CDT Day 95 Happy Birthday from Hugh Jackman

It’s my birthdaaay!
I wake, make coffee and hot oats (hot breakfast! Birthday luxury!) and we hike the 0.9 miles to Colorado! Sadly there isn’t a big border sign, just a sign announcing our entrance into the Rio Grande national forest, which is right at the border. Tigerlily left a note on the sign wishing me a happy birthday and that Colorado is my birthday present! Pretty bloody good present! I’m so excited to check New Mexico off finally!
Another 2.7 miles to Cumbres pass and the road that will lead us to town and food! It takes a long time to get a hitch, finally a nice lady in a rental car takes pity on us and drives us the 20 ish miles to Chama … back down the highway in New Mexico. Doh! Can’t escape this state!
We share a hotel room between 3 of us, which us good because the prices are all sky high thanks to a movie being filmed in the mountains close by with Hugh Jackman in it. The whole town is booked up with crew members – we were lucky to find a place! We collect our packages from the post office, eat a greasy breakfast, and walk the 2 miles down the highway to the hotel. Blergh spread out towns are rotten for hikers!
I have a package from a gorgeous friend Cookie I met on the PCT last year, filled with all kinds of delicious snacks, amazing toiletries and all kinds of useful hiker things! It’s amazing. I take a shower and come out smelling amazing with all the little pots of cleansers, moisturisers, shampoo and conditioner. I’m like an actual human. She also included a razor, so I lose about a pound off my base weight by shaving my legs – my poor legs have been covered in scratches, cuts, rashes and scabs since the start of the trail so I haven’t touched them. Only now have they healed enough to attack them with a skinny piece of metal. So smoooooth. Fancy birthday legs!
I eat a bunch of things that have no business mixing together and pay the price, lying in discomfort on the bed while watching the Olympics. I had no idea they had started! So oblivious to these strange real world happenings!
With all the chores finally done, and somehow the day nearly over, we watch sporty people doing their sports and finally fade away.

CDT Day 94 Almost the Border

23.7 miles hiked, camping @ 10315ft
After a big day yesterday we aren’t so pushed to do miles and can take our time packing up. I decide to make coffee, and I’m slowly getting my things in their special order, when it starts to rain. Seriously?? There aren’t many clouds in the sky, but apparently the one crappy one is right above our tent. I frantically dash about shoving things into my pack, and finally get back to my now luke warm coffee. Bah.
Packed up, we hike off along the top of the mountain and into pine trees, and pass a fairly recent cow carcass on the trail, less than a mile from where we camped. Not a very settling sight considering either a) something large and scary (that says meow) killed it or b) something large and scary (meow) would smell it and be hanging around this area.
We pass through the Lagunitas campground, which is a little bit of a surreal moment. A sobo hiker went missing in a snow storm late last year, and was found at this campground by early nobos this year. It was very sad and very scary that such a reportedly experienced hiker would pass away in this fashion, but a reality check I suppose that these are very remote areas we hike in, and we are at the mercy of mother nature and her storms or heat or whatever she chooses to throw at us.  We find a place in the upper campground to spread out the wet tent and eat an inadequate handful of things before hiking on.
The usual storm clouds collect above, and I pull on all my raingear, put in my headphones and march on through the pine forest. I find Grizzly stopped at the edge of a meadow where he saw a herd of 30 odd elk. Bugger! Damn my slow short legs that always miss these things!
We hike on very quietly, and I spot 3 female elk (cows) and shortly thereafter a beautiful big bull elk! Gorgeous!
The clouds are collecting above but there seems to be nothing flat to camp on when I look up into some trees above our last river crossing and see a tent! Tigerlilly! We met him at Ghost Ranch – a CDT section hiker heading to twin lakes. He is completing around 500 miles a year until it’s all done. There’s a small space that we manage to squeeze into, set up, and all sit together for dinner and chatting.
Such a nice end to the day. 0.9 miles to the Colorado border!!!

