Day 37: Rio Vallecitos

Miles Hiked: 25.6

Total Milage: 614.6

Location: Rio Vallecitos

This morning I woke up to coyotes howling at 5am. It was noticably warm for the morning, so I packed up my things and hit the trail before 6am. I continued hiking through more alpine meadows. It reminded me of the balds in the southern Appalachian mountains. Early on I saw a couple of other hikers including Dusty, Baguette and someone else in the distance I couldn’t identify. When I passed Free Fall and 12 Pack’s tents they were not moving at all. I usually expect those two to be up and moving around 6:30am.

I wish I could have sat around all day and enjoyed the sunshine in the meadow, but I knew that I had to keep moving. There was rain predicted to start around 3pm today and I wanted to hike as far as I could before it started. The trail today was super confusing. Half the time my GPS said I wasn’t on the red line on Guthooks. At one point I just gave up on trying to follow the map at all. Sometimes I shot a bearing and walked in that general direction, other times I just followed foot prints on the ground.

After leaving the gently rolling Meadows, I entered a denser forest of aspens and ponderosa pines. At this higher elevation there was quite a bit of snow and snow melt all over the trail. For about a mile I was post holing and stepping in others foot prints. A couple of times I sank down to my crotch in the snow and had to use my trekking poles to help me take the mammoth step out of it. Honestly without the trekking poles it would be so easy for me to be stuck. It’s really hard to get out of deep post holes.

Over the course of the day the sky continued to get darker and darker until it started to snow a little bit. Eventually that turned to thunder and then a light but cold rain. Around this time I ran into “Roger That” hiking the wrong way. He had gotten lost. And I had gotten lost right before I ran into him. We hiked the rest of the day together. I usually stop and take lots of breaks especially when my feet hurt. Today I only sat down for 20 minutes around mile 10. I was pretty motivated to get to camp as fast as I could. Luckily the challenge distracted me from how bad my feet hurt. I hiked 10 miles before 10am, 15 by noon, and 20 miles by 2pm. I was making GREAT time. At 3:30 pm after an hour of walking in the rain, I made it to my planned destination. The Rio Vallecito. There was a PERFECT stand of very tall pine trees with a sheltered flat spot for me to camp right in the middle. I couldn’t believe it. I set up my tent and crawled in my sleeping bag in dry clothes before 4pm. Although I was cold and in a lot of pain, I was so proud of myself!

I really hoped the rest of my friends would show up because I hadn’t seen them all day. About two hours later they did and they all pitched their tents under the trees right next to me. I was happy we all got to camp together again! It felt like it had been a while since the four of us ended up at the same camp spot. I spend the rest of the night relaxing in my tent, organizing my pack, and enjoying some hot ramen noodles for dinner. Tomorrow it’s predicted to rain a good amount. I’m hoping it is dry for at least an hour in the morning while I pack up my things. I’m not looking forward to it.

Happy Trails

-Early Bird

Day 36: Ghost Ranch

Miles Hiked: 16.8

Total Milage: 589

Today Rockslide dropped us all off around 9:30 am. I was really sad to say goodbye to him but I’m hopeful that I will see him soon! Free Fall and I continued to hike the Ghost Ranch alternate while 12 Pack and Jenga opted to go back to the red line. Our paths will cross later in the evening where the two routes meet. Free Fall and I had to pay $10 just to hike through the Ghost Ranch Property for about 3 miles. I wasn’t thrilled about it but I wanted to keep my continuous footpath going. The only other option for me was to do a really long highway walk that I was not interested in.

The ghost ranch alternate started as a road walk from where we were. We checked in at the front gate and passed a bunch of buildings where people can stay and visit a museum. Most of it was closed due to covid but things were slowly reopening. After stopping in at the visitors center for post cards and a bathroom break we continued to hike thru the property down the box canyon trail. After about 3 miles of being on the property we entered back onto national forest service land. I was laughing at how stupid it was for me to pay $10 for three miles of hiking but then again, I was paying $10 to not walk 8 miles down a highway. On the box canyon trail we were following a small stream. We accidentally missed a turn and ended up at a pool of water in the dead end of the canyon. We turned around and corrected our mistake. We continued to hike upwards to the top of a mesa. It was a hot day and after leaving the small stream there wasn’t much water ahead.

