Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 21-An Adobe House and The Narrows

Our day started out with a long walk on York Ranch Road
Another gopher snake, this one in a canyon
A twelve hundred year old adobe house tucked into the canyon

After looking at a multi colored rock plateau for a six mile road walk in the hot late afternoon heat it was wonderful to be on top of the plateau. Portrait and I had dinner in the picnic area below the plateau and then the red trail that we have been hiking north joined with the Rim Trail for a three mile scenic hike.

Sun set from the Narrows
Up top was beautiful. The rocks that made up the trail and the cliffs overlooking the road and the valley below were Mar's red in the golden hour sunlight. There was a strong breeze and enough clouds hovering around the horizon that the sun's fierce heat was muted. It felt like I had hiked more than halfway through New Mexico for an hour of perfect weather and stunning scenery. There hasn't been much on the trail so far that compares.
The Narrows, jutted out above the highway in the valley and we spent the golden hour of the day up there

I was torn between wanting to sit and watch the best sunset I've seen on trail yet and hiking on, throwing constant looks west, but seeing more of this beautiful place glowing red. We hiked through sunset with a handful of detours to the cliff's edge to catch the view. The sky turned electric cotton candy pink and everything else was dyed red gold to match.

Slowly the sky and the rocks lost their magic. The rocks turned from red to a dull gray just like the clouds overhead. As we looked for a campsite I had to wonder if they had ever been red to begin with.
Portrait taking in the view of the valley from the Narrows
A carving in the adobe house

Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 20-Follow the Road

Softwalker making the largest skillet of scrambled eggs I've ever seen.
Our forced laziness came to an end this morning. After a wonderful breakfast cooked by Neon and Softwalker Portrait and I went to the post office to claim our two packages. Then it was on to sorting food, packing up, hand washing a bandana, calling home, and a number of other small tasks.

A gopher snake sunning itself on the road on the way out of town

Speedbump, Estero, and Neon walking north
Time to start thinking about our next town:  Grants
We hit the road--we haven't been on an actual trail for awhile now--with Estaro, Neon, and Speedbump. The sun beamed down on our backs for the whole time we hiked.  It was 7 miles before I started to think fondly about taking a snack break and then a couple more miles before we did take a very long break in some splotchy shade.  Anything that could melt, melted in my food bag under that sun.  
a horny toad on the road

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 19- A Tour of Pie Town

Thanks to our thirty, an early start, and no breaks we made it to the Pie-o-Neer Cafe an hour before they opened. We had just settled in on their porch when Highlife (PCT 2012) ushered us inside. Thus starting our nero day.
The Pie Rack

We ate, I had two slices of chocolate creme pie, and we took group photos. We moved as a herd to the Toaster House. Bo was kind enough to take mine and Portrait's hiking clothes with him to wash.

I like small towns like Pie Town. There's nothing to do but laze about so that's what we did--and ate. It was a bit of a challenge coming up with dinner based on the odd collection of food in the pantry. We ended up making pasta and Shepard's pie.

My piece of chocolate creme pie
A satellite in town 
Neon, Flyby, and Bo in the back of the pick up truck on the tour of Pie Town
The Pie-O-Neer Cafe--the place to go in Pie Town
Neon eating the dinner we spent hours making on a wood burning stove
Breakfast at the cafe
Hikers looking at the satellite looking at the hikers

