CDT Day 87 Back in New Mexico

8.1 miles hiked, Camping at 667.8 @ 8199 ft
Grizzly’s mate Ben is a superstar who offered to drive us to Cuba so we can get back on the CDT where I left off in New Mexico. We de-splode our packs, eat as much of the leftover food that we over-purchased from the market, charge phones for one last minute and then we are off on the 2h drive.
As we get closer the landscape gets more and more barren. It’s a big flat desert out there and I’m starting to have second (third and fourth) thoughts about this grand plan. I really hope there is some water out there for us to drink! The last updates to the water report were made in May!
We are dropped off in Cuba and start the hot road walk down a sketchy road to the Los Pinos trailhead. We pass lots of worn down and abandoned homes. 2 dogs start barking at us, which is nothing new when walking past houses, until we realise they aren’t in a yard. They run right out onto the road barking and snarling at us; my heart beating enough to bust out of my chest. Holy sh*te. I’m actually more scared than when the grizzly bear came into our campsite. I grip my hiking poles harder, stare straight ahead and hike as fast as I can. They are right at our feet when one of the dogs starts attacking the other and they seem to forget we were their original targets. Eeeeeps!
Faster faster faster we walk, afraid to look back in case that somehow triggers them again. Past more barking dogs we walk, past more shady homes and I’m beginning to think this was all a bad idea!
We take a break in a little patch of shade to eat our sandwiches and cool off a little. It will all be fine once we reach the trailhead in a few miles and enter the forest, away from snarling dogs and sketchy humans.
Up we climb as the clouds gather above. They are moving very slowly so we aren’t sure of we are in for some trouble with the thunder we can hear. Up and up some more and now the clouds aren’t just gathering in the sky, they are the whole sky.
We arrive at the trailhead and walk the .2 miles further to the first possible water. Hooray the stream is running! I fill up our bottles and we actually backtrack to the trailhead where there is some flat ground for camping. The second the tent is up the sky starts exploding around us. We dive in, so happy we made the decision to camp early and dry. The thunder and lightning is insane. So so very loud. I’ve never been in a storm so loud. I’m pretty sure the world is ending outside the tent – we have clearly displeased the Gods and they are destroying the Earth around us. If it were Chris Hemsworth with his Thor hammer outside I wouldn’t actually have a problem with this…pfft Earth? No need for Earth. Carry on Chris Hemsworth.
The thunder booms and the lightning blinds for 2 solid hours before it fades. The rain stays and we are in for a very wet night and a very wet week of hiking. Not sure how we are going to get away with being dry, or getting any miles in as there is a 90% chance of this every day.
Welcome back to New Mexico!

CDT Day 28

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.