Date- October 30, 2019
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 5,778 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 24.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 2,605.5 miles
Weather/Temp- cloud streaks, 50s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- deer
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 3
**I apologize for the lapse in posts! I’ve been traveling (post trail) and have gotten behind!**
I was toasty warm when I awoke in the small rec center. Jetpack got a later start than usual, but still an early start compared to me. I was in no rush to leave the warm building, so I lingered in my sleeping bag until nearly 9am. Then, I found my way out of the grounds and back up to the trail (via a dirt track).
The trail continued to be much like it was yesterday – easy, graded, rocky, overgrown at times, and very winding. It was yet another gorgeously clear and cool day.
I was nearing the top of a gradual 1,000 ft climb in the late morning when I was startled by a loud rustling in the scrub to my right. I whipped myself around quickly towards the noise in an attempt to confront it. When I did, I was only confronted by Fuzz. In fact, he’d been lost off the trail for quite some time. He had been bushwhacking his way around from the other side of the mountain, looking for the trail. The huge coincidence was that he had bushwhacked his way back onto the trail in the exact spot (at the exact time) as I arrived to the very same spot. On a trail where you can go days without seeing anyone, this was pretty miraculous.
Fuzz and I ended up hiking together for the rest of the day. Not long after meeting up, I asked him how his slow jaunt through the rest of the Gila had been. He told me the day after we camped together he had seen a troop of what appeared to be 5 lemurs. I told him I didn’t think there were lemurs in the New Mexico desert. However, I also mentioned that I couldn’t discount it – especially after learning about all the wild rhesus monkeys that have been living in Silver Springs, Florida for the past 80 years.
Anyhow, he described these creatures as being in the trees and on the ground. He said they had long tails that stuck straight in the air when they ran or walked. He was never able to get close to them, so there were no pictures.
I racked my brain thinking about what they might be (other than lemurs), but couldn’t come up with anything. So when I finally got service later that day, I googled mammals of New Mexico and figured it out almost immediately. I was actually pretty disappointed in myself for not being able to think of it on my own, because I’d seen these creatures in the wild before. They were coatis (also known as coatimundis). They look like a cross between a raccoon, lemur, and an ant eater. I’d seen many while in the Yucatan and Mexico. Albeit, I never knew they were in the United States. Well, now I know – as well as anyone who reads this (who was unaware).
A little after noon time, we reached a trailhead and met a woman named “Solo.” She was in her sixties and had been traveling up and down the trail all season, providing support and trail magic for hikers. I heard about her, but this was the first time I’d met her.
Fuzz and I ended up hanging out while talking to Solo for over 2 hours, eating lunch, and enjoying the apples and cherry cola she provided. I was aiming for almost a 25 mile day (30+ for Fuzz). However, neither of us were in a hurry or cared if we hiked part of it in the dark.
It was well after 2 pm when we hit the trail again. Since the climb and descent earlier in the morning, the trail had become very flat and heavily populated with yucca. I had shown Fuzz my new yucca staff early in the day. He lamented over losing a staff he’d made earlier in the hike. He didn’t have trekking poles or a staff right now. So, I pulled down the next perfect yucca I spotted (a couple hundred feet off the trail) and cut it to size with my knife, before giving it to him. He seemed to be very grateful and happy about this gesture. It was a big staff, but Fuzz is a couple inches taller than me with almost the same build – so he could handle it.
As introverted and quiet as Fuzz is, I really felt like he came out of his shell today. He opened up about a lot of things. We passed the rest of the day and night in very personal and deep conversations. Fuzz is probably one of the most gentle, thoughtful, and sincere people I have ever met. He’s without a doubt, one of the most unique and harder to come by individuals I’ve met out here.
We ate dinner in the middle of the trail (a little before dark) – with 8 miles still to go. The spot we were targeting was a windmill that pumped water into a large trough. That’s where Jetpack would be, and I told her I would see her there this evening… and I don’t lie.
The trail turned into fairly nice dirt road shortly after dark. We could have gone faster if we wanted to, but strolled along instead – the two of us abreast in continued conversation. It was pitch black. We were a little over a mile out from our target windmill, when the freakishly loud screech of metal-on-metal froze us both dead in our tracks. The sound drew out for several seconds in the black darkness of night (somewhere to our forward right). If I had to describe the exact sound… I would say it sounded like a huge iron gate being pushed open very slowly and menacingly. It was a sound directly out of a horror movie – making my blood run cold.
We were both freaked out, and said so out loud. The sound stopped. Then it began again… stopped… and began yet again. There was no pattern to it – just randomness. After more than a minute of trying to guess what it might be, we stepped off the trail into the shrouded darkness of desert scrub. We were in search of the source – the sound getting louder all the while. We finally came to what appeared to be an exploded and destroyed oak tree.
HAUNTING SOUNDS IN THE NIGHT
Among the scattered limbs and chunks of trunk, our headlamps caught the gleam of a rusty worn-down windmill towering above the scrub. It was an eerie sight accompanied by even stranger noises. We guessed it might be a windmill when we were approaching, but weren’t sure until we had eyes on it. The creepy part was watching it randomly begin to rotate, ever so slowly… but there was never a hint of a breeze on the landscape or on our skin. I suppose there was moving air higher up on the windmill’s level. However, it was still weird to see the affects of wind in one place, when you couldn’t feel or see that evidence anywhere else. Or maybe the windmill was just haunted…
Ironically enough, after the spooky windmill encounter, we spent the rest of the walk telling scary stories (made-up and personal experiences).
It was almost 10 pm when we reached our desired non-spooky windmill and rendezvous with Jetpack. As with most scarce water sources in the desert, it’s a hub for cattle and other animals. There aren’t any here right now, but their “leavings” are everywhere. In fact, my sleeping pad is laid over a heaping carpet of dried cow shit beneath a big oak. I can’t say I smell anything, but it’s very cushy! Tomorrow we’ll hike a short day into Lordsburg, and then our next stop will be Mexico. I don’t feel any particular way about it, at the moment…
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