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 18--30 Highs and Lows

In 30 miles of road walking these mountains in the distance were the only picture worthy moment...besides the elk in the early morning sun drenched cow pond, but he didn't hold still long enough
1.  I slept great
2.  My shoes weren't frozen
3.  My water was too frozen to bandana filter, but at least I had a lot of water.
4.  Saw an elk at a cow pond
5.  Trail was only a trail for a mile or so before turning into a road
6.  We were on a slow downhill for the morning
7. I had a king sized Milkyway for mid morning snack
8. We had cell service and called the cafe to reserve 2 slices of chocolate pie
9.  Took a break at a primitive campground where dayhikers gave us more water--enough to make it to Pie Town
10.  Then we climbed. Bo, Portrait, and I hiked up Mangus Mountain together while talking about BBQ, books, and hiking.
11. Fire tower was locked so we couldn't go all the way to the top
12.  Had lunch in the shade at a picnic table on the top of the mountain
13. Saw Bo's tracks head down the wrong road off the mountain
14. Ran into two hunters who told us they had just seen two other hikers--neither of them Bo
15. Hiked down hill on jeep roads for most of the afternoon
16. Played leap frog with Styles and Flyby, but still no Bo
17. At some point in the mid afternoon we decided to try for a thirty mile day to get closer to Pie Town
18. By late afternoon my feet were hurting--mostly the bottoms and my pinky toes felt squashed
19. A rancher who lives trail side had a water pump hikers could use that gushed cold water when switched on
20. We took a break in "thick" shade around 25 miles
21. Portrait read two chapters of Matilda as we walked and we passed a quick mile and a half
22. It didn't occur to me to loosen my shoelaces until the next break
23.  My pinky toes felt better, but my insoles are shot
24.  In the evening I walked on the left side of the road in the shade thrown by the few trees and by the looks of the tracks everybody else walked there
25. At the top of a small rise a distant mountain range appeared in the golden light. It looked grand. And was the only picture I took all day.
26. A promise of a hug at mile 30 is good motivation to keep hiking--so is pie
27. We hit the 300 mile mark right where Styles and Flyby were taking a break
28. It is fun to think about where we'd be if we were on the PCT
29. Ranchers have a lot of fences that make it so much harder to camp
30. Hiking 30 miles before dark, even having dinner with enough natural light to eat by, feels really good.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 17-To Bed Before the Sun

Woke up to another cold morning, but no frozen shoes and socks this time.  Before it even warmed up we joined up with the official CDT route--the Bear Creek Route. 
Puddle water in a canyon on an alternate trail and we're no longer following those CDT emblems
Just crossed highway 12--a very lonely stretch of road, but it had a very nice camping area with fire rings and the nicest CDT signs I've seen yet--glad they spent so much trail money on large signs.
Hiked 24 miles and made camp, ate dinner, and read all before sundown. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 16--Water Angel

Bo and Portrait studying maps and trying to figure out where water may be.  After crossing the Gila 85 times the day before there is no longer any water on trail.
So there we were, me, Portrait, and Bo contemplating our waterless fate after a side trip down to Turkey Spring which was dry as dust when an SUV  
Out of the car hoped this man, our water Angel.  He filled all water bottles to capacity.  We thanked him, and while our packs were much heavier, we no longer had to worry about water for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 15--Crossings of the Gila

Today, instead of counting miles we counted river fords to the campground. Portrait didn't start rhyming until somewhere in the teen's.  Here's a sampling of how we entertained ourselves.

25 and we're still alive
32 there are rainbows and sparkles, too
39 is too early to whine
44 more difficult than before
50 is nifty
52 is split in two
53 I rock hopped thee
56 I hope this isn't the Rive Styx
58 will you be my lunch date
60 is pretty
68 was late
71 we're nearly done
75 our electronics are still alive.
78 felt great
80 is ahoy matie!
82 horary for me and you
84 perhaps just one more?
85! Weeeee

Our count managed to be spot on even though the count got a little muddled in the mid 70's as did the trail.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 14- Slot Canyon

Towns are good, but not that good for sleeping some nights--this is especially true for camp grounds.
It is very hard to get out of a hot spring on a cold morning when the sun hasn't touched the area yet. It is hard still if you are getting out of the hot spring to pack up and hike.

Inside cave along an alternate route that cut off a few dozen crossings of the Gila River
Crossing the Gila got old by the morning of the second day so we searched the maps for a drier alternate. That alternate happened to be through a slot canyon with a tiny stream running through it and an awesome cave.  It was a nice breather from the Gila.
An ancient pictograph inside the cave

One of the only things that convinced us to leave the campground hot spring was knowing there was another hot spring further up trail. The Jared hot spring has beautiful blue water and a waterfall. And weekenders even though it was a Tuesday.

We may have skipped crossing the Gila dozens of times, but we had to step over this little stream every few feet.
The Gila is beautiful. Picture sculpted towering sandstone cliffs against a clear blue sky and dark smooth water flowing at their base. Then picture crossing that water roughly 150 times over the course of a few days and that is why I have nearly no pictures of this stretch. The risk to my cameras is too great. We also never seem to take a break near the stunning scenery.

There are gnats in the Gila just like the other two trails.  And they are just as annoying.