I was so thirsty and hot all day long. Eventually the deserty mesa turned into a dirt road walk and then some hiking across alpine meadows. When the ghost ranch alternate ended and I was back on the official CDT, I finally got water again from a small spring. It was only 16 miles of hiking but the day really kicked my butt. I think just because it was so hot and I was dehydrated. The sky started to get dark with storm clouds and I heard thunder in the distance. I really wanted to set up camp but my friends were no where to be seen. I went about one more mile before deciding I felt like I was done hiking for the day. I really didn’t want to be caught in the rain.

I ended up camping alone for the night. I really missed my friends but I was also glad for the alone time. I’m actually surprised I haven’t camped alone yet. I don’t enjoy doing it too frequently but it’s nice every once in a while. I want to try and do it at least once in every state. The rain storm I saw never ended up coming but it made some awesome light for sunset! Half the sky was dark the other half was colorful. I took a time lapse of it while I called my family and Rockslide on the phone. When it got dark I crawled into my tent and the coyotes started howling. They ended up waking me up on and off throughout the night. It really creeps me out especially when I’m alone. I’ve learned to ignore the cries for the most part. I plan on waking up really early tomorrow to a) catch up to my friends who hiked past me and b) make it to camp before it starts raining, or at least hike in the rain as little as possible.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 34 and 35: Double Zero in Santa Fe

Miles Hiked: 0

The two days we spent not hiking in Santa Fe were much needed for me. My feet were hurting a ton and my body needed some time to recover after hiking two very long days back to back. For the most part I took as many baths as I could and ate as much food as I could as well. I also tried to walk as little as possible. I wish I would have had the energy to do touristy things but I just wanted to lay in bed all day long. I got some interesting snacks for the next stretch of hiking from Trader Joe’s that I’m very excited about.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 33: Chama River Canyon Wilderness

Miles Hike: 28.2

Total Milage: 572.2

Location: Chama River Canyon Wilderness

This morning I woke up at 6am and left camp before 7am. My goal was to hike 28 miles to the highway and go to Santa Fe for a double zero from there (two days of not hiking). I wasn’t sure if I could do two big days back to back but I wanted to give it a shot. I was surprised by how fast the miles flew by today. The hardest part was an uphill climb around 10am. The terrain today was mostly on an exposed sandy trail or on pine needles through a forest.

At one point there were suggestions on our mapping application to hike the road instead of the actual trail because there was so much bushwacking. I tried to follow a forest service road but I messed up and followed the wrong one. I ended up on the highest point of a mesa right next to the trail. I looked down at my map and realized that I was only 0.4 miles off the trail but almost 1,000feet higher than the actual trail. I looked at the topographic map and realized I would either have to hike backwards to find the trail or bush wack back to the trail and hope to not get cliffed out. The topographic map revealed an extremely steep downhill between me and the trail. It looked so steep I thought some sections could possibly be vertical. All I could do was give it a shot and hope for the best. Luckily, it worked out in my favor. I didn’t end up on any cliffs but my knees were hurting so bad from how steep it was. I was so glad I had my trekking poles to use as a crutch everytime I took a step down. When I finally found the trail/ actual road I was supposed to be on, I looked up at where I came from and realized I actually could have ended up on an actual cliff if I didn’t start bushwacking as early as I did.

After that adventure, I got on the actual and trail and continued to descend another 1,000 feet. I’m glad it made the hiking really easy and fast but my knees hurt so bad by the time I got to the bottom of the canyon. At the bottom of the canyon I followed a stream for a couple of miles before going into another wide open desert. This time there were some awesome views of canyon walls on either side.