CDT Day 93 Confusing Turn

25.8 miles hiked, Camping @ 9921ft
Pit. Pat. Small cold drops are falling on my face somehow. Pit pit pat pat. I’m asleep but not quite and there are more drops and I’m confused and- pitter pitter patter patter pitter pitter patte- OH CRAP, RAIN!
I’m suddenly awake and realise that rain is falling through the mesh. “Wake up! Rain!” I yell at Grizzly. We struggle to sitting and try and zip closed the rain fly, except it is really dark and we can’t work the toggles. Both of us have been transformed into 2 year old versions of ourselves, with no motor skills, that can’t work out how to undo a toggle. Sh*t sh*t sh*t everything is getting wet. I give up trying to reach it from inside the tent, find my headlamp, jump outside and finally finally get the toggle undone and the rainfly zipped up. Grizzly manages a few minutes later and we lie back down in our now wet bags and try to fall back into our deep slumbers.
We wake late to a soaking tent. Why on earth we thought we would get away with an open tent I have no clue. Rain every day, without fail.
There is a large log for us to cross to get over the river, and we stop to collect water on the other side before commencing our climb up a narrow wet path. The trail is pretty overgrown, so we are walking through a car wash getting thwacked with wet branches and leaves.
The sun is out though, warming and drying. We reach the top of our climb and start following a dirt road. Turning a corner there are suddenly dozens of giant rvs, tents and cars around. Huh? We pass a taped-up sign indicating a family name, pointing towards the mele. Someone’s birthday perhaps?
Down the road another gathering of huge vehicles and another family name. Is this some weird family reunion weekend I’ve never heard of?
We are aiming for the day use area of a campground promising a water spigot, rubbish bins and a pit toilet. We find it near a highway and happily spread out all our wet things to dry on a small hill behind a picnic table. Gourmet lunches of peanut butter eaten, water containers filled, rubbish emptied and luxury loo taken advantage of, and we are off again. A short walk along the highway, we cross over and re-enter the forest on a narrow trail.
We alternate between roads and trails for the afternoon, descending to where we think we may camp but find nothing suitable on the muddy valley floor. We cross a creek, and our maps are marked saying “Confusing turn!”…and that is all. Nothing to explain why it is confusing, or suggestions as to where we should walk, just “confusing turn!”. We do get thoroughly confused, and finally see that we need to climb straight up a loose rock face. We realise this just as the sky starts to fall. Bah! Rain! Bah! A group of pines provides some shelter to wait out the worst of it, then we climb up the rest of the scrambly hill to end up on a trail hugging the side of the mountain at a slow incline. Theres a great view of the creek snaking its way in perfect s shapes through the green canyon below.
 The narrow awkward footing gets too tedious so we clamber straight up the side to walk on the relatively flat top, and find ourselves a nice flat spot in front of a lonely pine, with a 360 degree view. Just as we’ve set up the tent, a storm starts exploding on the far mountain- the lightning mesmerizing against the beautiful sunset coloured clouds. It sits perfectly on the mountain top, and is blowing beautifully away from us so we get treated to a spectsculour explosion of light and colour, for once nicely dry. Coyotes come out on the opposite moutain side and yip the world goodnight -I can’t see them but their sounds carry perfectly across. Eventually the colours and the light starts to fade, the last little bits of warmth from the sun are long gone, so we snuggle into our bags and let the magical life of Harry Potter, via the magical world of audiobooks, lead us into dreamland.

CDT Day 92 Rio Vallecitos

24.2 miles hiked, camping @ 8543 ft
Everything, as expected, is absolutely soaking wet when we wake. I’ve never seen so much water dripping from a tent when we remove the rain fly. We spread it all out on trees facing the morning sun, along with socks and gaiters and bandanas. A bunch of curious cows, whose incessant moos woke us, have gathered to inspect the strange people with their strange things, creeping closer and closer until I spy the giant giant bull joining the ranks and I shoo them away.
Things sufficiently dry, it all gets packed away and we head off into the sunny day. The continuation of the road we were on yesterday is horribly muddy as expected. Every step we are sliding backwards and collecting more and more things on our mud-magnet soles.
Around us are wide fields with occasional clumps of aspen or small oak trees, lots of patches of corn lillies loving the marshy ground. We follow a series of roads, each one getting a little better and I stop to collect water from a small trickle. Looking at the maps, there is supposed to be a highway through here, but all we see are trees and grass. Suddenly a convoy of 6 cars appears on the horizon that zoom past us on a dirt road. Huh?? I was not expecting to see anyone out here!
We follow the ‘highway’ for a mile or so then veer off into the meadow on a small trail. Slowly but surely nature takes over the path, and before we know it we are bushwhacking Montana-style through thick overgrown bushes, climbing over blowdowns, and losing the trail.
Finally we make our slow way through and stop in a sunny patch at a stream for water and lunch, where I happily remove socks and shoes to dry, and pick out a thousand grass seeds that have come to live in my socks from the bushwhacking.
I laugh at how fast the bloody clouds appear. Not 20 minutes sitting in the sunlight and dark fluffy ominous shapes have gathered above for their lunchtime sprinkling. We pack up and hike on. There is a detour marked due to un-passable trail, then the trail joins up again and we weave through boggy meadows, stop to chat to a rancher on horseback, and are back out into pine forest.
We pass a big camp of trail workers. They have been very busy cutting beautiful new trail through here so that we don’t have to hike on the dirt roads. We don’t actually see any of the workers, but pass tents galore.
We wind down a narrow trail through trees and end up with a respectable 24.2 miles hiked on the banks of the Rio Vallecitos. A nice flat spot underneath pine trees, with the rush of the river to lull us to sleep. It’s not cloudy any more so we take our chances and tie the rain fly back, hoping to minimise condensation. Time for a well earned rest. Goodnight!

