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“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir

Month

May 2016

Day 37: Zero Day

Miles: 0
Camp: Ghost Ranch CDT mile 548

Zero day, not going to write about it. Sometimes I need a break from thinking too! We rented a golf cart today and got lots of things done…including a trip to the paleontology museum. There were some very cool dinosaur bones found here…makes it a bit more magical to think about.

Hope you all had a great day too! Back on trail tomorrow.

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Fancy room

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View from the loo
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Day 36: Ghost Ranch

Miles: 12
Camp: Ghost Ranch CDT mile 548

I had really hoped to sleep in today as I only had 12 miles to go…but alas, my body is on a schedule now. In fact, I woke up half an hour early with no hope of going back to sleep. It just doesn’t work that way for me.

No bother, I got up and went hiking. The desert was beautiful with the full moon hanging around until after sunrise.

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This also happens to be the view the loo

The walking was easy as I made my way to the Rio Chama. I wondered if I would go for a swim when I arrived, as it was a large river…but I soon found out there would be no swimming in it’s raging waters. The water was quite tumultuous, reminding me of a frothy sea. As I passed in the morning, the light wasn’t good enough to show in the photo:

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The trail joined a road after crossing the Skull Bridge (I saw 0 skulls). The road followed the river for a while, and as usual I was making too quick time on the road. It is real hard to slow down on a road walk…so I took a long relaxing break in the shade of a Juniper tree.

After break I was supposed to go off road to a trail, but I missed the turn and ended up walking to the freeway…just as much in the right direction, but less pleasant than trail. It was a short jaunt on the busy road, but I still couldn’t find the trail…I had to trespass at an old closed down museum to get back on track. There was a lot of barbed wire fence jumping and commando crawling, but I did find the trail. It appears to be a popular trespass as well, because I was definitely following footprints of other hikers.

Finally I made it to the beautiful Ghost Ranch at 11:30…way earlier than I had planned, but the place is so nice that I don’t mind. I saw Hiker Box, Squirrel, Rampage, Handstand…and so many other hikers I hadn’t seen since I decided to hike alone from Grants. It was great to see everyone. Slingshot was playing piano in a large room, and I sat outside the open window watching the world go by, listening to the music.

I got my box from myself, with added treats from Phoenix (love you lady!) and another box from my friend Elaine (so many good treats, thank you!!). She sent lots of great snacks to eat while I’m hanging out here…so I don’t have to buy all of the meals. I shared my treats with the others and continued to listen to the music for hours…

At 5:30 we went to the all you can eat dinner, and it was really good! We had pork loin, stuffing, sweet potatoes, veggies, salad and carrot cake. It was a great meal. Now we are all camping in the lovely campground here under the stars. I can’t wait to explore more tomorrow!

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Day 35: Moving Along

Miles: 19
Camp: CDT mile 536.7

For the record, everything was fine yesterday. I felt great and my spirits were high, I had just worn myself out is all…it’s bound to happen sometimes.

Today started out as early as usual, giving me no need to worry about making my miles before dark. I was feeling especially happy as I was walking through a deciduous forest, a rare treat in New Mexico. The leaves were glistening in the morning sun and the quaking aspen were fluttering in the breeze. I love standing among the aspen and closing my eyes, just listening. They are a musical tree.

About 2 miles from camp I ran into the warrior hikers with Popeye and his brother in law who has just joined him on trail. Popeye was way ahead of me, but he had head to slow his pace while his brother gets his trail legs. The rest of us have hiked over 500 miles already, so we move pretty swiftly compared to the beginning, and miles are becoming easier to make.

None of them were ready to depart camp, so I set on enjoying the cool morning to myself. I expected to see the others when I stopped for second breakfast, but they must have had quite a slow exit from camp today. I was okay with the solitude though, it’s more rare than I expected it to be on this trail.

The trail eventually began a 4 mile climb up a smaller mountain taking us back into a cool valley. There was a spring there and I stopped there for lunch with Anvil. We talked about lots of things, and soon an hour went by and I wanted to get moving. My goal is to make camp at 6:00 tonight so I have enough time to relax. I’ll already be making it to Ghost Ranch tomorrow afternoon, and I feel as if I just got back on trail. It is our shortest leg of the journey.

