CDT NM 3rd Section

Day 17: Black Canyon

I woke up at 5:15 and sort of got myself going in that “what can I do that doesn’t involve taking my feet out of this sleeping bag” way. Started hiking down the ravine again at 6:30.

In spite of the blowdowns and the twisty hard to find trail, I had a pretty good pace. It was all downhill and in the shade. I had my down puff on and didn’t get warm at all.

At 7:30, I walked out into an area where the ravine spread out and the sun could start to hit me directly. I had to climb up the ravine wall and back down again through patches of morning sun. I put my shades on.

At 7:40, I took them off again, and walked another twenty minutes in the shade of the ravine.

When I finally reached the confluence of the little stream I was following with Black Canyon Creek, I didn’t realize it. I was told.

Lunar hailed me from the other direction as he pulled up to sit down for a snack and smoke break. So I sat down with him and we had a short discussion about the trail ahead and behind and our plans. Like most people, he asked where I’m from, and like many, he had a connection to Georgia. He grew up in Temple.

The one thing he asked about the trail I’d just done is how bad the thorns were.

“Not too bad.”

“I can’t say the same for where I just came from.”

It would take a while for the import of that to become clear.

We parted ways and it was time for me to begin the long climb out of Black Canyon. It really wasn’t so bad. Occasionally broader so finding the intended trail was harder, but the thing that slowed me down more was the ready access to water. Every time I came near a relatively deep pool, I wanted to climb in. I even tried once, but it was way too cold to get all the way in. The bottom was freezing even at only a foot deep. But I still dunked my shirt on several occasions.

I held off on collecting water as long as possible since I would have to carry what I collected as long as possible. About noon, I came to a section of dry stream bed and decided the water had run out. I dropped my pack and hiked back down the creek to where the water appeared again and spent some time there collecting and filtering.

Carrying two hands full of water on the way back, I startled a red fox on the trail. Luckily, it wasn’t so startled as to run away, even as I set down a water bag and took out my camera to film. It seemed rather more sullen than scared.

I ate lunch and continued up the canyon. After crossing the creek for the umpteenth time, a turkey startled me on the trail. She sort of ran at me and then completely circled me, then even started to follow after me when I went to leave. All to protect her chicks. The video is pretty wild.

After a few more stops for one reason and another and a few steep climbs, I came out of the canyon a little before 5pm. I knew it would take the majority of my day.

In this area, I decided to investigate some local springs. I collected a small amount of water from the one that was floating, but it was going so slowly, I gave up after 20oz and 15 minutes. Then I set out to climb up onto the burnt out ridges.

It was fine at first. Nice even. There were big grassy areas, then an easy if uphill forest track. Then the thorn trees started. Apparently one of the first kinds of bush to come in after a fire is one just covered in thorns. And here there were all in the trail. The section seemed not to have been maintained in some time. So they were constantly scratching my legs abs pulling at my shirt. And of course sometimes the deadfalls required me to squeeze right through them to get by.

I ate dinner on a sandy bald spot surrounded by those bushes. There was no shade in sight. There were some clouds for a bit of sun protection, but it wasn’t consistent. Still, the sun is pretty low after 6pm, so I could shade my legs just by leaning my hat against them. And it’s impossible to be mad during dinner.

I hiked on after dinner, and after a bit, the thorns got a bit better as the trail entered areas along the ridge less affected by fire. The sun disappeared but I put on my headlamp and kept going. After a particularly steep climb, the trail went out along a face just smothered in the thorn bushes, forcing itself between and under them so that I had to also. I didn’t want to push them aside with my hands, and could just barely get a gap between them using my trekking poles. But my knees are scratched up worse than ever.

Finally, late in the 8 o’clock hour there came the final push straight uphill to the top of Diamond Peak. The views on this whole climbing section had been amazing throughout sunset and twilight, but I was going to be attaining the peak with only the full moon to light the landscape.

When I came past the summit, there was another sandy open flat area just below it, and I decided to camp there. It wasn’t all that windy, and sunrise would be as early as possible if I woke up on a mountain top.

Trail miles: 18.5

Distance to Hwy 59: 25.7 miles

3 replies on “Day 17: Black Canyon”

I think that’s a gray fox and not a red fox. Despite looking kind of similar, the grays aren’t even true foxes, but from a more basal line of the canine family.

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