I slept in a bit. I woke up at 5, let some air out of my mattress, then fell asleep for 45 more minutes. I guess my body knew I had a big day ahead.
Although I had been climbing for some 14 miles already, when I set out at sunrise, I still had another 4 miles of climbing to do. Fortunately, the mountains were perfectly placed to shade me from the sun for the first hour. Also, during this climb, I saw the biggest, noisiest, and fastest javelina yet. Getting a picture after a surprise like that would have been impossible.
I stopped just before the highest point for my morning break. Then it was a boring descent down to the first water cache of the day. It was like the desert, but with a few more trees and on the sides of hills.
At at first cache at the C Bar trailhead, I sat behind a rock and snacked, then filled up my water bag, then doused my Buff and shirt before heading out. As much as I enjoy sitting, I can put the hammer down when I have a goal.
At noon, I managed to find a nice broad tree to crawl up under to make lunch. The shady (and cow-dung-free) parts weren’t particularly good terrain for lying down, but I could sit with my back to the trunk, and that was a position I was unlikely to fall asleep in–a good thing when you have a deadline.
The next goal was the second water cache at the Jack’s Peak trailhead. The elevation profile showed it was mostly a level trek from where I was, but it was actually one of those sections with frequent and short ups and downs. All day long, the shape of the trail and my state of mind was giving me flashbacks to similar places on the PCT in California.
Finally, I reached starting line. I stopped next to the water cache under a nice wide pine. I snacked, drank, then laid down for 45 minutes. I figured I could spare this much time at least if it meant more energy for what was to come.
The junction to Burro Mountain Homestead was roughly 7.5 miles away. I had about 4.5 hours of daylight to spare. Between the parking lot and the turnoff to the campground stood a series of mountains requiring thousands of feet of climbing over the next 4.5 miles or so. In other words, I wanted to climb fast.
To that end, I didn’t want too much weight. So I filled up my Nalgene but added no water to my water bag, thinking I had enough to do a few hours hike even if I occasionally used it to wet my sleeves.
The plan was working. The section started out already fairly steep, but I was making great time. A mile in I passed Banshee, who I had not seen pass me because he had taken a “shortcut” along the highway. Somehow, that feels like cheating doesn’t it? Getting a ride to skip a road walk doesn’t, but adding a road walk to skip actual trail? What a waste. Anyway, more about him later.
Two hours into the climb, I was running out of steam. I’d gotten a respite where a new reroute went around Jack’s Peak instead of over it, a clear, beautiful, and nearly level section of trail. But just past that, I still had to climb again. And it was steep. The carbs I had loaded at the bottom had run out, so I had to stop for a break.
I ate some snacks and then went to wash it down with water from my bag… and discovered carbs wasn’t all I had run out of. 8 ounces of water would have to be enough for the last 3 miles.
Or would it? Just as I was getting up to walk on, Banshee showed up with a bunch of extra water, and I filled up my Nalgene from one of his bottles.
Now I had water and carbs and motivation. I ran for the top of the hill. Banshee arrived at the gate marking the highest point right after me. It was all downhill from there. But it was already well after 6pm. Sun set at 8:15. I had 2.5 more miles downhill to the junction, and then probably another mile to the campground from there.
I should mention at this point that my heels were killing me. The moleskin protecting then from my boots had been pulled down by the rubbing action and now my heels were being chafed with every step and had been for the last few miles. By I’d be damned if I were to stop and fix that if it meant getting to the campground after sunset.
The trail wasn’t that smooth either. It was strewn with rocks and very narrow. So the challenge was to go fast, not brutalize my heels too much more, and not roll my ankles on a rock or let my feet slip out from under me. Somehow I managed to get past the worst of it without any major mishaps. And I cruised up to the campground host’s trailer around 7:30 or 7:45. Enough time for him to explain things and show me where to camp and for me to pitch my tent before the sun disappeared.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it down before the store closed. There was no way that could have happened. But I wasn’t opposed to sticking around until it opened in the morning.
I went back to the activity room with a bag full of things for making supper and collecting water. I sat under a ceiling fan while my food soaked in water I’d heated using the coffee maker with my face pressed into my water bag full of cool water just trying to cool down without immediately falling asleep.
I wasn’t alone. Two ladies came in and went to the corner to try to make something work. They told me they were coming back later to play some pool, but they wanted to make sure the baby monitor signal could reach the activity room. Then they left.
I finished eating dinner and made a double dose of my after dinner drink. I was just getting the coffee maker going for hot chocolate when Banshee walked in.
I want to say Banshee is a little bit spacey. Absent-minded maybe, perhaps on the spectrum. Not dimwitted by any means, and by all appearances a solid hiker. Maybe this piece of conversation will explain:
Me: “After going so far out of my way and hiking so hard to get here, I’m willing to stay here until 9 tomorrow when the store opens.”
Banshee: “You’re going to stay here all night?”
Me: “Well, sure. I’m not about to hike…”
Banshee: “Right here in this room?”
Me: “No, of course not. I’ve got my tent set up.”
Me: “Here in this campground.”
Banshee: “Sometimes I take things a little too literally.”
Anyway, there was enough hot water and instant cocoa for both of us. Around about the time we were finishing it, the activity room started filling up. The women from before returned with a stroller and a bunch of men. Things got real lively and we started chatting. So I did what any hiker does in such circumstances: I started yogiing.
Soon, me and Banshee were following Chris out to the cooler on the back of his ATV, and soon we were holding in our four hands two beers, a soda, and a Gatorade. And since he was being so nice and had such a sturdy looking ATV handy, I figured I’d try asking for a ride back to the trail in the morning too. Success on that front as well.
With that arranged, I told Banshee to unpack whatever he’d need to make supper, then follow me with the rest of his pack to where we hikers were supposed to camp. I left him there, dropped off my stuff in the tent, grabbed a towel, and went to the bath house.
There’s no better feeling than a night you get to go to sleep clean, even if it means you have to wash your hair with hand soap. Hey, it works!
By all accounts, the festivities continued at the activity room well after I went to bed, but I had hiked 20 miles over two mountains and was already up well over an hour past my bedtime putting me on track for a 17 hour day. There was no way I was going to be awake a minute longer.
It wasn’t the most comfortable night’s sleep because I’d accidentally set my tent up so my feet were above my head, but I was out until morning anyway.
Trail miles: 19.7
Distance to Silver City: 37 miles