The rest of the day was spent walking through a canyon with a nice ambling stream. It eventually opened up to some spectacular meadows surrounded by colorful cliffs. It was here that I decided to grab water and make camp.  I’m a bit off trail tonight, but that way I’ll be sure to stay alone. I’m really a light sleeper, and I sleep best when no one is around…plus I like to go to bed at 9, which is early to some.

I look forward to sunset and a good rest before Ghost Ranch tomorrow. It is a stop I’ve looked forward to for a long time. It is a retreat center where a lot of artists go to create…in fact, Georgia O’Keefe spent a lot of time there painting once upon a time. They also have all you can eat meals! It’s surely going to be a spot to take a zero and likely catch up with the friends I left in Grants. It should be a nice rest as the mountains of Colorado are now only 100 miles away, and the elevation and snow will change this trail soon.

In the meantime I will savor the last morsels of New Mexico.

Dinner: cous cous with smoked salmon, chanterelle mushrooms, kale, cheese, cranberries and turmeric.

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View from the loo

Day 34: Swamp Shoes

Miles: 19.7 by trail and at least 2 backtracking when I went the wrong way
Camp: CDT mile 517.7

Today’s blog will be short because I got into camp super late and I’m really tired. I left town about 9:30 am after breakfast with some other hikers. I walked out alone today…about 8 miles of road that lead to a trailhead.

The trail followed a canyon with rushing streams all of the way up to 10,500 ft. It was like a real forest today, but the top offered no views, only high alpine meadows…and lots of snow. I did a lot of postholing and walked across swampy meadows that made my shoes super wet like in the Gila.

I hiked until 8 coming down in elevation, looking for camp. The forest has been blow downs and widow makers for miles offering no good camping…and it is way past my normal time to still be making dinner. I’m going to finish up and try to sleep. Sorry for the lame blog today.

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A river of pork?!?!?
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All meadows today
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Wet wet meadows
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That's what the trail looked like for a lot of time today

Day 33: We All Have To Go To Town Sometime

Miles: 6
Camp: Del Prado Motel CDT mile 498

Last night was probably my worst night of sleep on trail. It was windy when I got to camp so I set up my tent when really I should have cowboy camped. The wind died down after dinner and it was super warm…I was sweaty and restless all night, my quilt having a 10 degree rating. Even when I stuck a sweaty limb out of the quilt, I would then be too cold.
It didn’t matter much though as an easy day was ahead.

I got walking at 6:45 and popped in my headphones to help me get through the roadwalk. It was all pavement into town, so to keep spirits up, I listened to Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me. This made the walk go by in no time…where next I knew I was walking into a cafe on the edge of town.

I sat with Mack, Rib and Michael and I ate my biggest meal to date (on the CDT): a 2 egg breakfast with a pancake to top it off and a lot of coffee to wash it all down. Then it was on to the post office where I had some wonderful things waiting for me. My mom sent me new socks and gaiters, and my friend Matt sent me my resupply box. It was just in the nick of time for the socks and gaiters, as all of mine have holes in them at this point. The food Matt sent was all wonderful too! He sent lots of veggies (dried beets, green beans, broccoli and chanterelles…so good!) which are especially hard to find in trail towns…cous cous, the healthy ramen, smoked salmon, my favorite tuna….and so much more wonderful stuff. He really did a great job…thanks Matt! You are awesome! I can’t wait to eat all of this yummy food!

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Resupply after repackaging

The rest of the day was for laundry, eating and catching up with other hikers. It has been a great town stop, but I’m ready to get back to trail in the morning. It has been a long, full day…and I am super tired. Bedtime in a hotel bed to myself sounds dreamy…and I’m off to dreamland.

Dinner: carne avodaba enchiladas with avocado and super spicy Chile sauce…and a margarita.

