CDT NM 3rd Section

Day 16: Rocky Point

It was so cold that I woke up at 3am and pulled my sleeping bag on all the way. When my alarm went off at 5, I refused to leave the warmth of the bag, even knowing that if I got started earlier I could do more hiking before it got hot.

I was finally out and packing up at 6, and soon Hawkeye was stepping out of the van underdressed for the cold to start some water boiling for coffee. I was almost done packing when he came to pour me some. It was incredibly strong. But I drank it just like that.

30 minutes later, I came back from the privy to give a final goodbye to and take a farewell picture of Hawkeye, Debbie and the support van, Alice. And that was the last I saw of other human beings for the rest of the day.

The first few miles was an easy walk up a mostly flat canyon to Sapillo Creek. This was the first time I had seen water flowing across the trail since I started. I drained my breakfast smoothie and refilled my bottle from the creek, making my orange health mix in it. Before I left, I washed my hat, and dumped water on my shirt and Buff. It was going to be hot as soon as I got away from the creek.

It was a steep and arduous climb out of the canyon and onto the ridge for the next 2 miles or so, and then I climbed slowly in the direct sunlight for another three miles while the day heated up.

Soon, I dropped into another, higher ravine. This one had a cold water seep, so I took an early first lunch break to cook some chicken flavored chicken and rice. I figured I might as well as long as there was copious water available and Hawkeye’s hospitality had left me with an extra dinner meal.

Then I had another steep and annoying climb out onto an even higher ridge in the light of an even higher sun. I was seriously sweating. The salt ring on my hat reappeared.

There was a series of short steep climbs interspersed with flatter terrain. But for six miles, I was gaining elevation regularly.

Early in the afternoon, I stopped next to a junction where the trail turned off and had a second lunch, this time of my usual lunch menu. I drank a bit less than the last stop since there would be no more water on trail for the rest of the day.

I got a brief little mile of descent to a road in the later afternoon, then began the most serious climb of the day. 700 feet or so in 3.5 miles, the largest part of that in the first mile. I took a break near the top of the first steep section even though I didn’t really want to because my heart felt weird. It stopped when I sat down and snacked and drank, then started again as soon as I put my pack on and stood up. I decided I would just have to hike it out and wrote it off as an anomaly.

At the top of the range, the trail came out onto an exposed face with some great views. The trail came out onto the exposed face of the next hill as well, then the next. Always new views, direct sun beaming on me, elevation going up. Finally, at a little after 7pm, I reached the saddle at the top of the ridge, the elevation I’d been working my way up to all day. I entered the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, the first nationally protected wilderness in the US. Aldo Leopold should have written more books if he didn’t want John Muir to get all the conservationism credit.

As soon as I came around to a nice shady flat spot, I stopped for dinner. Spamish Rice this time.

It was nearly 8 by the time I got back on the trail, so I had packed up my sunglasses and hat and had my headlamp and down puff on. I was feeling pretty energetic, so I figured I’d get in a little extra mileage after dark. I stepped over a snag too fast and it snagged my shorts, tearing a nice hole at the edge. I leaned on my trekking pole so hard to catch myself it nearly bent double, but it snapped right back into shape.

I hung a left at Signboard Saddle, the sun now gone and its remains on the wrong side of the mountain. The new CDT redirect plummets down a ravine which is scattered with deadfalls and scratchy plants. But it was downhill and I was feeling energetic. When it got too dim to see the hazards on trail, I put on the headlamp and kept going. I finally found a reasonably good spot to camp about a mile down the ravine and settled in.

Trail miles: 19.5 (a new 2 day record for the CDT)

Distance to US 59: 44 miles

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