Although it looked threatening and I put up my tent, no rain fell. I got up at 5 AM
It was 21 miles to Cuba NM. I had been doing 21 miles for the past few days to insure on my last day I’d get to Cuba today. My water stop was in 6.6 miles – piece of cake. I was on trail hiking at 6 AM. That’s a little late, but today I sat and ate my Clif Bar and Granola Bar while enjoying my MIO Energy (with caffeine). I thought that should give me a little energy boost and brighten my spirit.
As I typically do I calculate the time it takes to complete some mileage using 25 minutes/mile. My water stop should be in 2 hours and 45 minutes or 8:45 AM. So off I went. I can do this.
The trail goes from mesa to mesa. Between them you typically hike down to a saddle and back up to the next. I thought I was making good progress, but I wasn’t. My thoughts kept drifting to quitting. I was pushing to get to the water yet it wasn’t necessary. I had already decided to end my hike so why was I pushing. Then I kept thinking about all the miles after the water stop that would take me hours and hours. I realized I was done, kaput. It was the end. I just couldn’t push any more. Maybe I could get to a road and hitch into Cuba. I had hit my wall.
At 9:15 AM I finally got to the spring. I filtered one bottle, added Crystal Light Lemonade flavoring, shook it and chugged it down. Bliss. Then two guys wander into the spring. I say hi, but they don’t look like hikers. They have small backpacks and are carrying shovels and other tools. I come to learn they are the trail maintenance crew for this section and they have come to work on the heavily-silted spring’s trough. Hmmm, that means they’ve driven here and their truck is nearby. I ask if I can catch a ride to Cuba and they say sure after they do their work here and some more trail work somewhere else.
Then I realize that this is how my adventure will end. Today will be my last hiking day. Right here I can relax. I am done. It is officially over.
Over the next two hours I try to help them shovel muck, silt, sand, and make the spring’s trough good for hikers for another 10 years. Their names are Charlie and David. Around lunch time we are done so we pack up and leave. At the truck Charlie says he’ll drive me to Cuba while David stays behind to eat his lunch. The truck is small and the cab fits only two people. So off we go and Charlie drive me into Cuba, drops me at a motel, and heads off.
I am sad, but the pressure is off to make those daily big miles. I contact my friends and family to tell them where I am. As I do it hits me. I miss those special people who have helped me in this journey. I need them so much. My voice breaks and a tear forms. It really is over. All the months to prepare. All the gear I bought. All the energy expended to get to the start. And most of all my long distance hiking is over. The end of a part of my life.
Most of the day I was on trails which were up high and on the edge of a mesa. I had great views.
This morning when I hoisted my pack my back screamed. It was all the deep chest coughing I did at night that aggravated it. It almost brought tears to my eyes. All I could do was ignore it and hike. This is not fun.
The only good water was 13 miles later. It would take me until after lunch to get there. Although I had enough water to get me there I was dreaming about chugging one of my 0.7L SmartWater bottles with lemonade. Then with a mile to go someone put 15 gallon jugs of fresh pure water under a bush for us CDT hikers. No need to filter. I guzzled down two bottles of lemonade and one of MIO. Then I filled everything up and hiked on. That was amazing, the best! It couldn’t come at a better time.
Finally a sad note… The trail has beaten me. I will be ending my hike when I get to Ghost Ranch and meet up with Cornell and Mary. My sickness and pains has made hiking too difficult. I’m making my miles, but I not having any fun. I did this as a physical challenge and as of now the brutality of this trail has beaten me. I just don’t feel like going on. So once I get to Ghost Ranch and then to Cornell’s I’ll buy a plane ticket and return home.
P.S. Met Shortcut who chatted with me while I lay in my tent. I told him to stay away because of the pestilence that I have. I never saw his face. He told me Masshole, Stummy, and Halfmile were behind me. I haven’t seen anyone for the last four days.
On the second day of this journey the glands in the back of my throat became swollen. Over the next two weeks I felt them whenever I swallowed. However they really didn’t affect my hiking. Then about a week ago my lungs started to get congested and the my glands got better. Now this has affected my hiking. I just can’t get in enough oxygen especially during climbs. All night long I cough and hack trying to clear my lungs. For example today when I stopped for lunch all I did is cough for the first few minutes.
The morning I left PieTown I swung my pack up to my shoulders and pulled a lower back muscle. I’ve tried to ignore it, but it continues. It is further aggravated when I have those deep lung-clearing coughs. It’s just there most of the time, a dull ache.
My feet and blisters have healed enough that I don’t notice them. My hands are better after I put liquid bandage on all the splits.
I started the day on trails. They wandered through pine forests. Sometimes the trail went through stands of birch. There were several climbs this morning and I was breathing hard to get over them. My congestion isn’t helping. At 3.3 miles I stopped for much needed water, but the area was in shade and my hands were freezing. So I got the minimum amount I needed and moved on. The next water was over 10 miles away.
By lunch the trail had turned into a road walk. Sigh! And by late afternoon I got to the next water source in a canyon which I had to climb down into. I got enough for tomorrow and went a short distance to my cowboy campsite.