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Chiles drying in the sun

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View from the loo

Day 32: Hiking My Own Hike

Miles: 19.8
Camp: CDT mile 492.4

Today was about as wonderful as yesterday, posing the same challenges and the same pleasures. It was another day of walking mesas, finding water, eating and blisters (not necessarily in that order). I have 2 new blisters from my insoles (that I’ve already worn through) and because I can’t win…but these are a lot more manageable than the last round. I think I can confirm that my shoes are too small (even though they are a size and a half up from my normal size). I’ve survived this long with them though, and the new ones I have coming (in 130 miles) are different shoes altogether.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about thru hiking and the vortex of trail towns. It is definitely glorious to arrive in a town and act as gluttonous as possible, all cares to the wayside besides which all you can eat has the best deal. Towns have showers, packages from home, grocery stores, laundry, restaurants and sometimes movie theaters and gear stores. Town is where we get things taken care of, and where we rest.

When we start getting closer to town, a lot of hikers pick up their daily miles to arrive sooner. Always plotting to get to town as soon as possible to enjoy as many amenities as possible. This has been bothering me lately, because it feels like a whole lot of hurry up and rest to me. It feels like not enjoying the trail because we have to go to a buffet, see a movie (sometimes a television show), buy more food or whatever is pushing one towards town. I have decided that I am completely against this style of hiking…for myself. It all goes back to the saying, “hike your own hike.”

It makes me sad though, because sometimes I feel like there are so few of us out here actually enjoying the trail. So few of us willing to carry extra food to do less miles, to stop before planned to take in a swimming hole or an awesome view. It feels like everyone is rushing and I just want to slow down.

We are almost done with New Mexico and that is crazy to me. I can’t believe how quickly it has gone by, how many beautiful places we have been able to experience…and so many places we will probably never visit but in the moment we walk through. It is all so fleeting.

When I look back on this I don’t want to remember the towns, I want to remember the fantasy world the trail lets us indulge in…but that is part of a whole other tangent I can’t indulge you in now…it is almost hiker midnight after all.

I am 6 miles from town having just watched the sun set over the prairie, making the mesas glow pink. I can hear the highway in the distance and I have no pull to get there. I am happier here on the trail, in my tent, alone if I must be to enjoy this. Tomorrow is all about the gluttony, but even then I’ll be longing to return to my summer home: the CDT.

Dinner: Spanish rice with chicken and cheese.

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These guys are my favorite

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View from the loo

Day 31: A-Mesa-Zing!

Miles: 19.67
Camp: CDT mile 462.67

Despite having a dream in which I was very upset at my mom for eating all of my pumpkin pie, I woke up feeling great. The sun was rising over the canyons below, and I was ready to keep walking with my new schedule. It really is making a big difference to limit my miles right now, and everyone has to wait out the snow in Colorado anyway…so why hurry up and wait?

The walk down the mesa was amazingly beautiful. Every turn had me catching my breath and wanting to take a picture. It was unreal.

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Eventually I was off the mesa and searching for a spring. I found it quick enough and ate some snacks while I filtered water (the spring emptied into a cow trough with no other access). I was in a great mood and put on some music to make the rest of the morning even better. That was until I saw the baby cow…

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I hope he finds his mama 😦

It was just standing there looking at me, tugging at my heartstrings when I realized it was clearly alone. Where could it’s mama be? As I pondered this, I found myself off trail and had to backtrack a ways to get back on course. The trail led up over another mesa with cool sandstone formations and a plant that smells like Pho. All I could think of after that was Pho and Banh Mi…and I highly doubt I’ll find a Vietnamese restaurant on this trail. Fingers crossed!

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I camped on the red one last night

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I then worked my way to a well that has run dry. I had expected this possible outcome, so still had a liter to spare. I ate lunch there to fuel up for the 5.3 miles to the next source…a cache. I’ve been conditioned to never rely on a cache, but I sure hoped it was going to be there. It was getting hot.

I walked through many small and interesting canyons before finding myself back on a mesa. The day grew hotter and my liter grew smaller. I was so very thirsty and still not even sure if the water would be there. I trucked on feeling tired and dehydrated, eventually stumbling upon the cache. There was water!

