This day was not remotely a repeat of the previous.
Some things were similar. The weather, for example. The morning rapidly heated up once the sun rose, with clear skies until midday, when the storm clouds started gathering to provide shade and occasional sprinkles. In other words, pretty much the same weather as the last two days.
But the critical difference was that I did not experience sudden bout of narcolepsy halfway through the day. I can’t say that I changed much or the trail changed much, but I was full of energy the whole day through.
Well, actually the trail was a bit easier. The morning hike started before sunrise with brief climbs over a couple of small ridges separating me from the broad flats and floodplain. But as soon as I had completed that, and the sun was already enough to start beating down on anyone not in the shade, I took a sudden right off the nice meandering single track dirt trail onto a straight flat gravel road.
This was one of those places where there was basically no shade to be had, nor any interesting scenery. And it wasn’t even on trail. (Guthook thinks it is, but that’s another story entirely.) Why would I choose to do such a thing? Because the road led to Aragon Well, a giant well-fed tank for cattle, and one of the best water sources for miles. Also, a home for quite a flock of goldfish and one carp that looked to be an easy ten pounds. They eat the things that make tanks get gross, you see.
I took my morning break in the shade of the tank and walked out with a full bag of water. I didn’t really need that much for this stretch, but better safe than sorry.
Finding an underused and rockstrewn road nearby, I found my way back to the highway right where the trail crossed it. Where once there was a water cache and trail magic, I found a dozen empty water jugs and a lot of smashed soda cans. What a mess. Oh well, I didn’t need the water, obviously.
The next few miles were relatively flat, running between national forest land and ranch land, including the perennial barbed wire fences. This section was distinct, however, thanks to its unique metal gates in said fences, with laser cut metal CDT logos welded to them.
With little shade through here, the sun beating down, and knowing more water was available on trail, I began practicing the Colder Shoulder Technique, speaking each sleeve from shoulder to wrist with an entire mouthful of water. The relief was immediate, especially when the wind blew.
Since the sun was out in force, when it came time for lunch, I hid directly under a pair of trees just before the day’s longest climb. A relaxing stop in which I lay in the shade while a cool breeze blew across me. And by the time I was ready to go on, the clouds had started rolling in.
Frankly, the climb was much easier than the ones I’ve been doing the last few days. It was longer than some, but a lot more gentle. And a couple of clouds came over as I went to try to keep me cool.
The trees started to get thicker finally even as the trail leveled out and my pace picked up.
Soon I dropped into a canyon where there was an oak growing all crazy. A little way up the canyon was a boxed spring and I wanted to check it out, so I spent more than an hour in that canyon and came out with my water bag full again.
There was another nasty climb soon after this, short but very steep. But soon it was easy walking again, fast and shady.
In fact, it continued much like that for the rest of the afternoon. The clouds and trees providing sufficient shade. I felt good enough to go on for nearly three hours at a stretch before stopping for dinner.
And after dinner, after losing my way on game trails a couple of times, it was mostly downhill to the flats. There was nothing to slow me down then. It was a dirt road walk across flat ranch land. Where the trees had entirely burned away there were incredible views of buttes and conical peaks lit by the setting sun. The occasional elk crossed the plain and not a single beef in sight. (The several empty tire tanks said they were usually around through.)
Some time after sunset, I came to Rincon Well, another metal tank, which was reported to have good water. But it was just a muddy mire when I got there, with bats continually diving for moths and such close to the puddles.
I put on my headlamp and hiked up the hill. It was dark enough that I needed to stop soon. It had been more than three hours since I finished supper. As soon as I could find some level ground not dotted with enormous rocks, I pitched a tent and crawled inside.
Trail miles: 24.4
Distance to Highway 60 and Pie Town: 16.4 miles. Tomorrow!