Date- October 29, 2019
Location- Burro Homestead
Elevation- 6,644 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 38.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 2,680.9 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, windy, 60s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- mule deer
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
I was up before first light, climbing down from my high perch above the road. Despite low forecasted temperatures, I slept wonderfully warm last night. No doubt, it was due to the high topographical location of my camp.
Today was a revolutionary day for me, in a sorts. I hit the road-walk fast and hard, listening to an audio-book (“Crime and Punishment,” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky). It was a dull walk and the highway was busy. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but notice the inordinate amount of yucca plants growing along and near the road.
Back in northern Montana I had run into an old man at a remote trailhead. The man had his own walking stick and had curiously asked me about mine. I told him I’d made it myself from a magnolia. I returned the same curiosity about his own walking stick. He said it was “Yucca,” and that it was the lightest, hardest wood in North America. At the time, I didn’t know what a yucca was, or what it looked like. I didn’t even know where I’d find it, and didn’t ask. However, when he let me hold his staff I was blown away by how light and sturdy it was. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew I needed to make a staff(s) from some yucca at some point in my life.
Fast forward to New Mexico, and I was now educated firsthand on what a yucca plant looked like. It looks like an agave, but the flowers on the stalk are more condensed, and the base of the plant itself looks more like a Joshua tree at times (rather than an agave). I imagine they’re all in the same family or variations of each other. Regardless, I hadn’t started seeing them until southern New Mexico, and hadn’t seen any of real size or frequency until just before Silver City. In fact, today along the highway was the most I’ve seen so far.
The yucca is more of a shrub than a tree. The base looks like a cactus arranged in the shape of palm tree fronds – like a palm palm, but with sharp points on the ends of each frond. Shooting straight up from these spiked palm palms is a single wooden stalk with white flowers budding from the top. At first glance, the stalk looks flimsy, or like it might be made from softer plant material. However, upon closer physical inspection, you realize that the stalk is made of a wood so hard and stiff, you can’t hardly score it with your fingernail. The utilitarian beauty of these plants is that they sprout a new stalk every year. In the fall and winter, the stalk dies and eventually falls over and rots. If you can find a stalk that is freshly dead, but hasn’t fallen over yet, you can easily snap it cleanly off at the base.
Not every stalk grows perfectly straight, or is the perfect thickness or length for a staff; but, if you keep an eye out, you can find plenty of perfect specimens. Keeping an eye out, I did find one. I waited for a break in the traffic, then snapped a large stalk off with ease. I shoved my other walking stick under my arm and did some quick whittling to get the perfect length and taper on either side.
I’m going to be honest with you… this is hands down the greatest walking stick/staff I’ve ever laid eyes or hands on. It’s longer and thicker than my magnolia staff, yet less than half the weight, twice as sturdy, perfectly straight, multitudes harder, and the texture and aesthetics are unmatched. This thing is the whole enchilada! If you are a connoisseur or user of walking sticks… then you need to get you a Yucca staff.
I used the staffs in tandem like trekking poles for the rest of the day. I even found a 12 gauge shotgun shell (that after a little extra shaving and tapering of the end) – perfectly capped my new walking stick. Thus, ensuring it wouldn’t mushroom, crack, or wear down. Color me “pleased!”
After the highway walk I was on dirt road for several miles through canyons filled with desert scrub. It was on these roads that I missed the only water between me and my final destination for the day. This meant I’d be hiking almost 40 miles today on slightly less than 2 liters of water (what I started with this morning).
I was aiming for a place called the “Burro Homestead” – a remote RV campground that welcomed hikers. It was a mile off trail, but they had water, sold snacks, and were said to be very hospitable to hikers. This was where Jetpack was headed, and I told her yesterday that I’d meet her there tonight. And Mayor always makes his miles! … at least, sometimes always.
When the dirt road finally gave way to trail, I still had around 20 miles to reach the Burro Homestead. The trail itself wasn’t bad, if not a bit rocky and a little overgrown. Other than that, the climbs were gentle and the path well worn and easy to follow. If anything, this section of trail today reminded me of the PCT desert. The trail endlessly snaked its way along the scrubby hillsides, dodging in and out of washes, crags, and creases in the landscape. Different kinds of cactus, scrub oaks, and other scratchy vegetation abounded – making for aesthetically pleasing views (including no shortage of obstacles to avoid brushing against).
The trail remained fairly unchanged in this manner for the rest of the day. With 13 miles left, I drank the last of my water. It was a sunny and exposed day – you might have even called it slightly warm during the afternoon; but this was hardly alarming. Yes, I’d be thirsty when I finally arrived at the Burro, but I was far from being in any danger. So long as I didn’t focus on my lack of water, my thirst remained an afterthought.
I had over 4 miles left to go when darkness fell upon the desert. The trail was an amalgamation of chunky loose rocks. Even with my headlamp, the rocks were large enough to cast distorting shadows upon the rocks just beyond or behind themselves. This made for very deliberate hiking, so as to not end up on the ground or with an injury.
The going was slow; it took me around 2 hours to go those more than 4 miles. I wasn’t frustrated in the least. In fact I was very much enjoying the still night and calm desert. After all, these days and nights are numbered…
The Magic Continues
I reached the turnoff to the Burro Homestead after 8 pm, then went down the dirt road, up another one, and walked through the RV campground a little after 9 pm. I found Jetpack camped near the back of the property, and was about to throw down my pads under a nearby tree… when an elderly female camp host came over and told us we could sleep in the nearby recreation room. We happily took her up on this offer!
Now we’re both super warm in the rec room that has running water, wifi, a pool table, a poker table, a dining table, and a coffee maker. The camp host even left us packets of hot cocoa mix, which Jetpack made for us! This beats the hell out of freezing outside on a night that it’s supposed to get in the low 20s.
I think we’re aiming to get into the final town of Lordsburg by the day after tomorrow…
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