Well the stretch from Cuba to Ghost Ranch was slow… On purpose… There is some serious snow left in Colorado, so we are taking our time.
Over four days we hiked over the San Pedro peaks, through snow and sloshy mud fields. I saw a bunch of elk on day two! We played the board game Carcassonne at least twice a day, sometimes thrice. The scenery was gorgeous, classic New Mexico variety– from pine trees and mountains to sandstone layered mesas and sweet smelling sage brush. Sometimes I rubbed it under the brim of my hat to get that fresh whiff when the breeze kicked up.
The last night we saw an epic moonrise. So cool. I geeked out and said I never wanted to grow up so people started calling me Peter Pan, but Slingshot is still my name. After all, Uberdude got me a slingshot from a gas station, which I’m now going to be carrying to Canada. What fun!
Snow has been the topic of hiker talk. The San Juans look pretty scary. To get to Cumbres Pass, we will have to walk through some serious snow at 10,000′ before hitching to Chama. There, I will receive my snowshoes, microspikes, and my ice axe for the San Juans. So far, we’re not quite sure if anybody ahead of us has walked the entire high route from Chama to Pagosa Springs. RightOn has been discussing staying up high on the ridge so we don’t have to walk on sketchy slopes that have Avalanche potential. Furthermore, I’ll probably be camping on top of snow, so we will sleep two under my tarp (embrace the brotality) and use our snowshoes and microspikes as snow anchors for stakes, since regular stakes don’t really work in the snow.
Anyways, who knows what will happen. I’m pretty excited and nervous. Next time I post here I will have crossed the Colorado border! Can’t believe I only have about 90 miles left of my 650ish miles through New Mexico! So exciting.
Ghost Ranch is beautiful. There’s also all-you-can-eat meals and wifi. And a piano. I wrote a new song! Kinda hard to hear though… Cheers, Slingshot.
Well I think I’ve walked nearly 400 miles. It feels like I just started yesterday. This latest section was filled with road walking, cool open-range scenery, and long water hauls.
After taking an awesome zero in Pie Town at the Toaster House, a hostel run by Nita, we walked northwards on a dirt highway following the “Ley red route”. Ley maps are the maps that most people use, and they don’t always follow the official CDT National Scenic Trail route. This particular alternate took us slightly to the east along dirt and jeep roads, through some canyons, over a cool rim, across a lava field (El Malpais), and through two more beautiful canyons to Grants. It was a four day, 80ish mile journey.
Our first day we left Pie Town after I had a slice of pecan pie and ice cream at 8am. We walked 17 miles without any water sources to a trail angel’s property, the Thomas Mountain Ranch. They had signs on their fence telling hikers to come in and grab water, even if they weren’t there. Anzie and John had a cool tin building with a wood stove heater and lots of couches and chairs to sit and talk. It was hard to leave! After that, I walked about 6 or 7 more miles on my own, jamming out to my music library in alphabetical order (I’m now on the L’s). I came to a windmill-solarpanel-tank structure and waited there for Cloud, RightOn, Tink, and Uberdude. I cranked through some pages of Moby Dick. Learning a lot about whaling.
Speaking of Tink, he caught up to us in Pie Town and, after a debaucherous night of socializing in the Toaster House, now goes by the name “Cowboy Stripper”. It just sorta stuck. He is also now hiking in a pair of jorts (ow). He intends to cut one inch off of these jorts each town stop. It should be fun.
Anyways, we camped at that tank for the night. We cooked dinner in a dry cow trough to shield the wind. We were surrounded by rolling hills speckled with sage brush, cacti, and small juniper trees. I was waiting for a herd of elk or wild horses to come running by. Apparently they have reintroduced Mexican wolves in this area too. I ate my Knorr’s cheddar broccoli rice supplemented with ramen and tuna in silence with the others as the sun sank below the horizon. The crescent moon popped up above us as dusk grew darker.
I cowboy camped that night and woke up to frost and condensation on my sleeping bag. Not a big deal. It’s becoming a pretty regular thing at this point. I just have to air out my bag , pad, and groundsheet at some point during the day. We hauled water for about 18 miles that day to the next windmill. We cut through a cool canyon that had petroglyphs on some of the rocks. Lots of other hikers we met from the Toaster House were hiking near us or with us every now and then throughout the day. The windmill was spinning hard, and we got fresh water from the well to drink from. No need to bleach that stuff. Next up was a road walk along a paved highway for 6ish miles until we hiked up onto a rim for the evening. This rim overlooked El Malpais, a huge lava field that we would cross the next day. RightOn suggested that we push ourselves to get on top of the rim, and our work paid off. We had an amazing sunset and a pretty cool camp spot. Probably one of the most scenic evenings of the trail so far. There were a few mountains in the distance where the sun was setting. For a second I thought one was Mt. Taylor, the 11K peak we climb right out of Grants, but I was wrong. They were the canyons that we would be heading through by the end of the next day.
The next morning we woke up pretty late. After eating my oatmeal while still in bed, we hiked along the rim for a few miles and then had to find a cross-country route to scramble down what was pretty much a cliff. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, just took some time, and we also had a great view of La Ventana Arch, a natural arch on the cliff across from us. Pretty neat stuff. We came back down to the highway for a few more miles until we cut across the lava field for 8-10 miles. Those were hard miles, and the sun was beating down pretty hard. My reflective umbrella dolphinetly came in handy. After the lava crossing, we hiked up into Bonita Canyon for our last water source. The windmill was not pumping, so I had to take water from the nasty cow trough. I bleached it, but it still had an awful after taste and was oddly foamy. A little bit of drink powder mix helped a bit. It was our last water source until Grants, too. About 22 miles away.
