Date- October 7, 2019
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 9,196 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 28 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 2,098.2 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 50s 60s
Injuries- Cut face
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- cows
Days without shower- 4
Days without laundry- 4
I was having a dream last night… when the sound of someone wailing (almost hysterically) started intensifying throughout my dream. Within the dream I began looking for the source of the sound, but couldn’t find it. I then became conscious of the dream and equally conscious that the noise was coming from my outside surroundings. I awoke. The crying sounded very loud and painful. Sitting up abruptly I immediately realized it was Jetpack; the wailing was coming from her tent. I called out, “Jetpack, are you alright!?” She didn’t respond. Then Peacock (who was in a tent much closer to her) also called out. She responded that she was okay and didn’t need anything, but felt really sick. She sobbed a minute longer – then the rest of the night was quiet. It was 2:30 am when this happened.
H.U.F. and NO PUFF
In the morning we asked if she was okay, and she was chipper and in good spirits. She said she’d been having crippling cramps, to the point that she couldn’t even move. When she got up to use the bathroom, she was in so much pain she couldn’t even get back to her tent for nearly 20 minutes. She ended up telling us the problem was what they called “H.U.F.” in the medical business – also known as “Hung Up Farts.” We all had a good laugh!
New Mexico really showed its ass today, even if it was a beautiful ass. I was hiking by 8 am. Within the first 3 miles, I was already lost off the trail with no idea how it happened. It wasn’t a big deal, and I was able to get back onto it without backtracking. Nonetheless, I was perplexed – trying to figure out where I’d strayed off.
Today ended up being a major lesson on how confusing the trail in New Mexico can be. One second you were on the trail, the next second you weren’t. Whether it was cow trails, other trails, subtle side roads, or what have you, you had to pay attention.
THE TRAIL LESS TRAVELED
I got lost no less than four times today. Out of those four times, two of them ended up with me bleeding and frustrated. One of the more confusing aspects of today was the dilemma of literally three different official CDT trails popping in and out of existence – all of them signed. There was an older CDT route that still had CDT markers on it. There was the current CDT route that my maps and GPS reflected. And then there was a brand new CDT trail that wasn’t on the maps or GPS — but was still freshly blazed with CDT markers and signs. It was a cluster!
The terrain itself wasn’t bad. It was mostly forested with well graded climbs. By all accounts, today should have been a breeze. For the most part it was – except for the getting lost part.
The first time I got lost to the point of serious inconvenience was when I was following the old trail. When I noticed I was off the trail in my maps, but still on a marked CDT, it appeared to be leading me to a point that would rejoin with the current CDT. Unfortunately, that ended up not being the case. Instead, it led me up a small climb onto a forested ridge that dead ended on a small peak with a steep 300 foot drop-off for 180 degrees around it. The only way to get back to the trail was going back, or tackling a steep bushwhack for a little less than half a mile down and across to the trail. I opted for the bushwhack. In the process of trying not to tumble down the hill, I stumbled hard into low ponderosa branches that smashed into my face and cut the upper bridge of my nose. The cut didn’t hurt at all, but the nose impact left my eyes watering and my irritation level simmering. I got over it.
Eventually, after nearly half an hour of lost time, I got back on the current trail as depicted on my map. A couple miles later, I ran into the brand new trail that was marked as the CDT. I thought it would surely be more direct and efficient than the current CDT, so I decided to chance it. I followed the new trail for several miles, and all it did was crisscross, swoop, and bend by the current trail. It soon became apparent that the new trail was unbelievably more inefficient than the current trail – which was simply following forest service roads.
I LOVE THE FOREST
I don’t mind a dirt road every now and again. However, if you’re going to put a trail that’s taking you to the same place as the dirt road, then you might as well make it more efficient. They didn’t do this. The trail literally followed the same route as the road, except they put about 100 unnecessary turns and bends in it that added who knows how much more distance. The bends are necessary to prevent and thwart water erosion, so I get it. Having said that… this was just painful to walk when you were basically in sight of the forest road the entire time.
TRAIL BLAZE PAIN
Finally, the new trail took me down into some heavily trafficked range cattle land. Very soon I couldn’t tell what was new CDT and what was cow trail. The cows were using all of them! There were no signs or CDT markers, and the new CDT wasn’t on the map or GPS. Once I was thoroughly lost and had no idea if I was on CDT or cow trail, I finally gave up and trail blazed in the direction of the forest road (that was the current CDT). Unfortunately, that trail blaze took me through about 200 feet of dense scrub oak, underbrush, and briars – scratching up my legs and arms to the point of bleeding in several areas. Not to mention, it took me nearly 20 minutes to push through that overgrown mess.
A PLEASANT SURPRISE
Once I was back on the official trail, it was easy street for the rest of the day – which was about 3 miles. It was dark when I reached the spring that everyone was aiming for… where a pleasant surprise awaited. “Nom” was there! The female Aussie I’d hiked with through Glacier and hadn’t seen since before Helena, Montana! She’d been ahead all this time, but now we’d finally caught up. She doesn’t hike big miles, but she’s consistent and doesn’t spend a lot of time in towns. Now that the hike has been in its closing stretch, she’s been taking more time to relax. Hence, why we caught up.
I’m cowboy camped in some dense bushes by Smiles and Nom, who are also cowboy camped. The plan is to do around 15 miles into a place called Ghost Ranch tomorrow. Twigsy, Sharkbait, and Leap Frog will all be finishing there – so tomorrow will be the last day I get to hike with/around them. It’s sad…
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