CDT Day 90 and 91 Ghost Ranch

Day 90 – Zero
Day 91 – 17.8 miles hiked
I’m in a glorious advil pm induced sleep when my alarm rudely interrupts a very important, but in an instant forgotten, dream. 5am. Bah.
Storms are due at 4pm so if we want to make any progress we need to get up. At 530 we give in to the inevitable and creep out of the tent, making as little noise as possible so as not to disturb the other campers.
Yesterday we had an unplanned zero as either the post office or Ghost Ranch lost my resupply package. The tracking showed it as delivered, Ghost Ranch had no knowledge or record of it, and the post office swore it had been delivered…or that they had no recollection of it. Neither they nor I know what their actual story was. I had to hitch to a gas station store 14 miles from Ghost Ranch to buy an expensive and uninspired resupply, wasting an extra $50 on food. Granola for dinner? Whatever works. By the time all that had been sorted the afternoon storms had rolled in, along with flash flood warnings. As our hike took us out through canyons and we were already well acquainted with the dangers of the mud around here, it turned into an unplanned zero.
All packed up we head to the little kitchen where I heat up some samosas I bought at the market yesterday for brekkie, and we munch on these while giving our phones every minute possible to charge.
The sky is fast getting brighteras we make our way down the road past all the Ghost Ranch buildings and finally onto the trail through the red canyon.  Towers of rock are all around us as we zig zag across the little stream flowing through the centre. We clamber up rocks and jump over puddles making our way down Box Canyon, which comes to an abrupt dead end. We realise we’ve missed our turn, but it’s totlly fine because the canyon  is gorgeous and worth the extra .3 ish miles to see it all.
The ‘trail’ is an almost vertical rock climb. I’m using my hands as well as feet to climb upwards out of the canyon and high up onto the top of the towering cliffs. Breath gone.
It’s fun though, beautiful and a little bit exciting being on trail like this. Much more of an adventure than a road walk.
Blue spray paint has been applied in little dots along the trail to keep us on track, however somehow I end up in a deep skinny wash with cactus poking me on both sides. We climb out, find the trail and hike on.
We decide to yard sale our stuff early on as there are a lot of clouds and potential rain as early as 11am. The tent gets spread out over sage brush as a small breeze blows through and we eat handfuls of things from our bags. Now it’s all dry so we head down an old jeep road with lots of mud, which leads to a really nice road without the mud. We want to stay on this road but alas we have to veer off to the side and climb a hill. We’ve entered a nice pine tree land. It’s amazing how fast the landscape changes. Not so much with distance, but small changes in altitude lead to whole new worlds of plants. The cactus are gone and we are following cairns along the pine needles, with a view off the side of this cliff to the distant town of Abiquiu and a lake below. I look up straight in front of me to see a beautiful chocolate coloured nose and big mass of cinnamon tipped hair. “Bear! Bear!” I point out excitedly to Grizzly, who looks in time to see his big fluffy chocolate and cinnamon bum bounding away. So beautiful!!!
Excited by our one wildlife sighting for a while, we walk quietly just in case he’s still around and we get to see him. We give up and decide to eat lunch while it’s still relatively dry and we have a view.
On we march through the pines, until the pines are no more and we’re in a giant field. We collect water from a trough with a pipe pumping clear water, then put on all the rain layers again to march through the muddy meadow. The rain has been sprinkling on and off for most of the day, but now the unfriendly afternoon clouds are upon us so we have to make quick miles and find somewhere flat and a little sheltered for camp. As I cross over a cattle guard I feel a sudden stabbing /  burning pain in my ankle. “Ow! Crap! Sh*t sh*t sh*t” holy poo it hurts.  I look down and realise it must have been a yellowjacket. “GO!” I yell at Grizzly who is hovering to take a look but is allergic to yellowjackets. We run down the trail a little while, with the ankle burning and hurting a LOT! I’ve never beem stung by a yellowjacket so I don’t know if I’m allergic. It hurts but it’s not swelling, and after about 10 minutes the pain fades away and it’s all fine. Such a tiny little mark left after such an amount of pain! Don’t fancy doing that again.
We’ve joined another dirt road now, that is more thick mud and puddles than road. Our shoes have turned into mud snow shoes again, my feet are saturated from slipping into one of the puddles. There is a lot of swearing and Grizzly announces he’s on the verge of a meltdown. Then he loses his phone. Oooooh shite. We drop our packs and run back down the road scanning everywhere. I really hope it’s not in the mud or a puddle. Meanwhile the clouds have gotten serious and thunder has started rumbling all around us. I hear a cooee call me back up the road. Success! It was lying on top of some leaves. So bloody lucky.
We grab the packs and hike fast. There are cows and thick bushes everywhere and nothing suitable for camping. The bushes give way to grasses in a big field on top of the hill and we find a spot that will do. Not awesome but relatively flat and the tent needs to be up if we don’t want to get soaked.
Zoom zoom! The tent is up, we pile inside and the sky is the scariest I have seen. We have service here and the radar shows a nice big blob of clouds and heavy rain coming straight for us. I don’t really need the radar though because I can see it!!!
I make a couple of little videos of the squall coming straight at us because I can’t believe how bad it looks. The wind has picked up and dark dark clouds are everywhere, making all kinds of deafening thunder to accompany the blinding lightning. Crazy crazy crazy!!! Somehow the tent flies out of the peg on one side and I get soaked reattaching it!
I hope this little tent doesn’t rip or break. There’s nothing to be done so I put my earplugs in and cross all my fingers it stands through the night.