We knocked out about 7 more miles and slept under some tall pine trees. The next morning we woke up to a 6am alarm and RightOn screamed “superbuffet!”. Apparently, there was a glorious Asian superbuffet in Grants across from the Motel 6 where we were staying. One could say we walked swiftly into Grants and immediately crushed the superbuffet until we could not move.
We are taking another zero today in hopes to prolong our arrival in Colorado in hopes that some snow will melt. It’s looking pretty hairy up there in the San Juans. Should be fun, but I won’t be there until the last few days of May/early June.
I’m feeling great and starting to get the hang of things. Of course, good company has added to my trail happiness, but I’ve found that I get pretty darn stoked about the act of hiking through beautiful places. This trail is amazing, and I can’t imagine how much better it will become as I continue northwards. On to Cuba!
I just finished two legs: Silver City to Doc Campbell’s Post and then from there to Pie Town. I think I covered nearly 200 miles over 10 days. Mileage is really hard to get right because maps and apps estimate them differently and there are also different alternates all the time.
Out of Silver City, I caught up to Überdude, Cloud, Popeye, and Gnome God. We were calling ourselves team grocery since we had so much food for the next 3 days. On top of that, we were passing around a heavy can of spinach as a joke for Popeye.
That first day we road walked and then entered Gila National Forest. We got a little lost once when we tried to take a shortcut… Moral of the story: don’t take shortcuts! After that it actually started to sprinkle rain a bit as we set up camp and while I ate my Mac and cheese infused with tuna, summer sausage, and real cheese.
The next day we climbed up and climbed down over some wooded ridges– feels good to walk under the shade of some trees and get up high on a trail! I walked about a mile down the wrong trail junction, how fun. By the end of the day, we made finally made it to the famous Gila River. Little did we know, we were about to cross the river 215 times over the next few days.
We set up camp with wet shoes, socks, and feet (there’s no use taking off your shoes for each crossing), and I started a fire. Waking up and putting on those frigid socks and shoes was quite miserable. However, we only had 10 miles to Doc Campbell’s post to pick up our resupply.
After a quick morning, we arrived and picked up our mail drops at the store. Very interesting guy Doc Campbell… I got some homemade coffee ice cream. From there we set off down the road again (so many road walks) loaded up with 7 days of food for the next 140 miles. It’s a lot of stuff. We went down a little canyon that turned into an amazing slot canyon (walls really high to your right and left) until we arrived at the middle fork of the Gila River. We did about 15 more crossings that evening to make it to Jordan Hot springs where we would soak our weary bones in the morning.
That night, some of the other people were in the hot springs at night and were crossing the river back to camp when they came across two hikers walking up the river with no headlamps in the dark. RightOn! and Handstand joined us at our fire. Awesome fellas.
After skinny dipping in the hot springs the next morning, I busted out 20 miles along the river to catch up to Popeye. That was probably my hardest day yet. On account of there not really being a trail all the time, the rocks, and the slippery crossings.
Still, it was absolutely beautiful. Rivers and streams, especially those with trout in them, are my absolute favorite landscapes to walk through. My mind gets lost watching all the pools and hearing the rush and flow. It’s even more amazing when the light gets low and reflects special ways through the canyon. I’m excited just thinking about it.
That night we had a great camp and fire, but awoke to frozen socks and shoes. We actually dipped them in the frigid river in order to “warm them up”. Jeezypeezy. However, we crossed the river for the last time that day and walked through a new dry canyon where we saw a baby rattlesnake and then up on top of some grassy plains with beautiful views.
The next few days to Pie Town were filled with walking along jeep roads, questionable water sources (“oh, that’s cow poop”), lots of new people, turkey hunters, cold nights, cows, dogs on private property, momentarily joining the “official” trail, and a magical beer truck that gave us Bud Ice. Being part of a group has been a lot of fun, especially at night when you have someone to talk to and laugh with before going to bed.
I’m sort of missing my guitar, but good company, Moby Dick, and talk of making a Settlers of CDT game has kept me pretty darn happy. I’m having a blast and feel great. Except when I wake up with frost all over my sleeping bag which sometimes happens when I cowboy camp.
Pie Town has been fun. The food is amazing. The pies have lots of calories and are delicious. All hikers stay at a hostel called the Toaster House run by a trail angel named Nita. We were able to slurp back a few beers (liquid calories), write a song with the house guitar (coming soon sometime), and create Settlers of the CDT based off of the Settlers of Catan board game. For those nerds out there: resources are water, shoes, ramen, snickers, and maps; roads are trails; settlements are mail drops; cities are full resupply towns; knights are ultralight mooches (take a resource from someone); victory point d cards are new states; road building is trail crew; monopoly is ultra yogi; year of plenty is trail magic; longest road is longest trail; largest army is lightest pack (most ultralight mooches); ports are hiker boxes (exchanging/trading); there’s more that I can show later. It doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, but it’s a board game that we made and I’m super stoked about it…
It’s been pretty fun hanging out with about 20 other hikers, but it already feels like it’s time to get on the trail again.