Exciting moments from the week:
At one point we needed to cross the Rio Vallecitos. Someone had laid a log over the water and decided to call it a bridge. I’d had enough of wading across water in the Gila River Valley — all those slippery rocks causing me to fall in the water. “Be brave,” I told myself. Halfway across my legs started shaking. There was no going back, only forwards. I tried to look straight ahead (not at the rushing water) but still needed to place my feet. In hindsight, not a smart choice but I made it across. John was smarter, he sat and scooched his way across the log.
Yesterday we encountered the long-anticipated section of post holing and blowdown, beginning about six miles south of the New Mexico/Colorado border. Took us about six hours and was quite exhilarating at times. Twice my foot and shoe got stuck in deep holes and I had to dig out with my hands. At one point the trail got lost under thick blowdown and snow, forcing us to hike with our phones in our hands, using Guthook to lead us step by step. Memorable moments discussed with other hikers this morning at the Rio Chama Espresso shop. I believe the term is ‘bragging rights.’
And we crossed into Colorado this morning after hiking 555 miles in New Mexico! We’ve hiked 34 days, averaging 16.3 miles per day. Taken 11 zero days, mostly due to shin splints (better but not gone). One state down, five to go, approximately 2400 more miles. Deadline: September/October Montana snow.
Hiker post-holes up to his neck!
Hiker loses shoe in post-hole and hikes out in his Crocs!
Hikers glissade 100 feet down mountainside!
Hiker retreats south to Chama after ski bindings break!
All this snow excitement awaits when we return to the trail. Right now we are in a hotel room in Chama, waiting for John’s shin splints to calm down. (My gosh, if we can just be patient and run through the entire list of hiker injuries, we’ll be bullet-proof by mid-Colorado).
John’s shin splits began hurting two days out of Cuba, after a particularly challenging day (see previous blog post). We left the trail two days later, hitching a ride north to Chama. Monday morning we’ll hitch a ride back to highway 84, hiking the 88 miles to return to Chama.
There is a bottleneck of hikers in town. Some are waiting for snow to melt before they continue north; others are planning to flip north to Wyoming, flopping back to Colorado later in the year.
And this is a below average snow year.
So we’re having fun painting postcards for our granddaughter, watching Andy Griffith and The Office reruns. Taking hot baths and reading. Eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs with cold milk. All the usual zero day stuff. Funny how our thruhike-endurance-challenge keeps getting interrupted by these mini-vacations.
Will we reach Canada? Stay tuned.
Leaving Cuba on Monday, we gained 3,244 feet in elevation, camping at 10,143 feet. A dramatic change from the canyons of New Mexico, we found ourselves surrounded by running streams, green grass, evergreens, and aspen groves. The water was so abundant, it ran through the meadows and over the trails.
I really enjoyed the hiking and was feeling strong and upbeat. But throughout the day, the weight of carrying six days of food started to take a toll on our feet and shins. Our shoes got wet from the flooded trails turned into streams, plus we had some rather adventurous stream crossings. I would need to pass John my pack over the stream and strategize the safest way across. At one point the trail was covered in blown down trees and we had to scramble over a mess of trunks and limbs.
But this was nothing compared to the next day...
Notes from Tuesday, May 18. A PARTICULARLY CHALLENGING DAY.
What can you say about a day that begins with frozen shoes and socks? It began snowing at 6:30am, continuing until noon when it turned to rain. We hiked through flooded meadows that soaked our shoes. It hailed before the day was done. We walked through peanut butter mud that added pounds to our feet and inches to our height, causing us to slip and slide up steep inclines. Hiked 19 miles in 13 hours. We hadn’t planned on such a long day but failed to get water when available, forcing us to hike longer than John’s shin splints could handle, causing re-injury. And saddest part of the day, I got angry late in the day. Cussed a lot. We argued for the first time on trail and that was heartbreaking.
In hindsight, how did this day make me feel? I actually enjoyed the snow part, it was pretty and I’d rather hike in cold weather than hot. In cooler temperatures you don’t need to carry or drink as much water. I can live with wet feet as long as my core stays warm. The challenge came when I forgot to view this day as an adventure and a privilege. A choice to be hiking the CDT rather than living a comfortable and predictable indoor life.
We’re having fun 95 percent of the time on the CDT. We’ve never considered quitting. But as every adventurer knows, fun times don’t make the best stories. So I’m grateful for May 18. A day that gave us many stories to tell and re-tell, growing ever more challenging and exceptional in our memories.
On Tuesday, May 11, we left the hotel at about 5:40, ready to jump back on trail. Healed (mostly), resupplied, and rested. Emma agreed to help us out by driving us 22 miles north, cutting down on mileage and supplies needed to make it to Cuba. But fate decided to make it a bit more challenging, giving Emma a migraine headache. These are very bad for her. She was in such pain, she sobbed. Threw up many times. We stayed with her until 10am when she was feeling better. Sad to say goodbye but we know she’s strong and heading to an exciting new job as a trail worker at the Grand Canyon.
As planned, we only hiked ten miles the first day, wanting to gauge the effect of hiking on our shin splints. I am pleasantly surprised that our shin swelling continues to diminish and John has fewer blisters.
We were surprised by the terrain and surroundings of the hike between Grants and Cuba. We were expecting a flat desert walk but instead it was much like Canyon Lands. Plateaus and canyons. Ascents and descents, some quite steep. Beautiful and challenging.