Eventually I crossed a bridge over the Chama River where Rockslide was waiting for me in his car. I sat down and took a break in one of his chairs and he gave me a cold tea to drink. He took my pack while I walked the last 9 miles on the road to the highway. From the highway he drove us to Santa Fe for the night for the start of my two zero days in a row! I’m so excited for some rest and excited to see Santa Fe.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 32: San Pedro Wilderness

Miles Hiked: 26.1

Total Milage: 544

Location: Stream, mile 655.1

This morning Rockslide woke me up around 6am. We walked to McDonalds to get breakfast and then back to the Motel to pack up our things. I started hiking around 8:45 am. The day started with a 5 mile road walk out of town. Rockslide had to catch a bus around 3pm so he hiked out with me as far as he could. Before he left and at the end of the road walk, we took a snack break together. I packed out four hard ciders and I was determined that they would be gone by the end of the day. At the break I also ate some guacamole and chips. I always try to eat the heaviest stuff first.

After that, I left the road and said goodbye to Rockslide. We both wished we could keep hiking together. It was a sad goodbye even though I’m supposed to see him tomorrow or the next day. Today the trail went uphill for 20 miles straight but it was a very gradual climb. I immediately crossed a creek and got my shoes wet. It was the first natural water source I’ve seen flowing since the Gila River. It’s wild to think we walked about 300-400 miles getting water exclusively from caches or a pipe that came from the ground.

The trail gently switch backed climbing the side of a mountain until it reached 10,000 feet where it would stay around for most of the day. A lot of the dirt was a clay red color until I got into some alpine meadows. Today reminded me a lot of some of the hiking I did around Colorado last summer. Such a sharp contrast compared to the desert we came from just yesterday. There were very old trees all around. I think most of them were ponderosa pines or aspens. When I reached the first green alpine meadow I immediately saw an elk that darted away.

I kept passing through alpine meadows with some streams running through them for the rest of the day. The streams were full and rushing with cold water from snow melt. I took my lunch break at a reservoir and then ran into Free Fall who I hiked around for the rest of the day. After my lunch break began a long section of wet feet. There were patches of deep snow sporadically for the next 8 miles. They weren’t long stretches but definitely enough to slow me down. I would try to walk on top of the snow, until I would bust through it. Sometimes the snow would come up to the tops of my thighs when that would happen and it was hard to get out. Thank goodness for trekking poles. Although the snow was jarring, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. If I wasn’t post holing through the snow, I was walking through ankle deep snow melt water that would pool right on the trail. I hope Colorado is this “easy” but it’s almost garanteed not to be.

Near the end of the day I met back up with Free Fall and we hiked the last five miles downhill together. I was pretty tired and sore but glad I was able to do a big day. I was also happy that the day was no where near as hard as I had anticipated. I was so happy to set up camp near a stream around 8pm. For dinner I had the last of my four ciders I ended up drinking throughout the day and some crackers with cheese.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 31: Cuba, NM

Miles Hiked: 14.9

Total Milage: 517.9

Location: Del Prado Motel, Cuba New Mexico

Today Rockslide and I woke up at 5am and were hiking by 6am. We had to go 15 miles to town and we wanted to get there by noon. The morning started with a hike across a valley before ascending to the top of a mesa via a very steep rock scramble. At the top I took a break and ate breakfast. The rest of the day involved walking through sand along the edge of the Mesa until we descended the other side and walked a dirt road to the highway that ran into town. I felt like I was hiking on the beach. Every three miles I would stop to take a break and dump sand out of my shoes. My feet were really hurting today and I was totally exhausted from the long days we did in this section.

Rockslide and I walked into town around noon. I immediately stopped at the first place selling food. I got a hotdog and ice cream Snickers bar from the gas station. Then we checked into our motel. It ended up being the most expensive place I’ve stayed on the trail so far and also the crappiest. It was fine, but it was definitely not worth $90. After talking to other hikers we found out that every other hotel in town was booked. It was very weird because the town didn’t have a lot to offer at all and there aren’t a ton of hikers around us. At least not enough to book up every hotel. The weird thing was, none of these hotels had cars in the parking lot.

