30 miles hiked, sleeping in Cuba NM @ 6906ft
It was a warm warm night- the first I think where I haven’t worn my puffy to bed. I can tell already upon waking that today is going to be hot. It’s cool now, but the promise of heat is mixed in there somehow.
My bag is heavy with water as there is only one water stop 15 miles from here.
Onwards I hike- a climb to wake me up that goes along a dirt road then weaves up through boulders to land me on top of the ventana mesa. The view across the valley is amazing. I’m surrounded by red, orange and blonde rocks, and every now and the sections of white rock with holes and nooks and crannys worn in that make me think of Gaudi. A rattle snake rattles me awake as I wander in a daze through the heat. The cool rocks in the shade are perfect to sit or lie upon and lure me in from the heat many times. I lean back on the rocks against my pack and stare at the sky above as elephants, rabbits, Strawberry Shortcake, and dragons float past, with the warm breeze blowing on my sweat soaked shirt.
My day is scheduled by food rations; I do my best miles with no food! In 5 miles you can have a bar, another 5 some nuts, another 5 some spoonfuls of granola. I try to ration my remaining larabar but confirm (as I have long long suspected) it is impossible. Try it. You can’t eat just half a larabar.
After descending the mesa, dinner is delicious refried beans (so yum!) that I gobble down whilst sitting on a rock, watching the sun go down across a field. Temperature – perfect.
I am a couple miles from the road and have to decide if I’ll camp here or hustle into town which is a highway walk away. This is my last camping chance as I don’t want to be near the hwy. It’s such a beautiful night. I can’t decide if that means take advantage and hike on, or stop and camp in it.
Ultimately the pull of the miles, the Canada magnet pulls me onwards. It’s been an amazing day- my favourite so far – I’m feeling good and keen to keep going.
It is still warm but there is a beautiful cool breeze. The sky fades to a mix of orange, pinks and purples, lighting up the mountains ahead of me. There are a few whispy clouds adding in some beautiful coloured accents. Everything is absolutely perfect for a magic night’s hiking. Except that I’m on a highway.
The air does that fabulous swirl of hot pocket of air and cold pocket of air, all mixed in together but separate. I try to stay as close to the edge as possible. There is no real shoulder here- the road drops down to ditches either side that are overgrown with prickly bushes and land mines of broken bottles, rubbish and snakes are ready to grab you. I don’t understand snakes and roads? I’ve seen more dead snakes than alive ones, and they are always on the sides of roads. RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE GET OFF MY ROAD!!! Well that one certainly isn’t dead.
The sky turns black, the stars come out. I have my headlamp around my neck pointing to the ground so oncoming cars can see me but I’m not shining light into their eyes, something many of them don’t think about for me as I’m blinded by their lights on high beam.
Dogs bark, people yell, and finally I’m in town. It is late and the office of the hotel that is “hiker friendly” is closed. There is a number to call but I’ve no service! I walk down the road and into a liquor store just as they are closing, and the nice guy there lets me use his phone.
Finally I’m in a room, armed with some oatmeal for second dinner from the hiker box. This is my last night in New Mexico – I’ve made plans to hitch to Denver this weekend and drive to Montana Sunday week from Denver with my new/ old hiking partners Crunchmaster and Hiker-formerly-known-as-Mr-Smith (I hiked Washington PCT with last year) – new trail name TBA- and hike the rest of the trail southbound (SOBO).
My phone beeps to life with the wifi and holy crap a big spanner has just been thrown into my hike. Big spanner. I send emails and hope for the best, but timing and needing to get documents from Australia to here to sign at a consulate is going to be hard. AND it’s a public holiday on Monday in Perth (today is Friday). Soooo….
If I miss the ride to Montana… then what? I’m done with hiking this trail all alone. If I get back on here in Cuba I’ll be even worse off. I don’t like my chances of getting to Montana via hitching…and I don’t want to hike grizzly country alone up there.
I lie awake stressing, hoping that the anxiety attacks that have plagued me for the past couple of years stay away. Sleep doesn’t come until 2am…maybe the morning will have some answers.