Pie Town to Grants

Walking out of Pie Town on only one ankle was a vote of confidence in myself and a bit of an act of dirty and expressionless momentum. This is not to say that I was not happy to get going again... but how sure can you ever be about injured nights in the desert amidst historically unpredictable weather in Northern New Mexico...and for that matter the western US. The weather doesn't even have to be bad; it's the anxiety about it that drives you crazy. Will that monstrous gray cloud kill me...no... that one? Could be.
But it's of course little more than partially justified paranoia and you keep walking and glancing up. At least it takes my mind off the ankle.
The first day out of Pie Town was a lonely 15 mile road walk across a breezy elevated plateau of stern private property markers - and cows, and cow shit. I popped ibuprofen to keep the swelling down and wrapped my ankle to get through the day and with each guarded step I learned a less painful way to place my foot to the ground. This is obviously not what your doctor would tell you to do to recover...but given the full range of motion, minimal swelling, no touch tenderness, and yes lack of hikers remaining in Pie Town, I figured I'd be fine on mostly level road walks.
And I was half right. Damn, the roads are hard on your body. On day two around four PM I came to the first turn of this section up an old BLM pedestrian only rec area up a canyon in the only mointains visible for miles from the remote road. What a treat! With a cold wind from the south I put on light layers and booked it into the shelter of the hills where I was greeted by a lifeless spring and an eerie abandoned cabin that must be more than a century old--- and petroglyphs that I must assume are far older. The road turned to dirt around here and the relief from ankle pain was immediate and I might have even smiled for a moment. All sunshine in me then, chilly clouds be damned.
Welcome back Pep, meet my home boy Step. It's a marvelous feeling when you get into the flow of things. Better still when pain free. I have a new appreciation for dirt. Pavement and gravel...not so much. I walked until eight that night quite literally dancing northbound to motown. A young group of four were camped off the road at the exit point (of Sand and Armijo canyons) and offered words of encouragement. Ah, sweet folks they were. Getting out of town. No real reason. Just dig it. I understand completely.
I got water from a nearby productive windmill and used my headlamp to find a sheltered campsite - in open arroyo. Woops. Questionable but steady skies that night and only distant flashes. Fine by me, mostly. Solid soil and I bent a stake. Well... cant get too worked up about small things like that. No room for negativity in a hikers mind. Poor "expedition behavior" that. If you let that get to you, tomorrow you might panic if something more serious happens when you should instead maintain composure and make good decisions to keep the hike and yourself alive. A javelina visited me that night. No rest for the weary. A tiring 24 mile day.
On day 3 I was up at five and walking by  six, back on cold paved highway for eight or so miles. More winds that day. Imagine that.  
I had entered El Malpais, which is just as rosy to hike across as its name suggests. It extended to my western horizon. Yikes. To my right was a parking lot and DIRT TRAIL which went to an unofficial alternate rim route on a cliff overlooking the pumice field. No cumbersome thinking about it at all. All feel. With high spirits and knowledge of the broader route you are taking you have the pleasure of doing such tiny but satisfying deviations. Something about unobstructed views is healing to a hiker mind and body. At the end of the rim route was an ambitious scramble back down to the road. Still better than pavement for my ankle.
At two I reached a turn off for a route across the pumice and rested under. Juniper for an hour chugging water. The turn off marked a 30 mile dry stretch into town, so it was best to overdo it on hydration to avoid a bad situation in the middle of unnavigable lava hills and canyons. Upwards  and onwards.
Hellscape, unforgiving but beautiful. Cold winds and distant towering clouds shadowed the primitive cairn route, back came the sky anxiety. One mile an hour, and painful on my improving ankle despite my basic treatments. Slow going is bad for hiker spirits, the contrast made worse by my recent confidence in my health and pace. I ignored all unhappy thoughts and got to the western end of the field as the sun went below the hilled horizon. Dirt once more, relief once more.
And beer. At a road crossing just past the lava was a man from New York stealth camping with a growler of local micro. Chat and laughs. Two month journey, his. No reason. None needed. Indeed. Two more miles to make it a low 20, then bed. At one AM there were nearby engines and many gunshots. All good fun, no need for panic. Saturday night.

