Miles: 18 trail miles (but probably closer to 22 based on getting lost a bunch)
Camp: .6 miles from CDT mile 626
This morning we woke up thinking it would be an easier day, so we started out taking our time. We only planned about 19 miles to set ourselves up for the snow in the morning…but the trail wanted to show us a different plan for our last full day in New Mexico.
For our first mistake, Beaut and I decided to try out a cross country shortcut. We did not get lost, but somehow ended up right back on the trail section we intended to skip. This was of little concern as we chatted about raising chickens, goats and sheep. We were walking through a beautiful green valley filled with crystal clear streams. It was stunning…and it lead us about a mile off trail altogether.
We found our way back where we made our mistake and climbed up a beautiful ridge. We followed the ridge for miles, looking down into the mesmerizing valley below. We even saw a herd of…antelope? They were a bit too far away to tell for sure, but they weren’t deer or elk.
Next thing we knew, it was 11 am and we hadn’t stopped for a break. We were both losing steam fast, so we got ourselves to a picnic table at a closed campground. By the time we finished eating it had gotten cold, so we didn’t linger and got straight back to hiking.
We hiked up a steep hillside and had some great views…the trail cut out of a steep slope ahead.
As we cut away from the hillside and into the forest, the fun really began. There were large patches of snow to make our way through, some quite deep. At times we were postholing and scratching up our legs on the crusty snow…and I do realize I should have taken the time to put on pants, but I didn’t. We would follow footprints of people who trudged through before us and then find ourselves off trail. We would have to navigate through more patches of snow to find where we were supposed to be…only to lose it again. It was a lot of work, but we had fun with it.
This went on for hours, and eventually something bad almost happened. I was stepping over some snow on a fallen tree when my front leg postholed and the branches of the tree tried to impale me in the legs. I stopped just inches from the branch and paused there, surprised. Beaut made a concerned noise and I slowly got myself out of the situation. Had my foot sunk an inch deeper, it would not have been pretty…and we haven’t had a cell signal since leaving Ghost Ranch.
After that incident, my shoe began ripping open, which then began collecting all of the snow.
After all of this I looked at Beaut and said, “you know, that road walk is beginning to sound a lot more appealing.”
“I agree,” She said.
We continued on in that fashion for more miles and eventually ran across Tank. We hadn’t seen any in our group all day (there were 6 of us last night)…he was finishing a break and we asked him what his thoughts on the trail were. He wasn’t really sure at that time, so we all moved forward, postholing and sliding all around.
When we came to a road that was another alternate, Beaut and I jumped on the chance to walk a clear path for a change. Tank continued up the trail (he had taken a road alternate earlier, so hadn’t experienced as much snow as we had)…we walked down the road. The road was suddenly very nice in contrast to the sloppy wet trail up top. My shoe continued to collect snow, which actually made for painless feet today. I’ll take cold, wet feet over hurt feet any day….but I’m concerned that I’ll lose the shoe before getting to my new pair in Chama.
When we reached the trail crossing we reconvened with Tank who had waited for us. He was still deciding if he would walk the snow or not, and we decided that we had seen enough. There is winter gear waiting for us in town, but for now we just aren’t prepared. We both really wanted to meet the challenge, and we both accepted defeat after our experience today. It isn’t about taking the easy route anymore, it is about not compromising our hikes when we don’t have to. The road turns out to have been the trail up until this year…so the section we are routing around is new only to this year’s hikers.
We will now get to the pass ahead of schedule, but only by a few hours. We will finish the state of New Mexico in the morning, hike into Colorado and then hitch back into New Mexico for our last days here. I sure will miss it here, it is truly an amazing place…and now we get to be amazed by Colorado (with the proper snow gear).
Dinner: Backpackers Pantry bolognese pasta cooked in melted snow.