After we checked in I took a shower and ate more food. Since we are taking a zero in a couple of days I just did my laundry in the sink. The main things I needed to wash were my underwear and the socks I had caked with sand. I resupplied at the local grocery and family dollar. For dinner we got food from a BBQ place across the street and hung out in the motel with everyone.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 30: 500 Miles!

Miles Hiked: 20.6

Total Milage: 503

Today Rockslide, Free Fall, and I all slept in. I was so sore and exhausted from yesterday. We took our time packing up, making hot coffee for breakfast, and hanging out. I took advantage of the time to do some much needed stretching before heading out to hike around 8:45 am. This is the latest I’ve started hiking other than when I leave a town late in the day.

All day we were hiking up and down rock formations. We would climb up small mesas and dip back into a valley. I have been so shocked at how pretty this stretch of the desert has been. It feels like the Grand Finale of this type of terrain. Soon we will be heading into the snowy mountains of Colorado. To be honest, I’m not ready πŸ˜‚

As per usual water was very scarce today. Luckily the Green Party of ABQ helped us out once again by leaving a large cache of water next to the road. Water caches help out thru hikers so much more than you would think. Today I mostly hiked with Rockslide. I took so many breaks because my feet were killing me. I loved being able to climb up to a view and see the other people I’m hiking with on the trail in the distance.

If you haven’t noticed some of my blog posts have been a lot shorter than usual. I’ve been struggling to find the motivation to write about my day every night. Getting behind on blogging is such a pain in the butt too. I have a feeling it’s just because our days have been so long and I’ve been hiking with an awesome group of people that I like to hang out with in the evenings. I also get service way less often than when I blogged daily from the AT so it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed with how much content I have to publish every time I get into town. Anyways, if you’re reading this I just wanted to say thank you! It’s not easy to keep up on this.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 29: The Badlands

Miles Hiked: 28.8

Total Milage: 482.4

This morning Rockslide and I woke up around 5:20 am. We were very slow about getting ready but we made hot coffee and hit the trail around 6:45am. I wanted to do a long day so my goal was to hike the first 9 miles to the water source as fast as I could without any breaks. We walked a dirt road all the way to Los Indios springs where we started to descend down a trail into a very pretty canyon. I wasn’t even mad about the extra climbing or miles to get there just because it was so nice.

While we were taking a break at the spring, Jenga and 12 Pack caught up to us. After the spring we hiked on an actual trail for the rest of the day. For lunch we made a quick stop at a view on the edge of the Mesa we were walking on. Looking into the distance, we did not see any signs of civilization at all. It seems like most of the time when I’m at a view where I can see for miles and miles there is at least a town in the distance. The CDT has felt more remote than anywhere else I’ve been and I absolutely love it. After lunch we continued hiking on the flat mesa before we descended 1500 feet to the desert floor. The views were SO good. I saw another one of the Collared lizards we first saw on the way out of Grants and the cactuses were blooming! I met up with Free Fall and Rockslide at the water source where we took an hour long break hoping our friends would catch up.

After we waited a good amount of time, we decided to hike out the last 8 miles together. Today was my longest day of hiking yet! After we left the water source the terrain started to get very interesting. The ground was sandy and we were climbing in and out of washes and around rock formations. It reminded me of what I think Badlands National Park would look like. Free Fall said it reminded him of Monument Valley, Utah.

The last 8 miles were killing me. My legs were really sore from hiking over significant elevation for the first time on the whole trail and hiking a really long day. When we arrived at the water source we planned on camping near, there was a dead cow next to the tank. Although it was really sad, the water was really clear and far enough away from the cow that I was totally fine with drinking it. Honestly, we had no other choice. When we went to look for a camping spot it was pretty difficult to find a place that was both flat and out of the wind. Originally Rockslide and I were going to cowboy camp but some Ominous clouds made us set up the tent. We were both super exhausted and grumpy. I was so glad to finally lay down and fall asleep.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 28: Mt Taylor