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Thank you Trujillo family! You saved this bunny from some dusty tears!

I drank a liter immediately and then carried one out. Cache etiquette is 2 liters per hiker unless it is an emergency. Since I knew of a spring coming up before camp, I wasn’t in an emergency.

I grabbed a couple of liters from the spring while chatting with new friend Numbers. Then I found camp just shy of 20 miles. The trail climbs up from here, and I don’t see trees up there, so I’m happy to make these trees my home. I’ll short my miles for the day with no effect on my future plans. Tomorrow is the last full day on trail before town…and I am ready for a shower, but happy enough without one. People are rushing to town, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here for the trail. The sweet, sweet trail.

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Sunset from my tent

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It was a lie!

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View from the loo

Day 30: Mud Shoes

Miles: 20 (plus a mile to and from water in the canyon)
Camp: CDT mile 453

It rained off and on all night, going in and out like my sleep. I feel as if it was a quality rest though, and I was super efficient this morning considering my tent was soaked. I managed to keep everything else dry.

One of my least favorite parts of the rain is that it washes away everyone’s footprints. I am real good at knowing who is ahead, and sometimes just seeing tons of prints helps me know I’m on the right track. Today, there were no prints to start my walk…and no wonder, the mud just sticks to your shoes creating giant (and heavy) mud shoes.

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The first water source was 4.6 miles from camp, and I got there pretty quick. It was a muddy pond in the bottom of a canyon.

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I grabbed water from a clear pool in the rocks above instead, clearly fresh rainfall from last night (my first rainwater from a hole in a rock was pretty good). I filtered it and tried to enjoy a break, but it was way too cold. I hiked on and soon had to stop to put on more clothes, and I could barely feel my fingers. I bundled up good and walked fast to build body heat, running into Freebird on the way. He was having a break but I didn’t dream of stopping just as I was warming up.

About a mile later there seemed to be a break in the wind, so I sat under a tree and ate everything I could fit in my belly in case I had trouble stopping again. I was hungry and thirsty, but it is also hard to drink water when you’re cold. I know I should be dehydrated because I’m not drinking enough, but somehow I urinate frequently and clearly regardless. This may actually be another problem, but I’m not sure (need more electrolytes?). I forced myself to drink a liter of water anyway…and promptly peed most of it out.

Lunch was going to be at a spring in the bottom of a canyon 1/2 mile off trail. I was eager to take a long break and use the time top dry my tent for the night. It was beautiful hiking down, and blue sky in the distance lifted my cold, hungry and somewhat nauseous (no doubt from dehydration) spirits.

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A sliver of blue in the distance

Freebird was in the canyon eating and drying his tent already so I joined him there on the pine needle floor. I passed an older couple hiking out, but didn’t stop to chat…I was so ready to rest. I made a large lunch of tuna and cheese on tortillas worth some jerky, pretzels and gummy bears, not stopping until I was close to full, then I ate a Snickers. “That should hold me over,” I thought.

When Freebird hiked out, I stayed in the sleepy canyon awhile drying my tent. It was a very good break, one I needed more than I knew. It made a difference in my day, and I was suddenly climbing out of the canyon to the top of a mesa and feeling warm. I even took off some layers and unzipped my coat. My feet didn’t hurt and the trail was beautiful. It stayed cool as dark clouds and thunder always threatened from afar, but never came close enough to get me today. It was an even better day today, I think the shorter miles are paying off already. I’ll be stronger in no time, and then bigger miles will be no chore.

I followed the mesa to the top and took in a stunning view.

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Then I crossed the mesa to the other side and set up camp. I made dinner and am ready to bed early as the night has become still and quiet (it is only 8pm). It is perfect. Down to the canyons tomorrow…and finally no rain in the forecast.

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View from camp
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From my tent
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There is a new blaze in town
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View from the loo

Day 29: I Wish Thunder Rolls Were Food

Miles: 20
Camp: CDT mile 433

Today started out better than expected. I was bracing myself for a bitter cold morning, but it was not bad at all. We have certainly faced harsher mornings out here. It made morning chores even easier, and I was on my way up to the summit by 7.