CDT Day 89 The Muddiest Mud

23.3 miles hiked

It’s cloudy all over when I wake. Fog is draped all over the tops of the mesas around us and it looks particularly gloomy, but this means it’s nice and cool on this morning’s climb. It’s just 2.8 of steep climb, a little plateau then 10 miles down to the Ghost Ranch alternate junction. We are surrounded by thin forest of pines that gets more dense as we climb. We pop out onto a green carpeted forest up the top – a lot less harsh looking than the desert below. We take a quick break then start the descent, and stop when we realise clouds are congregating and we have a small window of sunlight to dry the tent. Early quick lunch over, we continue down – and each take about 2kg of mud on our shoes. The ground is a red and brown clay that sticks like crazy, having soaked up all the water from the past few day’s rain. It feels like I’m walking on heavy snowshoes.
Down down down and we reach the bottom where we are surrounded by towers of beautiful colourfully layered rock mesas. With the dark clouds around them they look very intimidating and impressive.
All of our water sources look like chocolate milk. The excess rain has stirred up the dirt making it un-drinkable. Well maybe not, but it will clog our filters super quick if we try, so we walk the extra few miles to the Rio Chama. Gah! This one looks like a giant rushing river of chai. I try filtering through my bandana first, but it makes little difference. We check the water report – bugger! We missed a trough a half mile back, so Grizzly graciously takes our 2L bladders and comes back a while later with crystal clear water. Yay!!!
As we are filtering water a jeep comes past on the road heading the other way. He offers us a ride on his return. “Hmm Ok thanks!” we say, ever conscious of the impending storm and our need to get to Ghost Ranch. “We’ll start hiking and you’ll see us on the road”. It’s just one long dirt road to the highway so he won’t miss us. We start hiking and it is hooooot. “It’s Africa hot” says Grizzly. I cover up with my bandana under my hat and melt along the road. The thunder is getting louder and louder “Now would be a great time for our magical ride to appear!”
The storm is chasing us, then overtakes us. It starts sprinkling then the clouds explode. I get covered in red dirt pulling my jacket and rainpants on, my pack does too as I set it down to put the cover on. We really need to sit down somewhere as there is lightning all around us, but there is only sagebrush and a few junipers with no shade.
Finally we find a suitable tree and sit under the tyvek hiding from the rain for a while. The thunder amd lightning move past quickly and we are back on the dirt road sweating in our rain gear.
We make it to the highway before our ride ever showed up – oh well we didn’t get struck by lightning and we should be walking this road anyway!  At highway we have to walk for a mile or so to the turnoff for Ghost Ranch – bitumen/ black top hiking again, I must be back in New Mexico!
It’s a very confusing turnoff for Ghost Ranch, crossing over dodgy “no trespass” signs, bushwhacking through brush and sliding down very slippery mud into washes that we then have to climb back up. We eventually spy some CDT blazes in the distance and adjust our course to follow them. It doesn’t help a whole lot because it becomes clear that we are hiking through super sticky sinky quicksand!!! We are alternating between laughing because it is so horrendously hard and impossible to move, and swearing for the same reasons.
By the time we actually enter the Ghost Ranch property our feet are completely caked in red mud.
It’s late so the office isn’t open but we are directed to the camping area, set up the tent, and head inside the tiny kichen area to cook dinner on our stove and sit on chairs. There are showers but I have no towel, so I make do with a cake of soap found in a shower and a whole bunch of paper towels. Whatever works! I contemplate entering the shower with my sneakers on to remove some of the dirt, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of the mud yet!
The rain starts up again so it’s a dash to the tent in the dark, where we arrange all our things so the bazillions of desert rodents don’t eat them, then lie down for sleep under the towers of beautiful red rock.