The last day into town was a dirt road slog through aptly named Bonita Canyon. Red cliffs, green trees, littered but no people. Lovely enough, absolutely. Then down Zuni Canyon into Grants just in front of an angry sky.
My ankle is improving rapidly as I walk and I have no concerns. Confidence now, and maybe a strained fearful neck. Gonna have to get used to the weather.

All good fun. Nearing Colorado. Two weeks, maybe less. Next stop Cuba NM. Plenty of snow in CO, so there’s no real hurry. Ciao!

Pie Town

Injured and resting in Pie Town. Making friends and many happy memories. It’s hard to complain. Quiet here but warm and safe. Easy to sleep without worry. No recollection of the last time I did that. Feel compelled by loving instincts to mirror the kind spirits of the other hikers and our local angels. Meshing into the one spirit of This Season on the Trail. Good, very good.

The Gila

Damn what a section! First of all, I could live in Silver City. I know that was in the section before Doc Campbell’s, but I want to say it here some more because you really ought to visit if you love peaceful desert culture and some damn fine scenery. Love the open carry status of New Mexico, makes for some respectful (mostly) law enforcement and some exciting hippies. Silver had the best burger ever put in my mouth or any other place on my body. Four dollar burritos. Microbrews. Guns and hippies. Low rent. Pardon me while I clean the drool.

Right, “The Gila”. What a monster! Made more involving than normal by the weather. For about a hundred miles from the canyon to New Mexico Highway 12 the sun went away and didn’t come back. Crossing the loose subaqueous rocks of the Gila somewhere around a hundred times (in two days) took an immense toll on all of us (met a pair, Lily and John, both from Ohio going Northbound) and at some point I injured my left ankle. Painful and stiff, and a miles-bottleneck which is a stifling rotten mess of a bummer. I am limited to twenty miles a day – trust me, that’s slow – and at this pace and with this weather (wettest Spring down here it’s been in 15 years I hear) it could be a repeat of the snowed out PCT disaster come Montana.

Don’t want that.

But the Gila IS beautiful. Towering pillars of red and orange hundreds of feet high forming the walls of the canyon and channeling the thigh deep desert water. The rain and cold dont lessen that. And there are hot springs, goddamned gorgeous ones with water clear as air spilling out over cascades from the canyon walls. Hardly anyone out there. Perfect. And only eight miles from a road.

After a few days of the Gila the route took us across some rolling hills and open plains, pretty but with no place to fetch water, and exposed, which is bad news when lightning and madness needs only a single cloud from which to spawn, so it seems in Sunny New Mexico. No storm, though the cold threatened, and we continued into the mountains.

Bad news up there. High winds and fast moving clouds kept our eyes routinely peering for danger from the southwest skies and in the evening of our 70th or so mile in this section the fan sprayed us good for the first time. Flashes every few seconds looking up from small dip in the peaks around 8500, distant echoes, or were they? No way to know up here, not this boxed in, not unless it was coming from straight above us. Not much sleep that night for thr two of us (not a clue
where Lily and John are, somewhere North ostensibly though probably not Ohio).

Then coming downhill yesterday it was low dark clouds big gusts and frosty atmosphere. More storm anxiety walking across open fields toward the Pie Town alternate, but it was just wind cold and the wet. Used to those now, but
will never enjoy nearby lightning strikes on windmills I need to get water from.

A few miles into the alternate we camped at the base of a 10000 ft mountain so as to not tempt fate in the night. It was colder and windier still and we got a bit of a rush from setting up camp quickly in those conditions in a suboptimal somewhat exposed campsite near a large field. My gear was wet from days of rain and no Sun so I wore most of my layers to bed. All was mostly fine.

