Date- October 13, 2019
Location- top of mesa
Elevation- 7,992 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 30.2 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 2,219.5 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 60s, 70s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- Tarantula
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 10
Today wasn’t as big as I wanted it to be – but good grief was the landscape still incredible!
I was out from under the junipers and hiking before 7:30 am. Right away the desert was dressed to impress. Mostly it’s just been the rock formations that have captured my attention.
SLOW and STEADY
I didn’t really move fast, but I moved steady. I don’t remember if I wrote about it, but I lost my hat between Pagosa and Chama – and haven’t bought a new one. Up until now, not having a hat hadn’t been a real issue. Since getting into these more exposed desert sections, I’ve definitely felt the sun getting to my head a little more – literally. While it’s resulting in a fairly nice tan (that I haven’t enjoyed since the Florida Trail) – it’s also resulting in some pretty serious sun fatigue. I’m finding I can go about 7 to 10 miles at a time through the exposure. Then, I have to sit in the shade for a good 20 or 30 minutes.
One thing that has fascinated me about this section is how utterly obvious it is that all of it must have been underwater at one point. The rock formations look like coastline, or islands, or atolls, or the bottom of a sea or giant lake. It’s incredible, and prompted me to look it up while I had service during a break.
As it turns out, I’m hiking through what used to be the Western Inland Seaway. In fact, it appears this entire trail was under that sea back in the mid Cretaceous Period. Absolutely wild.
There hasn’t been hardly any natural water, at least on trail. Yesterday, the first water source wasn’t until 15 miles out of town. It was from a spring that had been tapped into a trough. The next water source wasn’t for 30 miles. Luckily, about 10 miles from where I camped last night, there was a cache of water left at a road. From the cache today it was another 15 miles to a seeping spring about a thousand feet off trail. It had been cemented in and covered with sheet metal.
It was a little after 5 pm when I got to the spring and filtered 3 liters. I already knew I wasn’t going far enough to reach the next water source, which was about 10 miles away (and half a mile off trail). In fact, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go a half mile off trail for water in the first place. The plan was “not to” – if I can help it.
I had around 25 miles, as of the spring, and was faced with a 2,000 ft cumulative climb directly after that. It was steepish, but ultimately UN-challenging. It put me atop a giant mesa full of pinion pines, junipers, and ponderosas.
Dark was falling quickly by the time I reached the top of the mesa. The magnificent Hunter’s Moon was rising in the east. By the time the last light of dusk had faded, the glow from the full moon was shining brightly. It cast a shadow within the light of my headlamp (which I soon turned off).
The trail meandered through open meadows and dense forests for the several miles I followed it in the moonlight. It would have been a nice evening to hike all night, but I was drained. When the trail finally skirted by a sheer edge of the mesa, I threw down my sleeping pads under a large juniper. In the far distance I could see the twinkling lights of a town.
I wanted to do this stretch in 3 days originally, but it’s 56 miles or so into Grants from here. Either I do another monster day, or I have to split it up and ration my food even more. It’s 5 miles to the next water source (half a mile off trail) or 21 miles to the next water on trail – which is a trough. I’ve got about 2 liters of water at the moment. So, I think I’m going to aim for the 21 miles to the water trough…
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