CDT NM 6th Section

Day 168: La Ventana Mesa

It was actually a perfect day for hiking and a pretty straightforward section of trail, but I just took the day so easy that I didn’t really make any progress. I slept in until 8, and even though I was packed before 10, I stood on the edge of the cliff until nearly 11 downloading a movie to watch at night later. I probably could have let it download while I hiked, but I didn’t know if I would be in signal range again for the rest of the section.

Within an hour of setting out, it was time to descend the side of the mesa, a fairly steep and rocky section of trail, short but slow going. It was basically like walking where the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad goes with the sandstone rock formations.

Once I reached the desert floor again, it was an easy stroll out to a fairly busy dirt road where an SUV was parked in front of a 24 pack of half liter water bottles. I reported the cache on Guthook but didn’t take any. There was supposed to be a very nice spring in 1.5 miles and I was more eager to get to the privacy of the trees than I was in desperate need of water.

Throughout this part of the day, the very middle of the day, there was still plenty of shade because, given the season, the sun never reached the top of the sky and there were plenty of trees. And also it was partly cloudy, so the intensity of the sun was merely pleasant where it came through. Moreover, there was a nice gentle breeze throughout the middle of the day, only annoying when the occasional gust blew over my empty water bottle or tried to steal an empty plastic bag.

I stopped in the next stand of trees for a bathroom break and lunch. For some reason, only 3 hours into the day, I was absolutely starving.

Then I continued until I reached the Jones Canyon Spring which was indeed a very nice water source in a very pretty nook of a canyon. The source was fenced off so only the birds and small critters could reach it (i.e. not the cows and other ungulates of the area), but a pipe carried a constant trickle of clear water into a large trough. If I stepped on the end of the pipe, I could dump an entire liter of water from the pipe into my bag at once (and then filter it while the end of the pipe refilled).

Despite the fact that I had only walked a mile since lunch (and only 6.6 miles since I started), for some reason I was starving again, so I took another big snack break here.

It was almost 4 when I set out again, and the trail immediately started climbing over little half-formed mini-mesas and across bulging expanses of white volcanic rock, cracked into a Voronoi diagram of perfectly fitted pentagons and hexagons reminiscent of an Incan rock wall. It was a lot of up and down for a while, including some steep rock faces with staircases chiseled into them. The trail had so little dirt that only the frequent cairns indicated its route.

It was at the beginning of the biggest climb, the edge of La Ventana Mesa, I stopped to maybe dinner. I was not quite starving yet, but the pain of my pack was starting to overwhelm, so it was worth going ahead and eating just for the break from wearing it. And it would give me the energy for the climb.

The sun set out of view while I ate, but I set out with headlamp ready as twilight and the oranges on the horizon faded. Everything I saw during this golden hour was absolutely gorgeous. I took so many pictures of things that looked somehow more beautiful than they did in normal light.

I continued after full dark until 7:30, finding a nice sandy spot with good visibility to the eastern sky. I had to rebury my tent stakes a couple of times before I had them firm enough in the loose sand to support my tent, but the wind had departed with the sun, so that weak support would be enough to get me through the night.

It was a short, lazy day and left me 3 miles behind schedule, but the weather should be good enough the next two days to make it up.

Trail miles: 12.8

Distance to Grants: 83 miles

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