We walked right by a coiled rattlesnake at the end of the day on Thursday. We were exhausted but John found the energy to do a jump and a dance when he heard it. Made me laugh out loud.
In the evenings we’re exhausted and grateful to be in the luxury of our tent. For example, Thursday evening we start by eating something salty then move on to lemon tea and salted dark chocolate. The next course is a little broth, followed by pasta carbonara (ramen noodles, parmesan, olive oil, beef jerky, and rehydrated tomatoes). I finished my day watching PBS British costume drama on my phone and checking out the route for tomorrow, all while nestled in my sleeping bag on my air mattress and pillow.
We’re feeling the need to drink more water in the heat. Must be around 82 degrees although it feels warmer in the sun and sand. Water supplies are about 15 miles apart, meaning we have to carry 3-4 liters to get us through. Luckily our food bags are almost empty, so the weight isn’t too bad.
I have felt a bit nauseous lately. Can’t stand the thought of eating some of our standard hiker fare, especially tortillas, pop tarts, trail mix, oatmeal, and peanut butter. Basically everything that will be coming in our resupply boxes. I’m looking forward to eating in town and mixing up our food bags to include more breads, cheese, granola, instant milk, nuts, and chips.
On Saturday morning we hiked ten (miles) by ten (o’clock)! Woke up at 4am, were hiking by 5:05am. Visions of chocolate shakes, cinnamon rolls, and real breakfast dancing in our heads. Such a delicious breakfast at Cuban Cafe! I must have sighed over a hundred times. Next we checked into the Del Prado Hotel (delightfully dilapidated), bought some groceries, then got down to the business of relaxing. The perfect balance to being on trail, with all the beauty of nature, physical output, uncertainty, and exhaustion is a zero day spent in a hotel, with its rest, tidying, preparing, and mental/creative pursuits (writing, painting, reading).
The next 180 miles is taking some planning. The CDT doesn’t go through any towns for the next 370 miles or so, meaning we’ll have to chose where to hitch a ride off trail to pick up supplies. Looks like we’ll be leaving Cuba with six days of food, hitching to Chama twice between here and Pagosa Springs. Expect to hit Colorado around May 28, as we expected. Hoping the snow melts before we arrive!
I developed shin splints about eight days ago while on trail, John’s shins splints followed soon after. It was a very painful experience having to hike out. At one point coming down Mangus Mt., it was too much and I sobbed. Heaving sobs. Great release. But we made it to the Toaster House in Pietown and got a ride to a hotel in Grants, NM, (thanks Jetta!). The joy in entering a hotel room, a room recently renamed “The Recupertion Clinic for Over-Enthusiastic and Over-Confident Hikers.”
Remember when I wrote in my first blog post that I think we got this... hoho haha.
We’ve done a lot of research and acquired all the stuff. KTtape, ice, hiking pole wrapped in washcloth, ace bandages, and ibuprofen. We ordered new shoes, orthotic shoe inserts, and compression socks. Massaging our shins until we squeal and stretching afterwards. Hopefully back on trail Tuesday, continuing to head north, flip-flopping in October to finish the Pietown to Grants road walk.
To help pass the time, we look out our window to see other hikers walking into Grants. Well done! We hope to see you again soon on trail.
Since I last added to our blog, much of our time was spent hiking The Gila Alternate, a route through the Gila River Canyon. This route is one of the favorite sections for many CDT hikers due to the availability of water, hot springs, and the amazing canyon walls accented with towering rock spires. Hikers cross the river 200+ times over the 7-8 days hiking the alternate.
Three days into the alternate, we stopped at Doc Campbell’s, a small store that supports hikers and other backcountry travelers. We picked up our first mailed resupply here—way too much food, probably close to twenty pounds each. I’m seriously rethinking our strategy in regards to food weight to calorie ratio.
At first I found the river crossings and the canyon enchanting. It was relatively flat, the water was refreshing on warm days, we got to soak in the Jordan Hot Springs all by ourselves, and the lush surroundings were a welcome change from the New Mexico desert. But as the weather turned colder, the romance somewhat cooled...
Notes from Wednesday, April 28
This shall forever be known as the cold adventurous day. It was a bit chilly starting out but I felt really good and strong. Daydreamed about the future, looked at the amazing surroundings. Tall cliff walls surrounding us with spires made of stone. The excitement began when I slipped and fell in the cold water. I fell down then I fell forward. I freaked about my phone getting wet. Cried out to John for help. Couldn’t stand up by myself because my backpack was so heavy with food. When I got up I was relieved to find everything in my fanny pack was dry, including my phone. I had slipped on a slippery rock and lost balance due to the heavy load high on my pack. We brought too much weight in food. I want to pack less in the future even if it means less food for the trail.
And now I was wet. My gloves and the sleeves and around the waist of my puffy coat and shirts. We figured it was in the low 50s... until sleet began to fall from the sky. I walked as fast as I could, hoping to dry out my clothes with body heat. Well, I slipped in the river two more times, getting one glove and my shirts wet each time. Cold!
The other exciting moment is when the river had rock walls along both banks and I scaled a wall. On my first attempt I knew I’d never make it with my pack so I headed back down, took off my pack, and threw it above onto the ledge. A bit stupid, dangerous, and the funnest part of the hiking day.
We stopped at 3:30, after nine hours of hiking and I’ve never been happier to be in my down clothes, in my down sleeping bag, in my tent. John’s making hot tea and we’ll eat soon. A difficult but memorable day.