggested high route.
Camped at Snow Lake tonight, in the relative luxury of privies, trash cans, and potable running water. Feel as though we are living large with the latest amenities of the 20th century.
Happy Halloween everyone!
p.s., In true Halloween spirit, saw 5 tarantulas. All seemed purposeful, and probably off to some spider party.
Mileage: 28mi from near FS 3037 to Snow Lake
After much consultation with the GPS, we found the alternate, which required a roadwalk East, then taking the Meadows trail South to cross the Middle Fork of the Gila River. The road was relatively easy walking, dry and clear. The Meadows trail is primarily a pack trail. It was well-marked and recently maintained, though a bit torn up by horses passing while the trail was still muddy. As a result, the trail is mostly hard baked cups of dirt, like walking on the stippled surface of an egg carton. It was easiest to walk with a little flop in my step, allowing my ankles, knees to adjust to the uneven surface.
The trail walks dead South from the road to descend ~1,000' into the bottom of the Middle Fork of the Gila River canyon. The descent was steep, rocky and slippery. I relied heavily on my poles to keep from skittering off the edge of the switchbacks. When I got to the bottom, I had my first view of the post-flood destruction. It was awesome, and I mean this as in 'awe-inspiring', and not as in TMNT slang. Huge trees were uprooted and splayed across the broad washes of dry silt. The riverbed had extended to nearly the entire canyon floor, wiping out previously grassy sections, like The Meadows.
Since the sun was sinking low, we hurried to find the trail back up the other side of the canyon, for our ~900' ascent. The actual trail had been washed out, but we found a steep set of switchbacks, angled at > 70 degrees. Like climbing a ladder without handrails. It was slippery business in the eroding hillside, literally climbing up a step up, then sliding down a half step in the sand. Think naturally occurring Stairmaster. We finally climbed high enough to find the intact section of trail to the canyon rim. The switchbacks were nicely graded, and we made it up to the top just as the sun was setting.
All in all, a satisfying, albeit long day. Looking forward to a half day (~11.5mi) in to Doc Campbell's tomorrow morning.
Mileage: ~22mi from Snow Lake to crossing of the Middle Fork of the Gila River
We took the 7mi South Kaibab trail down to Bright Angel campground. We spent the afternoon taking a dip in the Colorado River, playing Bananagrams and sipping lemonade. The next morning, we climbed 9mi up the Bright Angel trail back to the rim, and drove back to Pie Town. In the spirit of the holidays, we had to pick up a couple of pumpkins to carve.
Wonderful hiatus from the trail. Ok, all business now, we have to get to Mexico. But thanks to Skarkle Cat for the adventure!
Pumpkins carved: 2
But, I must focus. We are less than 300mi from the end, and I can keep it together long enough to get there. We did buy plane tickets for November 12, so we have to finish by November 11th at the very latest. I think we'll probably finish on the 9th or 10th, but we'll see how it goes.
Today, we picked up where we left off, after passing the brown house on Ed Jones Road. The road walk was long, but broken up by an ascent of Mangas Mtn. Afterwards, the spring which is indicated as 'good' on the map is completely dry. Some hunters who have been seeing CDTers go by were kind enough to supply water and do a some "two old guys out hunting in the woods" comedy.
We night hiked with Sky for a while, great conversation about Islesboro, the US health care system, AT memories. The miles flew by.
Camped in some trees, hiding from the strong gusts today. Going to find water in the am.
Mileage: ~24mi from brown house on Ed Jones Rd to near Hwy 12
Later in the afternoon, we had patches of snow, groppel and hail. I thought we were past the bad weather, but I suppose we procrastinated too long at the Grand Canyon. Strange to see snow on the cacti and other desert plants here. It's quite cold now, supposed to hit 19 degrees in Pie Town, so maybe single digits tonight as we're on the divide. Camped early, since it was so cold. Hope to catch Sky tomorrow at Snow Lake.
Really cold, ready to be done
Mileage: 24mi from near Hwy 12 to near FS 3037