A larger cave in the canyon that we had to climb into
Hiking the CDT the word lost is redefined. We haven't been lost, but there have been times when we've stopped to wonder where the trail went. Usually all we have to do is ask where the trail is and one of us will spot it.  But we haven't been lost.

The end of the slot canyon alternate that we took
It is a fabulous thing to sleep under tree cover after two weeks of open sky (and two buildings).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 13- Zero at the Hot Springs and Cliff Dwellings

The Cliff Dwellings from afar
Inside the dwellings was nice and cool
Built 700 years ago not much is known about the different rooms in the dwellings
After a handful of long soaks in 106 degree water I feel like a new hiker. Portrait and I spent two nights at the Riverside Campground and Hot Spring. The first night we met up with Estaro (PCT 2012--met him at Hiker Town), Neon, Speedbump, Softwalker, and Styles (who was doing his own thing at this point). The second night brought Bone Lady, Cheese, and No Amp and also Bo. We sat in the hot tub late into the night--also known as 9 p.m.

Feeling good after soaking in the hot springs, doing laundry in a bucket, and exploring the dwellings.
The cliff dweilings date back to the earliest people in the region. They were sure worth the look.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 12--Meet the Gila

It was 13 miles from where we camped to Doc's store and our zero day. We started hiking just before 8 wearing frozen socks and frozen shoes. They thawed quickly--becoming very cold and wet. Didn't matter much--we had a river to cross.
Portrait crossing the Gila for the first time that morning

It wasn't yet 8 when Portrait crossed the Gila the first time that day. I took a quick photo of him knee deep and put my camera away in a ziplock in my pack. There it stayed for the rest of the day.

Doc Campbell's--the center of the town stop
River crossings are slow work. Our average was frighteningly low for two people who had already hike 200 miles. I non-stopped nibbled--blowing through way more food than I expected. We crossed the river 50 times in 13 miles over the course of 8 hours. But we made it to Doc's store almost dry and only slightly worse for wear minutes before the store closed. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 11-On the Right Route

An outlet at the top of Signal Peak
After contemplating a zero day at the little RV Portrait and I packed up and hiked down Signal Peak. It was a little sad to say good-bye to the RV.

I don't know much about cows, but shouldn't one stay away from the ones with horns?
Then we hiked up Tadpole Ridge Trail. I really think they should rename the ridge something a little more intimidating. It was like hiking through the desert on the exposed ridge with a lot of steep ups and downs. I bet a tadpole has never been anywhere on that ridge.

Finally!  We've made it to the "Red Route" which is the route we will be following north (mostly)
It didn't really matter that it was a tough morning on the ridge. We were hiking west and getting closer to the red route (the route we had planned to start on from the border) with every climb. We finally made it there, with no fan fair or big brass band, and not even a lunch break, around noon. It was exciting. 

Extra cold water out of that little puddle--some of the first natural water we've seen
After hiking in a burned out canyon with some of the best water I've had on this trip and along another exposed ridge we descended down to the mighty Gila River. I flubbed the first rock hop river crossing--ended up with two wet feet. My pant legs hadn't even begun to dry by the next crossing. No rocks there. The was no choice but to wade across. With pants wet nearly up to my hips and a dozen crossing behind us we had gotten a fine introduction to the Gila.
The mighty Gila River in the late afternoon light

A cave dwelling along the banks of the river

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 10- Route Choice

Hooray!  Finally almost on the trail we originally planned to hike
Mid afternoon after climbing up another canyon all morning we left behind the Columbus route.  We were on our way to getting to the trail we had planned to hike on. For a few miles we were on the Bear Creek route heading south and finally saw our first CDT emblems nailed to a tree.

A water source--luckily we had plenty
After going south we left the CDT for a trail that will connect us to the official trail. Choosing a route is one of the things that makes the CDT so different from the other two trails that are more linear.
Team All Dead finally got in touch via a text to Portrait.  They weren't all dead, thankfully.  We probably won't see them until Doc Campbell's in a couple of days.

I guess it is a national forest

The tread way was nice as we climbed up Signal Peak--we've actually had good tread to follow for awhile now. The top of the peak felt like a booming hiker paradise. There was a fire tower, caretaker's hut, cell tower, trash cans, picnic table, and a little yellow RV with curtains and a plastic covered mattress. Portrait poked his head inside and declared the camper home.