CDT Day 88 Cows and Sage Brush

20.8 miles hiked
Despite all noise indicating  the contrary, when I wake the world is still in tact. The craziest lightning storm I have ever been in. I still can’t believe the noise from the thunder. There is no more rain when we wake, and I’m thankfully able to pack up and stay dry.
It’s a steep climb of 2.8 miles, all of which thankfully are beside a stream and in the dappled shade of the trees. The sun is in and out of the clouds, threatening to heat up the world and make it all steamy.
Around a corner and we encounter a couple of cows, who run away from us down the trail, collecting all their friends and making a huge raquet as they run. I try to explain to them that we just want to walk down the path, and if they would kindly move to the side as we walk through that would be fabulous. They appear not to understand and run away shrieking as they go. This makes for a very slow moving 30 minutes, after which they finally head down a different path and into a meadow.
It also makes for very messy hiking as we dodge fresh cow pies on the trail. Yuck.
Not long after the cows and we part company, we come across 3 hikers! I was not expecting to meet anyone at all on the trail around here. They are 3 ladies who have come just for a few nights of hiking and camping, but are cutting it a little short due to getting stuck in the storm as well yesterday.
Now the trail flattens out for a while as it crosses a series of meadows. Still enough incline that I can feel it, but not so much that I want to tear my lungs and quads out.  I’m amazed at how well maintained and signed the trail is here, when we come across a swamp we have to hike through. I manage about 5 minutes of stepping on long grass to keep from getting my feet soaked, but we arrive at a deep creek where there is no choice. “Gah. Stuff it!” I exclaim and slosh on through, feet now soaked. There’s lots of sun so they should dry out, as long as the rain holds off until late afternoon as it did yesterday. It’s time for a break and a yard sale so the tent can dry out. Then up for a couple more miles before we descend over 12 miles.
Down down down. The grass gradually disappears and is replaced by dry pine needles and dirt. The trees become more spread out, and sage brush creeps in. Definitely more desert-like on this side of the climb.
One last filling of water containers for the next 15 miles and we hike on, increasingly aware of the not-so-distant thunder and now thick grey cloud cover.
A flat spot greets us just over a mile past a highway crossing and we grab it. Tent up in record time, mats blown up, bits and pieces arranged in their places and we dive in, beating the rain by about 4 minutes this time. No crazy thunder like yesterday, and no blinding lightning to entertain us.
13 ish miles until we have to jump on the alternate to head to Ghost Ranch where our next resupply is. We should be there late tomorrow or early the next.
I’m loving the early camp time! Plenty of time for food, and for sneaking in a cheeky downloaded TV episode or doco😀

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.

CDT Day 27

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.