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It was a beautiful climb to the top of Mt. Taylor, easily graded and complete with great scenery. Not only that, my feet didn’t hurt in the least all morning! It was like a dream.

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I summited alone and waited to see if anyone would join me…but no one arrived and I got bored, so I began the descent down the other side. There was deep snow everywhere and it made walking pretty slow. When I made it down the first snow slope I looked to the top and saw someone else arriving there…mere minutes after I left. I didn’t recognize them and had no desire to walk back up in the snow, so I continued down through more snow. I postholed a few times, once with both legs all the way to my crotch. I wish someone was there to laugh about it with me, but I am also happy to finally be alone.

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The trail then joined a dirt road that descended steeply. It was an effort to keep my pace mellow, but I want my feet to keep feeling good and I’m really in no hurry at the moment.

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Coming down Mt. Taylor
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Looking back at Mt. Taylor

At my first break I met a hiker named Freebird, but he was out of water and moved on quickly. I walked for miles trying to keep a good pace and avoid stepping on rocks, singing songs as they popped in my head…then the sky began to darken and thunder began to roll. The sound was all around me and it started to hail, wind picking up in every direction. I took out my umbrella and walked on, always with an eye out for a good spot to take lunch during a storm. It was 2:00 before I found a decent shelter, usually the time I’m done eating…so I was pretty hungry and losing steam fast.

I angled my umbrella in the tree above me to reduce the droplets and began eating. Halfway through lunch, it became a full on rain storm, one my umbrella in a tree was definitely not protecting me from. I stopped lunch early and decided to walk on. I wore my rain skirt to help keep my legs dry and carried my umbrella so it would cover me and my pack…which only helped if the wind wasn’t blowing it at an angle. My hands were cold in gloves, so I took turns holding the umbrella or sticking a hand in an armpit to warm it up. The ground turned to thick mud which clung to my shoes and made my feet feel heavy, and thunder rolled the whole time.

I actually kind of enjoyed the rainy walk, though it had really cut lunch short. I was planning a break at the next water source, so I dreamed of what I would eat there (meat sticks and gummy candy). The rain stopped and I really wish you could have seen my whole outfit. I was hoping a car would drive by only to see their reaction…I was wearing my rain skirt which goes all of the way to my ankles, and had my face covered like so:

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I think my look was pretty comical this afternoon. When I got to the point on the map where water should have been, I searched all over to no avail. It was supposed to be 600′ from trail, so I walked quite a ways looking (2 redwood trees was my best guess on that length). I came out of the woods back onto trail scratching my head…it wasn’t there as far as I could tell.

Three people were walking ahead of me, so I asked them and they said they hadn’t seen it. Next water was in 10 miles and it was already 4:00. If I went that far it would be a 25 mile day, and I’m specifically trying to avoid those numbers right now. 20 or less to give the body time to get used to this…no 25’s. But, what choice did I have? I could keep looking or keep walking.

I walked with three guys I was just meeting: Homework, Knees and Freebird. I met Freebird earlier in the day, but so briefly this was a better meeting. Homework lives in the same tiny town I lived in in northern California  (Blue Lake!!) and my friend there had told me about him before the hike.

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Me and Homework

It was fun to walk with those guys, always refreshing to meet new people on trail…but after 5 miles, I knew I didn’t want to keep going. It was just too much, and I had only taken 2 breaks today. I was fading quick. Homework and Knees were going to walk to the next water, so they donated a liter to me and that will be enough to get me through tonight and the morning. Thanks so so much you guys! You earned some karma points there…and my feet thank you too.

I set up camp in some trees to block some of the wind all around me, and it is perfect. Some cows are mooing at each other nearby, and I hope they don’t come around while I’m sleeping (what are they saying anyway?). That’ll get my heart going in the night. I’ve just finished dinner and am ready to shut my eyes early…it was a long day, but I loved it. It was a day that tried to challenge me and I succeeded at every turn. I’m happy with how things turned out, and will be glad I saved those miles for morning.

Dinner: mac and cheese with chicken and bacon

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View from the loo

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