20.5 miles hiked, official mile 629.7, camping @ 6368ft
Just as the sun starts to think about peeking out above the horizon, the birds of New Mexico herald his arrival with chirps and calls and songs. I think it’s a competition to see who can chirp louder, longer, more beautifully. Their songs wake me and I crack an eye open to confirm that yes, there is light.
It’s already pretty warm and I’m up and headed across the meadow for a couple of miles before the steep descent into the valley of canyons and shapes and cliff faces. The view is stunning from the top and changes to reveal something new with each gravelly switchback. Down down down. I stop a few times for inadequate photos and once I’m finally at the bottom I veer off the road towards the water source. I lie on the ground and lean over the edge of a concrete tank to scoop out the clear water from below. Lots of floaters, but clear.
I drink a bunch and filter a bunch as it’s hot today, eat too many snacks (sorry future Snakebite) and head out.
Just as I’m arriving at the trail junction I see another hiker!!!! Another hiker!!!
“Ahoy!” I yell.
A real life thru hiker named Judd. He’s a speedy one, started well after me and is smashing out 25-30 miles a day to catch up to the herd.
It’s hot and exposed. There are mean bitey flies that attach themselves to my colourful leg-protectors, only detaching when I flick them off. Through some sandy wash, over a salty riverbed, up and down climbing in and out of little beds and canyons. A lonely tree calls me and a I park underneath, airing out my feet and eating things. Salty things. It’s a hot day and all I want is the salt.
Some more climbing, some more awesome views for high above. A lot more heat. Oh my goodness I hope there is some water at the next water stop.
I stare at the valley below, and see far off in the distance some power lines which are near the road where a magical cache may be hiding. So slow. I sit on a rock and let the warm breeze blow against the sweat. I hike some more and do it again.
I’m out of water and have arrived at the road. But there is no cache. I’m nearly crying because I’m so thirsty. I’ve been dreaming about apples and mandarins and cool cool drinks for the past 5 miles. I keep walking up out of the little dip on the side of the road, cross a dirt road and in front of me is the amazing oasis. WATER JUGS! A COOLER! THE CACHE IS REAL!
I’m so focused on the jugs and making sure they aren’t empty that I don’t see Judd in the shade until I’m right up at the cache.
“I’ve been vortexed! I’ve got signal.” No luck for me with AT&T.
I drink water and open the cooler. APPLES! Hooray for apples! There are granola bars and pop tarts as well but both have dairy. I find out that Judd is also vegan! YEOW. Of the 6 other hikers I’ve met, 3 of us are vegan. Viva la vegan-lution! He hikes on while Im munching on my apple. Best apple I can ever remember. Amazing.
I sit for too long, fill up my water and make a measly 1 more mile before calling it a night past a herd of cows near a broken windmill.
It’s a warm night to match the warm day! I roll the tarp vestibule up and sleep with the warm breeze blowing around me, grateful for fresh fruit and the kindness of strangers.