I got up at 4:30 AM and prepared to leave the Motel 6. I headed out just after 5. I needed to cut through town to get back on trail and the road walk to the trail head. I had two major climbs. I like being up high and seeing the views. At one point I could see Grants NM far below. The rest of the day I was on trail which suited me just fine. That is, I wasn’t bored. Another hiker, Slapshot, passed me and said that Kenobe was behind him, but I never saw Kenobe. I think it will be cold tonight at 9172 feet. I am trying to make Cuba NM at the end of my fifth day. Each day I do one or two extra miles to do that.
Although it was a road walk the canyon I traversed was classic Southwest. Tans, brick reds and mauves were striated in the worn and eroded rock formations.
I pushed to get to Grants NM and with the help of Carole, a local trail angel who drove me, I got checked into the Motel 6 which is a short walk from Walmart where I can resupply shop. While in the motel it was so nice to chat with family on the phone and catch up. After food and a shower I felt like a new man. It’s only a short break as I plan on getting back on trail tomorrow.
The day started out rough. I had a 10 mile road walk on asphalt NM-117. Hours and hours of marching along listening to various podcasts. If someone stopped and asked if I wanted to go home, I would have said yes.
Then I finished to Cebolla Alternate and got on the CDT main trail. Instantly I forgot about that awful road walk. I was fully engrossed in hiking through the largest and rockiest lava field I’ve ever encountered. Miles and miles of brutal chunks of rock. The trail was marked by hundreds of cairns. Although it was tough I liked the challenge.
But after so many miles I was glad to transition to Bonita-Zuni Alternate, which is where I’m camping. I found a windmill and tank for water, and then walked about a mile to find a level campsite under a pine tree. I’m cowboy camping tonight.
I was cold overnight. I didn’t sleep well. This morning when I woke my sleeping bag was damp, the inside of my tent was wet and the outside was frosted. Regardless I packed it all up and headed out. I put my wet and sandy tent in the back outside pocket to keep it from soaking my other stuff. Today I wore my down vest and gloves as I started my hike. My hike started on a road, transitioned to a trail and now I’m back on yet another road. Unlike the first road which was dirt and sometimes mucky mud, the latter is NM-117, a real highway. I’ll be hiking about 10 miles on it tomorrow. I’ve been listening to podcasts to help pass time. I’m doing longer miles so that I get to Grants NM in two more days. When I stopped for the day I took out my tent and sleeping bag and dried them off. Right now I’m camped about a tenth of a mile from the highway. I hear the cars, but they shouldn’t be a problem. I’m next to a solar well. When the sun shines, clear beautiful water pours from its supply pipe into a disgusting cattle tank. So I catch it right out of the pipe. So I have water at the start and hopefully water at the end but nothing between. I’ll have to conservative.
I woke around 4 AM to the sound of a downpour hitting the roof above my head. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Maybe I wouldn’t be leaving early this morning. Yet at 4:45 I got up and packed up quietly so as to not awaken the three other hikers in the “Penthouse”. I got on my rain jacket, and pants expecting the worst. Downstairs one other hiker, Speedstick, was up. She was eating breakfast, making coffee, and writing in the registry. After she was done I wrote a short thank you in it too. I had already put in my donation the day before. I ate my cereal as she silently went about her chores.
By then the rain had subsided, a few birds were chirping, and it was light enough to hike. Silently I slipped out, opened my umbrella and was on my way.
Although I was hoping the rain was done, a few minutes later it started to pour again. A cool wind blew. I pulled up my hoody, got on my rain gloves and hiked along. The dirt road now became a mud road. My shoes were caked. I was worried I would walk right out of them. Nevertheless I continued to slog along.
The water report showed that at about mile 15 was Thomas Mtn. Ranch. It said water was at the building. As approached a lady stuck her head out of the building, said hi and come in. Muddy shoes and all I stepped into her home, met her husband, another hiker, Mudbug, and another man whose truck had gotten stuck up the road. The couple were in their 80s. I dropped my pack and sat on an old couch. We all chatted for a few minutes while I got out my lunch and started to eat. Then they left Mudbug and I in their home alone while they drove off to help the fellow whose truck was stuck. Just as they were leaving Speedstick arrived. While they were gone we three hikers chatted. When I finished my lunch I headed back out onto the wet mucky road. Six miles later I found a camping spot on the side of the road and put up my tent. Such is the life of a simple thru-hiker. Oh, and as soon as my tent was up I had some leftover cherry pie. Yum!
I was just 20 miles from PieTown NM and I set it as my goal. As I hiked the skies looked more and more threatening. It got colder. It sprinkled a little, but I made it before it started to rain. Now it is even colder and the rain is constant. But I thought this was the desert. Who knew?
I’m now at Nita’s Toaster House. I’ve done all my chores, that is, I got my resupply and special request package. I got a shower, and washed my clothes. They are no longer stiff with sweat. My poison ivy rash looks worse without the dirt patina. I had a restaurant pulled-pork BBQ dinner and pie dessert. I mean I am in PIETOWN.
Now the big question… It is supposed to be cold and rainy tomorrow just like now. Several other hikers are going to take a zero. Should I do the same? What to do? What to do?
Also I have changed my route to do the Cebolla Alternative and reduce my distance to Grants NM from 130 miles to 85 miles. Several other hikers here are doing the same.
P.S. Hikers and others here at Nita’s Toaster House Hostel: Mark and David, two brothers traveling the Southwest, Footprint and Lola, Stummy and Masshole, who hiked the PCT in 2014. MIA: One-Pole who went to Reserve NM for his resupply; Moxie, where are you?