CDT NM 6th Section

Day 167: Mesa Portales

After such a late night, I was happy to sleep in in a warm room well after my alarms went off. It was not the most comfortable bed but it was still better than my usual air mat, and I still heat the thermostat for the heater set to 70. I lay in bed until past 8am looking at the internet and thinking about how I had stuff to do and no breakfast ready to make in the room.

After checking what sort of resupply I needed, I walked back over to Family Dollar and got most of it along with razors, some frozen breakfast sandwiches, a hot pocket, and a carton of Oreos. I took all of this back to my room and began microwaving and eating my breakfast feast (including the root beer from the fridge) while watching the first episode of Inside Job on Netflix since it had just come out. This took until well after 10am, leaving me less than an hour to go to the real grocery store (Mickey’s Saveway) to get the items the Family Dollar had not carried (and even they had no protein shake of any sort), carry it back, unbox it, and repack my pack with it all. I ended up getting a few things I didn’t need in the hurry and forgot to get more sunscreen and had to go back after I left my room at 11.

I should mention at this point that the temperature this day bore very little resemblance to the previous night. As my next stop was the laundromat to wash as much of the clothes I expected to need as possible, I spent all morning walking around in just my jacket and snow pants and boots. It was not comfortable. I wasn’t exactly melting, but I was glad to get out of the sun as quickly as possible.

So I carried all my things down to the laundromat to spend almost all the remaining cash I had on me. I had to sit and wait half an hour for a small $2.50 washer to open up. I did blog work while my one load washed. When it was done, my socks didn’t smell much better than they had started, but I didn’t have enough cash left to run them again with more soap, so I just tossed them in the dryer and went to shave, fix up my mustache, and sunscreen my face in the bathroom.

When the dry cycle and the five dollar bill I had converted to quarters were both done, 8 could start changing into hiking clothes while my phone recharged. I got dressed and sunscreened my legs, then started consolidating my clothes and relocating everything I had gotten out back to my backpack ending with my phone charger. It was past 2pm and the Cuban Cafe down the street closed at 3. I got in a bit of a hurry.

The cafe was a pretty traditional diner but with some modern conveniences like phone charging outlets at every table and wifi. Very useful because I had some more charging to do and plans to make for how to get from Grants to Albuquerque to Atlanta at the end of this trip. This required some research and some phone discussion with home. But the chicken-fried steak, fries, soup, chips and salsa, corn, toast and root beers all for thirty bucks was more than worth it. Much better service than Bruno’s (the restaurant from the previous night) too.

There was another couple leaving town with packs on when I rolled out of the cafe after 3. I was eager to be done with 4.5 mile asphalt road walk out of town and passed them in a burst of speed. 1.5 miles later, I passed them going the other direction without my pack. I remembered in my hurry I had left my coat in the laundromat, stashed my pack in a ditch, and started walking back at the same speed. An hour later, I got back to the same spot again with my coat and much less energy. It was still a warm sunny day, but an extra 3 miles of a road walk I wasn’t into to begin with didn’t leave much pep in my step. Also, I was walking solo again.

An hour later, I was literally walking in the footprints of those just an hour ahead of me. The trail turned off onto a dirt road. A truck went by with a local rancher who desperately wanted to stop and talk to me. I watched the sun setting from the corner of my eye while being as friendly as possible in case he wanted to offer some magic or information, but no. I probably only lost five or ten minutes this way.

There were cairns and pointy posts with tips painted white down the dirt road indicating which branches to take, and soon those could be found marking a narrow dirt track heading off into the brush and sand. So, after a brief stop on a rock for a snack and to get my headlamp out and coat on, I wandered along the desert floor hopping over dry washes and sneaking past suspicious cows as the sunlight disappeared. After 7, I climbed up a little ridge onto the high ground behind the cliff edge of the mesa. At 7:30, the trail made a turn next to a kind of flat sandy area spotted with a couple of low bushes and only a handful of rocks and pebbles but with the perfect sitting log nearby.

For the first time in a month or more, the sun was completely gone and yet I wasn’t cold enough to want to cook in my tent. I pitched it, then made dinner while sitting on the log, comfortable bare-legged in only my coat. What an incredible contrast from a week before, or indeed, just two nights before.

I didn’t even need to wear my coat to bed, nor my furry hat. It was like way back when all over again, if only for one night.

Trail miles: 8.4 (but actually walked over 11 miles)

Distance to Grants: 96 miles

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