Date- October 14, 2019
Elevation- 6,414 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 50.3 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 2,269.8 miles
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy, 60s, 70s
Injuries- Sore feet
Pain level- 6/10
Wildlife encounters- cows
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 11
*** The past few days before this one now have a TON of photos on them if you’d like to go back and check them out. They’re pretty spectacular. I apologize, but I was doing about a 200 mile stretch with very bad reception and was unable to keep up with uploading photos. It’s extremely time consuming. I hope you enjoy!***
Phew! Cranked out another monster day! This is the first time I’ve done two 50+ mile days in the same week. Although I feel more sore this time, I’m feeling really good overall.
Today was actually a bit dull again. The trail was almost exclusively forest service roads covered in rocks. All the highlights today came from human interactions.
ZERO DARK 30
I was up around 6 am and hiking in the dark by about 6:30. What’s more, I realized why I don’t care much for waking up early and walking in the dark of morning. It’s because you overlook things when you’re packing up – especially when you’re cowboy camping. In this case, I left my overpriced ear buds lying somewhere under that juniper. It’ll be a lucky squirrel that finds them!
It had been warm where I slept. However, as the cold light of day began to break, the trail dipped down about a hundred feet into a small depression. In the few short minutes that I was within that depression, the temperature difference became drastically cooler. So much so… that my hands froze to the point of having shooting pains (within those few minutes). There wasn’t even a lick of breeze! It was crazy!
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The trail soon became a dirt road and remained that way for the rest of the day. Good for speed – but not for feet, muscles, or hip flexors.
There were a lot of vehicles out and about (which I figured were hunters). As it were, they were mostly foragers. In one instance, a green pickup full of Native Americans pulled over and asked me if I’d been collecting any pinion nuts. I confessed I didn’t know what those were, and they laughed. They then showed me a handful of them. I instantly declared, “Oooh, pinion pine nuts!” I told them I hadn’t known I could eat them, and they informed me they were like sunflower seeds.
After they left, I stopped at the next pinion pine and picked a few nuts from the pods hanging from the branches. I cracked one of them open, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a pine nut (just like the expensive ones you get at the supermarket). I was in shock! This was golden foraging info I feel like I should have known.
I ended up not picking anymore because every pod was covered in sap. I needed to make miles anyway. By noon I had 17 miles (and skipped the 5 mile water source). Then, I took a 40 minute lunch at the 21 mile water trough – a little after 1 pm. That was my first break all day. I only took one more 10 minute break for the rest of the day.
I didn’t see any animals, besides cows. However, I did find a dead bat that had gotten tangled on a barbed wire spike and died. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that before.
There were wispy clouds in the sky; they were the most clouds I’ve seen since Chama. In the late morning I got a message from Swift (the CT hiker we’d been around back in Colorado). She finished the Colorado Trail about a week before, and had been traveling around. She was now in Grants and wanted to hang out and provide some Trail Magic for Jetpack and I!
After messaging with Jetpack (who was about 20 miles ahead of me), the plan was for Swift to pick us up at a trailhead about 5.5 miles outside of town. This was where the trail became a paved highway walk. It would end up being just slightly over 50 miles for me, so I wouldn’t get to the trailhead until late.
A POW WOW
I just put my head down and listened to a book all day as I chugged along. At one point there was another pickup on the side of the heavily forested road. When I got close and looked into the forest, I could see three Native American men standing about 150 feet into the forest. They were all looking up at a large ponderosa, and one of them was holding a black shotgun. I tried to see what was in the tree, but there were too many other trees in front of it. Since my view was limited, I could only see the men through the trunks.
I decided to pretend not to see them as I walked by, just in case they were doing something they weren’t supposed to… My plan was to make it clear that I was minding my own business, or just simply unaware of whatever it was they were doing. As soon as I was around a turn and out of sight, I heard 4 rapid gunshots. I didn’t hear anything else. About a half hour later, that same truck sped by me on the gravel road, throwing up dust. That was it. I had no idea what they shot.
NATIVE AMERICAN INTERCHANGE
As it was getting dark, a Native American gentleman and his daughter pulled up next to me to see if I needed help. I explained what I was doing and the man was enamored! His name was “Fred.” He told me his Native American name, but I don’t remember it. There were many questions asked – which I gladly answered.
We talked about hunting, camping, and the town. He also shared a little bit of his culture with me, as well as some words and phrases I wish I could remember. After our 15 minutes of conversing, he offered me water and food (I accepted the water). We then parted ways, as he relayed these words to me in his native language – “Hush teh-mehr.” I have no idea what the actual spelling is, but I’m writing it how I heard it. He told me it was a parting phrase for men in his tribe (the Acoma) that meant – “BE STRONG.” I repeated it back to him… as we went our separate ways.
I LOVE IT!
It’s interactions like this (while on these long hikes) that really keep my world in orbit. The human family is so incredibly diverse. I love learning about different cultures where ever I find them, especially from people who are so passionate!
I pushed on into the night. Aside from the odd vehicle dusting me out – it was very uneventful. The moon was again as bright as day. I walked through the forest and then the desert, without false illumination. I arrived at the trailhead a little after 10:30 pm where Swift met me and drove us to the… HOLIDAY INN, where Jetpack was unwinding.
I’ve got a bit of a hobble from all the rocks on the roads – but other than that, I feel good. I’m just really-really tired. I think we’re going to walk the 5 to 6 miles of highway into town tomorrow morning and get it over with. We’re finally under 500 miles to the finish line!
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