Miles Hiked: 25.3

Total Milage: 453.6

Location: Mt. Taylor, NM

This morning we woke up at 4:30 am. Everyone was ready and hiking up the trail by 5am. We had to gain 2,000 feet of elevation over the course of 3 miles to arrive at the summit of 11,300 feet. Our goal was to get there by sunrise at 6:15. When we woke up this morning it was pretty warm. As we got closer to the summit it kept getting colder and windier. I couldn’t feel my hands. The hike this morning was kicking my ass. I was so exhausted and cold by the time we reached the summit at 6:15 am. Jenga quickly snapped our picture on his camera and then I ran for the nearest tree cover to bundle up in my sleeping bag. Luke and I ended up hanging out up there for two hours. During that time I didn’t come out of my sleeping bag at all and even fell asleep for a little bit. That hike totally kicked my ass. I felt really stupid for not even hanging out to see sunrise but I was so cold I couldn’t do anything else. At least we could see the beginnings of it on our way up the mountain!

Eventually Luke and I were the last ones left. Begrudgingly I got out of my sleeping bag, and walked around to take some pictures before descending. We ran into snow for the first time for about 200 yards past the summit. I walked very slow and carefully as to not slip and fall.

Other than the snow, the descent wasn’t bad at all. We hit a forest service road and had another small climb up to a look out. It was easy and short but my legs were so exhausted. Once we found a good spot out of the wind, Rockslide and I made coffee and ate breakfast. It felt like we were way behind the other people I’ve been hiking with but I was so tired I didn’t care. The day quickly ended up being pretty hot and water was scarce. Eventually we rejoined the CDT and hit and actual trail again. We finally met up with everyone else at our last water source for the day around 3:30 and mile 17. I wasn’t planning on going much further today until Free Fall pointed out how many miles we were from Cuba. It was a lot more than I expected and I realized then that we would have a couple long days ahead of us including more hiking than I was feeling up for tonight.

Rockslide, Jenga, and I all hiked 7 more miles for a total of 25 before setting up camp. At was 7pm by the time we found a spot and started cooking dinner. I’m glad the sun set is so late right now! For dinner I made Ramen and I fell asleep hard around 8:30pm

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 27: Gooseberry Springs

Miles: 18.5

Total Milage: 428.3

This morning I slept in til 8am. I was incredibly slow to leave town. I took a bath and shaved my legs before packing up my things. We had to run to Walmart for an extra item before I could finally get in the car to leave. Rockslide dropped Jenga and I off at the McDonald’s where we stopped walking two days ago. Gotta keep that continuous footpath to Canada going strong! Jenga and I got some food and walked back to the Lava Flow hostel which was further along our route north. We grabbed our packs and continued the road walk out of town with the rest of our friends.

It was about noon by the time we were actually hiking out of town. Rockslide hiked with me all day. It was pretty hot so we were taking lots of breaks. Both Jenga, Free Fall, and I didn’t pack out enough water. I would have made it to the cache but I was really glad that Rockslide over packed on his water and had plenty to share. Once we got off the side of the highway we hiked along a beautiful trail that brought us up to a Mesa. We were able to get we great pictures of a collared lizard we saw. I loved how colorful it’s toes are! They run around SO fast and I easily could have missed them if Rockslide didn’t point them out. Once up on the Mesa we had a wide open view of grants before the trail turned and started going directly towards Mt. Taylor.

The rest of the evening Rockslide and I took breaks as needed. We ended up hiking late into the evening arriving at camp just after dark. I was glad to hike during golden hour and we got some great pictures at a view. When we got to camp there was a water cache that “Mac the Knife” a local trail angel from Grants, left for us. I was SO THANKFUL for the nice clean water. I think all of us were completely out of water when we arrived . For dinner I ate an Impossible Whopper from burger king. I was very happy I packed it out along with a can of RosΓ©. I think I need to eat a nicer meal when I leave town more often. Since we got to camp so late I fell asleep pretty quickly after I ate my dinner.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird