CDT NM 6th Section

Day 170: Near Cerro Colorado

I woke at 7 and started working on my gloves again, but I was only two fixes in when the needle got stuck and I snapped it in half trying to pull it through. That being my only needle, the other four holes in my gloves are going to be coming with me to the end of the trip.

The sun was up far enough to turn my tent into a greenhouse by 8, but it was not unpleasant. I got packed and on the trail by 9.

From my campsite, I could see a house and a line of parked semi trailers. I knew I was near a road, but I didn’t know how near I had camped to a homestead when I had found the only tree in the area in the dark.

My first destination for the day was the spring at Cerro del Ojo Frio, or Cold Eye Spring as I call it. It was four miles in, and it was the most interesting bit of trail the whole day. Across the road and down into a wash right to the edge of a deep ravine, across the mouth of an arroyo (Canada de las Lomita), up onto the other side of it, then back down into it and across it again. I couldn’t make the whole section without a stop, running down into a shady mini ravine when my bowels finally insisted. While I was taking a break anyway, I finished my breakfast and had some snacks.

But I did make it an hour later, before noon, taking the direct cross country route as soon as a reached the road that passed through the fence. I took less than 3 liters, preparing one to drink right away, on account of wanting less weight to carry up the big climb ahead.

I didn’t eat anything while filtering the water, but I stopped a few minutes later, only 500 feet and a half a mile into the big climb, and gathered some edible energy to push on a rock in the shade of a tree, a spot I really had to force myself to get going from again.

I should note it was a mind-power-only kind of day. I couldn’t distract my mind with podcasts because I had already used up too much battery getting online and taking long videos the past two days. I needed to stretch what I had for four more. It’s hard to push for long sections when you have nothing to steer your thoughts away from the pain and the hunger and the heavy breathing and the heat. It’s easier to stop and harder to keep going. Only the promise that I could have a full lunch when I reached the top got me going again.

Two more miles of climbing went by pretty quickly. It was just after two when I finally got onto the plateau and started cruising along at 8000 feet for the first time in five days. This massive plateau spans all the way down to the San Mateo range, Mt. Taylor, and the edge of Grants. And for the first thirty miles or so, it hovers right at this same altitude.

Gaining a couple of thousand feet in elevation is supposed to correspond to a significant temperature drop, but it was such a hot, sunny day, I noticed no such thing. In fact, although I was initially in a bit of a forest at the edge of the plateau where I ate lunch, the trail soon left the trees. Or perhaps the other way around. The trees were dead or burned in patches and the patches of live ones grew sparser. There were always more trees in sight than there had been down on the desert floor, but they were rarely close enough or tall enough to give me any shade, so there was a brief window there I got uncomfortably hot.

I had come to fully take for granted that I was not in the cold and snow anymore. Just one thin layer is enough for comfort. It had been just over a week since a sudden urge to pee might mean struggling to remove two sets of gloves and then fighting through three layers of pants while straining to not wet myself with all the extra time that takes. Now, there was no such concern. Back then, when I felt like stopping, I kept walking until I could find a nice rock or log with full, direct sunlight and wind protection. Now, I was searching for one in the shade with a nice breeze. It was hard to remember when things were different.

Not that I wanted to take breaks often in the afternoon. With all the morning stops and the big climb, it had taken six hours to go just seven miles. The trail was now clear and easy and I needed the speed to make my goal at a reasonable time.

The goal was the spring called Eye of the Indians or Indio Spring for sure. The turn for the side trail was 9 miles from where I stopped for lunch, and I needed that water to make dinner. I only took one break in the middle of the next push, and prepared a strange brew from the last of my water to hydrate for the finish.

It was 6:30 when I reached the turnoff, just 3.5 hours from the beginning of the push, and the 0.5 was the one break. In other words, I maintained 3 mph the whole time I was hiking. And that required nothing but a steady pace. The trail was basically level and clear. It was like walking in the Basin again, but somehow even more boring. Except for one brief moment skirting the edge of the plateau, the trail offered nothing to see. Just dry grass and sparsely separated trees.

As boring as the CDT was, the side trail to the spring was dramatic, a quick 1000 foot drop off the plateau and into a canyon. But the water there was good and plentiful. I made my dinner with it, and then packed out more than four liters filtered when I was done. Then it was climb back up 1000 feet again, which was much easier than the descent now that I wasn’t running on an empty stomach.

I left the spring just before 8, and I was originally planning to stop at 8 when I reached the trail again, but I still had some dinnergy to burn, enjoyed looking at the stars, and didn’t feel like stopping. I went on until 8:30, and stopped in a flat clearing beside the road where a bicycle frame had been left to rust. Despite all the moths that I had seen around the spring and that had flown past my headlamp on the trail, none invaded my tent while I was setting it up and furnishing it. I was in bed by 9:30 and ready for sleep an hour later, after one last check to make sure everything was tucked under shelter away from the expected morning rain.

Trail miles: 18.1

Distance to Grants: 46.6 miles

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