Date- October 21, 2019
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 8,619 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 22.9 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 2,409 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, windy, 50s
Pain level- Zero
Wildlife encounters- mule deer
Days without shower- 5
Days without laundry- 5
All night last night, elk were bugling and coyotes were crying at the moon. They didn’t let up until sunrise. On top of that, it got down into the teens, so my water froze into a solid block. I woke up around 3 am and had to put on two extra layers.
My hands were so numb while packing up… just the thought of filtering water from the nearby trough made me cringe. I decided to forgo getting extra water when I left the junipers around 8 am this morning. That meant I was stretching 1.5 liters for 23 miles (the distance to the next water source) – with over 5.5k feet of elevation gain. Foolish on my behalf. Nevertheless, I was insanely cold this morning and knew the lower temps today would make it easier to stretch what I already had.
In the end, I ran out of water with 8 miles left to the next spring/trough, which was also where we planned to camp. Yeah, I was thirsty today – but nowhere near desperate (even with all the climbing).
NOT A SOUL IN SIGHT
Those 23 miles were 90% trail today, a great change of pace from the past week (close to a week). I didn’t see Jetpack, a vehicle, or another human being for the entire day. Sometimes I find it hard to believe there’s nearly eight billion people out there… and even harder to believe I can still spend days on end walking almost a straight line and not see nary a one. Weird… but AWESOME.
Even though I was off the roads, the day’s excitement didn’t improve. The scenery did, however… walking through junipers, pinions, ponderosas, and scrub oak (the usual suspects at these elevations in New Mexico).
There was fresh elk scat early in the day, then old elk scat throughout the rest of it. I didn’t see any elk, but I did see two doe mule deer with their two fawns this evening. That was it. Jetpack saw a herd of a dozen elk run across the trail in front of her this evening. I suspect it was probably that same herd with their relentless bugling (from last night) about a mile from my camp.
BRACING FOR THE CHALLENGE
It seems I spoke too soon about the end of road walking. Tomorrow will be 26 more miles of road walking, then Jetpack and I will split up for about 40 miles. I’ll drop into the Gila River Canyon, and she’ll keep to a trail above it. She’s tried to subtly convince me to take the high route, but I’m dead set on tackling the Gila. We made plans to meet at a roadside convenience store called “Doc Campbell’s” on Friday (today was Monday). It’ll be interesting to see who gets there first. My route is a little longer and more difficult, but I’m going to hit it with a vengeance. I already know the nights and the water are going to be freezing, so I really don’t care to draw this section out. No matter how fast I go, I’ll still see all there is to see. I’m going to be pushing it with food supplies, which will definitely increase my urgency for speed.
Speaking of food, I’ve been incredibly conservative lately. I’ve hardly eaten anything in the past two days, and didn’t have dinner tonight. Even though I was starving, it was just too cold to sit up and wait for my couscous to cold-soak before eating. I just wanted to bundle up in my shitty sleeping bag, journal the day, and then go to bed.
WORD ON THE TRAIL
Starting tomorrow, I’m going to really dig into the food I have left. I’ve been saving the good stuff for the hard stretch – the good stuff being a giant bag of dark chocolate covered acai and blueberries, a pouch of spam, roasted pistachios, Snickers bars, and six Mountain House meals that Swift gave me.
My secret plan is to be resting at Doc Campbell’s by Thursday, waiting for Jetpack. That means I’ll have to do 40 miles of Gila River in two days (starting after tomorrow). In theory, that seems very doable. In reality, I could be biting off more than I can chew. Word on the trail is that the Gila will throw a wrench in any “bigger mileage” plans someone might have. Well, “bigger mileage” and “someone” are both relative terms. So there’s only one way to find out if this perspective will apply to my game plan throughout that area. I look forward to sharing the tale with you…
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