I was the first up at the hostel, and though my bunk was fairly comfortable, it wasn’t comfortable enough for me to stay in to finish uploading blog posts. I led the charge into the common room and plugged in the giant tank style coffee percolator. I sat down in a chair and worked while I waited.
I had my first cup with my first cup of skyr (strawberry rhubarb) and Blitz got up at this time too, along with the dad who had come in late to the private room. I went for my second cup of coffee and my second cup of skyr (spiced apple). Annika and Rory trickled in at this point. Two cups of coffee was enough to send me to the bathroom, but I kept working on the blog. I couldn’t waste a moment since I wanted to have everything uploaded before I left, but I didn’t want to leave so late I missed out on all the coolness of the morning.
When I returned to the common room, Annika had already left for her WFR course at the university, but no one else had any intention to try to get out early. Of course Rory and Early Bird weren’t going anywhere with their injuries, and Blitz said he wasn’t going until noon to give himself a full 24 off his feet. I started on my third cup of skyr (key lime, the best of the three) and finally finished putting together and scheduling the last post (which you read yesterday). Before I left, though, I shaved and cleaned up a little bit to look more presentable to potential angels I might meet later in the day. And I had one last root beer for the road. I tucked a cold Gatorade in my pack, said some goodbyes, and walked up the road.
Once I got to Alabama St. (which is next to Georgia St. of course) and was headed out of town, I started sticking out my thumb at every passing car and truck. It was 5 miles of road walking to where the trail actually veered into the woods on a dirt track, and I was lucky enough to find an old man driving out to a yard sale who was in so little of a hurry, he was willing to go out of his way to take me right to that junction. I probably wouldn’t have minded doing most of that road walk, since it eventually turned into a dirt road with very little traffic, but it also didn’t look very interesting so I wouldn’t have gotten much out of it either.
The first few miles from there were on an extremely popular trail network. I saw several day hikers and even more mountain bikers (as it was a multipurpose trail for hiking, biking, and equestrian use). It wasn’t very complicated or steep, but it went on for a while. I started walking from the road at 9:30, had lunch beside the trail at noon, and made it to the parking lot where all those day users parked by 1.
It was at this point I did the thing only 4% of CDT hikers do at this point; I kept going straight onto the official “red line” track up into the Black Mountains. As most hikers take the Gila River alternate here, most people I spoke to at the hostel just naturally assumed I would as well and forgot I wasn’t even after I told them. I’m a huge oddball.
I don’t know why this route is so much less popular though… it’s said to be equally beautiful. Perhaps it is that it is longer. Perhaps it is that it has more dry sections. Perhaps everyone just really wants to go to Doc Campbell’s. But I’m not in a hurry or desperate to stay with the pack since I’d be leaving them in northern New Mexico when I flip anyway. The upshot is I’m going to be the only hiker out here for the next two weeks or so.
The water isn’t very dependable in this first section, so late in the afternoon, I went off trail to visit a monastery known to give water to hikers. I still had a good 3 liters on me, but I could count on this water to be here, unlike the highway cache I might find in the morning. I had to pass through three gates on private roads to get down to the monastery, and I didn’t see a single human on the property. I could hear them though. All the nuns were down in the chapel singing and having a service. I found a faucet in the yard above the cloister, and got myself up to 6 liters (refilling the Gatorade bottle too). I climbed the hill back out without having spoken to anyone. Thanks nuns!
Back on the trail, I stopped just after getting into the woods for dinner. Same old. Then I hiked on another hour and stopped within a mile of the highway crossing, pitching my tent in a side road that had been blocked by a ten foot long wire fence. It seemed like a great campsite, so I just walked around the fence and set up. Hard to drive stakes into the old road bed, but it wasn’t windy, so I just dug holes, put the stakes in, then backfilled around them. Took awhile, so I got to sleep much later than usual. Otherwise, nothing particularly interesting to comment on.
I wasn’t expecting much interesting to happen for the next couple weeks honestly. In fact, I was kind of hoping for exactly that. Brendon said the trail might not be particularly clear, with a lot of blowdowns across the trail and such. I hoped he was wrong. After that experience at Mt. Hood, I wasn’t much into being slowed down by constantly stepping over or around trees. Anyway, the trail was good this far.
Trail miles: 18.5 (5 by car)