Because I had stayed up past midnight getting blog posts uploaded, I set my alarm for 6:30 this morning, but I woke up unable to sleep anymore at 6am anyway.
I had set up the coffee maker the night before, but it didn’t work, so no coffee for me. Luckily, I had Gatorade in the minifridge. I took that and the snacks I had set aside for breakfast and took advantage of access to a real bathroom while I had it. I took a shower and shaved even though I would be out in the dust and dry cow manure covered desert an hour later.
I left my room and checked out a little before 8, and decided to get some extra morning energy by swinging by McDonald’s. The lobby was closed, but I ordered curbside pickup from the app and they brought my Sausage McMuffin Meal with orange juice out the door within a minute of my hitting “Complete Order.”
The extra calories really helped with the next bit. The first five miles were just walking down the side of the highway out of town, at which point I missed the bit of barbed wire I was supposed to duck under because I was on the wrong side of the road.
From there, the trail struck out straight across the desert, on a “ten foot easement” across a ranch. I can’t imagine I was within the easement as much as 10% of the time because the trail was very sparsely marked. Sometimes even incorrectly marked.
Just before noon, I found what passed for a shade tree on those flats and had lunch. Shortly after that, I came upon a tire trough and shooed the cows away so I could cool off.
Then I misjudged which side of the trail the tire was on and set off in exactly the wrong direction and jumped the wrong gate. I thought if I followed the power lines, I would eventually cross the trail, but I grew discouraged that this didn’t seem to be getting me any closer to it on the GPS. So I turned south and soon ran into a very sturdy barbed wire fence separating me from the trail. Luckily, there was an open gate just a bit up from it, so I was able to keep going south, getting ever closer to the trail.
Until suddenly the GPS was showing me south of the trail. And I had seen no sign that I had crossed it. So I angled back north again, and yet again I didn’t seem to be getting closer to it. Then I saw that there was a wash near me and the satellite picture showed that it crossed the trail a bit north of me.
So I followed the wash until I saw a trail marker. To summarize: an hour later I was back on the official trail again, and who knows how much extra I walked. (Also, the power lines did eventually cross the trail if I had stuck with them for another three or four miles.)
I should mention that this desert plain was not exactly flat. It sloped subtly and continuously upward, like the continental shelf approaching the shore. (I do not use this metaphor haphazardly; this ridge and valley terrain is an ancient seabed.) I had been going uphill all morning and early afternoon with almost no shade to be found besides the occasional passing cloud.
So it was time to sit down in the tiny patch of shadow cast by an unusually tall and wide yucca and have an afternoon snack. And it turned out the patch of shade was just big enough to curl up in the dirt with my head on a bag of candy and take a little power nap to let my legs get their mojo back before continuing the climb.
I did not lose the trail again. It soon joined a road leading up into Engineer’s Canyon behind Gold Hill. My next destination was the water trough at Engineer’s Windmill. The trail kept getting steeper, but I did not flag or allow myself to be intimidated by the cows guarding the pass until I reached it. It was about 6pm, and that seemed like a perfect time for dinner. So I laid out my picnic next to the barbed wire fence separating me from the local bovine denizens (who seemed to tolerate my presence well enough to come drink while I sat there). It happened to have a decent bit of shade from the afternoon sun too.
After I finished eating, I scared off a cow to collect and filter some water from the trough. The barbed wire separating us crossed over the center of the trough, so we could have shared if she hadn’t been too cowed by my intimidating attitude.
And since I had another hour of daylight, I kept climbing into the hills, scattering herds of cattle in my wake. At dusk, even more animals started getting active. Rabbits, quails, chipmunks, noisy birds. On multiple occasions I saw little javelinas running around. Mostly they wouldn’t sit still long enough to have their pictures taken (and I did not have the storage available for a video at that moment) but the pack of five or so bear where I set up camp at sunset did not run quite so skittishly. I managed to get one clear photo, though it was already so dark out, the contrast was abysmal.
I found a nearly flat spot and got everything and myself under my tent just in time for a light sprinkle of rain. I would have loved for that to have continued until I fell asleep, but you can’t expect such things in the dry season.
Trail miles: 17.8
Burro Mountain Homestead tomorrow!