We awoke to several inches of snow on the ground with more falling and piling on, still no blue sky, and lower still temperatures. Despite all this, my updated kit did everything it was supposed to and I was prepared to push on, except that the shorter days (a little too much hot springs fun maybe) from the Gila left me short on food and I reluctantly turned back to highway 12 and Reserve, New Mexico to reload. Thank God the food
here is good. Helps nurse the pride back. I hate backtracking. What’s done is done.

Head back out tomorrow morning. After a goddamned excellet burrito, I’m sure. Love New Mexico. CDT good fun.

GilaCliffs

Embrace The Sassy

5/7–5/11

I am on top of Burro Peak bundled in all my jackets in my sleeping bag going over the opening days of the hike in my mind.

Moss was fine. We were all fine and were always going to be fine. Like anything worth doing the real challenge comes from within myself. Barriers and fear are what always stop me and this time they wont. That’s what I tell myself.

I remember hiking with Lint on day two and nod. Human after all, and let that be high praise for an icon and reluctant celebrity. I kept up for two days. Fuck me, I can’t lie about it…it was exciting. We traded hiking strategy and each came away with new tricks—taught him you could cold soak tortellini, taught me about damn near everything. A great and honest man.

The temperature drops and I strap my quilt under my sleeping pad to trap in the heat.

The cool air tonight is the same as it was coming around pyramid peak. Bad memories of that place and the surprise hail storm and proximity lightning strikes. Probably wont need to dive for cover tonught.

Elizabeth sleeps quietly on the ground across from me. The skies are clear at least. She’s been strong in keeping up and I’m beginning to relax about her navigation abilities. Haven’t met a hiker in front of us yet who hasn’t quit. We’re going to need to keep getting along if we want to hear another voice. I am anxious about the lack of hikers.

I check and recheck the my quilt straps. Of course, they were done right the first time. Nerves are still with me. It’s the cold I worry about. Conditions are unseasonably chilly up and down the cdt corridor. It’s bad for morale to pitch camp when the sun is still up and leave miles on the table, but it would be worse to choose suboptimal campsites in the dark during this cold snap.

Tomorrow is the famed Silver City 15 mile road walk. Good, asphalt is choice for popping my remaining blisters. Better to deal with them now than in a week. Not afraid of the pain, just afraid of running out of time.

Blah blah blah blah

Look at all this pretentious bullshit!

I’m having a great fuckin time! Cold at night, hot in the day, might need a 0 deg quilt for the rockies. Cops already hasseled me twice so far but no tickets. Hiking while brown? Who knows. Silver city the bees knees. Could spend a year there. Hippie island in the desert. Best burger I ever did have. No trail at all out here. Pretty damn funny. Just walk North! Next posts wont be so serious. Imitating Persig is a bad look. Let’s just be ourselves and have some y’all what say you. “Fuck me” says elizabeth. Whatever Liz. I’ll blog where I damned well please you persnickety shit.

Embrace The Brutality

5/1

This was, of course, the right decision. My alarm went off and I inhaled deeply. I can breathe again, sort of, but it’s enough. I didn’t need more than that and I was happy to have what the desert required. Blanketing heat dried up my mucus quickly and I was able to chisel it out. We arrived in camp at four having made about fourteen miles. A half day, but we all agreed – mostly – that our bodies needed rest and to be eased in. Regardless of my inital dissent, it’s obviously a good plan. We can get up early and lather our raw skin in soothing cream and race the sunrise for decent miles before the heat descends again and team morale lowers. We’re all having fun despite the temperatures, and rest will help keep it that way. I am trying to focus on our similarities and not our differences. There is a hiker lagging way behind. A woman named Moss. We are getting concerned but don’t want to prematurely panic. Navigation is very serious here. No water anywhere and we depend on the caches. Very serious, but she could be waiting out the sun. The evening is coming, at least it wont be hot.