Smokebeard Hikes

CDT9 – 158 – Silver City

I left my hotel in Lordsburg at about quarter after six, decadenly late, en route to Silver City.  I got to stroll through the other side of Lordsburg on the way out on a four-mile roadwalk. I think Lordsburg is one economic downturn away from going full Mad Max.  It’s sad.  So much potential, wasted.  Why?


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Day 6

After this the trail veered off through some cow ranch land.   Before long there were cows and their babies curious about me, but fortunately had the good sense to run away. There’s no trail markers in this section so I was using a combination of dead reckoning and the phone app that I carry.  The trail makes a wide bend to the north before turning east so I cut cross country on a diagonal towards what I thought was the right path. 

After a while of traversing trackless desert scrub filled with lizards and cactus, I was joined up by another hiker named Muenster Cheese.  i believe he saw my shining umbrella and followed me. He’s from Germany so we had a brief chat in German before I gave up and then we just talked about our jobs and what we each did in the real world. He’s the first person I’ve met that’s older than me. 

At one point we passed through a big area of wild rosemary, the smell was delicious.  By about 11 o’clock it was boiling out but I was decently cool under the umbrella.  Without the sun to cook me, the little wind that there was was actually keeping me cool.   Munster Cheese had to take a break, I think partially because of the heat but mostly because of the horrific blisters he has.   I don’t know if he has the wrong shoes or he’s pushing himself too hard or what but he is in trouble. 

Found the trail at last

I used the combination of more dead reckoning and again relying on the phone to tie up with the trail shortly before it left the big open flat.  I finally started heading up into the hills and the national forest a few miles later.  At 1 pm,  later than I wanted, I got to an open water tank surrounded by some low desert oak scrub.   The water tank itself was unreachable but there was a float system which discharged water into a cattle trough.  It was completely filled with dead and alive bees, but they were honey bees, and much more interested in drinking water than stinging me. I was able to finagle some water out of the tank and then after filtering had a nice long drink followed by a two hour siesta.  I even slept for about 45 minutes.   By 3:30 I was getting bored so I packed up and rolled out, meandering my way up twistier and steeper hills on old forest roads – thank you National Forest Service! 

The best part was the change of scenery, no more was it the flat deserty cactusy lava rocks, but rather rolling hills covered with different kinds of shrubs and oaks.  It was still hot, but much more interesting and not nearly as hot as it was. After passing what looked like an old gold mine, I started to descend off the ridge and after passing up a couple of really nice looking spots in a hollow, I pushed on and found my spot for the night.   It’s not too far from the trail but yet far enough that four hikers passed me and didn’t see me.  I think this will be a good out of the way place for the night.


Day 7

24 miles today. Today was awesome.  The day started out really well with a nice easy stroll through pines and small oak trees and grass. The trail is completely different than yesterday.  After about six miles, I got to the water tank and met Chris from Canada – he and a bunch of others had camped there last night.   Chris was going to take the bypass down to burro Mountain Homestead RV Park and then hitch in on the 90. I think the magnitude of his trip plus the extra 400 miles he’s planning to do into Canada starting to dawn on him. He’s fast but I think he realizes he’s not that fast. I went down and took a break and filled up my water bottles, taking time and care not to disturb the Axolotl that lives in the water tank. 

It would be nice if the forest service provided a spigot instead of having to dip from the pool, but I suppose it would leak and then they would lose all their water, or people would just shut it off.   From here it was a few more miles of mostly up to reach the base of Jay and Burrow peaks.  I got to the parking area, which was also a campground, half hoping for trail magic from some generous camper but was disappointed. You can’t ASK, of course, but you CAN look tired and thirsty.

I ran into Muenster Cheese who suggested we hiked together. We did the steady climb up the mountain most of the way until he said he needed a break, so I peeled off and did the summit alone.  There was no view or sign so it was up and over in a matter of seconds.  I headed down a few miles and was passed by two longdtriders on the way to Muddy Spring. I had hoped it would be an actual spring trickling out of the ground that I could just fill bottles from without even filtering, instead it was a improved spring where they had placed a metal barrel in the ground around it – probably to keep the dirt out.  This of course meant it was full of leaves and sticks and floating bugs so I had to make the best I could.

I checked my phone app and determined that it was 22 miles until the next water source so I filled up everything I had. Including my peanut butter jar that was going to hold dinner. I pushed farther, through more upland fields, basically ridge lines covered in dry and dead grass dotted with oak and pine trees.  It was beautiful. So different than “the desert” ( but it’s all desert ).

I hit the 20 mile mark and considered stopping, but I read another comment in the phone app that there might be water cached at the next road in three miles.  I pushed on and while one cache was empty, the second one held three one liter bottles of water!  I grabbed one in case more people showed up. Except, who was I kidding, nobody was coming this way because they’re all going down to the RV park, to either get water or to hike out and hitch in on route 90.  Another solo night camping for me.

New Moon

Day 8

The start of the walk today was great.   It was mostly downhill in and out of a lot of small canyons,  gradually losing elevation until I dropped down into Saddle Rock Canyon.  It really reminded me of the PCT in Southern California, everything well-graded and groomed. The trail basically became the sandy floor of this canyon system.   There were a bunch of cows and I had a few close encounters where it seemed at the only at the very end that they moved.   I also got to watch the calves scampered out of the way, which is always endearing.

There was a cool ravine off to the side where there was actual running water, like on the surface, flowing, as much as you wanted.  But it was kind of muddy and gross and there was lots of cow poop.  I knew that the cow tank in a few miles was full, and relatively clean so I just pushed on. Since I got to the end of the national forest land by one o’clock it seemed a complete waste to just sit there.  

Nearly cried.
Momma cow was not happy with my presence. Baby cow off to the right.

I had a quick lunch, strapped my shoes back on and began the long road walk.  13 miles into town.  It was hot and boring and kind of sad with all the trash, plus the footbed sucked.  You were either walking on hot blacktop or on this sloping uneven nasty grass sides of the road.  I turned my ankle a few times so ended up walking mostly on the road.   It was also windy enough that I couldn’t use the umbrella, so it was the suckiest combination.  At least there was high haze.

13 miles of this

Today was supposed to be a 30 but most of the way through the miserable roadwalk second half,  on I-180 I ran into another hiker named Hot Pocket.  He suggested that the hostel might be full. I had been operating on the assumption that there’s always space. I realized if it’s in town they might have limited overflow.  So so I texted and learned that they were full.  I decided to continue on to the high point on 180 which happens to be the continental divide.   Very cool in itself. 

I am taking Hot Pockets advice and stealth camping.  This this close into town it’s a lot of private land so it’s slightly sketchy, but I found a big piece of property with an air traffic control tower of some sort. I figured if it’s owned by the federal government, and Ive paid taxes for 34 years, I ought to be able to use it at least overnight.  Kids do not try this at home.

Rough roadwalk

The day sucked, but it merited its Own writeup.

A 26 mile day.  I am pretty beat I would have made the 30 since it’s all downhill from here at the divide itself, but I can cruise in in the morning.   I still have a liter and a half of water and the grocery store doesn’t open until 9:00.   The plan is to come into town hit some breakfast, hit the grocery store and do my Pie Town resupply.  This will be six days of food.  Then I will do my own three day resupply which will include some town food, and that should be enough to get me to Doc Campbell’s.  There is already a mail drop waiting for me ( hopefully intact ).  Since that should take only most of the morning my plan will be to check in at the hostel around noon, take a shower, put my feet up, take a nap, eat some ice cream and maybe even drink a beer.

Day 9

It was a short, cold four miles down off the divide and in through neighborhoods to reach the hostel. I learned that you could not check in until 2pm, so I did all of my errands first. I walked a mile and a half out of town to the Albertson’s and got all of my resupply food. Then a former thru hiker named “Molly Molly” picked me up on the road and drove me back into town, saving me the walk.  I spent a bit of time reorganizing my food, got some ice cream, and mailed off my package to Pie Town. That’s a 5-day walk from there to the town of Grants New Mexico.

And then, I showered.  This is not a tan, although I have taken steps to start hiking without being fully covered. I will need to build up a base tan at some point.

Gross

I also used access to a bathroom to do another repair on my air mattress. I was able to spray some water on it and squeeze it to see where they are is hissing out. One more patch, hopefully the last.

Triple Crown Hostel

The hostel is pretty cool.  There’s a bunch of people here, including Longstride, who overlapped with me on the PCT in 2018. (Yet we never met) A bunch more people left today, including Simple, who I met on the PCT in 2017. The trail is pretty crowded right now, and this is a popular stopping place. Most people it seems like had taken a full day off. There is a great debate about whether to take the alternate or the “red line” out of town because the alternate has a water source.  1 it’s a shorter walk, mostly on a road, but leads to a campground, with water.  The one thing everyone talks about, is water.

There’s also a luggage scale here. I measured my pack without my food bag and with empty water bottles and it was only 13 lb. I was pretty excited; intellectually it feels lighter now that I know it’s not 15 lb.

There’s such a cross section of people here. That said, the sample set is almost entirely white people between the ages of 20 and (cough) 50. But it’s international, in my case generational. Some people who have done multiple trails like me, and other people where this is their first. It’s really interesting to see the different perspectives that people bring. People have different expectations of what they should or ought to do, people who are more or less listening to their own bodies and taking it easy when they need to. Someone like Jane Goodall could write a paper.


From here I will be on the Gila River alternate, first stopping at Doc Campbell’s Post for food, and then proceeding up the Gila River. It is rumored that there are over 200 water crossings on the route. But, theres water, glorious water.  After that, it’s on the way to Pie Town. I have heard that this is the last decent cell signal for a while. It might be four hundred miles. There’s just a lot of nothing in New Mexico.

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